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Author Topic: Okrasa Special  (Read 114516 times)
Steve Wright
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« on: October 18, 2011, 09:29:44 am »

Hey. new boy here. I thought you guys might be interested in a car I bought in late 2009. It’s an English “special” built in the 1950's, comprising Porsche/VW mechanicals in a spaceframe chassis to Porsche 550 Spyder dimensions, with a mid-engined Okrasa engine. I bought it because quite apart from being rare as an English-built car using German parts in post-war Britain, when the opportunity presented itself to create rather than restore something it proved irresistible. The car was built by a chap called David Small, who owned the Farnham Porsche and VW dealership in Surrey up until the late ‘70’s. It was driven up Oulton road in Farnham in this state for shakedown testing, easily seeing 100mph before being pushed into the back of the dealership workshop where it then sat for the next 46 years! Keith Seume bought it about five years ago and then sold it onto me.


I managed to track David down this time last year and was privileged to be able to speak with the designer and builder of the car. Despite being in his eighties he instantly remembered the car and reeled off specifications and various parts he had used. He was amazed that the car still existed and touched that someone had tracked him down to research the car in order to finish it. David built eight previous specials prior to this one and raced against Colin Chapman in the 1950’s - he was also a qualified mechanical engineer and a gifted guy who patently knew what he was doing as he built this car from scratch. As you can see from the photos the heart of the car is a square tube space-frame chassis with aircraft-style aluminium panelling, housing all the major components (engine, gearbox, petrol tank, etc) within the wheelbase of the car. David was clear that it was built as a road-going sportscar, but it has many obvious race car influences such as the right hand gear-change, adjustable engine cooling flap on the underside of the car, etc.


The engine, a brand new Okrasa TSV-1300 unit was imported from Germany in 1958: the engine comprises a new 69.5mm forged crank, Okrasa’s own twin port heads of similar specification to Porsche, twin Solex carbs on tall manifolds, higher compression, remote oil cooling, and a new cam to assist in making the most of the package, almost doubling the VW output to 55hp, which should prove useful in a car weighing about 500 kg’s as it currently stands.

David used all new parts in building the car as he had access to an inventory of stock in the dealership and the shakedown tests put a total of 46 miles on the car, effectively meaning the car is brand new, even down to the Okrasa engine and original Michelin X tyres which are now unfortunately rock hard and unusable. The car has been built to the dimensions and wheelbase of the Porsche 550 Spyder and I intend to finish a job started 48 years ago by clothing the car in aluminium bodywork.


I'll post a bunch more photos over the next few days. Cheers, Steve
« Last Edit: September 18, 2016, 12:31:48 pm by Steve Wright » Logged
Steve Wright
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2011, 09:46:46 am »

Next installment: When we (Ian Clark of WPS is helping with the mechanicals as well as advice) serviced the Special for the first time it was more like an archaeological investigation! First up was a check of all the wiring, plugs and fuel lines. Most turned out to be okay, with very little corrosion, although for obvious reasons we changed all the fuel and brake lines. The original spark plugs had a lot of corrosion on the tops so they were changed, while we did a visual inspection of the carbs to ensure nothing had dropped down them. Engine and gearbox oil were next - both were wonderfully clean and honey coloured. While the oil was viscous when we unscrewed the sump plug, when we took the cover off the remaining oil wobbled on the strainer like jelly. We pumped plenty of new fluid through the brake system to flush out the old fluid, and tried both pedals expecting neither to work. To our surprise the seals in the Ford 100E slave and master cylinders held up well. We checked the tappets which were all fine, did a visual inspection with a torch into the crankcase to check for corrosion as best we could and found this...
[/img][/img]

Looks like it's just been screwed together rather than done almost five decades ago.

I had an old six volt battery with plenty of life still in it so we hooked that up in the front of the car, and the petrol tank hasn't yet been connected properly so we rigged up a fuel container in the engine compartment. We unhooked the distributor lead from the coil and turned the key the first step... and I must admit I was a little surprised when the two main warning lights blinked into operation on the dash. Then with a twist of the key we cranked the engine over to build oil pressure and pump petrol through the carbs. The oil pressure light went out quickly so we primed the carbs with engine starter, crossed our fingers and turned the key again. After a few coughs and splutters the engine roared into life - I held the throttle at a high idle for a minute or so then gently eased off the pedal. Unbelievably the engine sat happily idling as though it had run yesterday!
[/img]
The exhaust was a lot quieter than I expected, with the twin silencers off a Tatra apparently: we've subsequently chopped one off to clear the bodywork which has made it a lot more aggressive sounding... They do a great job of damping the exhaust, probably too good a job if I'm honest. There's significant rust on them as neither look like they have ever been painted, so I think I'll use that as an excuse to have a Porsche Sebring style set up made to fit the custom headers. Then it was a case of getting in and driving it! Getting in requires the race car style of entry: bum first, then swing the legs in. I pushed the clutch pedal in and gingerly eased it into first, not knowing if the clutch worked or not, then slowly lifted it and all of a sudden we were driving! A few passes up and down the workshop yard saw no problems so we took a few tools and a mobile phone and set off up the road. The engine noise in the cabin is tremendous as it's two inches from your ear, so as Graham highlighted earlier a engine cover or firewall will definitely be required. Everything worked fine so with confidence building I gave the car a decent amount of right pedal up a series of hilly corners. Of course the sense of speed is exaggerated by the noise of the engine and being exposed at the moment with no doors, but being featerweight and with 95% of the mass contained between the wheels the car is tremendously agile and should be a proper period giant killer on tight, twisty circuits and hill climbs. I really must thank Ian for helping on the day. I know he enjoyed himself but nonetheless it would have been a heck of a job without his help and knowledge.[/img]
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Steve Wright
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2011, 09:58:02 am »

When we serviced the Special it provided a good opportunity to become familiar with the car and chassis in particular. The original builder knew his beans, for example the rear suspension is completely hand crafted and one-off: the VW torsion bars have been done away with and the spaceframe mounts Porsche RSK inspired adjustable coilover springs with long, custom-made trailing arms mounted to the chassis well down to lower the centre of gravity. At the front the VW centre tunnel has been cut and re-welded at an angle to drop the front suspension height, effectively lowering the car without effecting camber, toe, ride height, etc.

The front end doesn’t have an anti-roll bar but as they were fitted to VW’s and Porsche in period we can have a play with different ones to improve the handling if required. At the rear I’ll leave things as they are until we test drive the car properly with some shakedown tests on the road and track to judge whether the rear swing axle suspension needs to be tied down better with a period camber compensator bar from Speedwell or a period Formula Vee set up that goes over the top of the gearbox. The front has also had a few torsion leaves removed to soften the front which was the right thing to do given the car weighs significantly less than the original. This means we can get away with pretty stiff roll bars and soft dampers to give us good road holding. Obviously the rear is adjustable so we should be able to play around a bit there. Irrespective, it’s great to have something with a bit of adjustability in it and to have the challenge of chassis set up ahead of us. I might regret that last statement when it handles like a pig and we can’t get it to go round a bend! The only thing we will replace is the coilovers because we've got to replace the springs because of the rust and we need more adjustability than the Armstrongs afford.

Anyway moving on, the chassis was built utilising the conventional Formula 1 wisdom of day (late 50’s) as used on the Cooper, with their (relatively) heavy tube chassis and it was obviously designed to be strong and rigid without a roof. Adding the roof has increased weight a but as it’s a stressed panel in its own right and has been tied securely into the chassis it should make for a really rigid structure. I must admit I also like the thought of something over my head – I’ve never personally been a fan of open top cars, in the sense of racing one myself. The car doesn’t have a rollbar, but it would be the one concession I would make today, tying something into the equivalent of the b-pillar that is used for the petrol tank/seat support. The side bar is the least pleasing aspect of the chassis design, as it’s not conducive to getting in and out, but it makes the chassis tremendously strong and affords some degree of side impact protection. The underside of the car is almost completely flat, which should clean up airflow under the car. I know I’m not going to be travelling fast enough nor would it be period correct to think about ground effects but it’s lovely to see so much thought put into making the car as clean and slippery through the air on the underside as I hope it will be on top. On the downside the flat floor is typical of Specials of the era in that there are no indentations or curves in the floor, meaning you can’t stand on it, but there are enough supports off the main spine to get in and out effectively.

The one real fly in the ointment is that after servicing the engine we suddenly realised – how do you remove the engine? Two hooks on the crankcase attest to the only design flaw I have so far come across. The roof was put on afterwards and the rear chassis tubes mean it can’t come out beneath or horizontally. So the only way will be to remove the rear screen and lift it out on a hoist or via a pulley in the roof. I spent ages searching for a solution (removable section of spaceframe, etc) but none of the ideas really grabbed me. Besides once you reconcile yourself with the idiosyncrasy then it just means putting in a pulley!



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Steve Wright
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2011, 10:09:43 am »

Final set of pics for the day: The car came with a Martin & Walker Porsche 550 Spyder kit and it sat for a long time with this on it while I figured out what to do with the bodywork. The original builder always intended to clothe it in aluminium so that will be the way we go with it, but obviously the NOS KG roof is steel. David added the roof back in May '61 when he took the car up Oulton road in Surrey England at 100mph without a roof, and decided that was not the way to go! I intend to finish the car as if it had been completed in period. Irrespective of the influences it will be forward-looking rather than backwards to the 50's, because David's ideas were pretty radical and forward-thinking for the era. There are plenty of mix 'n match bits on the car too, such as the Lucas rear view mirror, Smith's speedo, Crypton tachometer, and period Ford clutch and brake master cylinder so it feels right to have a blend of inspiration on the bodywork. In the first photo you can see the 356B drum brakes being fitted as I've always been a big believer in putting decent brakes on the car (again period as the B came out in '59)






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Dosey
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2011, 12:03:46 pm »

Pure class dude great to see so much love being put into such a cool car
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Fiatdude
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2011, 12:25:28 pm »

This is gong to be fun to watch --- great project
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speedwell
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2011, 14:52:30 pm »

The KG roof seems to lend well with the 550 lines, cool project  Shocked
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Zach Gomulka
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2011, 15:20:48 pm »

I've been keeping up with this thread on the samba, it's coming along brilliantly! Keep at it!
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TexasTom
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2011, 16:01:39 pm »

That thing is FREAKING AWESOME! Really dig it with the 550 panels as well ...  Shocked Grin
Then again, I'm a 550 whore.
TxT
« Last Edit: October 24, 2011, 00:15:44 am by TexasTom » Logged

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lowfastbus
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2011, 17:01:33 pm »

Hi Steve,
Nice to see some bigger pictures off the car, looks really cool and interesting.
Great to see you on the lounge.

I was parked next to you guys at EBI with my gold "Knuckle Buster" racecar.

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Rocket don
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2011, 17:17:46 pm »

here's some inspiration

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmentd1/2935527722/

nice project, look forward to seeing it built and on a track somewhere  Cool
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Airspeed
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2011, 19:40:38 pm »

That thing is FREAKING AWESOME! Really dig it with the 550 panels as well ...  Shocked Grin
TxT
Couldn't agree more! The Ghia roof with the 550 panels looks fantastic!
Rear suspension reminds a bit of the Formula V of that ~ period.
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"...these cars were preferred by the racers because the strut front suspension results in far superior handling than the regular torsion bar front end..."  - Keith Seume.
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Steve Wright
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2011, 10:22:40 am »

Thanks for the warm reception guys (hello Lowfastbus!). Attached below are a few ideas from a couple of other forums, principally TheSamba and DDK-online, that I particularly like. There are some awesomely talented people out there. While I like the 550 kit I was never going to run with it, for two reasons: firstly it's fibreglass and no-one in period was building one-off fibreglass specials. There were fibreglass cars but they were being turned out by manufacturers in low volume runs. secondly, the design is based on an early '50s car and I wanted something more modern - the car was last driven in May 1961 so ideas and inspiration for the car would've been early sixties. Principal inspiration for me comes from the Porsche 904, Ferrari 250 LM or the Abarth cars. I’ve never been a big fan of the Beetle derived lights on a sports car, the 356 included. It also tends to make the front end too “heavy jowled” as well: the leading lip of the front wing needs to be trimmed and pulled tighter towards the centreline of the car. The front also needed to be extended slightly as the rake of the bonnet will be too steep as the scuttle panel in front of the windscreen is too high at the moment - extending it will allow for a more gentle angle. It would also benefit from being slightly more pointed as the 550 nose is fairly blunt. I’ll probably try and put slightly more “hump” into the top of the front wings as well to give more curvature to the wing. I’ll certainly be putting doors on it, just simple single skin affairs that will have a slightly higher waistline than at present that lead into the rear quarter windows at a higher waistline than the original Karmann Ghia’s would’ve done into the roofline. I also need to get air into the engine bay but detest the Porsche 550 Le Mans solution that was achieved by filling in the side windows and then cutting slates in them. Given such beautiful lines of the Ghia roof it seems a shame to lose them. I’m more inclined to cut a 907 or 910 inspired vent into the top leading edge of the rear arch and then blend this with a slightly higher waistline but retain a window in the quarter light space there along with a very slim B-pillar. A Kamm tail looks fantastic as styled in the photos below but I don’t know whether we will go with this. Photos on next post as I can't seem to post more than 10 lines of text without the text jumping up and down  Undecided

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Steve Wright
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2011, 10:28:50 am »

here's the original idea...

and then a few ideas, talented people out there...






and here's the final one I decided on...
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vwcab
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2011, 11:30:18 am »

AWESOME!!!!Cool project.  Wink
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Nico86
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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2011, 12:43:04 pm »

Welcome to The Lounge, and that's an awesome project! Keep us updated!  Wink Cool
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Rocket don
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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2011, 15:15:55 pm »

one vote each for the red one and last rendered image
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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2011, 19:44:29 pm »

Another vote for the red one... even if it looks Italian  Wink
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danny gabbard
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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2011, 20:02:11 pm »

Can you draw the red one with lowered wind shield, So roof is even with top of doors. and no scoops on the side and maybe soffen up body lines on the side where lead into scoop?Hi steve, Are you going to maken wooden buck and shape a new body?
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 20:05:21 pm by danny gabbard » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2011, 20:31:29 pm »

http://www.thesamba.com/vw/forum/viewtopic.php?t=392490
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Black Sheep
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less is more


« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2011, 20:45:13 pm »

x 3 for the red image ,
awesome project  Cool will deffo be following this  :)0
Thanks for thesamba link Zach , the alloy works looks the business  Cool
« Last Edit: October 19, 2011, 21:55:15 pm by Black Sheep » Logged

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danny gabbard
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« Reply #21 on: October 19, 2011, 21:17:16 pm »

Thanks zack ! Nice progress, Hi steve, are you gas welding your seams?  I take it you wheeling most of your shapes?
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« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2011, 06:36:17 am »

I hate projects like this, just makes me look rubbish.  Grin

I love the lines but the boot area is always the hardest to get right.
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Steve Wright
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« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2011, 13:27:00 pm »

okay, update for the day. It's worth highlighting that I'm fast-forwarding through 18 months of project here to bring this thread up to date, so you'll have to forgive if I ignore the votes on the concept drawings as we're now finished with the design and well into rolling ally!

Okay, next step was to convert the photoshop image to drawings to ensure we didn't do anything stupid (read expensive). Macauley (who drew the final rendition I chose) spent a lot of time getting drawings done, making detail changes and doggedly refining, refining and refining. Then we realised the photoshop mock ups weren't to scale when we tried to put measurements to everything so we had to start again with ghosting the drawing over the chassis to get the proportions right - looks like the wheels were over-sized in one of the original photoshop designs which threw everything. So we're getting there now with a correctly scaled set of drawings which Macauley is refining.

Barry next started on building a wireform buck to bring the design to life in real-size, and the licence plates arrived too "LOW 617". Enjoy, and as you flick over these bear in mind there's probably 30 hours of drawings and 25 emails between us to get us to this stage....
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Steve Wright
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« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2011, 13:42:12 pm »









« Last Edit: October 20, 2011, 13:45:42 pm by Steve Wright » Logged
Worm
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Whose stupid idea was that?


« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2011, 15:55:45 pm »

Wow, amazing
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« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2011, 16:29:05 pm »

Steve, great to see the project come along very nice ... it seems like ages since we spoke at the VoWo show

good luck and keep us updated


Gunter.(CSP)
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Pas
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« Reply #27 on: October 21, 2011, 03:04:48 am »

Having just read the thread on The Samba all I can say is WOW. What an incredible opportunity to finish this car and what a great (and unusual) way to go about designing the bodywork. Your coachbuilder is one very clever guy, I can't wait to see the finished result Cool
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aurélien
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« Reply #28 on: October 22, 2011, 11:50:23 am »

hello.

it's a superb project  Shocked

Where does the roof of the base?

thank's

Aurélien.
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So.Cal.Life
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« Reply #29 on: October 24, 2011, 01:08:49 am »

      To Steve Wright,  If there comes a time when the car is finished and Mr. David Small is still around , ( I hope he is ) he has to be offered a chance to drive, or at least a ride in the car.   I promise you this, if this were to happen, and you documented it all , you would never experience a more rewarding feeling of accomplishment , I would be a" great day" for everyone to enjoy and remember, to say the least!!!!   Thank You for taking on a project of this kind and sharing it with all of us.   Smiley               KG Wink
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