Mark, who’s selling the amazing Warp 8 in the previous entry (one of two that exist), sent me this magazine feature (from “Custom Car”) on it. I’m posting it here to help keep the memory of this creation alive forever. The full article continues after the break.
Doing a doodle of the juciest
GT car your autoerotic imagination
can produce is one thing, but
actually taking that drawing and
converting it into solid, delicious
fact in eighteen months of
spare-time working inside two lock-up
garages deserves some kind
of medal. Tale another look,
read our story and you’ll have to
admit that suburban E12 is host
to a Welshman who’s just bursting with talent…
After a brace of MGBs, a Piper, a Hustler buggy and a Mustang, Owen Williams wanted to build something different, something personal and flash, but practical. He’d built the Piper — ‘Crafty, that; we never found out it was a kit until after we’d signed for it’ — as well as the buggy, and with his flair for design (he teaches art) and lots of sweat, he thought he could make his dream work. Oh, he’d also got Michelle to help, too. When you want to build your very own GT and you’ve got a wife who lectures in art and wields a mean wrench it can be kinda helpful.
This is a customiser’s tale with a difference because we can show you how it all happened from the original scale model to the finished product with plx from Michelle’s album, all snapped, developed and printed by the lady herself. Seems like they’ve got a whole little industry going down there and we aren’t complaining.
Like we said it all started with a doodle-drawing by Owen and got under way around Easter of ’72 with the usual bare essentials — the floorpan and mechanicals of a ’57 Beetle. Owen held the louse down while Michelle clicked a shutter over it and then reduced it to scale photographically (one inch to one foot if you’re nosey). This diddy floorpan soon developed toy wheels and a sprayed-up solid sycamore body. The carving wasn’t exactly Henry Moore, but it looked pretty good.
The original wooden scale model had style and then some…
Next step, apart from making engine noises and running round the house, was to scale the model up to the Real Thing by measuring it very carefully and then going blind over the maths involved. After all, a two inch slip at this stage would mean two feet later on. What they did was to make paper templates of a section through the car every six inches (half an inch on the model), paste these to ply and chipboard and cut out to produce lots and lots of templates mounted on two wooden runners going from the back to the front of the bugpan. Check the pix and you’ll get the idea.
Okay, we can hear you saying, but how did they know how big to make the model in the first place? Well, the accurately scaled floorpan helped, of course, and ideas on height came from the low-slung Piper. It certainly fits Mr and Mrs Williams, but anyone who’s over six foot would have to watch his skull.
After all the templates had been nailed on. the whole structure was clad in three layers of hardboard all over and then it was filled and blended into shape. They used 1 1/2 cwt of Isopon P38 and £100’s worth of assorted timber to complete the plug! Then it was treated to grey primer/surfacer and a good rub down before it was covered with two gallons of orange cellulose. Hey, it was beginning to look pretty tasty.
Wooden templates shape up into a tough-looking plug.
As you can see the windows were painted in on the plug to help plan the glass layout, craftily limited to all-flat screens to save a lot of bread. And at this stage the lack of any rear window showed up, so a Lambo-type peephole made its appearance in the roof.
Plug gets a hardboard coat.
The mould was laid up in four sections after consultation with Prima Glass who sold Owen his first 100 sheets’ worth of 1/2oz mat and resin, and there’s another shell inside the mould to hold it in shape. But at the first attempt the gel coat didn’t take well so the shell you can see on Warp 8 is the second product from the Williams factory. Gosh, it wasn’t half getting crowded in the garages so they had to burn the plug and it nearly took one of the lockups with it.
Of course this was the stage when things really started to get tough, when they came to all the Fiddly Bits. Things like the frame, engine, trim, locks, hinges, screens, wheels and all the rest. First off, the body is totally bonded to the floorpan and it’s monstrously strong and heavy. Owen just kept going back over it, building it up more where it was liable to be stressed, until now it’s over two inches thick in places. And you try and find a crack in it.
One thing we really don’t recommend you to do is to pick an argument with the green machine. A Cortina tried it recently and very nearly died on the spot. That’s all down to the weighty glass, 12ft of scaffold tube across the front and up the back, as well as one-inch square tube and steel plates in the roof and miles of glass fibre rope. You can actually walk over it from end to end, as Owen’s plan was to breeze up to Silvers, whip out a couple of deck chairs and sunbathe on the roof. Try that on your Lotus Europa…
One sure way of getting the gull-wing doors to fit was to cut them out of the finished shell and for a first attempt they’re a whizz because they fit beautifully and leak only slightly without sealing strips. And those door locks really work. The handles are Marina, while the locks are modified MGB with homemade linkages between the two. It all looks
great, but Owen spent £9 and hours of fruitless fiddling before he hit on the right combination. Porsche units support the extended wings.
While we’re still discussing the shell, you may like to know that the bulkheads are all pop-riveted ally sheet, off-cuts bought at 25p per pound from Smiths of Clerkenwell. When we say pop-riveted, we mean mostly located by threaded pop-rivets of the King Klik variety. Owen says that the King Klik device from makers Harmsworth Townley of Harehill, Todmorden, Lancs (Todmorden 2601) is an absolute must for this type of work and using threaded rivets means it all comes apart without any drama.
Charles Pugh and Co turned out to be very helpful with the nine pieces of quarter-inch laminated glass required and sent Owen away with the glass cut to size and instructions on how to fit the sealing strips. Windscreen wiper manufacturers Trico also came up with a £17 single blade device to order which is driven by a Bedford truck motor. Owen’s attitude is a sensible ‘If you don’t know how to do it, ask’. He used to take the model along, chat the experts up, and once they’d got past the stage of complete disbelief they were usually pretty helpful.
Completed plug shows high standard maintained throughout.
Bet you’ve been eyeing the back end up and thinking about the means of propulsion, eh? Okay, we’ll put you out of your misery. It’s certainly not Volks; it’s a Porsche Super 90 1600cc four-banger prepared by Porsche tweaker Tony Bianchi. This lump swallowed 912 pistons and a half-race cam, while the inlet valves are oversize items. It sure is pretty throaty and Tony reckons that it develops around 105bhp, revving to 7000rpm. Although the fuel consumption is horrific it doesn’t seem to mind either the Variant gearbox or the 1200 bug halfshafts. Cost was £300 and it’s worth a lot more now, and Tony Bianchi could be the guy to contact for Porsche spares and tweaking If he isn’t too busy right now. Try him on 01-464 2017.
Stopping the beast doesn’t really seem to overtax the stock VW drums up front cos they’re aided by huge Porsche 356 ally-clad drums at the back. If you can locate a set of those they’re a bolt-on Job for the Beetle and excellent stoppers for a hotted louse.
Ever since his Hustler days Owen’s loved wide, wide rubber — ‘Get on a white line and you go on forever’ — so he had his 15in rims expanded by Motor Wheel Services and then chromed up to be clad in Firestone intermediates. He’s laying down l0in of rubber up front and 14in at the back so the drag must be colossal. There’s no spare, but Owen carries a spare toob, levers and rim-release tool all the time. And since Roger took our colour he’s come up with some super black glass fibre hubcaps.
Owen is the first to admit that the mechanicals are a trifle tired and the suspension and steering are due for a tune-up very soon. That they’ve stood up to the punishment to date says a good deal about the strength of Wolfsburg products. Fuel tank is TR4 sporting Triumph filler.
Lights aren’t Veedub of course, it’s Escort eyes hiding under the front pods and they flick up in a flash, zoomed into view by a single Fracmo motor each. Rear lights are Fiat 124 Sports items with Variant repeaters down the sides of the nose helping out the 1100 sidelights up front. You have to remember that the car gets wider and wider from the nose of course…
The interior shapes up.
Inside the car feels right, although a decent demist system is on the way. There’s a central Beetle speedo with Smiths revcounter, ammeter and oil gauge on the instrument side, backed up by roof-mounted warning lights –like two to tell you when you’re braking — and rows of rocker switches above your head. Owen originally decided to build glass-framed seats from floor to roof, but had to settle for a pair of Corbeaus. Behind these is a 6ft 4in wide, well-lit luggage space.
A friend was responsible for the neat trim in close-weave black carpeting which also serves to disguise the shifter and handbrake lever. These were both plated and the gearstick was bent back. You recognise the l0in Mountney steering wheel for what it is, but the shifter and handbrake are quite a mystery at first. For entertainment the car features console space for a radio and that massive aerial is all wired up ready. At present there’s a Hanimex cassette player installed which operates quite happily through twin Philips cones.
Don’t know if you agree with us or not, but we reckon that the paint is really super. It’s Ford Le Mans green sprayed by Owen with contrasting arrows which give the car a real touch of class like the nose design which they silk-screened straight on to the body. Eventually the Warp 8 motif will be cast in solid brass and all you clever sods who want to write in and say that the number plates aren’t legal can forget it cos we know they aren’t.
When you come to compare Owen’s effort with other VW-based GTs we think you’ll be forced to admit that for £1500 he’s produced a car that could put a Nova or Saluki in its place with no trouble. It hasn’t got a heater, it gets fugged up inside pretty easily and the rear-three-quarter vision is poor. But you can level that sort of criticism at the cars produced by people who claim to be professionals and from my experience Owen’s first attempt is well within the limits a specialist manufacturer would set himself.
So it’s a great pity that at present there are no plans to market the shells or whole cars. Obviously it’s over-engineered in some respects and a production model would have to be much lighter and less well framed, just in terms of production costs alone. Like most people infected with this disease of building their own cars Owen often thinks of packing it all in — ‘But it’s so difficult once you get the bug’ — and then changes his mind.
If you haven’t guessed where the ‘Warp 8′ name comes from by now, just cast your mind back to Star Trek and Captain Kirk telling Spock to increase the speed of the Enterprise. Got it yet? Course you have.
When we left Owen and Michelle they were busy getting the car ready for the Custom Car Show at Crystal Palace and Owen was musing about his latest design which will incorporate a meaty great YS motor.
‘I really fancy one of those, man,’ he said In his South Wales accent. Well, who knows what we’re gonna see next?