TUNING TOPICS

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WESLAKE-CAPRI 3-LITRE

IN THEORY, Weslake-designed and manufactured speed equipment for the versatile 3-litre Ford V6 engine has been available for some time, but until last month such a car had eluded the author’s road-test programme. Raceproved, the people who make the V6 Cortina-Savage, have acquired the distribution rights for the Weslake parts but we had no luck in trying to borrow their Cortina, which is said to have a 220-b.h.p. V6 engine. Dean Delamont, the controller of the RAC’s sporting activities, had a Weslake-modified engine in his Reliant Scimitar; however, the last time I saw his car the engine was in bits at a London garage. After so much discouragement, we found by chance that Wembley Auto Transport Supply Co. (WATS) had a demonstration 3-litre Capri all togged up with the twin-headlamp conversion and modified engine that we described last month.

The WATS 3000 GT Special Equipment belongs to Rodney Jameson, who is this Ford dealer’s Managing Director. We undertook to borrow the car for only three days and to exercise some restraint when taking performance figures. Despite these restrictions we found this to be an extremely quick car indeed, with acceleration that is as good as the Jaguar E-type 2 + 2 up to 60 m.p.h. coupled to a genuine 120-m.p.h. maximum speed and effortless cruising in the 90-110-mph. range. Extracting this much performance from a competitively priced mass-production model is bound to bring with it some penalties, but the only obvious one during our brief acquaintance was a fuel consumption of less than 20 m.p.g. when the car was driven spiritedly. Otherwise those who tried, or rode in the car, seemed very impressed by its rumbling V6 exhaust note and exhilarating, though surprisingly silent, straight-line performance. No special effort is needed to record the sort of acceleration figures reproduced in our panel, for starting off gently from rest in 2nd gear we found it possible to attain a speed of 60 m.p.h. in under 10 sec.: a feat the standard car cannot emulate, even when driven to the standard limit of 5.750 r.p.m. in the poorly-spaced gear ratios, and dragged off the line with the rear wheels spinning in a haze of expensive blue smoke. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Weslake conversion is that the test car was in the mildest tune, giving a mere 170 b.h.p. according to the manufacturers, who also make parts for the V6 which are claimed to give over 202 b.h.p. The Capri is also the heaviest vehicle that an enthusiast is likely to want with V6 power. Therefore owners of TVR Tuscans, Marcos 3-litres, Gilbert) Invaders and so on could well find themselves with the sort of performance that used to delight the few owners of TVR’s Special Equipment 4.7-litre V8 Tuscan.

In fact our performance figures could be bettered, in theory, by anyone who did not have to give the car back to its proud owner in its original condition. Only once did we stray to more than 6,250 r.p.m. and on that occasion we recorded a run of just over seven seconds to 60 m.p.h. because we stayed in 2nd gear instead of changing into 3rd-which the owner has been doing anyway to record the slightly slower figures appearing in his Company’s Press material. So far as I can remember this is the first time a converted car has managed to improve on the figures quoted by those associated by the project, making a pleasant change from all those ”are but if you had really tried you’d have managed 132.9 m.p.h, in our SuperMugwump Mini/Escort, old boy!”

The modifications on the demonstrator are of a “full house” nature, dividing naturally into creature comforts and increased performance or handling changes. In the first group the biggest improvement comes from the rather ugly quadruple Cibie headlamp system, which was not as good as it could be, but was nevertheless welcome to someone who has had to suffer the standard system, or even on some of the so-called improvements offered by other supplementary lamp manufacturers. The headlamps were hastily changed over from Lucas to Cihie units for our test, but we think that the English manufacturer has on this occasion done a better job than the Continentals, for the dip beam of the Cibies is just not good enough in comparison to the penetrating lances of quartz-halogen illumination offered by full beam. The four Cibies cost £57 fitted, while LUCAS quartz-halogen lights are five pounds less.

In the creature comfort and decoration department we found such things as the revised paint scheme (conversions are normally based on the £1,405 3000 GT XL) which includes a transverse stripe over the aggressive snout, quarter front bumpers to clear the revised numberplate mounting, electric screen-washers, properly adjusted and useful wing mirrors mounted well forward, grille and wing-mounted flashers to replace the standard units displaced by the headlamp conversion, and a deeply dished “Sports steering wheel”.

The engine parts from Weslake were assembled in the WATS workshops, to a very high standard indeed as we found there was absolutely no vibration throughout the usable r.p.m. range, only the rock-bottom tickover being too lumpy for sustained dozing in traffic jams; we were assured that the reciprocating components had not been balanced. The heads are reshaped internally, both inlet and exhaust ports receiving treatment; standard valve sizes are retained but the springs are considerably stronger than standard. Compression ratio is the standard 8.9 to 1 within those Heron principle heads. The 40DFA down draught Weber uses enlarged jets and is matched to an internally polished standard inlet manifold. A new pair of head gaskets is also included in the kit giving a more accurate fitting around the bores and water passages. The Weslake camshaft is very expensive but well profiled, leaving no apparent weak spots in the r.p.m. range.

The engine parts come to £155 including fitting charges. Peak power is up from a gross 140 plus in standard form to 170 b.h.p. measured on the Weslake dynamometer, while the torque is said to be up from 165 lb. ft. to 188, both at 3,000 r.p.m. A pair of engine accessories were also fitted in the form of a dual-branch exhaust system (non-functional, although it certainly made the right restrained noises) and a very efficient electric fan which never required the use of its manual over-ride switch, at all times keeping the coolant within normal limits.

Substituting this fan for the standard belt-driven plastic monster cuts the noise level enormously at high r.p.m., but if these fans offer any reduction in fuel bills, as their makers frequently claim, then we could not detect it on our gold and black beast. Price for the complete conversion on ‘`our” car would be £388, making the total £1,742 15s. 8d., including Safety belts and a practical heated rear window.

On the road the car seems to be worth every penny with the standard 3-litre Capri disc/drum brakes and 5 ½-in. Rostyle wheels, plus Goodyear G800 Grand Prix rubberwear, maintaining a tenacious grip on the proceedings. There is enough power to outrun the safe limits of the standard equipment but one has to be very foolish to get near these limits on public roads. An interesting aside to the handling question is that these comparatively modest rims offer a much higher standard of road-holding than the normal 5-in. rim Rostyles used for the 2000 and 1600 GT Capris, mainly because their offset is considerably increased. In any case the GP tyres seem to offer a lot more grip under all conditions than the G800 products offered on the lesser Capri GTs.

I found main-road work the most enjoyable in the converted Capri as its effortless overtaking in any situation is fun and offers the driver an exceptional margin of safety. Like the standard product, the modified car needs no stirring of the gear-lever to maintain a respectable gait. Third gear, offering acceleration from just over 1,000 r.p.m., is sufficient to pull the car round most curves. Driving hard the chasm between 2nd and 3rd gears can prove embarrassing when changing down to 2nd on a wet road. Suddenly the closest solid objects beckon one into their grasp, as the rear wheels lock. Fortunately the remedy is obvious and there are no other tricks to be mastered in the handling, understeer being the dominant characteristic. Below this country’s legal limit a dose of power will help to tighten up one’s course on a tight bend. The rear wheels are unlikely to lose grip, except at very low speeds or on exceptionally bumpy surfaces. Even then the rack-and-pinion steering will retrieve the car from disaster.

With the Goodyears pumped up hard we found the ride along country lanes unduly jarring, though the faster one goes the better it is for an aching back. Moulded plastic neck supports were a feature of WATS’ Capri and they emphasised road shocks, although they do provide relaxing support over smooth surfaces. However, since rearward visibility is already at a premium in the Capri, the author would rather do without extra interior clutter.

We were very impressed by the docile manners and extraordinary punch offered by the Weslake parts, the quadruple headlamp system is also a good idea, and the firm should benefit from their enterprise in marketing such an attractive package.

My only quibble is on the reliability of such a conversion over 50-60,000 Miles. Perhaps a reader can enlighten us on this score ? J. W.

PERFORMANCE:

Acceleration:
0-30 m.p.h. .. 2.5 sec. (3.0)
0-40 m.p.h. .. 4.3 sec (5.0)
0-50 m.p.h. .. 6.1 sec (7.2)
0-60 m.p.h. .. 7.9 sec (10.2)
0-70 m.p.h. .. 10.9 sec (13.6)
0-80 m.p.h. .. 13.8 sec (17.8)
0-90 m.p.h. .. 17.6 sec (25.6)
0-100 m.p.h. .. 24.0 (39.6)

Speeds in gears at 6,000 r.p.m. :

1st. 38 m.p.h.
2nd 56 m.p.h.
3rd 86 m.p.h.
4th 121 m.p.h.
Speedometer: Accurate at 70 m.p.h., over-reading by 2 m.p.h. at an indicated 100 m.p.h.
Petrol consumption: 16-20 m.p.g. in normal use
Converters : Wembley Auto Transport Supply Co., 199 Ealing Road, Wembley, Middlesex.
Price as tested: £1,742 15s. 8d.

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