|Back in the early '90s if you wanted to be competitive in clubman motorsport there were limited choices for getting a big power motor in your Ford. Lotus twin-cams and BDAs were top of the tree, of course, but even back then prices for rebuilds and tuning were so high as to exclude the average Joe racer from plumbing one of those in to their car. That left Crossflows and Pintos to play with. While today some huge figures are possible with these engines, the idea of a cheap 200+bhp was just a dream.
Things began to change in 1992, when Steve Broughton started up a company from his garden shed. The firm was called SB Developments (SBD), and 20 years later SBD Motorsport is one of the most innovative, respected and successful engine tuners and developers in the world, leading the way in affordable race-winning power from, most notably, Ford's Duratec, Vauxhall's XE and Suzuki Hayabusa engines.
Steve's working career began in 1979 at British Aerospace but ended after just nine months because he found the apprentice training repetitive. He'd already learnt lots of engineering skills though, and moved in to the motor trade - quickly adding knowledge in general mechanics and paintwork.
"I then started helping a British Aerospace friend who was in to rallying", says Steve, "and we built a four-door 1600 Mk2 Escort.... with a single downdraught and an auto gearbox. That car actually won a stage on the Britvic Rally and lots of people wanted to know about it."
"When my friend moved to Saudi Arabia, I decided to have a go at building my own car and went for a Chevette, basically to be different to all the guys in Escorts. With an old VX4/90 motor, ZF 'box and HSR body kit the car was a 'bitsa' but was 18th overall in its first event. That car evolved, won quite a few events, but inevitably was totalled. Another was built but this time with a Cavalier 8-valve motor. With that I'd either win or it'd blow up, so an alternative had to be found - and then Vauxhall started using the XE 16-valve engine. Finding this was a revelation. With stock internals and on carbs the XE was as powerful, if not more so, than any tuned motor I'd ever built."
Realising the potential of this excellent new engine, Steve took the plunge, quit any other work and started up as a general motorsport company selling tuning parts and suspension, brakes and all other car-building components. "I made no money at all for the first six months," he says, "as there was little profit in most of the spares. Then I got a contract to build two XEs. One for a Westfield hillclimber, the other a club rally Astra. Both had been 'average result' competitors, but they started winning with my engines. For the next six months the phone didn't stop ringing! That's when I stopped selling any other bits and concentrated on engines and tuning developments, officially launching SB Developments in March 1992. At first I stuck with the Vauxhall because it was the solution to winning power at a cost the clubman could afford. And pretty much from the start that meant lots of Vauxhall engines were going in under the bonnets of Fords. Nothing Ford was producing at the time was so light, powerful and cheap to be competitive with. Those who wanted to win went with the XE."
The key to SBD's success is in that word development. Steve has never stopped trying to improve his products and squeeze more power from his engines. And while he's become involved with some of the biggest names in motorsport - PACE, Jenvey and even the Opel works rally team - his main focus has always been in supplying a quality service at a price club-level competitors can afford. By 1995 the SBD XE engines on Jenveys were pushing out 270bhp.
A decade on, in 2002, it was time for Steve to consider a new engine as his main focus, and this is where things got much better for those who are a squeamish about having a Vauxhall lump in a Ford. "The XE was getting old and then Ford started using the Duratec, which was a different proposition. That engine had lots of promise."
"Initially I did some electronic and fuelling work on standard engines for a race series that wanted reliability and these produced 190bhp," Steve says, "Then I decided to try some things of my own on a development unit and without any major work got 280bhp almost straight away. That was using eight injectors but was a bit complicated. With a lot of trial and error, a four-injector Jenvey set-up came in at just 1bhp less than the eight-injector type."
Several years experience with the Duratec has seen Steve's engines increase in output to the latest-released kit producing 307bhp. "We're now working on a 330bhp upgrade," he says. "It takes time and sometimes things go back before going forward and then we find a lump of power. Some new piston and exhaust manifold work is getting us close to that figure, so look out for a new-power announcement soon."