Around the Tuning Shops

Last month in the first half of our trip around the tuning shops we spent considerable space discussing the tuning divisions of two major manufacturers B.M.C. and Ford. But readers should remember that sometimes the little man can give you a bit of extra attention and take a specific interest in your motor car. You can discuss over a cup of tea in the workshop your own particular requirements. Even if you are doing the work yourself he may well give you a hint or two. It is easy to mistake ordinary speed shops with tuning establishments. If it is just a roll of sticky tape and wood rim steering wheel you want, then a speed shop is fine, but all too often these people have a cylinder head in their front window slowly going rusty. Far better to buy such equipment from the firm that manufactures it. Below we review the activities of some further tuning firms.


Alan Allard has long been a disciple of "tuning it by supercharging" and the Allard Motor Company certainly has a greater knowledge of the supercharging art than anyone else in this field. Allard says that with a maximum boost pressure of 6-7 p.s.i an increase in top speed of 10 to 15% and a power increase of as much as 50% can be found by just bolting on a supercharger. Allard argues that one of the main disadvantages with a conventionally-tuned engine is that the bearings have to cope with a greater load and this is not the case with a supercharged engine. On the debit side engines prone to overheating may not be adaptable to supercharging unless the radiator size is increased. However, Allard know the problems and offer Shorrock supercharger installations for most popular cars up to 2,000 c.c., for Ford (particularly the Escort GT), B.M.C., Vauxhall, Triumph, Volkswagen and Renault, from around £60. They are dropping 1600 GT engines into Escorts, too. Allard are at 51 Upper Richmond Road, Putney, London, S.W.15 (Tel.: 01-874 2335).

Bill Nicholson

They don't nickname Bill Nicholson "M.G. Bill" for nothing, for this former Jaguar development engineer has set up a smart and thriving business on the outskirts of Northampton, and the accent is very much on B.M.C.'s most popular sports car. Bill not only sells and races Bs successfully, but also tunes them. His range of stages of tune for the B is very comprehensive, starting from a stage one cylinder head for as little as £25, up to a full-race conversion. A motoring journalist tries many tuned cars over the years and quite frankly far too large a proportion give some trouble during the test, even if it is only an irritating little fault. But one car that sticks out in my memory as being ultra reliable and far superior to standard was a Nicholson B in stage 3 tune. A recent addition to the Nicholson range is tuning equipment for the M.G.-C and he also does a modified head and inlet manifold for the 1800 range. Bill Nicholson Ltd. is at Wellingborough Road, Weston Favell, Northants. (Tel.: Northampton 32093).

Perdal Developments

Up in the North tuning establishments are thinner on the ground, but Geordie readers are well served by Perdal Developments run by the Dalkin Brothers. Perdal's theme is Fords, which they tune up to race standards, but they by no means specialise solely in them. They have recently introduced a new range of bolt-on conversions which are both inexpensive and give a good improvement. They feature a Weber carburetter, together with their own inlet manifold, and are available for such popular cars as the Hillman Imp and Ford Anglia. Perdal's address is Wingrove Garage, Westgate Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Tel.: Newcastle 33874).

Conversion & Tuning Centre

Some people actually own Wartburgs; in fact there seem to be quite a few of their new Knights around London, but the last thing one would think was available is tuning equipment for these East German cars. Don't worry, "Warthog", the Conversion & Tuning Centre, will come to your rescue, and they produce bolt-on conversions for all manner of strange cars, as well as all the popular models, including the standard Ford Escort. They provide added performance by using their own inlet manifold and carburetter adjustments. The Conversion & Tuning Centre is at Tulse Hill, Brixton (Tel.: TULse Hill 5014).

Talon Engineering

The number of new tuning establishments has started to drop off a little in recent months (the "squeeze" affects everything), but one of the most recently formed that seem to be on the right path is Talon Engineering run by Mike Darrieulat, until recently Workshop Manager at Coburn Improvements, and Lionel Pridham, an ex-Motortune man. This pair specialise in re-vitalising old Minis. Find them an old Mini of, say, 1961 or 1962 vintage, and hand over the clapped-out machine. They will go through the car replacing worn parts and patching up the rough spots and then push the worn-out 850-c.c, power unit into a corner. Into its place they will fit a new 1100 or 1300 B.M.C. engine mated to a good gearbox, and this work all entails a bit more than meets the eye, with the brakes also coming in for some beefing-up. Talon charge around £200 for this service, and as vintage Minis sell for as little as £150 these days, it could be an attractive proposition. Talon Engineering are hidden away in Celbridge Mews, Porchester Road, London, W.1.


B.R.M. mechanics George Robinson and John Sismey left the Owen Organisation about five years ago and in that short time have built up one of the largest tuning concerns in the East Midlands. Much of their work is on racing engines, particularly Ford twin-cams, but they also do a lot of road conversions, specialising in Ford, B.M.C. and Vauxhall products. Their conversions start with ram pipes for Minis which, they claim, can increase b.h.p. by as much as 8 h.p., and they have a good range of inlet and exhaust manifolds to their own design, and their own cylinder heads. Lows Cortina and Elan owners who want more power are also catered for. Vegantune Engineering are at Little London, Spalding (Tel.: Spalding 4238).

B.R.T. Developments

B.R.T. Developments' chief, Harry Ratcliffe, can sit back and suck his pipe for the next month or two, but probably won't, for not only have cars prepared by him won the European Touring Car Championship, but at home they have taken the B.A.R.C. Hill-Climb Championship, and Harry himself has won the Northern Saloon Car Championship. The European winning Minis were prepared by British Vita Racing, a division of Vitafoam Ltd. which makes much of the foam for inside car seats and, in fact, this firm has just acquired a major holding in B.R.T., so they must be one of the few tuning firms with really big money behind them. But a firm like Vitafoam would not take such a step if they did not have faith in B.R.T.'s ability to make money. B.R.T.'s forte is, of course, B.M.C. and they produce a long list of conversions for virtually any B.M.C. car, but Harry Ratcliffe and his men will turn their hand to almost any tuning problem. Certainly they are one of the top tuning firms in the North and they are now at Fletchers Road, Littleborough Road, Littleborough, Lancs. (Tel.: Littleborough 78972).

Roger Nathan Racing

Roger Nathan and fast Imps are partners, as their advertising slogan goes, and it's certainly true that racing driver Roger Nathan has built up a good reputation for tuning Imps. It was Nathan who developed the first racing Imp and he and his firm have successfully raced Imps ever since. The firm specialises almost entirely in Imp conversions as well as building their Imp-powered racing GT car, and prices start from £5. Roger Nathan Racing Ltd. are based at the rear of that hot-bed of racing, Lynton Garage, Fortis Green, London, N.2 (Tel.: Highgate Wood 9757).

Expert Engineering LTD.

Expert Engineering are best known in racing circles, but this, of course, equips them well for tackling the more tricky tuning problems. If your Ford GT40 is only running on seven cylinders or your Mustang has lost its edge, Expert Engineering would be just the firm to sort it out. They also specialise in twin-cam Ford engines, and Laurie Billing is the man to contact. Their address is 20-21 Bishops Stortford Industrial Estate, Dunmow Road, Bishops Stortford, Herts. (Tel.: Bishops Stortford 2081).

Arden Conversions LTD.

Arden Conversions are one of the oldest established tuning businesses in the country and have a large range of conversions for the B.M.C., Triumph, Ford and Rootes ranges. They are probably proudest of their aluminium alloy 8-port fuel-injected head for the Cooper S, but that is strictly a racing modification, although they have plenty of other heads not so way out. They live at Penn Lane, Tamworth-in-Arden, Solihull, Warwickshire (Tel.: Wythall 3368).

Radbourne Racing

Geoff and John Anstead have gone into the car-building business, having obtained a batch of basically racing Abarth-Simca GTs, of which old Carlo Abarth built too many in the interests of homologation. But they did not have any Simca engines in them as they stood in Carlo's back yard: at Radbourne's place near London's Syon Park they are making a very nice motor car out of them by fitting the Fiat 124 engine. This all figures because not only are Radbourne the British concessionaire for Abarth, but they are also Fiat agents. Of course, they are also Britain's leading exponents in the art of tuning Fiats, and with the Italian company making such good cars these days there is a heavy demand on their services. Fiat owners who want to go faster should write to Radbourne Racing Ltd., at la Clarendon Road, Holland Park Avenue, London, W.11 (Tel.: PARk 5066).

Nerus Engineering Co. Ltd.

Nerus Engineering are another of those longer established firms, sort of Elder Statesmen of the tuning world, and as such they have a good reputation. Their range is wide and covers most popular makes and they offer for most makes of car just three stages of tune for their cylinder head conversions. They are particularly noted for their work on B.M.W. engines and they have full dynamometer facilities at their premises on the Sussex coast. Their address is simply Nerus Engineering Co., Ltd., Rye, Sussex (Tel.: Rye 3043).

Neil Davis Racing

The Kent area seems to attract quite a few tuning establishments; perhaps it's the proximity of Brands Hatch that does it. One of these is Neil Davis Racing, who tune quite a wide range of machines. They have gas-flowed cylinder heads, Weber carburetters and camshafts for such machines as the Vauxhall Cresta, Ford Corsair V4, and even the Zephyr and Zodiac. Their Weber carburetter kit for either the 1200, 1300, or 1500 VW is also a good line. Their full address is Main Road, Sidcup, Kent.

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We have dwelt mainly on the specialists at engine tuning, but there are also many firms who specialise in body conversions and so on. One of the best guides to these concerns is none other than the back pages of Motor Sport.—A. R. M.