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Recreating an unlikely giant killer

A good way to help a young motorist get started is to buy them a classic car. Probably not a Lancia Delta though!

Insurance is cheap, the cars are generally a bit slow, and the young person will learn how things work. If the car is rear wheel drive,

the youngster can safely get sideways on wet roundabouts at 20mph, thus learning useful driving skills at a very safe speed

Droop snoot Vauxhall Magnum
Vauxhall Firenza peak top wings
Vauxhall Magnum 1800
Toyota Celica Supra MA61
Opel Monza
Vauxhall Magnum 2300

We went through a good selection of GM products, as we all learned about centrifugal forces. One car stayed with us though, and that was Bob's Viva E

This Viva is an E coupe. These Viva Es were an economy coupe,

made with a 1200cc engine fitted into unsold Magnum and Firenza coupe body shells. These latter 2 models had the 2300cc slant 4 engine fitted, also used in the Bedford CF van, they were among the early engines to have a rubber belt driven overhead camshaft. However they were a big, heavy and thirsty lump, and when the 70s oil crisis hit, cars with this motor were unsellable.

So the light, cheap Viva E coupe came into being, most had their strong body shell painted gold, ours is no exception. Bob's Viva has had one rebuild, with a later Chevette engine fitted. It's time for another refurb, this time the car is getting a Honda S2000 engine.

So Bob's Viva was stripped down, engine sold, seats on Ebay, and everything else removed too.

The car was later suspended on a rotating support frame, there was plenty of rust, but the chassis was well preserved by the generous Vauxhall underseal. Many happy winter weekends were spent with a heat gun scraping this off.

But first Bob ordered a Honda S2000 engine, it was cheap, it came with the gearbox, ecu and engine loom. The engine came on a pallet from Scotland.

Honda S200 engine
Viva E with no engine
Viva E coupe
Viva E removing engine

The Chevette engine being removed

S2000 engine in Viva

Before stripping the car right down, we test fitted the Honda engine,

it was a squeeze but it slotted in quite neatly. We positioned the motor on wooden blocks and levelled it up, then marked where the mounting points would be.

I made cardboard patterns of the required mountings for Terry the metal fabricator.

s2000 engine under Viva

With the car on the spit, I scraped off the old underseal. The main sections were sound, the sills needed replacing, and around the wheelarches was bad. 

Viva E underseal removed
Viva E primer chassis

The Chevette engine being removed

Chassis scraped then primed

Our John created a great visual of how the car could look. So we set to work doing our best to replicate the impressive artwork.

It was decided that Bob's Viva should be fitted with a GRP wide arch kit, and with the Honda S2000 engine, be made into a Brabham Viva.

A Brabham Viva was produced by Vauxhall, but without wide arches or a Honda engine! The Brabham graphics are simple and attractive, and I'm sure Sir Jack B would have liked a car with his name to have a bit of oomph!

The factory produced model was a modestly tuned effort. 

Brabham Viva advert
Brabham Viva modern version
wide arch kit on Viva

The GRP wide arch kit is actually a replica of the Gerry Marshall Vauxhall 'Old Nail' Firenza saloon racing car of the 70s, that car is shown in this page's title bar. The late Gerry Marshall was a larger-than-life racing driver, who had great success with the Vauxhall team in saloon car racing. Gerry had a tough driving style that wrestled the Vauxhalls into the lead, outpacing many more powerful vehicles

Back in the lock up, I screw fixed the GRP panels to the Viva, and felt tipped around their wheel openings onto the car. I removed the GRP kit, then cut around the marks made on the body shell, opening out the car's wheel arches.

I then 'tubbed' the car's inner arches, and formed a lip to the outside edge that the GRP wheel arch can fix to.

This sounds easy enough, but it took weeks to do!

The structure of the Viva isn't weakened by cutting away metal, and the wide arch kit fits well now, so I've put that aside and given the underneath areas a good priming.

Viva front wing lip
Viva arches tubbed
tubbed Viva arches
Viva on spit

Rotating spit is a great thing

The surface rust underneath was flap-wheeled off, then treated with Jenolite rust remover. This liquid does remove any remaining rust, and with a quick rub to remove loose bits, it's ready for primer.

Viva floor painted

Floor inside primed

The engine bay needed a good amount of metalwork repair, this is now completed and the engine bay is painted. To paint the car I needed a single pack cellulose finish for the underneath areas which I can do, and a base coat and lacquer finish for Pete to paint the bodywork.

The nearest colour which has both types of paint available is

Suzuki Luxury gold, nice!

Viva engine bay painted

The front suspension on a Viva is a neat unit, it's a strong U shaped sub frame with double wishbone suspension, and rack and pinion steering mounted on the front. The U frame supports the engine and the body sits bolted to the top of the frame, 2 strong rails run from under the U back on to the chassis, and all is secured on 4 insulating mountings.

I've modified our subframe a bit to fit in the Honda engine.

John Sharp Engineering is very experienced with Vivas, John refurbished our front suspension, fitting all new bushes, ball joints, and Gaz coilovers. John recommended a brake upgrade, using Renault 21 Turbo front discs and HiSpec 4 pot calipers. This is where we're up to now, I'm taking the new discs to be drilled and machined to fit the Viva front hubs.

Viva HC suspension

That's a Capri Atlas LSD axle, priceless!

Click on the vid to the left, it's a little walk around of the front brake disc alterations if you'd like to have a look.

This Viva is a long term project, spring is coming and we need to get some Deltas on the road!

But I'll keep this page updated as we proceed.

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