THUNDERSALOONS RACE SERIES (1985-1995)
Huge power, wild bodywork, insane engine conversions…
Escort Cosworths with Jaguar XJ220 engines, Vauxhall Calibras with big V8s, Honda Preludes with 500bhp Cosworth engines, Sierra Cosworths with Porsche turbo Le Mans engines; all with incredible looking wide bodywork, deep-dish wheels and huge, flame-throwing exhaust systems. It sounds like a list of tuned cars that people dream of building, but these cars actually existed and were just a few of the wild creations that raced in the Thundersaloons race series.
The rules were almost non-existent, and because of that the cars in the series were some of the most insane things ever seen on a UK track – they even make current Time Attack cars look a tad ordinary.
The Thundersaloons captured the imagination of the general public and the series gained huge publicity in the media. Works teams from the likes of Vauxhall entered with cars such as their widebody Carlton powered by a huge Chevy V8 engine, but just like in the tuned road car scene, attempts to build the craziest and fastest cars meant costs soon spiralled out of control.
It got to a level where fitting tuned versions of supercar engines became the norm. Despite being incredibly cool, this was not only hugely expensive and unreliable, but often disappointing from a performance point of view. This forced people to sell cars or give up on their unfinished projects. A good example of this was a Sierra powered by a 700bhp, air-cooled flat-six turbo engine from a Porsche 962 Le Mans car. Not only did it do 4mpg and have spark plugs that were practically impossible to remove, but its huge engine cooling fan also caused the car to become airborne at around 200mph!
Flawed they may have been, but the Thundersaloons are nothing short of incredible, even by today’s standards. Many of the cars still exist today as museum pieces, and some are still used on racetracks around the world, including the Fast Car 309 Thundersalon built by ex-FC staff Ricky Parker-Morris and Danny Morris.