Wacky one-offs: the stories behind five track-day specials

Just about everything else has been uprated over standard specification: the front brakes are four-pot AP items; the dampers, wheel geometry and front anti-roll bar are all adjustable; the spring rates are custom; even the bodywork has been upgraded with a distinctive coupé conversion. Lambert’s car looks less like a VX220 now and more like a scaled-down supercar. What’s most remarkable about it, though, is its engine bay, which is lined in heat-ref lective gold foil. Yep, just like a McLaren F1.

“I did my first track day for five years in this car a couple of weeks ago,” Lambert adds. “It was great to hang out with like-minded friends. The community is what it’s all about.”

What’s the appeal? 

What is it that compels a person to spend bundles of money and an enormous amount of time building a one- off project car? They’re hardly ever worth the money invested in them, after all, and as Graeme Lambert, owner of the VX220, points out, there will always be something that’s waiting to be fixed.

For most people, it seems to come down to one of two things. First of all, there is a natural curiosity; a need to know whether or not something is technically possible. Second, there is the matter of individuality. For many project car builders, the very idea of driving something that anybody else can walk into a showroom and buy is utterly unthinkable.

“I think about what else I could have bought every day,” comments Lambert. “I’ve spent somewhere between £30,000 and £40,000 on my VX220. I could have gone out and bought some serious cars with that, but I’ve only been able to spend that much because the project has happened over time. Plus, my car is completely individual.”

For the guys from Darkside Developments, their project cars are promotional tools and rolling test beds, but for Mathew Bennett, his motivation was rather less exact. “I’ve proven you can put two bike engines in a car,” he says. “I want to do the next project [a 1000bhp Caterham] because a few people I’ve spoken to about it have said it cannot be done. I want to find that out for myself.”

There is a third reason, of course: love. “I don’t have any formal training in this so I’ve been learning as I go,” says Nigel Pinder. His Golf project “has been a pain at times, but I’ve loved every minute of it”.

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