Having built a sprint-ready Toyota Celica GT-Four, Andy McLeod plans to use the car to raise awareness and money for the Marie Curie cancer charity. Here’s his story.
It all started a little over four years ago, while in a bar overlooking the Porsche Curves at Le-Mans. Having recently lost two important friends in recent years – and fast approaching my 50th birthday – I realised that I wasn’t getting any younger. Just weeks earlier, I had been with Nick Dove from Radical Racing at Silverstone, testing my ability to drive on track. Was it something I could do?
It all came up in conversation with Dominic Sheehan, who that point I only knew from previous visits to the La Sarthe circuit. Dominic was telling me how he had bought a race engine, and was considering building a sprint car. He challenged me about what was I doing with my life, and informed me that working over my personal life was no way to carry on etc.
At that point I told him that the Radical route was not for me. A sprint/hillclimb car was probably the way forward, and then we got onto the subject of ideal cars. The conversation went on for a while, but when I floated the the idea of a Carlos Sainz Toyota Celica ST185, Dominic’s eyes lit up. Not an easy car to find, but “not to worry”. His friend had one in a barn back in Ireland...
Six weeks later, I had a clean engineer’s report in my hand, and the Celica was on its way from Ireland. Arriving at the docks at Liverpool, the car was transported to Derby where it had the chassis inspected. Then I had to figure out what I was actually going to do with it.
The project came in two stages: engine and drivetrain, then the bodywork. Over the next 12 months we separated the engine, and every month I brought large amounts of spares ready for the conversion. This included many hours on the internet spent tracking down parts.
While the chassis was worked on, we ordered a roll cage. The Celica eventually ended up in Leeds to have this fitted, while the engine and gearbox was sent to high-performance Toyota specialists Fensport in Chatteris. The first big step was to convert to a full race-tuned ST205 set-up. We kept the original block, but everything else was discarded. X-ray and crack testing showed we had a sound platform, and it was built up with new billet crank, forged rods and pistons. We hit a few problems along the way, while a house move and a four-months illness slowed the project considerably.
By now though, we have and engine complete with HKS cams, twin plate race clutch and all the cooling modifications and fabrication needed to shoehorn it all back into the engine bay. A Link engine management system was specified, and along with a modified wiring loom, the whole lot was ready to go into the the car.
The body was fully seam-welded, and we strengthened the bulkhead to help the PAS. With coil overs and Tarox 10 pot front brakes fitted, every other suspension part was changed or re-built. We wanted the underside as perfect as the top.
By this point, I had been in contact with Marie Curie. All along, my aim was to give something back, not just sit there thinking about how my friends would have loved to have gone on this journey. So rather than feeling sorry for myself, I wished to make fund raising part of my life.
Raising awareness and funds were the two main goals, so the idea to compete and show the car while raising funds looked a winner. The main promise was that every penny raised would be for Marie Curie, with no compromises.
So here we are, many hours, months and years later, coming to the next part of its journey. October 7-8 saw the car make its first outing at Warwick University to raise funds.
I hope you will join me, and follow the little car on its journey into the future with Marie Curie, receiving all the support for doing such an amazing job in our lives.