A gelcoat colour finish and vinyl interior may not
sound like a great starting point for an authentic replica
but, as Bob Lymn's car demonstrates, it has hardly been
Concerned that he was appearing something of an anorak
when it comes to all things Porsche Speedster, Bob Lymn
stops himself telling me how he carefully engraved a
chassis plate for his Chesil Speedster which exactly
replicates the 1957 original. He's already outlined
the number plate position and the coachbuilder's badge
on the side of the car (which, correctly, is only fitted
on one side, not both!) but in all other respects Bob
is indeed a normal person…
To prove the point, he's opted for Chesil's upmarket
non-standard seats since he has a bad back. He's also
done for the company's non-standard wind-up window option
and, horror among horrors, this car is only finished
in a gelcoat colour. The anoraks will be up in arms
but as Bob points out as we talk through the build,
"it's only a bit of frivolous fun."
Always a car enthusiast, Bob and his son Tom went along
to the 1996 Stoneleigh kit car show. Porsche Speedster
replicas were already in the back of his mind and 1996
witnessed a veritable glut of the things. The duo pawed
over the cars on both the Chesil and Martin & Walker
stands, while the Legend option was quickly dispensed
with because the company didn't appear to have a car
to look at! Out in the Owners' Club stand were lots
more examples, some good and some not so good, and one
person even invited them to drive his car around the
Stoneleigh complex. Impressed with the result, Bob's
future project plans were finally sealed when Tom bought
him a Porsche badge at the show…
Pressures of running his own business then put everything
on hold for a little while and there was a real question
as to whether the project would every get off the ground.
But when a terminally ill close friend pointed out that
he shouldn't put off things for too long he was spurred
In early 1997 a reconditioned and pre-shortened VW Beetle
rolling chassis was advertised in the kit car press.
The owner had had the chassis inspected by Chesil and
the rest of the work appeared to be in good order. As
Bob points out, it was to be his biggest mistake of
the whole project. Back in the garage closer inspection
of the suspension revealed that 85% of it had to be
stripped down and rebuilt - from wheel bearings to brake
master cylinder, that was hardly anything that had been
By the end of the year, with the chassis coming on nicely,
it was time to decide on exactly which kit he was going
for. Both Bob and Tom has been encouraged with the way
the Martin & Walker car had sat at the show - it just
looked right - but a visit to the company's premises
was less than impressive and Bob's meticulous nature
soon began to find fault in the company's demo car.
By contrast, Chesil's demonstrator was immaculately
presented and the workshops were busy.
A left-hand-drive bodyshell, which was about to be shipped
out to the continent, helped him decide the colour.
In a cream-coloured gelcoat finish, it looked absolutely
spot-on while also a little different from the metallic
silvers that are more commonly used on the cars. With
lots of fully built and part-built cars to look at in
the Chesil unit, Bob was really fired-up for the project
and an order was placed.
With time being a problem, Bob opted for the company's
Full Body Kit package, where all the panels are pre-hung
by the factory and all relevant holes cut in the bodyshell.
It really allowed him to get stuck into the build.
Come the collection date Bob had Chesil quote for
fitting the body onto his chassis, since he didn't
have the man power or lifting equipment to do it himself
back at home…
The figure was so minimal that he quickly loaded his
rolling chassis onto a trailer and took it down for
them to fit the body and then return home the same day.
Chesil was happy for him to hang around and watch how
it was all done.
Indeed, he was even roped-in for a few jobs and was
thoroughly impressed by the good-natured workforce and
relaxed atmosphere. Back at home the build progressed
as and when work allowed. What's more, Bob wasn't prepared
to work every spare hour that he had on the car, so
it was steadily completed over the next twelve months.
Unusually for a kit car company, the build manual proved
pretty useful. Instead, the main problems of the project
largely centred round the troublesome rolling chassis.
Bob's colour blindness also made the wiring more tricky
than it might otherwise have been!
When the car was finally ready to hit the road, he called
in the help of his local VW specialist, Dominic Gardner
of DG Motors. Dominic checked the car over carefully,
setting up the suspension, sorting a strange problem
that Bob had with the gearshift (which once again related
to the original work done on the rolling chassis) and
giving it its first MoT. Once that was complete, Bob
set out getting the registration document altered to
accurately reflect its new status. Of course, since
the Chesil retains the VW chassis it remains SVA exempt.
While Bob hadn't set a budget for the project, he didn't
want the build costs to run out of control. The quality
of the gelcoat finish was such that he felt he could
dispense with a paint finish while in the interior he
resisted the temptation to use leather and instead opted
for vinyl throughout. As a result, he reckons that total
build cost to have been about £12,000.
We've already established that getting the details right
has been an important feature of the project and, as
such, Bob has comprehensively used original Porsche
badging instead of the Chesil emblems which the factory
fits to al of its own demo cars. However, despite having
been on the road for over a year, the bumper strips
and side rub strips were only added in the week before
we arrived. Bob has been amazed at how much difference
they make to the look of the car, although he's still
loath to add the polished side stripes you normally
see on Speedsters. Having seen the car we'd have to
agree, because it really looks the part.
The cream colour (officially known as Flaxon) is a really
inspired choice, as is the mottled red interior and,
allied to all the other little finishing touches around
the car, this is an extremely tidy home-build example.
Out on the road the ride is pretty firm (certainly harder
than the last factory example we drove) but it perhaps
suits the close replica feel that Bob has been striving
for. Despite only being powered by a 1300cc Beetle engine,
the car is pleasantly quick, with the 4-speed gearbox
being a more noticeable limitation. Future plans include
both a capacity upgrade (possibly to 1800cc) and also
a move to a 5-speed gearbox, but in almost every other
aspect Bob is extremely happy with the way the project
has turned out, "It just looks so right and it's such
Unlike many people who've built their first kit car,
Bob doesn't have any great desire to build another.
He has the car he always wanted, he's happy to fiddle
with it further and doubts he'll ever part with it.
There's certainly no other kit car he fancies, although
a home-built plane would be an interesting proposition.
And then he could forget about anoraks and move on to
CHESIL TEN YEAR LANDMARK
The Inaugural year of the new millennium carries with
it added kudos for the Chesil Motor Company. 1990 was
the year when Peter Bailey purchased the rights to manufacture
an existing Speedster replica known as the Street Beetle.
Since then the car has changed beyond all recognition
(except that it still looks like a Speedster!) and the
company has forged a reputation for a top quality product
allied to professional back-up. The company now assembles
as many fully-built cars as it supplies in basic kit
form - something that is probably unique within the
kit car scene.
On July 8th the factory held a celebration Open Day
where all existing owners were invited to attend and
have a look around the factory following a number of
impressive developments. 15 privately owned cars made
it down to the factory's Dorset base where the company
put on a buffet lunch followed by anniversary cake!
Recent developments at the factory include a new assembly
area, brad new paint booth and, almost unique for a
kit car company…smart new loos!
Those looking for a new project took great interest
in the new wooden body buck in the assembly area. With
aluminium panels scattered around it, it didn't take
a genius to work out that here was the beginning of
a brand new Porsche 550 replica. Chesil aims to assemble
an aluminium-bodied car in order to then take final
moulds for a fibreglass-bodied kit version. According
to Bailey, expect the first kits to be available from
around Spring of next year.
Further activities on the day included a fun run around
the local lanes and the whole event was considered to
be a great success by the 50 people who managed to attend.
Not billed as a day open to potential customers, it
was a particularly relaxed event for existing supporters
of the Chesil marque. With the new 550 kit well underway
it looks as though the next ten years will be just as
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