Kit Car - Autotune Gemini



That's right, As of February 2002 when I collected an old Escort MkII, I officially started the long haul of building a Kit Car. I have always fancied owning a little 2 seater and with a bit if luck in about 18 months I will be able to say just that, 'I own a sports car' WAHAAAAY. I just love the thought of driving around on the one or two days we call summer, with the top down and the wind blowing what's left of my hair.

As you can see from the heading, the car is called a Gemini and the kit is designed and manufactured by a company called Autotune based in Rishton near Blackburn. There are a couple of reasons for choosing the Gemini with the most important one being that I could actually get in the demonstrator. Kit cars are notoriously small and being 6' 4" it was always going to be difficult getting one to fit. I really liked the Lotus 7's and tried to get in a couple of them but they all seemed very tight. It was therefore a relief to find something that didn't require major surgery to get into. Another reason and a very important one was cost. I'm sure there are quite a few models out there that I could fit into, but my aim is to do a quality 'budget' build and not spend an absolute fortune doing it. The Gemini build seems very flexible in just how much it costs and with the factory being so close, I don't have to spend bucket loads of money buying everything in one or maybe 2 trips. As the place is only 10 minutes down the road, with a bit of luck I can buy in dribs and drabs when the budget allows. There was also another factor that concerned me and that was the number of vehicles out there. Every Thomas, Richard or Harry is building either a Cobra replica or a 7 replica and I wanted something relatively easy, as this was my first attempt, but also that little bit different.

Having made the decision that I wasn't going to build a 7 or a Cobra, what else was there on the market ? With those 2 out of the way, the market is reduced dramatically. After a bit of looking around and a few magazine purchases I'd narrowed it down to 2, the Autotune Gemini and the SSC Stylus (pictured right).

I went to have a look at the Stylus on a day when it decided to snow. Not really the ideal conditions to test drive a car with over 100BHP at the rear wheels, but it was certainly fun. The car was really nice and again it was fairly tight in the cockpit, but I could see from a part built example that with a few modifications I would be able to make it fit. I bought a build manual and set about inwardly digesting all the information. The build seemed very straightforward until it came time to put the body onto the chassis. There was then lots of bonding body onto chassis with fibreglass and resin plus the bonding of inner and outer door skins. It was after reading this that I started to have second thoughts. It all seemed rather complicated and a bit too much for my small garage. It was time to go and have a word with Autotune.

SSC Stylus
Yellow Gemini The Autotune Gemini (pictured left) turned out to be a really cute looking 2 seater with a good racing pedigree and drag racing wins at Santa Pod. It was also bigger inside than the Stylus and actually just seemed to look better in the flesh. Once again, trying to get in the drivers seat was a bit of a problem. All the room in the passenger seat seemed to disappear when a pedal box and steering wheel get in the way. This problem will be overcome when the build starts proper and I have been assured that the car will fit.
The first stage in building this car was to find a donor vehicle. Many of todays kit cars are based on the rear wheel drive Ford Sierra, but this is built using parts from a Ford Escort MkII. The problem is that Escorts are becoming classic cars and this means the price matches their availability. After a bit of looking around and many hours spent surfing the WWW an advert was spotted in Autotrader offering a 1.3L crossflow engine still in a MkII rolling chassis. The fact that it was still in the rolling chassis meant that I would have all the components I needed from an Escort (engine, gearbox, back axle, steering rack etc.) all because the guy was trying to sell an engine. This was a stroke of luck as I could have paid more for all the bits I needed separately than I did for the whole of this car. Having said that, it was in a bit of a mess with no glass, front wings, bonnet, boot or interior. The engine was supposed to have been rebuilt 18 months before, but as I discovered when the engine was stripped, this was not the case. On dismantling the engine, the first thing I noticed was the almost crystalline oil. This was an engine that had not been touched for years. It was also evident that the cylinder bores had seen quite a bit of wear. It is normal to get a ridge around the top of the bore where the piston ring stops at the top of each stroke. It is not normal to find a ridge running from the top of the bore to the bottom. As my friend Steve suggested, it looked like a knackered piston ring. Blue Gemini
Aristocat (left) & Gemini
Aristocat (left & Gemini
Road and Racing
Get out of my way
The engine was always going to have some work done, but I didn't expect a complete rebore and new pistons. Ah well it's only money !!!!!! I will try and list all the things I have done to the individual components in a sort of build diary. This will include photos and descriptions of all the work and what I think have been the most fun and interesting bits. Gemini
I apologise now for the quality of the photos on this page as these are the only ones I can find of the car on the web. So until I nip off to the factory again with the digi camera you'll just have to put up with them.