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Elfin Purity

A pure, unspoilt driving experience on board a 20 valve Elfin Clubman.

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Elfin Clubman
  • Toyota 20V engine
  • Weighs around 500kg
  • A pure driving experience
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When you want a purpose-built fast car it’s hard to look past a Clubman style kit. These machines strip the driving experience down to the bare essentials – there’s no power steering, no air conditioning and there sure as heck aren’t any power windows.

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There are no windows!

With such a minimalist approach to design, cars like Joe Farmer’s Elfin Clubman tip the scales at only 500-odd kilograms. This gives them a tremendous advantage in acceleration, braking and handling - these are the purpose-built racers you’ve always dreamt of.

Joe Farmer and his company – JCR Race Car Restorations - is the Queensland agent for Elfin vehicles. Joe has built about five Elfin Clubmans from scratch to meet customer specs and the example you see here is an early build version – a demo vehicle that’s currently owned by Joe.

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Joe says the biggest visual difference between this vehicle and current Elfins is the bodywork. This example wears high-tensile aluminium nose, bonnet and scuttle together with fibreglass guards. We’re told the standard range of current Elfins come with an all-fibreglass body.

Drawing on the original 1961 design, the latest Elfin Clubman chassis is constructed on a jig from seamless mild steel. It incorporates a vast amount of triangulation (to maximise rigidity) and leaves a reasonable amount of space in the front to swallow a variety of engines.

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Joe’s car runs with a Japanese-market Toyota 4A-GE 1.6 litre 20 valve engine – a popular choice given its relative simplicity and progressive power delivery. The engine was installed with an aluminium radiator with twin electric fans and the custom design of the headers is dictated by the available space. Note that part of the wiring loom passes near the headers on the underside of one of the chassis members - this loom is thoroughly protected by heat wrap.

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In standard form, the ‘silver’ Toyota 20 valve engine is rated at 119kW but when you swap to an induction system with individual trumpets and filter socks (the latter not fitted in these photos) you can expect a tad more. A further power gain comes from the custom headers and a free-flowing 2 inch exhaust system with a cat converter and adequate muffling to keep things legal. Joe tells us a side-exit straight-through system is fitted for track visits.

After running the engine with an aftermarket management system (which we won’t name) Joe was unhappy with the overall driveability and smoothness, so he took the car to Brisbane’s All Star Tuning for a current-generation Haltech system. Joe says this provides a greater number of mapping points, which helps result in a far more pleasant engine. A generic Bosch fuel pump provides juice from a 40 litre tank which contains a custom internal swirl pot. The ignition is the standard Toyota single-coil set-up.

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In factory guise, the 20 valve Toyota engine was designed to be transversely-mounted in a front-wheel-drive vehicle. With the Clubman built around FR layout, Joe grabbed a rear-drive Toyota Sprinter 5 speed to send torque to the back. We’re told there was no need for a custom bell housing or anything fancy – just a few subtle changes here an’ there. Heading rearward, a custom tailshaft bolts to a tough Cortina differential.

With the advantage of its free-flow induction system, headers/exhaust and aftermarket management, Joe’s 20 valve Elfin has spun almost 130kW at the back wheels. The progressive nature of the power delivery also ensures the vehicle is controllable on the road and track.

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Like many Clubman-style vehicles, Joe’s Elfin runs a live-axle rear but he says it’s not much of a disadvantage compared to an IRS - an IRS on these cars is apparently best for ‘show’. The Cortina rear is located by a custom Panhard rod teamed with parallel trailing arms on each side. The front is an in-house developed double wishbone design. Both ends employ AVO coil-overs, which offer adjustable ride height and damping characteristics.

On the road and track, the Elfin Clubman is wonderfully direct and responsive. The light weight, wide track and low centre of gravity are key factors, but it’s also helped by the Suzuki rack and pinion steering which provides just 1 ½ turns lock-to-lock. Although there’s no power assistance, the steering is surprisingly light – Joe points out the Elfin weights approximately two-thirds the weight of a Suzuki Swift...With a full tank of fuel it tips the scales to just 508kg!

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The bitumen is held by 185/60 14 Yokohama A539s on Performance Superlite wheels, but for track appearances Joe switches to a sticky set of Advans. We’re told that the A539s highlight the handling balance of the Elfin better than the Advans – the relative lack of adhesion shows its enjoyable understeer/oversteer characteristics.

And brakes? Well, at the front you’ll find Cortina knuckles and stub axles working with TE Ford Cortina ventilated discs/2 pot calipers. Cortina drums are in service at the rear. The master cylinder is from a late-model Mazda and the lines are configured in a dual-circuit layout. Oh, and there’s no such thing as vacuum assistance on this beast.

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The cockpit is built to carry two passengers and provide the driver with adequate controls – there’s no more to it than that. This particular interior is a copy of a newer Elfin design and was cut from vinyl by a local Brisbane auto trimmer. The seats are custom, the steering column is Suzuki and there are VDO gauges for road speed, rpm, fuel level, coolant temp, oil temp and pressure. Note that the pedals are mounted on the floor and are adjustable, but the driver’s seat is fixed – Joe is the only person to regularly drive this baby.

As the Queensland Elfin agent, Joe is currently considering the possibility of moving up to the company’s latest-and-greatest creation – the head-kicking MS8 Clubman. Using the company’s new ties with GMH, the MS8 is styled by Holden and comes in two guises – the Clubman and Streamliner. Under its engine cover, the beasts pack a 245+ kilowatt Holden LS1 V8 complete with traction control to prevent early death.

“I’d really, really love to get into one of those,” says Joe.

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Although he is very much attached to his current Elfin Clubman, he is currently considering selling her. We’re told that its replacement cost is somewhere around AUD$52,000 but, given the relatively small amount of driving it’s seen, he’d be happy with about AUD$45,000.

Nope, you don’t get many mod-cons for your money – heck, not even a radio – but you soon forget about all that when you let the clutch out and attack the apexes.

That’s what it’s all about!

Contacts:

JCR Race Car Restorations
0411 475 913

All Star Tuning
+61 7 3265 7185

Elfin Sports Cars
www.elfin.com.au

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