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Astra-nomical!

A 13 second custom built Astra turbo - it's different!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Unusual tuning platform - a 2001 Holden Astra CD
  • Fully performance-built motor
  • Roller-bearing turbo
  • MoTeC management
  • Idiosyncratic visuals
  • 13 second quarter miles!
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Think modified Holden and you probably won’t think beyond a Commodore or HSV. But what about the European imported models such as the Astra? Hmm, now there’s something different!

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Glenn Robinson purchased this 2001 Astra CD 1.8 brand new and, after a bit of everyday use, he started to really take note of the car’s attributes. Quality assembly, a rigid body, comfortable interior and fine on-road manners. But the power? Nah. The 90kW 1.8 litre four struggles to run a low 17 second quarter mile...

Fast-forward to today - Glenn’s Astra shaves around 4 seconds off that!

When Glenn decided to treat his Astra to more power, he didn’t muck around - he went straight for a custom turbo kit and performance engine rebuild.

The task of engine assembly was passed on to Brisbane’s All Star Tuning. Glenn always planned to run a considerable amount of boost so the engine was treated to Aries dished forged pistons (for a turbo-friendly 8.5:1 static compression ratio), forged rods and a nitrided crankshaft. The DOHC, 16 valve head presently remains standard but will soon be ported.

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After its fresh performance build, the little Opel-sourced 1.8 was the perfect platform for a bullet-proof turbocharged screamer.

Glenn called upon a mate - Paul Meakin - to laser cut the exhaust manifold flanges and fabricate the custom manifold piping. Good ol’ steam pipe was used in the construction of the manifold. The turbocharger was freighted from GCG in Sydney and it’s a brand new Garrett GT28 roller-bearing job. The turbo core is fed oil from a braided oil line (which is T’d into the oil pressure sensor) and is water cooled via the heater hoses.

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Cooling the boosted charge-air is a bar-and-plate intercooler core that was also sourced from GCG while the plumbing is a custom job performed by Glenn and his mate Paul. A TurboSmart atmospherically-venting blow-off valve is incorporated into the pipework a short distance upstream of the throttle body.

The Garrett turbine breathes through a full-length 3 inch mandrel exhaust with a high-flow cat, centre resonator and a canon rear muffler. Note that the dump pipe is fabricated with two separate pipes (one for the turbine and one for the wastegate) because there isn’t enough space for a single large diameter dump pipe.

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At the opposite end of the turbo set-up you’ll find a K&N pod filter. This is fed a cool supply of induction air from a forward-facing inlet in the bumper.

The appropriate fuel and ignition control is provided by the latest MoTeC M400 programmable ECU - Glenn wanted only the best. Twin upgraded fuel pumps and a set of 550cc injectors squirt liquid go-go while the standard ignition system provides the necessary zaps.

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With boost pressure set to 14 psi using a TurboSmart bleed valve, Glenn’s Astra has posted an impressive 163.5kW at the front wheels on a Dyno Dynamics chassis dyno. And quarter mile performance? Well, Glenn has so far recorded a best time 13.7 at 103 mph – and that was against a gearbox that was very stiff and slow through its gates.

And that bring us on to the casualties.

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The standard clutch died not long after the turbo went on and has since been replaced with a 2000lb full-face item. The standard 5 speed manual gearbox is also having trouble staying intact - Glenn has already shattered second gear and trashed various other components. He tells us he'd absolutely love to upgrade to a 6 speed sequential gearbox which is available outa Europe but, unfortunately, it’s not strong enough to cope with the existing grunt – let alone any more. Oh, and the ridiculous price tag also takes some of the shine off the sequential ‘box... However, at the time of writing, Glenn was awaiting the installation of a AUD$6000 Quaife dog gearset, which looks like it should handle the punishment.

The suspension is subtly modified with a view to improving off-the-line traction. The rear springs are extremely firm (to reduce weight transfer away from the front drive wheels) while the dampers are standard. For now. The brakes are also stock, but Glenn says they will soon be upgraded coz the current performance is too much for them to handle.

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Grip is provided by 205/40 rubbers mounted on 17 inch ANZ Vegas alloys.

Body wise, Glenn’s Astra is enhanced with a Holden by Design body kit minus the rear apron (which won’t fit together with the big zorst). The front bumper has also been extensively modified to accept the intercooler while Glenn’s mate - Paul - is responsible for the mesh treatment, dummy rear ‘drop tank’ and race-look fuel filler cover. The clear lens taillights are imported from the UK.

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And what about that intriguing paint? Well, believe it or not, it’s a standard Holden colour. We could prattle on about custom dashes of pearl and mixers, but it would all be a lie...

Inside, the trim remains Astra CD-spec except Glenn has replaced the sound system with a MP3 head unit wired to twin amps, two pairs of splits and a removable sub. The A-pillar is also hung with a Speco boost and oil pressure gauge.

So about 4 years after purchasing this Astra, Glenn has virtually doubled its factory power output and given it a huge dose of individuality. But the big question is; would he take the same path again, given the recent release of the Holden Astra Turbo?

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Absolutely.

“The whole idea was to do something entirely different – I didn’t want something anyone else could go out and buy,” says Glenn.

“I haven’t driven a factory Turbo Astra because, really, I don’t need to. Mine is already making more power at the wheels than the factory Turbo does at the flywheel. And, look, if you want to get similar power from a Turbo model you’ve still got to rebuild the engine and upgrade the gearbox,” he says.

Glenn’s immediate plans are to fit the Quaife gearbox, an electronic boost controller and reach 200kW at the wheels. High 11 second quarter miles are the target.

An 11 second Astra? Now that is something nobody can go out and buy off the showroom floor!

                       

Contact:

All Star Tuning
+61 7 3265 7185

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