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Coming soon: TG’s very own DeltaWing

  1. Hunched over a low-resolution printout of the Nissan DeltaWing Le Mans racer we’ve just printed off the internet, a man carefully decides which bit of Batman’s old boat he’ll use to replicate its side pods. “I’m pi**ing in the wind a bit here”, he says, drawing a cautious line on the pixelated image. “I’ve got fibreglass moulds from all sorts - an eco house, two Mazda MX-5s… But the Batboat bit’s going to work best for the pods.”

    Said man is called Andy Saunders, and he categorically isn’t pi**ing in the wind. He is one of the UK’s finest car customisers, and he’s in the throes of trying to help us build a replica of the groundbreaking Le Mans racer, the Nissan DeltaWing.

    Why? Because as you’ll have read over the last weeks and months, we’re massive fans. As well as potentially changing racing cars forever, the experimental jet-shaped racer is also utterly, deeply mental. Which is a Good Thing. So good in fact, that for some weeks now we’ve been pondering a plan with Nissan, which is only now coming to fruition.

    We thought we’d join forces and pay homage to what could be a game-changing car by building our own road-going version. Then we’re going to try and bring it along with us to the car parks as part of covering this year’s race for TopGear.com and TG magazine. Just for fun, you understand - this isn’t going to be hitting Mulsanne at any point, nor appear on TV. 

  2. Thing is, unlike the ‘Wing’s developers, and in true Top Gear style, we don’t have several million pounds, several thousand days or several skilled engineers. We have three quite bad pictures, six weeks, a Westfield and a loyalty card with the local scrap yard. Will we do it in time? Watch this space…

  3. But we do have Andy. And he radiates the sort of esoteric lateral thinking that might actually get the job done in time. “When you guys got in touch, I’d never actually seen the Delta Wing, so I didn’t really know how big it was. And Nissan wouldn’t give me any measurements, so I had to work it out for myself. I went on the Michelin website and got the tyre dimensions, printed out a picture I found on the net and did the maths. 

    “Then I bought a really tidy little Westfield and got to work. That was two weeks, and about 160 hours of work ago.”

  4. And this, dear internet, is it - the Top Gear Delta Wing. An unholy amalgam of Westfield roller-skate, sheet steel, fibreglass and many, many scrap cars.

    Thus far, the recipe includes Ford Mondeo (steel wheels), Hillman Imp (steering rack), Peugeot 207 (headlights), Fiat 126 (rear deck), Morris 1000 bonnet (other bit of rear deck), general Ford (space saver front wheels with holes machined in to look like the rears), and Ford Escort (rear axle).

    Then there are the fibreglass body panels. Andy says, “I know this guy up in the New Forest that’s got moulds for literally anything you can think of. I went through them all and found the shapes I needed - I’ve turned up some pretty weird stuff…”

  5. “The pod sections of the rear end are getting made out of an old MX-5 bumper, the pods on top from the Batboat off the telly [pictured]. I’ve got something from an eco house to make the nose cone, and those DeltaWing kick-ups on the rear are getting made from the air intakes off Alan Jones’ 1975 Grand Prix racer. It just looks like a load of old rubbish now, but it’ll work.

    “I’ve got some Nissan on there, too. I found some rear window vents off an old Bluebird in a scrapyard - I’m using it on the bonnet as a cooling vent. It’s not going to be fast though. There’s only the 1.6-litre Ford Crossflow engine from the Westfield in it, and a four-speed ‘box. God knows how it’ll be geared with that rear axle. 60mph is going to feel like 100 in that thing…”

  6. “But gearing’s the least of my worries. I’ve got to get the thing running and working first.” Ushering us towards a garage door, he says: “It’s lucky I’ve finished my other projects really.”

    His second workshop’s over-endowed with petrosexual insanity. Ever seen a lowered Panhard PL17? Or a Tempo Matador Van? Or a right-hand-drive 1935 Ford V8 convertible? Us either. Leaning against his very customised, very cool Ford Thunderbird, Andy explains that he uses them as his daily transport.

  7. “I like driving weird stuff. It makes people happy. Especially now all the cars on the road look so similar - everything’s silver or grey. Nothing’s fun anymore. The DeltaWing should help cheer everyone up a bit.”

    Leaving Andy puzzling over some Batboat fibreglass, we exit through his abstruse digs and promise to return before its paintshop appointment on May 31.

    We’ll have many more updates on the Top Gear DeltaWing as Le Mans draws near, readers, so keep heading back. And we’d also be interested to hear if anyone fancies knocking their own DeltaWing effort and would like to meet up - let us know at editor@topear.com if so.

    In the meantime, wish us luck if we’re ever going to get this done. And click through the images to see the story so far… 

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