13/06/2005 00:00 | By By Brian Laban

The world’s fastest street car

If you absolutely had to stake your mortgage on what’s the fastest accelerating street-legal car in the world, what do you suppose you’d go for? A Ferrari, perhaps, or a Lamborghini? Maybe a Porsche or an AMG Merc? Any one of a dozen exotic names, like as not. But, unless we’re very wrong, you probably wouldn’t bet on a K-registered 1993 Vauxhall Calibra.

The world’s fastest street car

If you didn’t, though, you’d lose. Because it’s official: the fastest accelerating street legal car in the world really is a 12-year-old Vauxhall coupe, owned by Steve Pateman from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, who recently returned from America after beating the local street-legal dragstrip superstars at their own game. But you may have guessed, it’s no ordinary Calibra. Steve mainly built the car himself, on the basis of a professionally built chassis, with the help of Tom Rayner. There’s a ‘works’ Vauxhall connection, too, in the shape of Jim McGhee, who is a member of Steve’s support team and works for Vauxhall’s warehouse transport operation. But to be honest, that’s where the Vauxhall connections start to look a bit thin, because under the massive hood moulding of the red Calibra you aren’t going to find four or even six cylinders from the rather handsome old coupe version of the Cavalier; and you aren’t going to find the original car’s rather modest 115bhp either – not even the turbo’s heady 201bhp. Oh, and don’t look for front-wheel drive either, or four comfy seats…

What’ll it do?

What’ll it do?

No, under this Calibra’s bulging but still instantly recognisable body work you’ll find a rather bigger punch – from an 11.5-litre (yes that’s right) an 11.5-litre big-block Chevrolet V8 that again isn’t exactly Vauxhall but is at least part of the GM family. And if that isn’t enough, the mighty engine that Steve Pateman also largely built himself has nitrous injection, and claims a maximum power output of 1400bhp. So ‘adequate’, then. 0-60? How about 1.25 seconds - enough to make motorbikes and F1 cars blush beetroot red. Certainly enough, even before he crossed the Atlantic, to have given Steve and the Calibra the title of fastest street legal car in Europe some time ago. But this time, the scalps were American and Canadian, too.

How does it stop?

The event was based at the appropriately named No Problem Raceway in Belle Rose, Louisiana, where the Good Ole Boys know a thing or two about fast cars. But the competition takes to the streets properly, too – because the rules say that you have to be able to do just that. Even though they also say that cars with sub-10-second standing quarter-mile times are obliged to have supplementary parachute braking systems. Just like Steve’s Calibra, which has a chute sandwiched between a remarkably standard looking rear bumper and the less than standard big rear wing. Fire systems, full roll cages and full racing harnesses are also required – but continuing the weirdness, so are lights, wipers and a horn, plus street-legal treaded tyres and registration plates – and tax, insurance and MOT!

The world’s fastest street car

That’s because every car has to run at some point on standard unleaded petrol, and to complete a road route (in this case around the rural roads surrounding the raceway) of around 25 miles – presumably without destroying the road surface or frightening the locals half to death, although that bit isn’t actually written down. If they don’t get back to the dragstrip unaided, that’s the end of their chances. Steve Pateman and the Calibra did get back, totally within the regulations, and in the match-race knockout series that followed they blew away all-comers, including three other competitors from the UK. His winning time for the classic standing quarter is 8.2 seconds, with a terminal speed of more than 168mph. And if you know of a faster street-legal Calibra than that, we’d be pleased to hear from you.

Vital Statistics

- Vauxhall Calibra Body on a full tube chassis 706ci (11.5 ltr) Alluminium Big Block Engine

- Fully Street Legal, MOT, tax, full exhaust system, treaded tyres, runs on normal unleaded petrol

- Street car champion in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2003.

- World Street Race Champion 2005 (held in America), making it world’s fastest streetcar

- Best times so far:

1/4 mile in 8.14 sec @ 174mph

0 - 60 in 1.25 sec

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