Interview: Terry Hoyle

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Unlike their racing counterparts, rallying’s engine builders rarely receive recognition for their labours. It’s hard to pin down the exact reason, but probably the situation isn’t helped by the factory-based rally teams. In the “assemblatore” world of single-seater racing, the choice of engine builders and power units themselves is wide and varied. It’s a buyers’ market. Rallying has never got to that stage. Factory teams tend to maintain and build their own engines, and so there is rarely the need to publicise the name of any one person or specialist builder. Of course, those closely involved in the sport always know the name of the man who builds the factory engines, and there are usually ways and means that a privateer can obtain the part-time services of that highly regarded individual!

However, in Britain in the 70s three names did spring to the attention of rally enthusiasts in general. If one wanted a good, reliable BDA engine then it was often a choice between Brian Hart, David Wood or Terry Hoyle. They’re all still involved in the sport today, but it’s only Hoyle whose income is derived from building and maintaining rally engines. Wood is now with BL’s Competitions Department, and ruminating over the problems of four-wheel drive and turbo power. As reported recently in Motor Sport, Hart is heavily involved with Toleman’s Grand Prix effort, building, developing and servicing his own F1 turbo engine. For him it could have been a slightly different story this year if the Ford Escort 1700T project had not been dropped; that car was to be powered by a Hart-built turbo engine.

Even Hoyle has had to find other avenues apart from building the ubiquitous 2-litre 16-valve BDA. He is the only assembler of Audi Quattro rally engines in the UK— not a large market, but one that has at least thrown him into the deep end of the vogue for turbocharged engines. Despite popular opinion he is still involved with the BDA business. When we visited his compact, but smart premises at Maldon in Essex he’d just finished preparing three new rally units. One was bound for a Finnish rally driver, two others for Ford’s Competitions Department at Boreham, a few miles away.

As a former Boreham employee, Terry still maintains close links with his ex-colleagues, particularly as his path has on many occasions criss-crossed that of Peter Ashcroft, Ford of Europe’s Competitions Manager. It is nevertheless a far cry from the heady 70s when in one year Hoyle built 100 BDAs. Working on his own, Terry knew that just to keep up with demand he had to build two engines a week. Not only was he in demand by rally drivers, rallycross was also a large outlet, and he recalls that at one European final at Lydden Hill there were 16 cars with his engines. “I was on my own for six years. I never took a holiday. I suppose I just didn’t like to say no. I didn’t even bother to have a Bank Holiday off,” he recalls.

This year, Terry Hoyle will be 40, and although he still builds engines, he now has two staff. Gerry Birrell’s personal mechanic John Cast joined him four years ago, and at the beginning of August former Boreham mechanic Bob Day also went onto the payroll.

Hoyle will today tackle any engine building job, and apart from the BDAs, five-cylinder Audi engines and racing FVAs he also maintain Phase Two and Three Opel rally engines. Then there are the Ferrari engines. These are a labour of love. Awaiting attention is one 330 GTC, one 250 and two Dino 246 engines. Hoyle is an unashamed Ferrari fanatic. If you look carefully around his workshops there is the odd clue to this passion.

On an engine shop wall there is a large yellow, black and red “authorised Ferrari service agent” sign which he got from America. Then in his functional office, under a large oil painting of a rally Quattro, is an autographed photograph of Gilles Villeneuve. “Well, he was the only one. Wasn’t he?” comments Terry. His enthusiasm for all things Ferrari has been with him since he was a teenager. However, it extends into something more tangible than collecting Ferrari posters, handbooks, or indeed engines! He owns a 250 Lusso, lovingly restored, and has ideas of servicing Ferraris at his workshops — he’s noticed that there are quite a few on the roads in this part of Essex.

Born in Hendon, he left school when he was 16 and started work at a Vauxhall main agents in North London. Three months later he noticed Gilby Engineering’s racing transporter drive past. He made a note of the telephone number on its side. A telephone call and visit later and young Hoyle was a “gofer” for Gilby. It wasn’t long before he became directly involved in the building of the pretty, delicate Gilby sports cars with their 1,100 cc Coventry Climax engines.

Hoyle was showing a natural bent for preparation — working alongside him was another fresh faced young man with equal ambition, Ashcroft — and eventually left to join Cosworth Engineering. It was a move which served him in good stead for many years to come. “I was number seven on the payroll at Barnet. Cosworth were so small then that you had to go to the pub next door if you wanted to go to the loo!” says Terry.

When Cosworth moved to bigger premises at Edmonton, Hoyle went as well. It was here that he first worked with Brian Hart. Although more than happy, he felt an “obligation” to help his father in his office furniture manufacturing business. He did this for a year, but it wasn’t an experience he enjoyed. He struck out on his own again. This time he went to the small Bishops Stortford-based company, Expert Engineering. There he built Lotus Elan Twin Cam racing engines for Gerry Marshall and Jackie Oliver. Ferrari fever was nevertheless still raging. Even at Gilby he’d applied for a delivery job at Maranello Concessionaires. Terry got as far as an interview, but it was decided that it wasn’t really practicable to have an 18-year old delivering Ferraris!

In 1965 he finally achieved his ambition. Now 22 years old and with the Cosworth experience under his belt, he joined Maranello’s Chiswick Service Department as a fitter. At that time Ferrari road engines suffered from valve steam seal failures, so it was reckoned that Hoyle’s time at Cosworth made him an ideal candidate to deal with this problem. Soon he was working solely on engines.

His love for Ferraris may have been a fever before, now it became a serious illness. He went to Spa for a 1000 Kms with Maranello, and finally went to the factory when he delivered Maranello’s racing Dino. “From womb to tomb it’s got to be Ferrari,” he says with a broad grin.

Hoyle, however, eventually discovered that the sweet sound of V12 engines doesn’t pay bills. He was going to get married, and needed more money. He approached the patriarchal Colonel Ronnie Hoare for a pay rise, but nothing was forthcoming. “I was told that people were queuing up to work for nothing at Maranello.”

He had little choice but to leave, and began work in a Mews Garage off Gloucester Road. The money was better, and he was still delving into Ferraris, servicing them and Maseratis for Franco Zuicci. It wasn’t a job for life though, and eventually he found a new home at Ford Competitions. Old colleague Ashcroft was workshop foreman at that time, so he had no doubt about Hoyle’s ability. But due to union agreements it is difficult to get a non-Ford employee into Boreham. It was a long process but eventually Hoyle made it. His talents were put to use at building Twin Cam engines for the Lotus Cortina, and subsequently Escort TCs. At one time he was the only engine builder at Boreham. Although he rarely went on the rallies themselves, he was expected to act as an emergency spares delivery service.

One Good Friday he was building a 1300BDA engine for Gillian Fortescue-Thomas’ racing Escort when the telephone rang. It was Stuart Turner from Africa. The team was on the Safari Rally and urgently needed brake pads as well as lights. That night Terry was on a VC 10 bound for Nairobi. On another occasion he had to fly to Monza, to change the camshaft on Timo Makinen’s Ford Escort, which was on the London to Mexico Rally. Terry duly carried out the task and promptly flew back to the UK. It wasn’t long before those with an entrée into Boreham began to recognise Hoyle’s talents as an engine builder, particularly with the BDA engine which replaced the Twin Cam in the RS1600 and subsequently RS1800 Escort. Soon he was building engines from his garage at the bottom of the garden. Customers included Chris Sclater, Rod Chapman and David Sutton, the latter destined to be a major factor in Hoyle’s future. Hoyle was in such demand as an engine builder that on the 1971 RAC Rally there were more of his own private engines than there were works ones!

This was getting out of hand, so Hoyle left Boreham and carried on building BDAs from his garage. It was a somewhat fortuitous move as not long afterwards the team began laying off staff. Soon he was receiving work from his old employers, and in 1973 moved to more suitable premises in Maldon. Although in the mid-seventies the engines for the factory Escorts were built by Hart, Terry did most of the builds for Boreham-assisted drivers. He was more than happy with this arrangement, particularly as it allowed him to pursue his own development programme with Lucas fuel injection. Hart and Ford were also developing fuel injection, but with Kugelfischer. It still gives Hoyle a sense of satisfaction to have beaten the factory to the flag when his system was used in 1977 by Kyosti Hamalainen to win the 1000 Lakes Rally.

That was a highlight for Hoyle, but better was to come. After Ford withdrew from rallying in September, 1979, the mantle of running Escort RS1800s in World Championship events fell to Sutton. With Rothmans backing, Ari Vatanen won the 1981 World Drivers Championship, Hoyle-prepared engines having powered him to wins on the Acropolis, Brazil and 1000 Lakes rallies.

“John Catt basically built all the Rothmans engines, and it’s nice to think that two blokes in Maldon beat all the top manufacturers that year,” he says.

However, 1981 was the swan-song for the Escort RS1800. Sutton was to begin an association with Audi, preparing a Quattro for the British Open series. Hoyle also realised that in terms of international successes the writing was on the wall for the BDA Escort, so when Sutton offered him the chance of building Quattro engines, he grasped the opportunity.

Basically, the engines come from the works team at Ingolstadt in kit form. Indeed some of the parts are standard and have to be modified by Hoyle. Over the last two years there has been a move to obtain most of the items in the UK, something which doesn’t displease Terry. He frankly admits that in some respects “we don’t like some of the German supplied parts”.

Going through its paces on the Schneck water brake dynamometer during our visit to Maldon was Hoyle’s first home-sourced alloy block Quattro engine. Bound for privateer Darryl Weidner it has Hoyle crankshaft, con-rods and flywheel. The cylinder head has been produced by Weslake but to a Hoyle specification. The quest for power in rallying does not altogether meet with Hoyle’s approval. He believes that producing a good, reliable flexible engine is paramount — “we’re not looking for the horsepower, but a nice, flexible unit” — and to this end he would like to build a 20-valve, normally aspirated five cylinder Quattro engine. This he thinks would give around 280 bhp (current works turbo Quattros have 360 bhp) but a plus point would be that considerable weight could be saved by “throwing away” the turbo unit, intercooler, wastegate and sundry other forced induction paraphernalia. But that is some time away. More immediate projects include trying Lucas fuel injection on the turbocharged engine (the Audi Sport UK car uses Pierburg whilst the factory utilises Bosch), and developing conversion kits for road-going Quattros. The Audi 80 Sport and 80 Quattro are also due for the Hoyle treatment, the final offerings to be sold via Sutton and Audi Sport UK. By polishing the cylinder head, fitting a different camshaft, modifying the ignition and “black box”, Hoyle estimates that there could be an easy 25/30 bhp increase over the standard 200 for a Quattro. Recently he built a very special road-going Quattro engine for Ted Toleman, and with rally-type large valve cylinder head it had around 260 bhp available.

There is no doubt that the Quarter programme has given Hoyle a new perspective. Like all engine builders he remains philosophical about his art. He says he became involved in this area of preparation because he doesn’t like lying under cars changing oil or gearboxes. Drivers always blame the engine builder if the power plant stops, but it’s a well established fact that 60% of all failures are caused by installation problems. These arguments tend to hold little water with an aggrieved driver. On the other hand, an engine is probably the single most expensive item in a competition drivers spare’s shopping list. A Hoyle BDA on carburetters costs £8,600, a rally Quattro engine upwards of £10,000. Indeed, through Audi Sport UK a Quattro crankshaft will set you back £1 ,400.

For Terry Hoyle there is a notice in his office which sums up his philosophy when confronted with a disgruntled driver: “When I am right no one remembers. When I am wrong no one forgets.” It could be the anthem of the engine builder. — Mike Greasley