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
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
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.
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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