Broadspeed Engineering: The Grandfather of Car Modification?


Where it all started – Ralph Broad

As has been proven throughout the years, many tuning companies start out with a passionate owner who takes their interest in cars and offers a unique approach to modifying anything from family saloons to hot hatches. Broadspeed, the Engineering company we are talking about today, is no exception.

The company originated in the 1960’s, and started when the British Motor Corporation (BMC) teamed up with engineer and race-car driver, Ralph Broad, to look at tuning the original Mini.

Ralph himself was born in Birmingham in 1926, and took over his family’s garage business at just 14 years old. He then went on to motorsport and started racing in 1955. Four years later, when the Mini first came out, he was one of the early adopters who marvelled in its unique small-form factor and go-kart like tendencies. He started his Mini racing career around Silverstone, setting record lap times for the 850cc class.

his work even perplexed scrutineers who were searching high and low for any illegal modifications, but to no avail.

Then, in 1962 the team Broadspeed was first established, and Ralph realised there was a demand for these little pocket rockets, and people wanted to race them. He decided he would offer his services to convert the standard Mini to race spec for owners at a price of £340. This proved a huge success after entering the Mini Coopers in the British Touring Car Championship, his work even perplexed scrutineers who were searching high and low for any illegal modifications, but to no avail.

It didn’t take long for customers to ask Broadspeed to apply their magic touch to other popular cars. Below are two we think are particularly cool!

The 1971 Broadspeed “Bullit” Capri.

After much success with the Mini, Ralph worked with Ford and tuned the Capri, which was known as the “Bullit” (taking inspiration from the film ‘Bullitt’, which was released just two years previously). The Bullit had a number of “Factory” upgrade options for the Capri 3000E, 3000GT or the 1600 GT. With prices at the time ranging from £1575 for the 1600GT model up to £1995 for the 3000E.

A “Broadspeed Bullit” Capri (please note – we do not own this car)

In 1971, one of only seven were made of the Capri 3000GT. Direct from the Ford Broadspeed Dealership it had a mass of upgrades including: Restall bucket seats, a leather steering wheel, front bumper removal (replaced with an anti-lift spoiler), quartz iodine headlamps, with louvres beneath the rear window and a two-tone paint finish. The internals had an upgrade too, with a turbocharger, modified cylinder head, high lift camshaft, re-designed exhaust and inlet manifolds and suspension upgrades including adjustable shocks for the rear end and a reduced anti roll bar, which was installed to address the cars understeer. Other more extreme options included an air horn, Minilite Wheels with Goodyear Tyres and a much-needed electric cooling fan for the upgraded turbocharged 3.0L engine.

The performance figures were impressive for the time, 0-60 in a handy 7.2 seconds (a 3 second improvement from the original), and a 126mph reported top speed. The Bullit therefore came with a racing pedigree and entered events such as Brands Hatch, Castle Combe, Bruntingthorpe and Goodwood.

The Broadspeed Jaguar

Towards the late 70’s, Broadspeed ventured into tuning another British carmaker and came up with the Jaguar XJ12C Broadspeed. Four examples were built to compete in the European Touring Car Championship, two entering in 1976 and two in 1977. The first year of racing for these 5.3 litre beasts sadly didn’t go to plan, as the cars proved unreliable on track and the season ultimately ended in failure for that year.

The first year of racing for these 5.3 litre beasts sadly didn’t go to plan, as the cars proved unreliable on track and the season ultimately ended in failure.

Broadspeed wasn’t finished however, the 1977 models were built to offer better competitiveness against the BMW 3.0L CSL’s which were lighter at the time.

The modifications from the original included a stripped-out interior, and body panel weight reduction, a reinforced roll-cage was then installed for greater rigidity, larger 19inch Alloys were tucked in under the flared wheel arches, and to complete the “hunkered down” look whilst also improving aerodynamic downforce, bolted on the front was a front lip spoiler and at the back a big rear diffuser.

Lastly the piston chambers were bored-out to their legal limit, and included alloy pistons made by Cosworth. With this, bespoke alloy steel inlet and exhaust valves were fitted, upgraded cooling systems, clutch assembly, and an improved ignition and fuel injection system, with a tailored camshaft and conrods designed by Broadspeed themselves.

Despite this raft of improvements, sadly again it proved not to be enough, and although the race started well at Monza and Salzburgring, the car suffered from several issues including a leaking radiator, driveshaft failure and blown engines. The tyres, it turns out, also had a habit of bursting at 160mph.

The only major success for the Broadspeed Jaguar was finishing second at the Nürburgring after cautious driving from Andy Rouse & Derek Bell, who joined John Fitzpatrick & Tim Schenken, forming an entirely new team from the previous year. Ultimately for the Jaguar XJ12C Broadspeed project, the fairy-tale didn’t have a “happy ever after” and Leyland Cars ended the development and decided not to enter the 1978 Championship.

The story doesn’t quite end here though, the car was stored in Jaguar’s Coventry Museum for many decades until 2008, where it changed ownership and fell into the hands of historic racing driver Chris Scragg. During which it was then re-built from the ground up.

Taking 18 months in total, the first track testing began in August 2009 after a 33 year wait. Finally, 33 years after it’s conception, the Jaguar won its first race at “Masters Touring ‘70s” in Mallory Park, finishing 23 seconds ahead of it’s (quite appropriate for this article) competitor the Ford Capri

Ralph Broad – Working his magic on a race-prepped Ford Capri!

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