We start the new year with alot of swearing, a touch of claustrophia and an outrageous build which all South Africans should be proud of.
By Joel Batty Silva
Not every build that begins with a definite plan ends up following it to a tee. Sometimes, circumstances can push a project car in a completely different direction than the one you thought you were headed in. Unfortunately, that seldom happens with Quentin Boylan, owner of the world’s first AMG-powered Lotus Exige.
Quentin’s love for track racing flows thick and fast and blames his friends, the brothers Charl, Pieter and Dawie Joubert for his hidden circuit addiction. Quentin followed suit when he purchased a Lotus Exige a few years ago. “Owning a Lotus was always a dream for me. It was up for sale not too long ago and then my wife stopped me. I’m glad she did. I’m living my dreams and I’m fortunate enough to do so.”
The brains trust is Hercules van Wyk, or Tjonkie to some. The engineering mastermind and genius builder behind Special K, King K, and now the Lotus, speaks frankly about how the project began. “Before this, we had just fitted a 6.2-litre AMG 63 motor into a Hilux and saw potential. Tjonkie suggested we also fit a 63 motor into the Lotus, which seemed a sensible option: a reliable motor would allow us to put in a lot more effort into the handling of the car and other unforeseen things which track racing would throw at us. I sourced a motor from an SLS in Holland, which was great, as those come standard from the factory with a dry sump pump.”
Just as the motor was loaded into a container and shipped southwards, Quentin ordered a 6-speed Albins ST6 sequential gearbox. These were originally designed for Australia’s V8 Supercars and Le Mans GT3/GT4 race cars. The base 6-speed gear section can be configured to an inline transmission, rear-mount transaxle or mid-mount transaxle, which as you can tell was a no-brainer for the Lotus project. When the motor and transmission arrived, their earlier planning indicated that a new subframe and integrated cage would need to be made. They delivered the car to chassis engineer Andre van Aarde who then extended the chassis and weaved an intricate web of chromoly pipe to house the motor and transmission.
There’s no denying the effect wide fenders, big wings, and carbon fibre can have on the way a car looks – it’s a recipe that works often. In the case of the Lotus, Tjonkie and Quentin orchestrated an eclectic mix of aero in the form of a full carbon body shell, an original Ferrari F430 GT3 wing, aero vents on the front fenders, larger side air intakes to feed both K&N air filters, the custom roof duct to feed cooler air into the cabin, and a custom rear diffuser. “Thankfully Charl allowed us to use his front end to make a direct copy, while our goal in the rear was to make everything look as close as possible to a standard Exige, although it is 150mm longer and 100mm wider.”
Three years later, the hefty German lump idles in the workshop, grinning from ear to ear. It’s a stock 6.2 litre V8 that features CME Engineering exhaust headers, a shopping list of fabricated pieces by Junior Welding Works that includes the amazing exhaust, fuel cell, breather box and revised intakes.
And of course, that custom billet bellhousing which was made to adapt the gearbox to the motor. For this, they enlisted the engineering geniuses of MWAS Systems who also made custom billet mountings and clips. The final power figure on the MJR dyno resulted in 575hp on wheels with 720Nm, which Quentin says is “reliable everyday power on 95-octane.”
While some prefer to keep their vehicle as simple as possible, Quentin explains that modern day ingenuity is a key component to the Lotus. “I like to use technology in ways that will result in a fast, reliable, and consistent car. Everything is controlled by MoTeC, and there’s a lot of control. Luckily, I have Martin Roets from MJR to count on who has helped me tremendously.”
With a monumental engine build comes suspension and braking to match. Because the chassis has to take on the forces brought by double the power, top quality 3-way adjustable AST dampers are installed whereby all adjusters work completely independently with a remote reservoir.
The superb handling is aided by an AP disc and caliper brake system, one of the more exotic brake upgrades an enthusiast can ask for. I should also mention they’re much lighter in weight compared to the OEM Brembo brakes, which helps to lower unsprung weight for improved handling and steering. And what about those 3-piece 18” Forgeline wheels? Well they’re 12-inch wide in the rear and 10-inch wide in front, and since the local, off-the-shelf race slicks are only available in 18-inch, Quentin’s plan to fit 20-inch wheels didn’t go according to plan.
Pop the door open, and Carbon Kevlar smacks you square in the face. It certainly matches the yellow exterior. Very different, and spectacular. Bar the Motec gadgetry and the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, everything looks lean and trim like Khabib. “Let’s go for a ride.” He says.
The toughest job all day is getting into the car, and the video on our Youtube channel will highlight why – go have a view. I have to squeeze in through a tiny gap and then plop into a seat built for someone about 10 centimetres shorter. As we roar off, I wonder how high we are off the ground. It feels like millimetres. Any lower and I’d need steel underwear. The Lotus is a wild beast, noisy and I assumed it was ready to bite at any chance it gets. Quentin reassures me the traction control is on, yet the good guy in me keeps reaching for the safety harness. The bad guy keeps screaming “f&%k the f&%king harness!”
As Quentin switches off the car, I’m struck by the heat permeating the car. Even with the engine off, it is still radiating immense warmth from the drive. There’s a method of getting out of the Lotus, and I found it to be far lot easier than getting in. Later that evening, my wife clicked my spine back into place.
As South Africans, we should be proud of what Quentin has achieved. The entire car was built in South Africa by South Africans, on a bustling little street in Pretoria named Van Der Hoff. The runaway Quentin/Tjonkie speed train is barrelling forward towards even bigger and greater projects that include a record breaking RWD Honda from the States and an AWD Civic which was said “will be another King K but with an extra diff!” Holy F&%k!