Greg Myers

This post is really a ‘short’ cautionary tale for anyone who is browsing this site thinking of buying a ready built Stylus or RT.

It might be because, like me, you don’t have the necessary spanners skills to build a kit yourself, or it may be that you are simply too busy, or too lazy even, to do so and think ready built will definitely save you time and money…..if so please read on…..

I bought my RT a couple of months ago now. I’d done a lot of research beforehand via the net, went through this site, rooted out and digested nearly a dozen magazine articles etc. etc. So I ‘knew’ about the car’s capabilities.

As a result when I went to view what would become my RT I felt quite prepared. I was also really looking forward to seeing this particular car because of its prodigious power output, 280bhp. Consequently, I also took my partner along to see it as I always feel a woman’s common sense is a man’s best survival tool when it comes to motoring matters!

In hindsight this may actually have been a mistake as my good lady fell in love the RT’s pretty and yet very handsome lines immediately, while with foot down and taking off for the horizon I was spirited away in a Mad Max fantasy! This RT was an Orlando Bloom-faced hooligan, and unfortunately I allowed it to seduce the missus and mug me!

Don’t get me wrong, I didn't rush into it, it took a week or two to decide during which I took it for a half hour test drive and also spent quite some time making sure the engine sounded sweet, that the turbo wasn’t smoking, asking lots of questions (and I had the guy drive it over here from Bristol for delivery.) All seemed ok as a result though it was immediately obvious that the car required an interior refit, including dash, and there were some other ‘bits’ needed doing. After some haggling the seller dropped his price from £7,750 to £5,875 which would cover the refit. Not a bad deal you may think.

One of the ‘bits’ that I thought needed doing was some work to the suspension The owner said it was the typical kit car ride, hard, but it didn’t seem right to me, so I booked it in to Tim at Stylus and it was there that I discovered not only that it wasn’t right but just how wrong it was after going for a spin in Tim’s orange RT.

Tim warned me that his car was set up a bit too hard for the road but it was still like riding along on a duck down filled silk pillow compared to my car which by comparison crunched and crashed around like a drunken bull in a china shop.

It turned out on inspection that the springs were all too soft, while the dampers had been cranked up to their stiffest to try and counteract it, there was some play in the rocker arms, and the wrong size bar had been used in the diff which caused it to shunt. The poly bushes were all binding as a result and made the car shake, rattle and roll.

This has meant a total front and rear suspension rebuild and so I’ve also gone to the longer dampers and updated control arms on the rear to take full advantage of the better ride. It’s also meant a new metal air pipe for the filter has had to be fabricated to stop it hitting the suspension. All this alone has taken up nearly 5 sixths of the original discount which was actually intended for the interior of course!

Unfortunately the rest of it, and a lot more, is already allocated to a further problem that’s reared a very ugly head….the head... which it appears is shot.

The car has a very bad overheating problem but one that only occurs after an hour of driving, which of course means it wasn’t picked up on the test run, nor on the run over from Bristol which is 45 mins away. After much ‘head scratching’ by Tim and my usual mechanic, a pressure test, a compete overhaul of the cooling system, and appeals on the 200 SX owners website (the engine is a stage Nissan turbo CA18DET) the general consensus is an odd crack in the head which only opens up at a certain temp, though what is very odd is that there is NO white vapour at all, which is surely always present with head or HG problems? So it looks like it has to go all the way to a specialist in Essex for a recon’ head and fitting…it’s going there as they were by far the cheapest and took a while to dig out…for comparison one local ‘specialist’ wanted an extra £700 for doing just the HG!! Even so it’s still another wedge of cash going out.

The ‘fun’ doesn’t stop there though….

The car also needs new lights fitting as the performance of the current ones is woeful, something I again couldn’t tell on the test drive as it was a sunny day but which is actually dangerous at night I think. Consequently I’ve purchased a set of BMW Mini Xenons, which at £225 including the wiring loom were thankfully a real deal. I’ll post pics when done and you can see what you think. I’m hoping fitting won’t be too much extra due to having the loom and the fact they are actually a really good size match but it’s extra cost again and we are already way past the original £1,900 discount.

The car then finally goes off to start on the work the discount was intended for…it’ll have new Elise seats, bought here for a very reasonable £200 from Simon (cheers fella) and then it goes over to Kent to have new dash fitted by a guy I’ve found after a LOT of research whose work is great and who seems very reasonable. I will show you the finished product and you can judge for yourselves.

It then gets the interior trim sorted which will be a bit cheaper as I’ve now already got the seats but which is still going to be about £800 for carpet set and doorcards fitted.

So far this little lot has added 65 per cent to the original purchase price, bringing it to £9.600! Now don’t get me wrong it will be a cracking car when all is done and it is still supercar performance for Ford Ka money…but it is not cheap I would suggest for a Stylus. Don’t forget these aren’t build costs.

I’d also like to get the wiring re-done having looked at it more closely after some oddities were discovered, God only knows how much that would be, anyone out there know? I’m thinking about £550-ish, is that too high/low? Please let it be the latter Lord!

In addition there’s £400’s worth of work that isn’t essential but are improvements that Tim has identified, though at the moment he’s busy rectifying the little mishap in his garage which cracked the front end, at least that won’t cost me anything though!

If all this is totted up we are looking at over ten and a half thousand pounds, and that is not taking into account any further hidden horrors that may be lurking. It has also taken many, many hours of my time trying to assess problems, figure out answers, and find good people to try and keep ever escalating costs down as much as possible.

All of a sudden the supposed savings in buying ready built aren’t so apparent, especially when you consider that a fully built car from the factory can be had for about £12,300 plus the cost of the engine and gearbox you choose. If my car does have any further problems then I’ll be right up on this figure.

So that, finally you may say, brings me to the point of this post…be aware that if like me you want a Stylus but you can’t do the build yourself you are in a very precarious position, even if you can but haven’t the time or inclination you are still vulnerable.

You then have only two real options:

Factory built: it is more expensive but for that you get a car that you know is built correctly and at a spec you choose. It may also be not THAT much more expensive as I think the above conclusively proves.

Or, as I did, buy enthusiast ready built…just don’t do it the WAY I did!

Buying ready built you are always at the mercy of the original builder’s budget, ability and even outlook. My car it now seems was very obviously built for one thing, outright speed. All of the money it appears went into the engine and turbo set up, and it is very fast…but at the expense of things which have now got to be put right to properly enjoy the car…and I use the word expense advisedly!

As a result I’d advise look for a car not with the most outrageous power or even great handling (mine was great… on smooth roads) but with the best build quality you can find as you can always uprate later if you wish and still enjoy the car immediately.

Does the engine bay look a mess, what’s the wiring like, look at the shut lines, does it clunk around? All of these are indicators that you may well be digging into your pocket if you are not careful …but if there is one single piece of advice I’d give to anyone looking at buying one of these cracking vehicles it is… GO TO THE FACTORY and test drive a properly put together one!

That one single visit will give you more information than many hours of reading magazine articles and surfing the net. Then you will KNOW immediately what the car should be like (not think you know) and that the one you are looking at isn’t just ‘kit car hard’ as the owner tries to pass it off as, which I knew was tosh but couldn’t know how completely wrong he was until I’d gone in the orange RT . The Stylus does NOT crash around when it is set up right, there are no loud clunking noises, it is very smooth and accomplished, and it holds on like a pitbull terrier over nearly all surfaces!

You will also see what a very decent neat installation should look like and can then compare with the vehicle you are looking at.

It should not have for instance hazards that only come on when the ignition is on and the indicator activated (which we discovered when the car left us stranded on top of the Brecon Beacons late at night for 5 and a half hours!) Again who checks hazards on a test run? It should not have the ECU merely thrown into a cubby hole and not even fastened down! It should not have an aftermarket water temperature sender which is the wrong size for the manifold and so is held in with some sort of gum and a small crocodile clip!

All of these things should set alarm bells ringing but were in fact very easy to miss during the test drive and inspection as I was too busy checking the engine and turbo were ok thinking these would be the most expensive parts to replace. Of course ironically the engine did indeed have it’s own unique little problem, but I don’t feel too bad about that as it couldn’t have been picked up on in the timescale and is perplexing far greater mechanical brains than mine!

So go to see Tim at Stylus, who’s really helpful I’ve found, and then armed with that knowledge be as thorough as you possibly can be with the car. Even if you can’t go to Stylus at the very least try and find a local owner with a well sorted car but be aware their vehicle might not be 100 per cent. If you go to the factory you KNOW what to expect of the car and how your prospective purchase measures up, heck you may then even decide to buy from the factory or be inspired to have a go yourself if you are just being lazy! At the very least you’ll know where to take the car to be sorted if you do still buy one with ‘kinks.’

I’d also say when looking at a possible car take a camera with you and if you have any doubts post a question with pic’s of whatever concerns you and ask the experienced builders here, I apologise for offering your services chaps but you don’t have to reply, though am sure you would.

Now don’t be put off buying a Stylus or RT, it is a really cracking car and they are actually very simple machines in reality, it’s just important to realise that you need to prepare properly to avoid paying royally!

I’ve written this ‘little’ post because I don’t want anyone else to get caught out like I did, and it is actually quite easy to avoid it…I only wish someone had told me how to beforehand…and now you know… so you can’t use the same excuse!

First of all I'd just like to introduce myself being the proud new owner of an RT! Previously owned by Paul Hooper.

Lacking spanner skills and patience I've bought ready built so first let me doff my cap to all of you self built drivers!

I hope I've bought well though, it's the yellow Nissan turbo powered car built by Paul from Bristol which was briefly owned by young Ollie, also in Bristol, before being quickly released into my own care and crossing the bridge back into Wales as of today!

The car is quite quick having a 280bhp unit in it but is going up to Tim shortly to make sure it's set up right and get a new dash fitted, a new full leather interior from Inatrim will follow.

At the moment I'm torn between going the obvious carbon route to which the RT lends itself so well or, in-keeping with the more sixties feel of it's cousin, fashioning it more period Le Mans racer style?

That's about it for now, cheers, Greg.

Started November 2002 intended engine & gearbox from Nissan 200sx [1.8 twin cam turbo]

Reviewed in July 2003 edition of Which Kit? (p86) "Turbo Tearaway"


July 2003 edition of Which Kit?. Review of this car.

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Copyright ©2002 Jerry Designs

Last revised: Februar 15, 2005.