There’s so much mad stuff going on with this Corsa, we don’t know where to begin. It’s not a hatchback anymore, the engine’s in the wrong place, it’s got more monkey bars than your local play park… this Vauxhall Corsa Pickup is completely insane.
The point of a pickup truck is fairly obvious. You’ve got a sensible enclosed bit up front so that the driver and their passenger can feel like they’re in a car, and a big practical exposed bit out back for throwing tools and logs and general burly bric-a-brac into. It’s been this way for generations; the USA in particular has warmly embraced the genre, with a Ford F100 or its various GM equivalents rumbling off the forecourt every few seconds; they’ve spawned crew-cabs so you can get the whole family up front and still carry a freshly stunned moose in the bay, and of course there were the various hilarious adventures into muscle-pickups – the Chevrolet El Camino, the Holden Maloo, the Ford Ranchero, the GMC Sprint…
Being practical, of course, is not for everyone. Yes, you’re looking at a scaled-down pickup truck here, but it’s not exactly a sensible load-lugger. For starters, it’s also a Vauxhall Corsa. And in addition to that, its cunningly reimagined pickup bed is full of engine. So you can’t sling your toolbox in there, it’ll get all mangled and melted.
This, then, is not a logical solution to any question that might have been asked. It is instead the culmination of a lifelong obsession with mucking about with cars, coupled with an inability to pass up opportunities when somebody says ‘I dare you…’. We’ll let Cirk Robinson take up the story, to see if he can convey some manner of sense among all of this preposterousness: “Every car I’ve owned since I was sixteen has been modified in some way – I seem to find it impossible to buy a car and keep it standard,” he grins. OK, as if it weren’t already obvious, this is clearly going to be an odd tale.
“I’d had a few Corsa Sports before,” Cirk continues, “so when my last one crashed into one of those moving trees that jump out on you, I needed a car and fast. I bought this one off a mate for £500; it was lowered on springs and Cav slab wheels, and it looked like a panda – the car was white with loads of black parts on it. So I modified it straight away, then built a Sport engine and turbo’d it after a year. I had blown a few engines up by then! At PVS one year I fried a cylinder and had to drive back home near Middlesbrough from the Pod on three cylinders with a big turbo on it… how I got home that day I’ll never know. So I’d had enough, and cut the Corsa up.”
It’s the nonchalance with which he delivers this final payload that really characterises the unhinged nature of this build. There aren’t many people who’d think ‘Alright, I’ve blown up a few engines trying to make this thing more powerful, so I’m going to crack out the power tools and remove most of the bodywork’. But Cirk isn’t most people. He’s an innovator, a visionary, and he could see the potential in this idea from the very start. No quivers, no qualms, he simply hacked it up and made it much better.
“I’ve seen so many done, and I have never seen one done right that actually looks like it came like that from the factory,” Cirk reasons. “So I got the pickup all roughed in and posted a picture of the build on Vauxsausage, and Mark Headley – creator of the page – commented that it would look awesome with the engine in the rear. Challenge accepted!”
Well sure, why not eh? When you’re in that deep, there’s no point going off half-cocked. So Cirk immediately began cutting up the work he’d already done and reworking it to get a motor sitting happily behind the cab. It’s an engineering masterpiece too: the rear has been spaceframed using the front subframe from a Corsa C to house the Corsa Sport motor – itself running a GT28 turbo, juicy fuelling, a sodding great intercooler, and a reworked Vectra gearbox with custom cable conversion. The car runs Corsa B front coilovers, while the back end has Corsa C front coilovers – in fact, for the sake of logic, there’s a lot of Corsa front end bits out back. Makes sense, really – they’re designed to hold the engine and all the things around it, and that’s where the engine is now.
“The whole car was built outside on my girlfriend’s dad’s drive, with only a tape measure, a welder, a grinder and a thousand cutting discs,” he laughs. “I even painted it outside, and my three-year-old son Ben was there handing me tools, following in my footsteps – that’s how I started, by doing the same with my dad.”
It’s not just a function-over-form thing either, Cirk’s been keen to ensure that the aesthetics are as cool as the mechanicals. While the inside and underside have been painted in Ford’s Frozen White, the exterior proudly wears Vauxhall’s poster-boy shade of Arden Blue, and he’s been careful to pick the right parts to ramp up the aggression too: the modded GSI bumper, bad boy bonnet and niftily chopped-about Nova wide-arch kit gives it a brilliantly 1990s feel.
“The Corsa took three years to build, as I had to rely on the weather all the time,” he says. “Also, I was building a Morris Traveller with my dad at the same time, so for three years every day after work and every weekend I was building the two cars with my dad. But honestly, I had no idea that this would turn out as good as it did! I’m happy with it, but of course there are future plans already – I’m building a 400bhp Saab motor to go in the rear to replace the turbo Sport lump.”
Ah, but of course. We wouldn’t expect anything less. Too much ain’t enough, right? And perhaps the most endearing element of this madcap project is that it isn’t some big-budget Gas Monkey-style tunerfest, but a coalescence of intelligent homegrown solutions. “All the parts used had to be bought cheap and modified to fit,” Cirk assures us. “I have bits of Mk2 Escort and R33 Skyline in there, it’s a right mish-mash – but it seems to work! For instance, nobody seemed to be able to help me with the gear selector cables, I phoned loads of companies and sent the cables I had from a Vectra C to them with the measurements, then got a call saying they can’t be made. That made no sense to me, so I asked a mate of mine, Gary Stone, who’d built a twin-V6-engined C2, and he said to use boat steering cables. So I bought a set to the length I needed and modified the hell out of them; six hours later the car was moving and going through all the gears! The car was built as I went along, I had no big plan really – I just went with what I thought was cool, and I made it work.” This attitude is what really makes the project pop. It’s quirky, it’s offbeat, it’s original, it’s beautifully finished – but the main hook is that it was built simply for the hell of it. Just for fun, to see what would happen. Our scene needs more of this. Stop competing for approval of purists, and enjoy yourself. Life’s more fun when you’re silly.
Tech Spec: Vauxhall Corsa Pickup
1.6-litre 16v Corsa Sport engine, custom inlet manifold, Calibra V6 throttle body, Honda Civic turbo exhaust manifold (with flanges cut off), GT28 Turbo, Courtenay Sport decompression plate, Nissan Skyline R33 twin-core alloy radiator with twin fan shroud, Red-Top injectors, Bosch 044 fuel pump with Sytec fuel filter, Frontera intercooler, alloy hard pipes, copper plumbing from engine to radiator, custom alloy fuel cell, F13 gearbox with Vectra C 1.8 gearbox selector/top hat to convert ’box to cable, homemade custom cables, converted to hydraulic clutch with Mk4 Astra parts, Stage 1 clutch
8×15-inch ET0 Rota Kyusha wheels, 205/50 Federal RSR tyres, AP Corsa B front coilovers, BC Racing adjustable top mounts, AP Corsa C front coilovers on rear with custom top mounts, Mk2 Escort tie bars, modified Corsa B front bottom arms, modified Corsa C front bottom arms on rear, 2.0 Red-Top front brakes, 1.0 Corsa C front brakes on rear
Spaceframed rear using Corsa C front subframe, rollcage from front to rear, modified Nova wide-arch kit, custom GSI bumper, Morette headlights, bad boy bonnet, NACA duct, Aerocatch bonnet catches, large rear spoiler with custom legs, custom rear diffuser, underneath and inside painted Ford Frozen White, outside painted Vauxhall
Compbrake pedal box, Corsa B dash cut and smoothed with custom gauge cluster and starter button – painted Gunmetal Grey, hydraulic handbrake, custom Vectra C gear selector, Corbeau Pro Series bucket seat, Sabelt 3-inch 5-point harness, dry cell battery, Kode steering wheel on snap-off boss
“My Mam and Dad for helping me constantly and telling me not to give up. Lauren for collecting parts and putting up with not seeing me for three years. Chris and Phil from Vehicle Smart, the company I work for. Keith at MK DeSigns for the fast turnaround on the stickers. Davy and Gary, my friends, and of course my son Ben and my brother Paul who helped me carry the engine out of the cellar, as that is where I built it.” (stupid idea!).”
Feature taken from Retro Cars magazine. Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Ade Brannan.