Fifth Gear TV Collaboration

So Summer 2004 was drawing to a close and for a while Project M71 had stalled... there was the Big Turbo problem and a general lack of funds and time to devote to the great plan

Things weren't so bad though... the engine was safely tucked up in my garage and I had a number of options for getting round the issues - so for the time being, just a regular visit to turn the engine over and experiment with positions for the GT8RSs was enough

Strangely though, it was as if I was waiting for some development....

Then an email arrived - from "GW" (the names have been changed to protect the innocent), a researcher on the 5th Gear TV program! Click here to read the trail

So 5th Gear were doing a piece on how easy it is to get a road car to do 200 mph and they had picked the Esprit V8 for the challenge and they'd realised I might be able to help in the quest! The deal was that GW of the 5th Gear team wanted to come and look at my engine, talk over the modifications, measure up my GT1 plenum and fabricated chargecooler with a view to building the same spec engine as mine complete with GT28RS turbos!

Well, we duly met up in my garage discussed all this and GW also explained plans for the first shoot, with the opening scene with Tiff Needell, Vicki Butler-Henderson and Jason Plato sitting the pub introducing the challenge

 I took great pleasure in explaining my behind the scenes involvement to friends, family, guys at the office etc. and it was kind of cool telling them what was going to be in programme before it aired. Then on 29th November 2004, the predicated scene was broadcast (click on the TV icons for movies)

Intro to 200Mph car  (wmv)

Vicki's not wrong about the L.O.T.U.S. acronym, huh, and I love the way Jason says "I'm sure between us we can pull in a few favours, get a few trick bits"... yeah, like copies of my plenum and chargecooler!

Now my contact on the 5th Gear team "GW" doesn't regularly appear on the program - he just does all the hard work preparing the items and liasing with people behind the scenes

However, as we know, their worries about the gearbox were well founded and when L.O.T.U.S. acronym made itself known, he did make it onto the shoot, driving the car and then pushing it onto the trailer!

My converstions with GW of 5th Gear
continued for the rest of 2004 and I thougth that there was a good opportunity for us to work together on the engine development - it had to help having the program's budget and GW's time to dedicate to finding companies to help with things like exhaust manifold fabrication!

It certainly wasn't looking like taking long for the 5th Gear engine to reach the same stage as mine - their heads could be sent to the same grinder that I used for flowing, they could purchase their GT28RS turbos - all they needed was a GT1 plenum and chargecooler like mine

SO in the interests of fostering a partnership, I agreed to be helpful and removed the plenum and chargecooler from my engine and took them to Serck's workshops for them to fabricate copies
L.O.T.U.S! (wmv)

I hoped, in return, that we could share development and production costs for the much needed exhaust manifolds for the GT28RSs and also the next stage of ECU mapping on the dyno. I wanted the 5th Gear project to succeed - a 200 mph Esprit would be cool to see! - and I thought I some of my input could help. Ultimately I'm more concerned with acceleration than top speed (0-100 & 0-150 times), but that could just be a choice of final drive ratio - apart from that the two cars' mechanics could be identical. One thing did bother me though... GW informed that 5th Gear were going to give the car away in a competition at the end of the feature. This was a bit disconsoling - that's building a car in a few months with an identical copy of my unique engine, that had taken me 3 years to achieve, and then just giving.. Harsh!

Moving into 2005 GW began to say that they might only do a rolling road session with the engine in the car, so I explained how different the engine characteristics were likely to be with all the modifications and that without re-mapping properly you could get terrible flat spots, or risk melting a piston through under-fuelling

He started being less committed to the united approach though, saying that their car would probably spend most of the time on full throttle and they could maybe just use closed loop engine management (O2 sensor - no throttle position, RPM, boost parameters etc.) 

OK, I was making the case for the full dyno cell session because that's what I wanted and I hoped to share the cost but, as I explained, it could be a bit awkward for Tiff if he has to back off at 199 mph because of tyre troubles and the engine destoys itself!

The program production people were telling GW to aim for cheaper and cheaper options though...

This direction continued further and Fifth Gear decided that trying to achieve 200 mph at the least cost was paramount and they were only using standard turbos, standard heads, standard red ECU (good for upt to 450 bhp) and a twin chargecooler set up

So "there goes developing together" I thought  - they're not even taking the engine out now! Mind you, I also thought "at least they're not giving away an engine like mine now!" - GW said they might go to further mods if they don't make 200 mph - stage 1, stage 2, stage 3 (where stage 3 is my full set up)

Five months after the first airing, on 11th April 2005, another installment of the project was broadcast on 5th Gear, which started with a recap on the challenge and the gearbox problems
Recap on 200Mph car  (wmv) Recap gearbox probs (wmv)

I was a little confused when the program got to the turbo modifications - if you've read the Big Turbo Problem section, you'll probably recognise the GT28RS turbo held up next to the standard T25, from the 5 bolt exit on the turbine/wastegate here - now I thought they weren't using them? Oh, and I didn't pay 3 Grand for my GT28RSs!
Turbo modificationss (wmv)

I called GW about the episode and asked about this shot - he said they filmed it earlier with a GT28RS before it was decided not to use them

As thease 2 clips show, 5th Gear used SuperChips to do the rolling road dyno tuning and the result was 426 bhp (not sure if that's at the rear wheels?) 

SuperChips (wmv)
426 bhp (wmv)

It wasn't really shown but it's obvious from this footage that a blow off valve was also fitted - I love seeing Tiff's reaction to the performance here (he's always been my preferred TV driver - it's no coincidence that teams let him loose with all sorts of exotic machinery!)

He does mistakenly describe the sound as that of a wastegate though...
Tiff test drive

Guess what, the gearbox failed again!

L.O.T.U.S Again!!

So I've been on hold with Project M71 since the 5th Gear involvement began (admittedly things may not have progressed far with available finances, pressure of my normal day job etc.) but as I write this in early 2005 there's still a small possibility that 5th Gear might get to a stage 3 set up and we can work together, so I'm not looking to get things moving on the exhaust manifolds until I know what they are doing.

I'll be waiting for the new series to see how they got on with the timed run!


Well, when I went back to Serck to collect my plenum and chargecooler, after GW had called to say they had finished with them, I asked how they had got on with fabricating copies (guess I wanted to see them and compare the quality too) and I was surprsied to hear that they hadn't copied them at all!!

It seemed clear alredy then that they were never going to get to stage 3 on the tuning then and it seemed a little pointless for me to have taken them off my engine - GW informed me that the program producers were heavily leaning towards the cost being the driving theme now and also (here's another surprise) that he had "jumped ship" and moved to the Top Gear program!


As this story started, Summer was drawing to an end and Project M71 was stuck where it was a year before but this time I was waiting to see what further, if anything, would transpire with 5th Gear - maybe this wasn't so urgent, as finances were limiting progress anyway but at least knowing the plan for the way ahead would help.    

In October 2005 5th Gear returned to the screens with a new full 1 hour format - a couple of programs aired but there was no mention of the 200 mph Esprit anymore

I wondered if they would just let it die, as GW was no longer on the team... then on 7th November 2005 the "final installment of the 200 mph Esprit" was the theme of almost the whole of second half hour of the program.

The recap before the new footage just covers all the car modifications that were previously covered - including the rolling road session at SuperChips

This time though the power is quoted as 480 bhp and not  426 bhp?

There's no explanation given for this but perhaps it's just assumed power at flywheel without transaxle looses? 54 bhp is maybe a tad optimistic here but then looking at the gearbox problems, perhaps not!

SuperChips recap - 480 bhp? (wmv 268 kb) SuperChips 426 bhp ?(wmv)

On to the first speed run then.... as you'll see on this clip, all was going quite well... until... the car very worryingly blew oil smoke out  at 175 mph (the top speed of original unmodified car!)

My earlier comments on fuel mixture and doing the ECU mapping properly immediately came to mind! (as Tiff admits later on, in the summing up at the end of the program - there's even a comment about using "high tech race components" at the end of the clip... like a copy of my GT1 plenum, chargecooler etc. perhaps?! )

1st Speed Run (wmv 2.5 mb)

I've cut it off the end of the last clip but the full "final installment" clip above shows that the engine & transaxle was removed from the car to effect repairs to engine damage caused by the horrible oilly mess in the first run

This isn't a good situation in the first place - but.. what happens  just before this clip of the second speed run starts??

CLUTCH SLIP!! What? they didn't change the clutch plates while they had the engine out!! oh, you gotta be kidding me!!!

I can't understand this - was the price of clutch plate now too much!

Take note too that Tiff makes a point about using full fire proofs, Having probably been a bit "spooked" by a non-race prepared machine dumping it's oil at 170 mph+ (didn't I originally say this to GW?)

2nd Speed Run (wmv 2.2 mb)

So they even resorted to NOS....   NO, please! This is just a cop out - a short term power boost - not the way to obtain durable and usable power like all true 200 mph vehicles

Anyway this turns out to be the final run because the "engine had lost compression" - in other words it had really blown this time!

There were big problems again at high speed/high RPM, seemigly with fuel mixture (fuel to air ratio, one of basic tenants of engine management and one that I hoped we cover off properly in partnership), that probably led to something melting in the combustion chamber

During the closing chat, Tiff admits to a "melted piston or valves" - they were hoping that their intercooling would help avoid this.... but more is needed, like my Keronite coated pistons and above all engine management properly developed and tested to ensure  the fuel/air ratio is always right.

So the 5th Gear project failed - the engine lacked the reliability to prove if enough power was there to make 200mph

For me, it's bad that I will get no help on development on my engine - but it's good they are selling off a their car with its under developed engine, rather than giving away a copy of my engine!

200 mph might not be my goal but how do I hope to succeed with my engine? Take time - do it right - no conservatism on power but also no comprimises on engineering... they will always come back and bite you!

So that's the real story behind the Fifth Gear "200 mph" car.... you might find it interesting to contrast with the comments on the PistonHeads discussion list