My Formula 27 Bike Engined Kit Car - how to blow up engines

My Formula 27 Bike Engined Kit Car - how to blow up engines



Original Poster:

2,222 posts

179 months

Monday 22nd June 2015
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I had never driven a kit car, but in summer 2010 decided that I was after a fun weekend car, and since a lot of my friends had Lotus' (Lotii?) of various flavours, I wanted something a bit different. With this in mind, the hunt for a 'seven' type car was on. I had no idea there were so many different makes / options / engines etc and had no clue if I wanted a car or bike powered car.

I found a car fairly local to me, and set off to see it. It was a 'Formula 27' with an 1100cc Honda Blackbird engine. When I saw it I knew it was right for me. It was factory built in 2000, which appealed more to me that something that some random guy in a shed had knocked together. After the test drive I had my heart set on it. I know they say never buy the first car you see, but I was sold. He had it for sale for £6,500 but made the mistake of telling me he was desparate to sell because of an impending house purchase. I made a cheeky offer of £3,500 which was turned down, and with my best poker face on I walked away. A couple of days later he called back and as the house purchase was now in the final stages and he needed the deposit, we settled on £4200. Not bad. What could possibly go wrong?!

So I was the proud owner of X703 AHY.

8 second video trying to get the power down -

I probably got a bit carried away having never been in one before, and it was only a few weeks into the purchase that I was coming to the realisation that at 6'4” I didnt really fit into it, and with size 13 feet, I had to drive with no shoes on, and even then my feet would press 2 pedals at once... Not to mention the fact that my head was higher than the roll hoop, so in the even of a roll over I would probably be pretty screwed. Hey ho, it was fast, raw and good fun.

One fateful weekend I was out hooning on the North Yorkhire moors with the group of reprobates I drive with, when we came around a corner rather enthusiastically to find an old man had stopped in the middle of a cattle grid to enjoy the scenery and was totally blocking the road. Cue a line of sports cars all slamming on the brakes in a train, and unfortunately it resulted in my car having a slight coming together with my buddys Elise S1. It was a very low speed impact, however it cracked the tissue paper that the rear of the Elise was built from, and my front wheel ended up out of place. Damn.

So the time came around to rebuild the car in October 2011. I found a great local (ish) guy who builds and races sevens, who could fabricate me a new front suspension mount, weld new chassis bits in etc. While it was with him, and since it was coming towards winter, we looked at how we could adapt it to fit me better. In for a penny, in for a pound!

We fitted a new pedal box (which we adapted to accommodate my fat feet) although I still have to wear stupid karting boot type shoes to fit properly.

The exhaust was initially exiting from the drivers side, but we re-routed it out of the passenger side which meant the pedal box could move back and gain me a few extra inches in leg room.

The seats were also very thick, and so I found some GRP seats which got me even more leg room. The plan was coming together and I was now fitting into it well. We cut 2 new side pannels, removed the spare wheel from the back, resprayed the rear and made a usable 'boot' by bording the rear space out with aluminum. At the same time we did lots of little jobs like new fuel pump, new baffled fuel tank, oil sump, new wheel arch cycle wings etc.

Since the exhaust was now coming out of the other side, we had a new 4-2-1 manofold made.

I got the car back in December. It sat in the shed over winter, and I just tinkered with things like new steering wheel (which was taken straight off again as it was too small – definitely a case of form over function)

Fitted new plate

Come March it was back on the road properly, and I was straight out again with the Elise that I had the coming together with – he was fresh from a new rear clamshell and respray. Had to get back on the horse!

and fitted some new wheels which had been sitting around in my garage for 6 years, so they tyres were shot.

then painted them black and bought some Toyo 888 Tyres to fit to the other wheels.

In April 2012 I took the car to get corner weighted and set up at an acquaintances house. 480Kg with ¾ tank of fuel. Not bad.

While I was there he took me to his friends garage and they balanced the wheels. As the mechanic was putting the wheels back on there were lots of people around the car, asking questions etc and generally distracting him (This is particularly relevant to the bit that comes next...)

Then disaster.

I had bought some carb trumpets to fit, as the pipercross air filter was too restrictive. I needed to cut the bonnet open but didnt have the tools, so went to get it cut by the guy who had rebuilt it for me. As I was going over Hartside Pass (google it – mountain with big drops, hairpins etc – amazing road and right on my doorstep) the wheel fell off! Not good. Had it happened on any other part of the road I would probably wouldnt be here. I have learned that every kit car journey is an adventure so usually have a go pro or two filming, and this day was no exception – here's the video -

and here are some photos

Luckily there was no real damage – it slid on the brake disk, and the front cycle wing came off. I 'borrowed' a fence post, lifted the car up, took a wheel nut from each other wheels, put then stray wheel back on and continued the last few miles, albeit a little bit slower. There had been no indication the wheel was going to come off, like increased vibration, but it was down to the mechanic not tighteing the wheel nuts up after balancing the wheels. I know you're supposed to check them, but I had only driven 5 miles from the garage to my house, then 15 miles to where this happened. Oh well, lesson learned.

Cutting the hole in the bonnet for carb trumpets

At the same time the guy gave me his old diffuser from last seasons racing, and I fitted it (yes it looks horrible I know!)

Anyway, then for a few months I used the car as much as possible

Had an A frame made up to tow it, borrowed a tow car and took it to a trackday at Teeside Autodrome with some friends. Great track for little cars, but I was hitting the rev limiter in top gear on the straight and kept blowing fuses.

Some videos of the day here

Bought a hood for it (didnt fit properly) and sold it again very quickly. I accepted the car for what it is and decided not to try to turn it into something it isn't (ie practical in any way, shape or form).

Over winter 2012 – 2013 It was garaged and I didnt use it much. Come April I decided that the windscreen surround should be black, so removed it and sprayed it. I used it quite a bit without the windscreen and decided that one day I needed an aeroscreen, but not yet as my wife liked coming in with me, and its nice not to have to wear helmets.

I made a video edit of the video footage I had of the car so far

Then joined a local kit car club and made some new friends

In March 2013 found out my wife was pregnant, so suddenly got concerned about 'safety' and so refitted the windscreen and got a rollcage made for it. It stiffened the whole car up considerably, and feels much better when pushing on. It also makes you feel much less exposed. My head is now not the highest point of the car.

Then spent the summer using it as much as possible

Until the inevitable. After a weekend driving around the lake district – 30 second video edit of the trip here - it developed an electrical fault and immobilised itself as I was on the way home. In the middle of nowhere. With no phone signal. Luckily some local nutter came to the rescue, and we managed to find a length of hose pipe in a car showroom rubbush bin (it was Sunday, nowhere was open and we didnt have a tow rope, and I didnt have breakdown cover. Schoolboy error). We made a tow rope, and he towed me 2 hours home. He was totally nuts, but that's a story for another day.

Then disaster... (For the second time).

Come September 2013, I was back in the stride of kit car ownership. After one 'spirited' run out with another kit car, there was an almighty bang, lots of white smoke and suddely my engine had a big hole in it. I had heard about Bkackbird engines being fragile and throwing rods in kit cars, but had figured it would never happen to me. It did.

So after my now heavily pregnant wife came to rescue me and tow me home, the engine siezed and I had to get a flatbed to rescue me from the rescue.

A new engine was sourced on Ebay, and the car was given back to my long suffering car builder to redo. It was dropped off in September 2013, and after the birth of my daughter had disracted me for a few months, I got it back in May 2014. 8 months out, but I was looking forward to getting a good summers use out of it... Or so I thought.

The new engine wasnt running right at all. I did a few short trips in it but it was overheating like mad and was popping and banging and shooting flames on the overrun at every oportunity. Looked cool, but probably wasn't a good sign.

At least a breakdown can be turned into a good photo opportunity

In the middle of May 2014 I managed to limp it to a local show, after which it wouldnt start and got me stranded in the rain.

I was now getting quite proficient at being towed, so managed to tow it home and got it flatbedded back to the mechanic to get the issues sorted. He was really busy with other work, so passed it on to another local garage, who measured time by watching wind erroding rocks.

Fast forward from dropping it off in May 2013 to March 2015!! I finally got the car back. I had driven it twice from when the engine went pop in September 2013 to getting it back in March 2015 and both times it had broken down. I was starting to wish I had more mechanical knowledge and time to be able to fix things myself. I picked it up, was really excited, and even the astronimic bill didn't dull my enthusiasm, until 10 minutes later when it broke down again.. ARGH!

The temperature sensor on the new engine wasn't working, so it was overfueling thinking it was too cold. I left it with them for another week and they fixed the issue. I collected it again, but the car didn't seem as fast as before. I put this down to the 'new' engine maybe not being as sharp as the old one, but I was just happy to get it back so didn't care.

The new few weeks, the only issue was running out of fuel, (as the fuel gague and speedo weren't working since I got it back) and I got bored and painted the tyre markings white. I hear it adds 10bhp.

Also since I got it back the brakes weren't working properly. When pressed firmly it stopped ok, but if the pedal was pushed gently it went all the way to the floor. Scary. It appeared that the master cylinder seals were knackered. Had a few run outs planned so took a brave pill and went with it.

Then disaster... (Number three)

In April 2015 after a good mornings driving with some mates, I was on the way home, cruising on a dual carrigeway at about 65-70mph when I heard the all too familiar BANG! White smoke everywhere and you guessed it, the engine had a hole in it.

2 blown engines in 2 years. Exactly the same thing.

At least I had equipped my wife with a suitable tow car now, so she rescued me. Again.

I decided drastic action needed to take place, and I was getting pretty fed up with replacing engines. After a week or two of phoncalls, internet reading and garage pestering, I decided an engine swap was the only way forward. I had two options, a trusy well known 1000cc Firebade or the almighty 1400cc Kawasaki ZZR1400. If I was spending the money doing a conversion I may as well plump for making it go faster, so ZZR power it was! I sourced an engine through Mal at Yorkshire Engines, and found the Scottish Kit Car Company who although they are 100miles away could fit it in quickly and guarentee a quick turn around. Plus I work around Scotland every week so I could pop in regularly and pester them. I didnt fancy another 2 years of it getting tosseed to the back of a garage and forgotten about, so I did some research and went and met the guys at SKCC and a deal was struck.

The next day (29th May 2015) I got the car flatbedded up to Edinburgh and crossed my fingers.

They opened the new engine up and it looks like I've got a good 'un. I sourced a nice billet sump, and they fitted it. About time I got some good luck! Very quickly they had the old engine out, and the new engine mounts made and new engine in.

So this brings things up to date. As we speak they are doing the wiring, then we'll modify the bonnet to allow the new air filter to pop out. Quite an eventful few years considering it was bought on a whim as a track toy, and only actually managed one track day in it! While it is at SKCC I am also having some other bits done – new brake cylinder, pads and fluid, aero screen fitted (finally!) gear indicator and shift lights, 12v socket, paddle shifter fitted, smaller dominator headlights as well as the new engine / wiring. I also have a nice rear diffuser being made up by SA motorsport which shoud tidy up the rear end. Eventually I want to move to a digidash, but will probably do that over winter, as this year I just want to get it back, make it reliable and get some good use out of it.

I must have now watched every video on the internet of a ZZR1400 powered kit car, and I can't wait to get it back. We have a sevens club trip to the Scottish Highlands this coming weekend which I will go on if the engine is running by then (still waiting on a new exhaust manifold), a Nurburgring / weeks euro hoon trip at the end of July (which I was going to take the other car on, but if the F27 is running well by then I might take it) and I would like to get to as many track days as possible this year.

I am currently building a nice new garage to house it in when it returns, and I am going to try to learn to do as many things on it as possible so that I don't have to rely on people quite as much when things inevitably go wrong.

Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Edited by ol on Monday 22 June 22:21


1,707 posts

133 months

Monday 22nd June 2015
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Great read, thanks for sharing and I really admire your perseverance! They really do get under your skin these cars, I recently sold my Caterham after spending 6 months stripping and rebuilding/upgrading it (unfortunate timing due to a house move, long story!). I did think your numberplate was beautifully ironic, obviously it turned out to be true in some regards hehe

I'd be really interested to hear your opinion of the 1400 too when you get the car back. I really want another Seven in the future and I love the idea of a bike engine powered one. Looks like I'll steer clear of Blackbirds though wink


5,571 posts

190 months

Monday 22nd June 2015
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Great read, thanks!


10,424 posts

206 months

Monday 22nd June 2015
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ta...enjoyed the read too!


75 posts

89 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Made me smile that read... Not with glee at your misfortune but your determination to carry on instead of binning the old girl .... Just NEVER tot up how much you've spent and for god sake don't tell 'er indoors :-)

griffin dai

3,033 posts

120 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Good read, enjoyed that smile

Safe to say my missis would cut my balls off if she ever found out the repair costs here!!


613 posts

184 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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As all the above, great read.....enjoyed that!

Seems an absolute steal when you bought it, but I bet you've ploughed in that a few times over now :-). Can't blame you, sounds ace and something you've really made your own!

All the best



97 posts

146 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Spot on! Great read, I really enjoyed that. Look forward to updates with the Kwak engine in

Baron Greenback

5,615 posts

121 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Great read, I did love my Formula 27, sold my Ford X-flow twin webber racing cam about 12 years ago! My car was an early demo car and had a sister F27 with a rover V8. I do miss it lots and was my daily car and even lift share to work also! Fun times in the wet and snow but now comuting on the M3 near london wouldnt be a nice commute!

Had a track day try with supercharge Arial Atom, awesome power, cant wait to hear hows your new motor turns out! Good Luck!


257 posts

106 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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A very well written post, OP. Great read. Love how much you clearly appreciate the car! (You surely must, with the amount of rebuilds, time & clear money gone into it!) (btw, what's the Wife's view on it? :P)


3,139 posts

176 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Real life story with sense of humor. Thumbs up, excellent read.


221 posts

114 months

Tuesday 23rd June 2015
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Good write up!


10,203 posts

99 months

Wednesday 24th June 2015
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I enjoyed reading that, very good!
Two things spring to mind:
1. Why do BB engines do that? I would have pondered over trying an engine with that problem remedied, although the extra ccs in your new engine will make a useable difference.
2. Hope you put an air filter on your new engine.


722 posts

126 months

Wednesday 24th June 2015
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fantastic read. want!


1,826 posts

168 months

Wednesday 24th June 2015
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great read.

Just wondered what the tyre garage said about your wheel flying off?!


Original Poster:

2,222 posts

179 months

Wednesday 24th June 2015
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Thanks for the positive comments!

With regards to the wheel falling off - I never went back and confronted the garage about it. They had balanced the wheels as a bit of a favour, and I was meant to drop them off a token bit of cash the next day to say thanks. Needless to say I never went back and never will do...

The blackbird engines are notorious for throwing rods when put in cars. I guess it's just down to the extra weight of the car v the bike. I had read lots of horror stories about it, but never thought it would happen to me! Let alone twice!

I am going to put an air filter on the new engine as I don't want to take any chances - I ran with bare trumpets as the engine felt so much more responsive without a filter. I had bought filter socks for the trumpets but never liked them so took them straight off. I guess I was just lucky that no stones / cats / small children were sucked into the engine.

I am lucky to have a very understanding wife when it comes to cars. She pretty much lets me get on with it and has never asked how much I've spent on anything car related. I work hard and do long hours, so as long as I'm not bankrupting us then I have carte blanche. We have a good understanding smile

Needless to say I have put in many times what the car originally cost, but I would never walk away from it. The way I see it, I've now pretty much built the car around me, and so need to keep it for many many years to get the enjoyment out of it that I deserve! I can't ever see myself selling it. I am looking at Ultimas at the moment, but would still keep the kit car.

As anyone who owns / has owned something like this knows, they really get under your skin. Most of the time its annoying, expensive and highly frustrating, but on that one summers day when everything is working well, and I'm hammering through the Yorkshire Moors with a group of mates it makes everything totally worth it.

I'm going to see it tomorrow to see how the last few bits are coming along. Can't wait.


Original Poster:

2,222 posts

179 months

Wednesday 24th June 2015
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There aren't many other cars with the ZZR1400 engine around. I've been watching every video I can find, and here is a good example of what it is capable of.

ZZR1400 kit car v 997 GT3RS on track -


2,105 posts

105 months

Thursday 25th June 2015
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Blimey, that's been some journey! I enjoyed that a lot smile

See you at Croft in August, maybe...? wink


17 posts

82 months

Thursday 25th June 2015
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Great write up! Fitted a ZZR1400 to a robin reliant when I worked at ZCars! You wont be disappointed!


17,379 posts

130 months

Thursday 25th June 2015
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fking hell, it sounds like that has been a struggle to own!

I don't think it's so much that the Blackbird engine is weak, it's a fantastic piece of engineering and will do many, many thousands of fast a motorbike. It was just never meant to lug a heavy old car around.