A Rebirth in Progress – Pipey's Mk1

Words by Pipey McGraw & Photos by Henry Phull


The ULC is back at its birth ground, Coltech Classics, for the final stages of the imminent rebirth. Towards the end of last year, we took the Mk1 off the road to undergo a bit of engine transplanting, it so happens we got a little carried away. The 1300 twinport was binned in favour of a 1300 bridgeport… lengthy discussions were undertaken weighing up the possibilities on what silly engine could be swapped in. We wanted big power without spending the Earth, and something that would fit in the boot.



As undesirable and unreliable as they are, the noise was definitely the deciding factor on the early 13b rotary engine. Full bridgeported, swapped-out larger rotors for higher compression, carbon tips, Porsche 46 weber, stage 3 clutch etc, built by one of the best rotary builders in the country, punching a mean 250bhp which sings all the way to 11.5k rpm.



The engine is mated to a 4 speed pyramid bus box, in addition to a swapped in 091 diff, to take the power. The gearbox has been raised a good 6″ to take the depth of the rotary sump with Coltech Classics fabricated engine & gearbox mounts. Converting to IRS was not an option due to fitment issues, so a pair of Dave Folts drag driveshafts from California converted the cv joint bus box to a Beetle swing axle outer.



The rotary is slightly longer than the flat four and slightly protrudes the rear panel… hell, rear panels are overrated anyway! As the gearbox has been raised so high, it is now basically a passenger in the back seat, and now with the shifter rod poking through and into the car, Paul shaped and bent a stock shift rod to clear the handbrake and even made a custom tower for the shifter, rather than hiding everything down the the spine.



Aside from the engine swap there are still numerous things to sort, I wish it was as easy as bolting something on and it working right, but we’re not the biggest fan of bolt on built cars.



Space is extremely tight on a build like this, Paul is in the process of fabricating a very tight routed exhaust at the moment, space for silencers is a tedious issue. There are so many small niggly things to overcome and and find solutions for, who’d of thought a Golf bodied Beetle panned Ford ignitioned Mazda rotary powered Morris Minor wheels Triumph Dolomite seat framed car would have any issues going together…



Since a water-cooled engine is bolted in the back, water pipes now have to be run inside, straight to the front of the car. Luckily we left the original Golf inner front panel in so we could mount the radiator in its stock position, so Paul fabricated some folded and bead rolled aluminium ducking to flow through and under the beam. Our friend Adam knocked up some custom tanks for oil and water, in addition customizing the radiator – as Aeroquip fittings are being installed throughout.



Oli has also modified the front beam for the shocks to sit higher up the beam insuring that the car sits firmly on the floor.



The car has seen more progress in the last 3 days at Coltech Classics than it has the last 6 months, they don’t mess around. As always with a massive build like this, its a team effort. From Forsyth’s logistics, Adam’s tremendous tigging, the long hard hours Paul and Oli have put in welding, fabricating and mounting. Not forgetting Staten’s international parcel handling, to the advice, help, favours, patience and parts all my homies have helped with… I’m pretty lucky to have such an incredible bunch of dudes i get to hang out and build cars with. I can’t thank them enough. It’s all coming together now. Stay tuned for a video update next.

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