Rebel Rekord

Words & photography: Steve Edwards

Even though it’s loud, intimidating, obnoxious and a real rebel, one thing is for sure: this Rekord is a real hit.

If you’ve got petrol in your veins then you’ll be able to relate to Martin Holcroft’s journey so far. From his early teens, he got involved in grass roots motorsport, and that has stood him in good stead ever since. Martin’s Dad, Keith, competed in Autograss competitions and was only too pleased, as any father would be, when his son expressed an interest in his passion. Imagine his pride, then, when father and son, who shared a Union Jack-bedecked Mini, both won their respective championships and Martin got a reputation for overtaking his competition in the most unlikely of corners.

The pair bonded during their time spent together in the garage, building engines and completing repairs to any damage (mostly caused by Martin, it has to be said). Time spent on the track and other car related events, notably American car and truck shows, had a long-lasting effect on the young Holcroft, his interest in all things automotive and, as it turned out, his career path too.

Like a lot of kids born in the early Eighties, Martin was not only fascinated by cars but by computers and the associated games too, and if those games featured a car then even better. The young fella then got involved with 3D printing and began to find out as much as he could, and ended up going to university to maximise his knowledge. After graduation, Martin set up as a freelance artist specialising in working with vehicle parts, and helped manufacturers by producing replica car parts they could mould from. He was also an in-house vehicle artist for Ubisoft, a games company, who brought out titles such as Assassin’s Creed, Trackmania and Driver – San Francisco (ask your kids).

Martin’s car history started, quite unsurprisingly, with a few Minis, one of which was often followed by a cloud of white smoke and another that he restored and even sprayed in a gazebo on the driveway. As much as he loved the car, the feelings weren’t always reciprocated, with it breaking down when he had his girlfriend, Helen, in the car on their commute to uni, or when the speedo gave up so he had to guess his pace past various speed cameras.

The car was moved on and replaced with a cool Morris Minor that was nicknamed Betty Bones. Martin taught himself to fibreglass on this car by making his own quarter bumpers and some over-sized teeth for the grille. His 3D skills were called upon, with Martin testing parts on the Minor which he had fitted with an Eaton M45 supercharger. Here he found that petrol and plastic don’t mix that well, and so he switched to nylon and eventually to metal when the need to learn to weld became overwhelming.

While Martin was customising his Minor, on the other side of the Baltic Sea, a Finnish reality TV series called Latela, set in a garage, in a Gas Monkey etc style, was starting. In their first season, the garage had been split into two for two crews to stage a build-off, the winner of which was to be decided by public vote at a large, annual car show. Both teams were told to see what they could find in the garage’s resources, and while one side chose a Mk1 Escort, the others found an Opel Rekord. The Escort received a fairly sympathetic, quite typical, resto-ish job while the Rekord team took another approach altogether and decide to modify their car with some unusual parts.

The engine was switched out for a 2.0 litre C20NE unit from an Opel Omega that had been fitted with an LDS Racing turbo, a set of Siemens Deka 780cc fuel injectors, a Bosch 044 fuel pump and a three-inch stainless steel exhaust, which, along with the screamer tube that is attached to the dump valve, help to produce 280 brake horsepower on the dyno.

The bodywork also received some attention, with the rear being reshaped to accept a pair of ’65 Mustang taillights, the front indicators removed and smoothed, and a custom headlight cluster with a bar grille installed. The door handles and locks were also removed and replaced with solenoids that operate the door pop-outs controlled by some very neat hidden switches. The car was painted in a fetching shade of VW Pepper Grey with some carbon fibre vinyl added as racing stripes; the bumpers were also wrapped in the same material.

The suspension setup was adjusted too, with shortened standard springs up front, with a pair from a Ford Sierra at the rear. Needless to say, the Rekord won the public vote, but then fell out of public sight for a while until it re-emerged on eBay where Martin placed a bid but sadly didn’t win. He did contact the seller, Koskin Imports (koskinimport.com), who, as it turns out, were having problems with the winning bidder. After a flurry of emails, Martin sent his money to a random bloke in Finland and then sat, nervously hoping that he hadn’t bought a lemon or that there wasn’t a very drunk Finnish man laughing at him. As it happened, Jason at Koskin Imports made the process very easy and he even arranged delivery to Martin’s front door, complete with some complimentary beer and chocolate.

Sadly, since the car had left the Latela garage it had had quite a hard life, with the interior suffering the most. All of the rubber mounts, ball joints and general maintenance had been neglected. On receiving it, Martin has gotten to grips with it and replaced things as required, and when he couldn’t find parts available off the shelf, he did the only sensible thing and made his own.

That includes the steering column bushes, complete with grease trap, and the rear number plate covers. He also replaced the Golf headlights the Finns had installed for a set which include LED Halos – colour changing LEDs, no less, which can be controlled via Bluetooth. You’ve got to love modern technology.

The rear lights required some adjustment to meet UK regulations, so Martin switched the lenses for some smoked clear ones and installed dividers for each section, fabricated from an old baked bean can. He even found a way to recycle one of the Finnish beer cans by utilising it as the windscreen washer bottle, a nice way to remember Jason’s kindness.

Martin had the wheels replaced with a set of Vauxhall steelies, which were banded by Alonze Custom in Scarborough (alonzecustom.co.uk), and had a set of Nankang rubber added with a slight stretch to give a cool look. The car still needs some attention to the interior, amongst other things, but when Editor Dave spotted it at the Whitby Kustom event he was one of the very few people to correctly identify it, and of course, from then on it was always destined to grace these pages.

Martin is a college lecturer these days and teaches Game Design, which not only lets him pass on his knowledge of 3D printing and gaming but also helps shape young minds when it comes to vehicle modelling and cars in general. It’s all right folks; they’re in safe hands.

While the Rekord has been tamed just a little with the addition of a rear silencer – the Finns don’t worry about such niceties – it still hangs on to its rebellious nature.

1970 Opel Rekord

  • VW Pepper Grey
  • Opel Omega 2.0 four-pot, 280bhp
  • Vauxhall steel wheels, banded
  • Nankang 245/45R16 tyres
  • Standard Opel springs front, Ford Sierra rear