Thursday, 4 February 2016

Project Eighty-Seven - Part Six

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis


When I bought the GTI, it had a number of features that anchored it firmly in period. And not the late-eighties of its birth, but the mid- to late-nineties of its coming of age – the golden era of retro hot hatch modifying. There’s the teeny-tiny Momo steering wheel, the matching aftermarket gearknob, the clear indicators, the bright red Sparco strut brace (OK, it doesn’t have that any more – we threw it in the bin when we realised that its only strength lay in the glue that was holding it on) and, the cherry on the cake, that boisterous Magnex exhaust. Anyone who was anyone was rocking either a Magnex or a Devil back in the Max Power era, it was a badge of honour and a statement of intent.

The guys who’ve worked on our 205 over the course of this project have been very open in their admiration of the stainless system as well. Eliot and Edwin at EDM were impressed with its solid construction and the BTCC-esque bracing between pipe and box; the fellas at Toulmin Motors said the same, and so did the chaps at Pug1Off. The general consensus was that it’s a very good system, a real high-quality effort.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. That exhaust has been on there for quite a few years now, and it’s showing its age. Since buying the car, I’d been struggling to overcome the annoying rasping noise the system made under eager acceleration, thanks to its inability to join properly at the end of the downpipe. Add to this the loose baffles in the centre box, and the venerable old pipework was rapidly descending into a bit of a clanking mess. The time came to sort it all out once and for all.

But how do you replace something that you’re generally pretty happy with (or would be, if it were less tired) with something even better? Well, you go straight to the top, don’t you? I got in touch with Powerflow, knowing that they’d make everything to their typically exacting standards.
Powerflow Exhausts pride themselves on being the UK’s leading custom-build stainless steel exhaust company. They operate through a nationwide network of approved dealers, all of whom have to match up to the strict working requirements and practices mandated by head office. But rather than going to the nearest dealer, I thought I’d go all-in in true Retro Cars style and take a trip down to Powerflow’s head office in Bridport, Dorset, so that our bespoke system could truly have the strong Powerflow DNA! And hey, it was an excuse to take the 205 on a three hundred mile road trip. Oh, go on then, if I have to…

I arrived at Top Gear at about 10am – this is the parent company that bought Powerflow a little while back, and have been working hard to pull the brand out of the girls-and-bling of yore and into a more respectable pan-genre area that complements the quality product they offer.
I was greeted by boss-man Jason Freeman, who talked me through the various options available for the 205. This is pretty standard Powerflow practice; since every system they create is bespoke, it’s a case of hoiking the car up onto a ramp to see how the land lies, and chewing over the customer’s requirements in terms of size, noise, finish and what-have-you. My initial thoughts on this were simple: ‘loud, please, and shiny’. So using that caveman-simple concept as a base, we worked out what would flow best. The old system was removed, and found to have a couple of quite large holes in the silencer welds! But the GTI has a quality four-branch manifold which is in great nick, so I decided to keep that in situ and start the Powerflow system from the downpipe back. My excitable suggestion that we only have one silencer box was (quite rightly) rebuffed on the grounds that it would unusable, so we went for a small centre silencer and a medium-sized rear silencer. The bore of the pipework was increased to 2.25” throughout, and for the tailpipes I opted for something a bit special: a twin-3” outlet. The fun part with this was actually getting the pipes to stick out straight; the old Magnex, as with so many stainless 205 systems, poked out at a jaunty angle due to the relative positions of the hangers and the rear bumper and the necessary dimensions of the rear box. The tricky bit here was to craft a tiny mandrel-bent curve between the silencer and the tailpipes to get it sitting exactly square-on to the bumper (which had a little plastic trimmed out of it to allow the pipes to fit). Looks pretty cool, doesn’t it? It was genuinely impressive watching the system come together too – their fitters are so experienced and accomplished at what they do that they can work out most of the bend angles by eye; they clamp the boxes into position, measure out the bits of pipe, take them away to the pipe bender, and return with a perfectly fitting exhaust. Magic! It was all crafted from straight bits of pipe into a fully functional exhaust in well under two hours as well, which you can’t really argue with.

Powerflow’s offering isn’t just in the slightly hooligan-esque ‘build me a noisy exhaust!’ area that #Project87 sits within, however. They cater for all manner of OEM direct-replacement applications, as well as doing lots of work with more traditional classic cars, 4x4s, various insane custom jobs, and of course race and rally cars. That’s the thing about making systems to order, they can be made to work on pretty much any application you can think of. The prices they quote are unique to your own system, so the £329 cost of our exhaust may not necessarily be the same for another 205 GTI - that’s the nature of custom work, there’s nothing taken off-the-shelf. Give ’em a call and talk it over!

On the lengthy journey home, the key take-out from the performance of the Powerflow system over the old Magnex was in terms of noise. Yes, I asked for a loud system and that’s what I received, but thankfully this hasn’t translated into an inescapable ear-bashing drone at motorway speeds like the old exhaust did. It’s not quite as Jekyll-and-Hyde as, say, a modern supercar system with noise-controlling butterflies in the pipes, but it does carry out the impressive trick of being loud when you want it to be, and not at all annoying when you just want to eat up some highway miles. That’s all you can ask for really, isn’t it? OK, yes, it’s reasonably loud most of the time, but in a surprisingly un-annoying way. If that makes sense. Ever-present, but not overly intrusive.

Another thing that this 300 mile round trip proved was just how effective our switch to waterless coolant is proving to be. What should have been a three hour journey from Wandsworth to Bridport turned into over four hours thanks to agonising stop-start rush hour traffic, followed by high-speed motorway blasts, then occasional detours around winding B-roads (c’mon, I had to – I didn’t realise how beautiful Dorset is!), then closed roads and redirections due to floods, and yet the temperature gauge never wandered into the red – something that it had done once or twice before the conversion. It was the same story on the way back home, the car was perfectly composed and running superbly throughout. Nice to build this kind of confidence in an old car, isn’t it?

A final treat for #Project87 this month is sitting proudly on its nose: a shiny new Peugeot lion badge. This appeared glinting and twinkling in my Christmas stocking (thanks, Santa! Or, more accurately, my lovely wife Jo), but it’s taken me this long to get around to fitting it. Nevertheless, it only took a moment to swap old for new – so, although it’ll probably be April by the time you’re reading this, er, merry Christmas everyone!

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