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Me and My Motor

PUBLISHED: 16:22 27 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:34 20 February 2013

Me and My Motor

Me and My Motor

Lee Johnstone describes how he has turned a 1970s wreck into a unique car with a large engine

Lee Johnstone describes how he has turned a 1970s wreck into a unique car with a large engine



Drag racing enthusiast Lee Johnstone has been modifying cars for mlore than 30 years. He bought this 1972 Vauxhall Firenza as a 500 wreck, rebuilding it into a mini muscle car, complete with a V8 engine.
It took me a couple of years, says Lee. I threw away the original engine and it now has a 2.5 Daimler V8, a Ford Sierra five-speed gear box and a Ford Sierra rear axle.
The car was repainted in Vauxhall yellow by Richard Walters, who is Lees business partner at J&W Automotive in Bridgwater. The pair first met at a drag race in the late 1970s and combined their expertise in vehicle body repairs, restoration, modification and paint work.
Lee began his career as an apprentice mechanic in Bridgwater and his first visit to the Santa Pod Raceway in Bedfordshire was in 1967. It was the Easter weekend and my pal John Edmonds and I travelled there on an AA motorbike and side car. It took us eight hours! That was the start of it and John and I eventually decided to build a car which exceeded its original budget by 100 per cent and we raced it in 1972.



I threw away the original engine and it now has a 2.5 Daimler V8, a Ford Sierra five-speed gear box and a Ford Sierra rear axle




I have driven several cars since and have been out to the States and to Germany. Drag racing was an odd American sport in the late 1960s when it came over to England and now it is much more popular here in the UK. There are many enthusiasts in the West Country, although it doesnt make sense to some people who wonder why you would want to drive a car in a straight line as fast as you can!
In the early days the appeal for me was the need for speed, but now its about enjoying the spectacle and the technical challenges with the engines and cars that we build. Its difficult to explain unless youve been to a meeting yourself. Drag racing has a very good social side; its a big family event, says Lee, who is married to Sue and has three daughters.
Lee hasnt raced in the Firenza, having modified it for fun; it has an estimated output of about 225 horsepower. The car is certainly a one-off and building this unique vehicle seems to have been a labour of love for Lee, who has even had to make his own tools and gadgets to overcome any difficulties.
I will never say that something cant be done I dont think I have ever been completely stumped. There is always a way round it!



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