Workshop visit: Andy Robinson Race Cars

UK race vehicle builder, SFI Committee member, Pro Mod racer and sponsor Andy Robinson's name is synonymous with quality race car construction. Andy's own race cars serve as mobile and incredibly rapid advertisements for his business and his current Studebaker Pro Mod has held European records.

On behalf of, Colin and Grace Roaf visited the workshops of Andy Robinson Race Cars in February 2009 to see what Andy and the ARRC team had been working on during the off-season.

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We arrived to find the place already busy. The staff were conducting a Race Car Hokey Cokey, as projects were being relocated around the premises. Andy was dealing with a customer delivering a project on a trailer, so after a welcome cup of tea from Andy's wife Kate we were invited to look around. The workshop is full of all the quality engineering equipment you would expect: a lathe, Tig welders, sheet metal benders and a machine which notches the end of the tubes used to construct roll cages and chassis. There were vehicles on both the chassis jigs.

We managed to grab Andy for a few minutes to ask some questions we had prepared.

Colin and Grace: Your early racing history is detailed on your web site, but where did your initial interest in drag racing come from?

Andy Robinson: A lecturer at the training school where I did my apprenticeship introduced me to marshalling at circuit races. Around 1974 I was marshalling at Blackbushe Airfield, Hampshire, and noticed local Hot Rod and Custom Car clubs were organising drag racing at the site. I joined a local club and began helping with the organising and then realised "I could do this!", which resulted in my building my MK2 Zephyr. I was also attracted to the Run What You Brung aspect of drag racing which wasn't available in circuit racing at the time.

Colin and Grace: We understand that your early race/street cars were built where you were living at the time. When did you move into your existing house and workshop premises?

Andy Robinson: Seventeen and a half years ago I was made redundant from my job on the Wednesday, and we moved in on the Thursday. I designed and built the workshop myself.

Colin and Grace: Which drag racing cars have been through your workshop since the end of last season, and what is ARRC working on currently?

Andy Robinson: There have been so many! Just before the end of last season we fitted the new Hemi Chevy engine to Colin Lazenby's car. Jon Giles' Super Gas/Super Comp Willys was in for suspension upgrades. Graham Ellis' Superbird also came in for some upgrades. In currently, we have David Vegter's Camaro which as the chassis has returned from the painter, is in the process of final assembly. On the chassis jigs we have Kev Slyfield's Willys, which is in for various upgrades and also Marc Meihuizen's new Pro Mod chassis which is being built to replace his '37 Chevy Business Coupe.

In addition to our drag race work, we have also been busy with upgrades and fabrications on other motor sport vehicles, i.e. a Skyline in the workshop at the moment is having a roll cage fitted for circuit racing.

Colin and Grace: Can you talk us through the process of building a complete new car for drag racing?

Andy Robinson: Firstly the body is mocked up with dummy wheels and tyres and drivetrain. The suspension is also mocked up to achieve the ride height which the customer wants and what we would like as chassis builders. Then I design the chassis and the team starts to build it. We then put the body back on the basic chassis of the car and check that it all fits correctly. After that we take the body off and fill in the rest of the chassis and roll cage tubes. We will then we mount the body again, and once everything is OK we will take the car apart again and send the chassis to be painted, if the customer wants. Also at this time any other finishes that the customer wants are applied, for example anodising, cadmium plating or chroming. The chassis then returns to us for final assembly including wiring, plumbing etc.

Colin and Grace: Last year's racing season last year with the Studebaker was curtailed due to engine damage, what is the state of play with the Studebaker at the moment?

Andy Robinson: It's in the trailer behind us! As was reported on, an engine was assembled to be displayed on two of the stands at the recent Autosport Show. And then at the last minute we were asked by one of our suppliers, Aurora Bearings, to display the Studebaker on their stand. The car was still in bits, but we managed to put it together in time. The serious reassembly will start soon. Our blocks and heads have all been repaired and we have a new crankshaft.

Colin and Grace: At which events does your team plan to run at this year, and what is your general view of the Pro Mod class in Europe?

Andy Robinson: As a team we plan to run at all the MSA and FIA events this year. The Pro Mod class still has lots of interest with new cars being built here and in Europe. Obviously the financial commitment is going to be harder for some people.

Colin and Grace: ARRC are widely known for building Pro Mods and doorslammer-type cars, but have you built or repaired dragsters and Funny Cars?

Andy Robinson: Yes we have, but it is probably not so common knowledge. We've built a chromoly chassis for Steve Hudson's altered. We repaired Micke Kågered's Top Fuel car when it spun and hit the barrier. Also we backhalved Dave Wilson's dragster when he up-graded to the AA fuel engine. We find that the Funny Car kits we sell are popular, and we can supply any individual parts required.

There are probably quite a lot of repairs and upgrades that we have carried out over the years on cars which haven't been publicised for various reasons. We now have a feature on our web site called AndyCam where you can see what has been happening in the workshop.

Colin and Grace: What does the future hold for Andy Robinson Race Cars?

Andy Robinson: Obviously we would love to take the Studebaker over to America to compete in a Pro Mod event, but the logistics and cost would be difficult, because we have a large crew. We intend to extend the workshop; there is land available behind the existing workshop which we can use.

Colin and Grace: Other than drag racing, do you have time for any hobbies?

Andy Robinson: Obviously I don't get a lot of spare time, but if I do get a Sunday free I like to go clay pigeon shooting.

We would like to thank all the staff at ARRC for letting us get in the way, and especially Andy Robinson for allowing us to take up some of his valuable time to answer our questions.

Feature ©Colin and Grace Roaf for

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