Welcome to this week’s FC Throwback, where we take a look back at some of our favourite previous feature cars. This week it’s Ben Lawless’ tuned Vauxhall Corsa B from back in 2012…
You know what our favourite thing about the Corsa B is? It’s the dramatic visual transformation that occurs when people start tuning them to the nines. Obviously fitting a large 2.0 turbo power plant into a humble shopping car necessitates some rather drastic modifications to the bodywork, most obviously when it comes to cooling. There’s no single change that makes a car look meaner than a front-mounted intercooler poking through a chopped up bumper. This brings us nicely to Ben Lawless and his Corsa B.
Just look at the thing. It looks like its leisure time is spent eating wasps and broken glass washed down with thinners. And it all started so innocently. When Ben bought the car for £120 in 2010 it was a humble 1.0 that’d failed its MoT on wear and tear.
Ben’s mechanical skills left a lot to be desired. By his own admission he’d have struggled to renew his brake pads. Now things are very different. He’s carried out almost all the work on the Corsa and has learned an astonishing amount, proving there’s no substitute for first hand knowledge.
The steep learning curve began with Ben stripping the Corsa down to its component parts as soon as he got it back to his drive. Some minor patches of rot were soon cut out, before the shell was sent off to be resprayed in Alfa Romeo red. And it didn’t take long before Ben found a suitable LET to plonk between the wings – one with quite an illustrious history too. The engine used to belong to a car that could run low 10-second quarters all day. It was collected and stripped, before Ben began to rebuild and uprate the engine.
DTA S40 standalone management was selected and a Garrett GT35 was bolted on in place of the OE K16. It was all going well, too well in fact, and it wasn’t long before the GM cast head proved to be the weak link in a tuned Vauxhall, and in Ben’s case it was lifting from the block under full boost. For someone who was a novice at the start of the project, he’s now an expert at splitting C20LETs in two and stripping them down.
This time a Coscast head was bought, treated to a port and a polish, all the high-end valvetrain components transferred over and an HKS steel gasket chosen to seal it all together. Ben got the car to PVS last year and was itching to set some competitive times – ideally in the low 10s. Many owners use the event as a shakedown for Ten Of The Best later in the year and he was no exception. Unfortunately things didn’t go quite to plan as the Corsa suffered badly from boost creep, swiftly followed by a dramatic boost cut, caused by the ECU going into damage limitation mode.
A weekend best of 12.1 was a poor reward for the months of hard work. Ben wasted no time in getting the car back onto a rolling road to rectify the boost issues. A few tweaks to the map and DTA management and the problems were cured. Feeling confident, Ben decided to see how much power the Corsa now had. The result? 600.3bhp at 2.1 bar of boost and 489ft/lb of torque! An impressive figure, but the C20LET was running near its limit. Due to the pressure it was dealing with, the turbine shaft in the GT35 was flexing. “I decided to swap it for a GT3582R,” says Ben. “The engine is good for 700bhp now, but it depends how brave or stupid I’m feeling, whether I push for it or not.”
As you’d expect, the Corsa’s transmission is vastly improved over standard spec. There’s an F28 six-speed from a Calibra converted to front-wheel drive, a Quaife ATB and plans to install a Helix twin-plate clutch and custom flywheel – to handle 600bhp.
The exterior of cars like this take a backseat to the engineering, but Ben’s looks good. The front wings, roof, bonnet, doorcards and splitter are all carbon-fibre, courtesy of Performance Trim. With the Polycarbonate windows and stripped interior it adds up to a featherlight 925kg and a power-to-weight ratio of 648bhp per tonne. Trying to wring 650bhp from the LET is stupid. But we hope he tries!
TECH SPEC VAUXHALL CORSA B
1998cc C20LET skimmed and bored to 86.5mm; H section steel con rods; ARP bolts; 86.5mm Accralite pistons; ARP head studs; main cap studs and flywheel bolts; balanced crank; Mahle bearings; Z20LET oil pump; modified oil pick up; oil jets; polished sump; Neil Roper ported and polished Coscast head with blended valve throats; Colsibro valve guides; re-cut valve seats with small diameter valve stem seals; Piper BP270 cams; Kent verniers; solid lifters; Piper double valve springs; deep locating shims; one piece +1.0mm 34mm wasted stem inlet valves and +1.0mm 30.0mm Nimonic 80 exhaust valves; HKS steel gasket; Nortec inlet and exhaust manifolds coated in Zirotec ceramic; billet throttle body; Tial wastegate; Garrett GT3582R turbo; braided oil feed Roose Motorsport hoses; Mocal oil catch tank and oil cooler with Aeroquip fittings; alloy rad; 3x8in Kenlow fans; Nortec 3in boost pipes and 3in turbo-back exhaust; ITG filter; Magnecor ignition leads; Bailey header tank; alloy bottom pulley and front breather pipe; XEV coil pack; DTA S40 management; EFi-Parts built engine wiring loom; mapped by Chris at EFi- Parts; 14 gallon alloy fuel tank; 2-ltr swirl pot; Facet Redtop lift pump; 2x Bosch 044 pumps; Aeromotive FPR; 1200cc RC injectors; billet fuel rail; 2x inline filters; Aeroquip fuel lines; F28 gearbox 2WD converted; Helix 6-paddle clutch; lightened and balanced billet flywheel; equal length driveshafts; Quaife ATB LSD.
(Front) Wilwood 4-pot 280mm front brakes; custom made Black Diamond drilled and grooved discs; custom
brackets; Mintex 1144 brake pads; (rear) Cavalier V6 2-pot rear brakes; Black Diamond drilled and grooved discs; Ferodo rear pads, braided brake lines, Wilwood bias valve; GAZ Gold coilovers with adjustable top mounts; Corsa C Whiteline rear ARB; rose jointed lower arms; TCAs and track rod ends; pollybushed rear beam; front and rear strut braces; 6x16in Cavalier Turbo road wheels with Toyo Proxes tyres; 16-inch Team Dynamics Pro Race 1.2s with Micky Thompson street legal drag slicks (for drag racing); 5-stud hub and stud and nut conversion, 5mm spacers.
Seam-welded 1.0 shell resprayed in Alfa Romeo red; smoothed petrol filler cap; GSi bodykit, Morette headlights; HIDs; MWH rear lights; Tigra scuttle; gloss black roof rails and rear lock surround; carbon fibre roof, wings, bonnet, splitter; polycarbonate windows.
OMP 10-point cage; Cobra Imola Pro seats with Sparco harnesses; custom flocked dash; SPA dials; AEM wideband; Stack oil pressure gauge; boost controller, Sparco steering wheel; Lifeline Snap-Off steering wheel boss; 2x fire extinguishers; battery relocated behind passenger seat; carbon doorcards.
Words Jamie Arkle Photos Chris Wallbank