Chesil Articles - Which Kit? Magazine - Reader's Car . . . . .

A gelcoat colour finish and vinyl interior may not sound like a great starting point for an authentic replica but, as Bob Lymn's car demonstrates, it has hardly been a handicap.

Concerned that he was appearing something of an anorak when it comes to all things Porsche Speedster, Bob Lymn stops himself telling me how he carefully engraved a chassis plate for his Chesil Speedster which exactly replicates the 1957 original. He's already outlined the number plate position and the coachbuilder's badge on the side of the car (which, correctly, is only fitted on one side, not both!) but in all other respects Bob is indeed a normal person…

To prove the point, he's opted for Chesil's upmarket non-standard seats since he has a bad back. He's also done for the company's non-standard wind-up window option and, horror among horrors, this car is only finished in a gelcoat colour. The anoraks will be up in arms but as Bob points out as we talk through the build, "it's only a bit of frivolous fun."

Always a car enthusiast, Bob and his son Tom went along to the 1996 Stoneleigh kit car show. Porsche Speedster replicas were already in the back of his mind and 1996 witnessed a veritable glut of the things. The duo pawed over the cars on both the Chesil and Martin & Walker stands, while the Legend option was quickly dispensed with because the company didn't appear to have a car to look at! Out in the Owners' Club stand were lots more examples, some good and some not so good, and one person even invited them to drive his car around the Stoneleigh complex. Impressed with the result, Bob's future project plans were finally sealed when Tom bought him a Porsche badge at the show…

Pressures of running his own business then put everything on hold for a little while and there was a real question as to whether the project would every get off the ground. But when a terminally ill close friend pointed out that he shouldn't put off things for too long he was spurred into action.

In early 1997 a reconditioned and pre-shortened VW Beetle rolling chassis was advertised in the kit car press. The owner had had the chassis inspected by Chesil and the rest of the work appeared to be in good order. As Bob points out, it was to be his biggest mistake of the whole project. Back in the garage closer inspection of the suspension revealed that 85% of it had to be stripped down and rebuilt - from wheel bearings to brake master cylinder, that was hardly anything that had been refurbished correctly.

By the end of the year, with the chassis coming on nicely, it was time to decide on exactly which kit he was going for. Both Bob and Tom has been encouraged with the way the Martin & Walker car had sat at the show - it just looked right - but a visit to the company's premises was less than impressive and Bob's meticulous nature soon began to find fault in the company's demo car. By contrast, Chesil's demonstrator was immaculately presented and the workshops were busy.

A left-hand-drive bodyshell, which was about to be shipped out to the continent, helped him decide the colour. In a cream-coloured gelcoat finish, it looked absolutely spot-on while also a little different from the metallic silvers that are more commonly used on the cars. With lots of fully built and part-built cars to look at in the Chesil unit, Bob was really fired-up for the project and an order was placed.

With time being a problem, Bob opted for the company's Full Body Kit package, where all the panels are pre-hung by the factory and all relevant holes cut in the bodyshell. It really allowed him to get stuck into the build. Come the collection date Bob had Chesil quote for fitting the body onto his chassis, since he didn't have the man power or lifting equipment to do it himself back at home…

The figure was so minimal that he quickly loaded his rolling chassis onto a trailer and took it down for them to fit the body and then return home the same day. Chesil was happy for him to hang around and watch how it was all done.

Indeed, he was even roped-in for a few jobs and was thoroughly impressed by the good-natured workforce and relaxed atmosphere. Back at home the build progressed as and when work allowed. What's more, Bob wasn't prepared to work every spare hour that he had on the car, so it was steadily completed over the next twelve months. Unusually for a kit car company, the build manual proved pretty useful. Instead, the main problems of the project largely centred round the troublesome rolling chassis. Bob's colour blindness also made the wiring more tricky than it might otherwise have been!

When the car was finally ready to hit the road, he called in the help of his local VW specialist, Dominic Gardner of DG Motors. Dominic checked the car over carefully, setting up the suspension, sorting a strange problem that Bob had with the gearshift (which once again related to the original work done on the rolling chassis) and giving it its first MoT. Once that was complete, Bob set out getting the registration document altered to accurately reflect its new status. Of course, since the Chesil retains the VW chassis it remains SVA exempt.

While Bob hadn't set a budget for the project, he didn't want the build costs to run out of control. The quality of the gelcoat finish was such that he felt he could dispense with a paint finish while in the interior he resisted the temptation to use leather and instead opted for vinyl throughout. As a result, he reckons that total build cost to have been about £12,000.

We've already established that getting the details right has been an important feature of the project and, as such, Bob has comprehensively used original Porsche badging instead of the Chesil emblems which the factory fits to al of its own demo cars. However, despite having been on the road for over a year, the bumper strips and side rub strips were only added in the week before we arrived. Bob has been amazed at how much difference they make to the look of the car, although he's still loath to add the polished side stripes you normally see on Speedsters. Having seen the car we'd have to agree, because it really looks the part.

The cream colour (officially known as Flaxon) is a really inspired choice, as is the mottled red interior and, allied to all the other little finishing touches around the car, this is an extremely tidy home-build example. Out on the road the ride is pretty firm (certainly harder than the last factory example we drove) but it perhaps suits the close replica feel that Bob has been striving for. Despite only being powered by a 1300cc Beetle engine, the car is pleasantly quick, with the 4-speed gearbox being a more noticeable limitation. Future plans include both a capacity upgrade (possibly to 1800cc) and also a move to a 5-speed gearbox, but in almost every other aspect Bob is extremely happy with the way the project has turned out, "It just looks so right and it's such fun."

Unlike many people who've built their first kit car, Bob doesn't have any great desire to build another. He has the car he always wanted, he's happy to fiddle with it further and doubts he'll ever part with it. There's certainly no other kit car he fancies, although a home-built plane would be an interesting proposition. And then he could forget about anoraks and move on to flying jackets!


The Inaugural year of the new millennium carries with it added kudos for the Chesil Motor Company. 1990 was the year when Peter Bailey purchased the rights to manufacture an existing Speedster replica known as the Street Beetle.

Since then the car has changed beyond all recognition (except that it still looks like a Speedster!) and the company has forged a reputation for a top quality product allied to professional back-up. The company now assembles as many fully-built cars as it supplies in basic kit form - something that is probably unique within the kit car scene.

On July 8th the factory held a celebration Open Day where all existing owners were invited to attend and have a look around the factory following a number of impressive developments. 15 privately owned cars made it down to the factory's Dorset base where the company put on a buffet lunch followed by anniversary cake!

Recent developments at the factory include a new assembly area, brad new paint booth and, almost unique for a kit car company…smart new loos!

Those looking for a new project took great interest in the new wooden body buck in the assembly area. With aluminium panels scattered around it, it didn't take a genius to work out that here was the beginning of a brand new Porsche 550 replica. Chesil aims to assemble an aluminium-bodied car in order to then take final moulds for a fibreglass-bodied kit version. According to Bailey, expect the first kits to be available from around Spring of next year.

Further activities on the day included a fun run around the local lanes and the whole event was considered to be a great success by the 50 people who managed to attend. Not billed as a day open to potential customers, it was a particularly relaxed event for existing supporters of the Chesil marque. With the new 550 kit well underway it looks as though the next ten years will be just as productive.

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