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THE FULL MONTE

Lancia Beta Monte Carlo
I first came across this car when I moved into the industrial unit just a few yards from John Day's TNI Motorsport business just over four years ago I Recognised the car as being very similar to the Lancia Beta Monte carlo's that raced at Le Mans in the Early eighties At this time it appeared there was still a lot of work to be done to get the car ready to race. I must say that I was intrigued with the car's history as I thought that all the Le Mans Monte carlos were accounted for. The following story is an detailed account of the car's recreation and it makes for fascinating reading. The car will soon be seen on the race tracks of Europe and is therefore one of the only things that is not for sale on this website.

A striking full frontal shot

Rear mounted power plant of course.
Martin Kift's Story
I have known John Day since 1990 but I had never been involved in his racing as I was too busy competing on rallies myself, but in 1998 I was ‘resting’ from competition and found myself getting a little frustrated as a result. It didn’t take much persuading by John to get me to go along to the next race with him…..

I went to quite a few races that season and found it a great way to spend a weekend, but I wanted to be more involved somehow. John wanted sponsorship money for tyres in return for some advertising on the car — but from my experience (and seeing what the car did to tyres!) I was reluctant to buy any unless we could change the suspension to use the tyres more effectively and with less wear. We arranged a test session at Brands to test some suspension changes and actually were making some progress in improving grip levels over the morning. We were just about to put the brand new tyres on in fact, with John already having beaten his previous best lap on the very poor rubber, when the engine let go poking a rod through the block after the little end failed at around 8000 rpm. John was a little upset, I recall, as we had a race the following weekend, but as I pointed out to John the engine would have let go at the race meeting anyway, spoiling a weekend, rather than just a few miles from the workshop and no championship points lost to boot. We made it to the start the following weekend despite this little setback……..

Although we had found some improvements in the car they only showed on the stopwatch at the test, as John was not overly happy with the way the car felt. I tried all the tricks I knew over the next practice and race sessions to make the car feel different and took some adjustments to extremes to provoke some hint of change, but nothing made the car handle differently and we couldn’t make the back end work at all. Something was very wrong with the car and I couldn’t find what it was. At a later track session at Mallory for a magazine article, Mark Hales drove a number of cars from the Autoitalia championship, including John’s Beta. What he wrote about John’s car was far from complimentary, but he did admit is was fast and that John must be a good driver to get any results from it, as he was able to set quicker times in one of John’s competitors vehicle from a lower class!

He pointed us in the direction where he thought some of the trouble lay — and indeed he was right — the front anti roll bar was tight in its bushes and not allowing the suspension to move properly. But even with this fixed the car was a pig and refused to be tuned in the suspension department.

The season was frustrating for me, and John wanted more money which I didn’t want to spend on the Beta. It was a real ‘shed’ as anyone who saw it in 1998 after a long career and the damage that goes with it, along with ‘temporary’ modifications that had remained ‘tacked on’ to the car. No-one in their right mind would want their business associated with this heap as a sponsor — unless they wanted their business to suffer rather than benefit! John asked if he could help get my 037 finished and race that. I refused, point blank, as that car was my baby and I was going to drive it exclusively and it was being built to compete in rallies. But it gave me the germ of an idea.

Among my collection of ‘dead’ Montecarlos, the centre section of which is used to make the 037 cockpit, I had one Montecarlo Coupe. Only the Spyder tubs were useful to me, so I thought about putting a car together for John based around this old Coupe. Originally we talked about putting John’s 220 bhp Beta engine in it — but really that engine was never going to get much more powerful and even though in a much improved chassis he could probably beat all-comers in the corners he was still going to be out-dragged on the straights by De Tomaso Panterras, Ferraris and some of the powerful Alfas in the series. Towards the end of the Season we were at Croft, I recall. We had a miserable weekend. It was wet, and John had no decent wets for the rear. The only wets we could buy at the circuit were narrow Avons. Luckily we had some rims that would take the tyres and these were duly fitted to the back of the car for the race. Sadly, clearances weren’t checked properly and the tyres fouled the suspension on their inner edge. The inevitable puncture early in the race saw John spin out ignominiously. But there was one thing that impressed me that weekend. Olly ?? was driving a 2 litre Fiat Strada — with a turbo fitted! It didn’t finish the race either — someone had forgotten to tighten the sump plug properly, I believe. But, when it was running it certainly impressed me on the pit straight with it’s acceleration. And the eyes of the young driver showed everthing as the car passed where I stood. There was a look of sheer terror in his face, terror at the awesome power beneath his right foot, which was pushing hard and relentlessly in his back all the way down the pit straight to the next braking area.

I was so impressed a made an instant decision. We would build a race-dominating Montecarlo Turbo.

I turned first to the man who builds my 037 chassis to see if he was a) interested and b) had the time to fit this project into his busy work schedule. He was very interested and would find the time to fit it in. I knew pretty much the basic design of the Group 5 car from what I had read and from photographs, but I didn’t know any detail. As far as I know there are no engineering drawings still in existence so I would somehow have to find out all I could about the car we were going to build. So what did I do? I bought a 1:24th plastic kit of the 1981 Le Mans car (No. 65) of Cheever, Facetti and Alboreto! I didn’t know until much later how important this purchase would be…..

I turned out that in the UK was another chap who was building a Group 5 replica — more for passion than serious racing, I believe, as he had no previous racing experience and was intending to put a normally aspirated Beta engine in it with probably about 180 bhp maximum. However, he did have an original set of body moulds which had come from Germany — presumably from the remains of the team that ran Hans Hayer in that country. I contacted this chap and asked if we could do a deal. As it happened, he didn’t have any door moulds — and I did! I suggested that if he lent me his moulds, I would get them professionally renovated, produce a set of panels for each of us, plus produce a pair of doors for him. All this at no cost to himself. I was very upset when he turned my idea down flat, as it left us with a big problem.

In late 1998, I was sitting in a local pub one lunchtime having taken a day off work to supervise some building work on my house. I was musing over the panel problem. I had already decided we would have to produce buck of the Group 5 car to take moulds from and was thinking about wooden frames, chicken wire, and clay. I realised that even with all these things, and the space to do the work, one vital element was missing — the skill to do the job! Anyway, the second pint of Harvey’s was going down well and I overheard two people talking. They were artists, or more precisely sculptors, who were working on large props for a movie that was about to be made. I approached them and introduced myself, apologised profusely for listening to their conversation and then asked them ‘do you think you could accurately sculpt a car?’ They of course said they could, but that it would be a very time consuming and costly exercise. I know that already, I thought. They also explained that they were tied up with this film work for months. However, they said, I should contact a polystyrene packaging company they knew of who could cut the shape from large blocks of polystyrene with hot wires under computer control. They could work from a drawing, they said. I thanked them, downed my pint and rushed home to make a call. The next day I was on the Sussex coast visiting the polystyrene packaging company. All I could take with me were a collection of books, some photographs in magazines — and my 1:24th plastic kit — still in its box.

I was with one of the directors of the company. As we looked together at the collection of stuff I had with me we opened the kit. He was able to tell me that from the shape of the car — largely flat surfaces with some rounding of edges — that it was a shape they could cut by machine and finish by hand. All they needed were drawings which they could scan and digitise. Further investigation of the kit revealed the instruction sheet. On the last page there were a collection of drawings to show the kit builder how and where to apply paint and the supplied transfers to the finished kit. There were side views of the left and right of the car, a rear view, a front view, and a plan view. If these were accurate we had all the drawings we would need to make the bucks from polystyrene!

The pictures were duly scanned into the computer and I departed to check the dimensions against recorded data so I could verify the accuracy of them.

I went back to work and scanned the drawings myself. I then blew each one up onto A3, maintaining the scale of each to make the maths easier, and using the front windscreen and side window dimensions as references, scaled off all the other dimensions. I was absolutely delighted to find that within a very small degree of deviation the drawings were very accurate. At home I again measured a few key dimensions on a real Montecarlo cockpit and used these to arrive at correction factors for some of the principle dimensions. Armed with this detail I knew we had enough data to att to the drawings to enable us to proceed with production of the bucks, from which we would make moulds and finally panels which we knew would be as close to the original as possible, but which more importantly would fit onto a real car. I was elated — though I knew my bank manager wouldn’t be…….

I was so impressed with the accuracy of the kit. It made me think. Lancia must have provided them with drawing to make the kit so accurately — it couldn’t have been achieved from photographs, I thought. So, I started playing with the suspension components. I built up the front and rear suspension and measured them, then scaled the dimensions up by 24:1 I came up with some very convincing “round numbers” for the length of transverse arms, trailing links etc etc. I then measured the suspension pickup points and scaled them up. I pumped them into some software I use to determine what is going on in a suspension setup. Low and behold, I had un-ravelled a lot of what Dallara had achieved in probably months of design in just over 3 hours! I knew where the front and rear roll centres (and they made sense) l knew the camber and castor changes through suspension movement. I could predict the roll in degrees for a turn of any given G force. I knew the weight of the car (although I didn’t have front/rear split) so I could guess at the spring rates. I was chuffed!

In fact in the course of that day I believe we had achieved a huge step forward. We should be able to build a car that handled just like the original and which had the same aerodynamics that Pininfarina had achieved in their wind tunnel. Amazing. What a fantastic purchase that little kit was!

Work began on the tub and chassis early in 1999. I had to get a cage sorted for an 037 I was building for a customer so the little monte cockpit, stripped of it’s front and rear, was taken up to Rollcentre by John. A cage was designed and two were fabricated — one for my customer and one for the Monte Turbo. Polystyrene was being cut on the Sussex coast.

I still had some doubt as to the accuracy of the model. I wanted some way to verify the suspension details. Yes, we could work with what we had, but for real accuracy I needed a real car to measure. I was very fortunate that Peter Collins, who was writing for AutoItalia magazine at the time, arranged for me an invitation to the Lancia Museum in Turin where I would be allowed access to the Group 5 car they had there. Yes, they would let me take all the panels off, measure everything and anything, and record the whole thing on video, with still photography and with copious notes. I spent a whole afternoon there and left, looking like a miner as the place was so filthy, but with a big, big smile on my face. I was able to get some very necessary and accurate chassis measurements and also verify construction methods and materials in some of the inner workings of the car. These I fed back to the chassis builder on my return. The suspension figures were remarkable! All the link lengths I had arrived at from the kit were accurate! All the dimensions in the horizontal and fore/aft planes were accurate! However, the all important vertical location of all the suspension joints I could only get from the real car. The suspension on the 1/24th kit was accurate only in plan view, so all the dive, squat, roll centre, camber and castor data I had predicted from the model could now be corrected. I even measured the coil length, diameter and wire diameter of the front and rear springs so knew the rates on the car — at least as it finished it’s last race or test.

Now back in England the chassis work could proceed with a pace. I set about designing front and rear uprights which would have to be fabricated (the original had alloy castings) source some centre lock hubs and wheels, source some dampers (adjustable Konis in our case rather than fixed rate Bilsteins on the original cars). We had decided after looking at what tyres were available that we would not be able to run 15” front wheels. The best tyres for the car were what was were being used in endurance racing in 1999 — and that was 18” diameter. The front suspension was re-designed to keep the same characteristics as the original car but allowing for the 18” wheels and their higher spindle height. The specification for the inset/offset of the new wheels had to be arrived at from the drawing board to ensure clearances were right around the suspension and chassis components and that the front and rear track ended up the same as the original. This done the first set of wheel and tyres were ordered.

The completed basic chassis was taken to TNi in September 1991, complete with a dual brake cylinder pedal box. It was here that the deal that John Day and I had made would come into being. The deal was I (or rather Phoenix Car Company) would design the car, pay for the chassis and bodywork to be made, pay for the spray job, and pay for all and any other components and materials that would be used on and in the construction of the car. In return he would have a monster car to drive — at no cash cost to himself or his business. A win-win situation for Phoenix and TNi.

TNi would put the engine and gearbox together, built around an 8 valve Integrale engine and a Thema gearbox that was in stock. They would assemble the car, including fabricating the suspension components, gear linkage, steering etc to my design and get the car track ready. We quickly got the engine machining and balancing done, out of house, along with the cylinder head work, dry sumping etc etc. Gearbox components, including large Evo bearings and a limited slip differential were sourced.

Progress on the build at TNi then proceeded at a variable rate from that time forward until the car was rolled out on Sunday 26th June 2005.

At that date the engine had not yet run, with some finishing of the air intake system and some wiring still to be completed to the pumps, fans, wipers/washers, lighting., auxiliary temperature senders and the dashboard.

Chassis wise everything was complete with the exception of final setting up prior to testing and fabrication of the rear anti roll bar and drop links, a cockpit adjuster for the front ant roll bar and its’ drop links.

Specification:

Engine: 85 mm bore x 90 mm stroke giving 2043 cc with forged Arias
pistons.giving 7:1 compression ratio
Based on an Integrale block without balancing shaft
Garrett T35 modified turbo capable of delivering up to 2 bar boost. T04 turbo available for later fitting.
Stainless steel 4:2:1 turbo exhaust manifold
Kent cams with vernier adjustment
Large valves and bench flowed head
Modified Thema inlet manifold (8 injectors)

Engine Management:
Pectel T6 ECU and data logging
Dual Map
Options:
Intercooler spray
Water injection
Anti lag

Gearbox: Lancia Thema with Integrale Evo large bearings and plate type limited slip differential. Tilton clutch.

Wheels and Tyres
13”x 18” rear with Pirelli 325/690/ 18 tyres
10”x18” front with Pirelli 265/645/ 18 tyres

Suspension:
McPherson strut with wide based lower wishbone front, fabricated upright
Chapman strut with reverse lower wishbone and front tie bar, fabricated upright
Koni 2817 strut dampers all round

Brakes: 12” x 28mm vented AP Racing discs
Bremsport 4 pot callipers
EBC pads


Dashboard: Stack ST8100 custom display dash including lap timer
Boost guage
Supplementary air temperature gauges



Martin Kift
Phoenix Car Company

Contact via:

Email: martinkift@yahoo.co.uk
Home Tel: 01732 863116
Work Phone: 01689 800800
Mobile phone: 07973 848365
Fax: 01689 800080

Links:

http://www.phoenixcarcompany.co.uk/
http://www.tnimotorsport.co.uk/
http://www.boltallen.co.uk

Racing is life – everything else is just waiting!