Chesil Articles - Total VW Magazine - Richard Knott writes....

With summer finally here we're taking a look at some top fibreglass funmobiles, kicking off with the Chesil Speedster, a replica based upon Porsche's 356 model with a few subtle modifications to aid 90's practicality.

Chesil, based near Bridport in Dorset, produce about 30 of their Speedsters a year, enough to maintain an air of exclusivity for their drivers. Open top sports cars give the best driving fun in this country and although the weather may at times try to argue the point, nothing beats the wind in your hair feeling of open top sports-car driving.

According to Chesil, it's not only air-cooled VW owners who lust after these cars. Would you believe Porsche 911 owners quite often pop-in for a visit to drool. And why not?!

The bodywork is glassfibre and resin (properly referred to as G.R.P. - glass reinforced plastic), supported by a folded steel sub-chassis bonded to the bodywork's inside. This considerably increases the body's torsional stiffness and once bolted to the Beetle floorpan the whole structure becomes very strong indeed. Perhaps you're looking at an almost dead Bug on the drive right now and thinking...

Whether it be a swing-axle model or the later double-jointed rear axle Beetle, either floorpan is useable as a chassis. However, the front Macpherson strut suspension is not used as that relies on the Beetle's inner wings to support the top of the coil springs and it is easier to use the front torsion bar system which relies solely on the chassis framehead. Hence, the 1302/1303 floorpan should be equipped with a new torsion-beam ball-joint framehead.

The pan is also shortened which, as anyone who has done this procedure before will tell you, is a job for the professionals, or those of us that are competent with a measuring stick, level, grinder and welder. As for the remainder of the running gear, it's all Beetle based stuff from the transmission and engine through to any other bits you might like to incorporate.

From the outside the Chesil is true to the original 356 with a few exceptions. "Porscheophiles" will have already spotted the exterior fuel filler flap, a feature not seen on the original car, just one of the small updates and alterations incorporated into the body design since production of the Chesil Speedster first began back in the late 1980s. Since it's a "two-plus-two", a posh name for a vehicle that costs more for not having a decent back set, you've got the option of a classy luggage rack and some matching towel-rail over-riders.

When it comes to putting the right foot to the floor, the Chesil never disappoints. It's light, nimble and handles just like a sports car should do. The Speedster lent to us was powered by a little 1600cc with a pair of Weber 34ICTs and certainly had enough go to entertain around the bends and on the straight. A 1776cc option is available which delivers a healthy 90BHP still using the Weber 34's and for all out racing there's a stroker 2 litre option. Sadly, neither the 1.8 or 2.0 litre were available on the day, but we dreamt...

The interior of the Speedster feels very much a sports-car. Earlier Chesils all had basic bucket seats and detachable side screens (door windows) but now, sitting in a Speedster is more comfortable than in your favourite armchair in your own living room. With a choice of seats - your choice of seats - after all, this is a replica "kit car" and as such the choice of components is down to your way of thinking, you can make it just the way you like. Today, wind-up door glass replaces the fly-screens. How 90's!

With each car being hand-built to order and such a large variety of options available from Chesil, the opportunity exists to tailor each vehicle precisely to the customer's requirements. Bearing in mind the meagre 30 units a year being produced it hardly looks as if the owner of a Chesil Speedster will accidentally cross paths with another Chesil, let alone one with an identical all-over look. Individuality is a virtual guarantee!

Of course there will be a million and one questions to answer about any replica car or kit car and that is really down to you and the supplier, in this case Chesil. The Speedster has been granted approval of the Single Vehicle Approval test so there should be no problems at registration time. As a vehicle that can be bought in "kit" form or fully constructed, with a whole list options available from the smallest component to engine and transmission specifications, prices will vary. For more information on these prices and any other questions you might have call Chesil on 01308 897072.

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