Have you ever imagined what it’d be like to get your car featured on FC? Of course you have, it’s what every modifying car nut dreams about, right! But have you imagined life AFTER your famous coverage? It’s a tricky one. There’s no textbook out there on the afterlife of a feature, and there isn’t a ‘My car’s been in Fast Car, so what next?’ Facebook page (trust us, we’ve checked!).
Some people even sell up and start again after gaining their prestigious feature, struggling for inspiration to better the crazy dope ride they’ve just built. That wasn’t the case for 22-year-old mechanic Ben Howard though, who in his own words reckons his first FC feature “was just a massive push to make the car even bigger and better than it was!”
Titled ‘Class Act’, we left the feature with Ben’s future plans, and like a clerk in court, I quote: “With a simple audio install and a black cloth interior, inside is where Ben wants to focus his attention next.” Now, Ben did turn his attention to the interior of his Punto – the whole lot of it, too – but let’s just say he didn’t exactly leave it there.
Ben got the Mk.2 in stock form in 2007 and quickly headed in the direction of the Euro scene, making a number of trips to the bodyshop to smooth more and more parts of the car. Along with the sleek black bodywork, Ben had the roof done in checked BMW Pepper white for his first FC feature, but it was after the shoot where things started to get serious. “After spending so much time around cars at shows, I had a lot of inspiration to build the car again,” the man says. “I spent a few months building this image in my head – every day it got more complex and my painter was looking at me like I’d gone mad, but I was dedicated to getting it done.”
The car was pulled off the road in September 2010, with the initial plan to have it ready for the 2011 show season. Ben spent a month of cold evenings stripping the Italian hatch down to its shell, before giving the car to the bodyshop for yet more work.
The Punto ran into a bunch of problems while away though, and by the time show season 2011 came round, Ben decided to quit rushing the job, and instead, set a new target to get the Punto gleaming for the cameras this year.
“It just wasn’t worth rushing,” the Milton Keynes lad admits, looking back. “The driver’s rear arch was completely rotten, so the whole inner arch had to be cut out and replaced from scratch. The custom rear arches were shaped differently and the rear bumper was taking a lot of work to fit the rear arches and also not hit the floor when fully decked. It took eight months to get all that right.” With the car finally ready for paint, Ben knew exactly what colour he wanted adorning the Punto’s panels, choosing an awesome Candy red shade that’s in your face, exactly as he wanted.
By now Ben had reached Christmas 2011 and with the Punto back home ready for reassembling, the ambitious mechanic set himself a deadline of march 17th to get the car finished – and even booked an MoT for that day as an incentive. Cue many late nights after work and at weekends, not only putting the car back together from scratch, but doing it properly with trick new additions to the ride, including the imported US door poppers that allow you to open the door simply by touching it. Very trick, but very time consuming – and time was starting to run out for our crazed MK modifier.
While the car lived in the bodyshop, Ben got on with ‘focusing his attention on the interior’ as promised. He’d set his heart on seats from a Punto Mk.2 Abarth, however, as Ben says: “They’re as rare as hens teeth. But after hours searching the net, I found a car with the seats I wanted. I bought the whole car, swapped the interiors and sold it on for a profit – while I got my dream seats!”
Our man then turned his attention to the dashboard, which he wanted as smooth as possible. The cheeky addition of the cool Drift Iridium gauges took a bit of playing around to install, and with the bodyshop too busy with the outside at the time – and Ben lacking in much patience for filler and fibreglass – he gave the whole dash to Chris Shah to perfect.
The seats and doorcards were clad in leather by a local trimmer, while the complex new dash was reserved for the wizardry of Dave at d:class Automotive to wrap it in the finest Rolls Royce cream cowskin.
When it came to putting the whole car back together over Christmas 2011, Ben didn’t want to freeze his spuds off doing it on his drive, so he rented out a unit with some mates to get the car back together in the warm and dry. The race to meet the MOT was a tight one, and Ben recalls there were a host of last minute problems with the ride: “I had to put emergency seats in, the dash just wouldn’t fit at first and was a nightmare to wire and the door solenoids failed too. I had to work right through the night before with my mate Beans, just to get the car ready, and thankfully I made it to the MoT with 14 minutes to spare, where it sailed through.”
Once the car was roadworthy and ready to smash shows, Ben just had to tidy up the roof lining and pillars and ditch the stock steering wheel, plumping for a chrome chain link wheel and boss to top off the car’s seriously stunning fresh internals.
Sure, there hasn’t been a great deal of tuning to this car star, but that doesn’t mean the Punto’s bay has been left untouched – far from it. The engine, gearbox and “anything metal” has been cleaned and painted by Ben.
And while the bay was stripped back to metal and given a clean blast of that awesome BMW Pepper white paint. A host of parts were sent off for polishing too, meaning this little Italian bay is as spotless as the rest of the ride – real top stuff.
Most of the Punto’s chassis spec is unchanged from its first feature, with only a few trick details added this time round in Ben’s quest for ultimate perfection.
So, as you know in your good memory from issue 292, the Punto’s lows were originally taken care of by 60mm lowering springs before Mr. Howard decided to save hard for juice. After eventually fitting the kit at home, the mental mechanic had the tarmac-kissing abilities he was after on his ride, and had even settled on his ideal wheels after trial fitting a friend’s BBS RMs.
Unfortunately, the BBS RMs Ben went and got for himself were in a sorry state, and needed a hell of a lot of work before they could grace the arches of the fiery Italian hatch. Our man explains: “My BBS’s were battered when I collected them – I swear they were 50p shaped! I had them straightened though, and Mike, the polisher, made them look new again, before I went a bit nuts and had them polished inside and out, with gold chrome plated bolts and chrome half-height caps.”
The wheels stole the show for the Punto’s first shoot, but Ben’s mission to take the car to new heights included a refresh of his iconic hoops. They’ve since been re-polished and now sport 24 carat-gold plated bolts for next level of classiness.
Fast forward to a week after the MoT at the Punto’s first Ace Cafe showing, Ben was able to stand back and admire his own ride for the first time in two years. “It’s exactly how I had it in my head 21 months ago. I’m so chuffed with it,” is the understated verdict of the man who’s now built two completely different features from one stunning car. Where to next? We daren’t say – come on, it can’t get any better than this, can it?
TECH SPEC FIAT PUNTO
Roof aerial, rear washer jet, rear wiper and bootlock, bonnet badge, side repeaters, door handles and door locks all smoothed; debadged; scuttle panel smoothed and painted; front washer jets smoothed and relocated to wiper arms; wing mirrors removed and baseplates smoothed; Fiat Abarth side skirts with Abarth badge smoothed; Fiat Abarth front bumper with upper middle grill smoothed and corner swage lines smoothed; petrol cap smoothed and relocated to boot; shortened number plate recess; flared and rolled front wheel arches; rolled and flared rear wheel arches; custom fibreglass rear bumper; flared arch bumper extensions; Fiat Abarth spoiler; black Angel Eye headlights; Mk.2B rear lights; chrome door and boot latches & bolts; Magic Touch door popper kit; engine rocker cover, engine mounts, thermostat, master cylinder, coolant pipe, bonnet latch, custom top mount covers and bolts all chrome plated; Optima Yellow Top battery relocated to boot; engine and gearbox painted silver; engine bay painted in BMW Pepper white; bad boy bonnet extension; finished in a custom candy red paint.
GSR Black induction kit; John Ashley 4-2-1 exhaust manifold; SFS Performance black silicone coolant hoses.
BBS RM012 8.5×15-inch fronts and 9×15-inch rears; fully polished barrels and dishes; half height chrome centrecaps and chrome badges; 24ct gold bolts; 195/45×15 Toyo Proxes T1-R tyres stretched all round; Rayvern Hydraulics 24v hydraulic suspension powered by 2x Optima Red Top batteries; EBC grooved and drilled front discs & Green Stuff pads; HEL stainless braided brake lines; chassis fully rubbed down and retreated, then finished with black Hammerite; front subframe and rear axle epoxy painted black; all suspension, steering and brake components epoxy painted silver; cambered front wheels for extra lows.
Grant chrome chain link steering wheel; custom chrome mounting boss; custom dashboard, completely smoothed and trimmed in Rolls Royce Magnolia leather; custom chromed heater vent made from a Fiat 500 side sill kick plate; 6x Drift Iridium series digital gauges: speedo, tacho, water temp, fuel gauge and 2x volt gauges; custom centre console painted in BMW Pepper white; glovebox and fusebox cover painted in BMW Pepper white; steering wheel surround trimmed in Rolls Royce Magnolia leather; front and rear door cards, rear bench and front Fiat Sparco Abarth seats trimmed in Rolls Royce Magnolia leather; rear parcel shelf and custom boot trimmed in Rolls Royce Magnolia leather; A,B,C pillars and roof lining trimmed in black suede.
JVC Headunit; Fli Black Air front components; Blaupunkt internal radio aerial.
Huge thanks to my parents and family for their support and putting up with parts being everywhere over the last two years; Danny, Beans and my Dad for their help in getting the car built; Ray White for the brilliant job on the body and paint work; Mike ‘The Polisher’ for all the chroming and polishing; Chris Shah for creating the dash & centre console; Dave at d:class for the perfect leather work on the dash; the guys over on puntomk2.co.uk for their technical help, Unit 13 and to Briony Serginson for her help in the use of the photoshoot location: Linford Manor Park, The Parks Trust, Milton Keynes.
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