Turn a 1000cc two-stroke van into a V8 drag monster
“Holy Christ have you heard that?" "Have I heard it?! My ear drum has just friggin’ imploded”, cries the man as he runs outside looking for the source of the thundering noise.
“What was that?” a truck driver comes asking. Judging by his complexion he could easily get a leading role in a don't-drink-and-drive campaign, although I am afraid his acting would not be completely fictitious.
“Just a Barkas,” we tell him with a wink. Yeah right, a Barkas. He's not buying it. Neither would we, mind you, if we haven't seen it with our own eyes. But there's no denying those tyre marks meandering about a hundred metres down the street. Yellow on one side, blue on the other. Advanced drifters are now using coloured tyres around the globe to make their performances more spectacular
If you are already shaking your head in disbelief, you probably have at least the slightest clue of what a Barkas is. In this case please continue reading below. If not, however, it is worth taking a short detour into the Museum of Eastern Block Automotive Terror to familiarise yourself with this monstrosity. Manufactured between 1962 and 1989, the Barkas B1000 was an infamous four-door LCV / people carrier with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder engine located alongside the driver's seat. With 45 PS on tap the car was not exactly fast which was just as well because the lightweight vehicle lacked any sort of straight line stability. It was a common workhorse in Eastern Europe used for everything from carrying mail to being an ambulance.
By the time the window panes stop rattling, the Barkas has vanished from sight, returning to its headquarters
“We are trying to keep a low profile,” Kornel tells me. This is why they would not let me take photos inside their yard. Moments later he tears up the side street with a grand burnout. Low profile!? How can you possibly stay out of sight with a 330 PS V8 Barkas? This car will set off your seismograph, registering a healthy 5.0 on the Richter scale, wherever you drive. Earthquake is not the only thing that follows in its wake. This car smells bad, really bad. It's not your typical two-stroke fuel stench but the smell of premium fuel burnt really fast in large quantities, with complete disregard to any emission regulations
Kornel is an IT guy – he does web design and things like this. Originally he designed his Barkas using Photoshop. The cabin top has been tastefully chopped about 10 cm – the way it looks, anything less would have been too little, anything more too excessive. That's the way to do it. This Barkas used to be a panel van and Kornel originally designed it with a sloping coupe roofline but when it came to actually building the car he realised it just would not work out right.
With each piece of steel he removed the car shed some 40 kg, and because this van was going to be a quarter mile champion he wanted to keep the weight as low as possible. So instead of the sloping roof he made it an open bed truck which meant at least 150-200 kg off the GVW. He welded up a hollow section frame then slipped the frame of a 1984 Corvette under the vehicle. It was an almost perfect match. You might start to wonder how a North American two-seater could be the same size as a European van but, in fact, the Barkas is shorter, so much so he didn't use the rear frame section of the Corvette at all.
“I had this Corvette C4 I used for drag racing. I still have the Corvette actually, it's just that it's undergoing some detailed restoration work and while we were working on the body I figured I'd build a mid-engined vehicle around its powerplant. Originally I was thinking about a Toyota Hiace but those cost a lot. Now, I paid perhaps €100 for the Barkas. As we started to cut up the body it became clear why it was so cheap: it was full of body filler.”
To get a better start off the line he wanted it lighter and the engine moved back in between the two axles. This sequential injection 5.7 V8 fit just about right inside the van. Kornel is not a trained car mechanic but he is web literate and can read and carry out instructions
The best quarter mile time for the Corvette was 12.7 seconds. With the same engine the Barkas can do 12.2, and that's before the NOS. It is installed but the solenoid valve is broken and Kornel is no longer motivated to fix it – maybe never will be.
Because of the mid-engine configuration the transmission is directly connected to the differential gear. That means there is no drive shaft which could eliminate vibrations. Luckily Kornel has managed to set up the gearbox and the differential so well that the drivetrain runs smoothly – so far.
He wired up the injected engine like a pro, all gauges and instruments are operational. “Installing a carburettor engine is no biggie but for this one I had to browse the internet for a month, looking for blueprints and descriptions. I bought a ton of books and I was comparing wiring diagrams.”
The Barkas certainly has a stage presence. Its sheer origin warrants instant success at any drag race. Plus, there is the design, with the intentionally botched up welding spots half covered up with spray paint. The exhaust is a mighty 3-inch pipe with sound to match. The car has participated at locally important drag events. The first time the crowd just went berserk, there were so many people swarming around them they simply could not dismount the Barkas from the trailer
The most prized trophy the Barkas has ever taken was a Mercedes-Benz Brabus 600 but Kornel is not particularly keen on the humiliate-Ferraris-with-your-souped-up-Beetle game. Because of course he would humiliate Ferraris. While he has never actually duelled against one, there was an event where he clocked just 0.1 second behind a Lamborghini Murcielago (that's a 6.2 V12 with 571 PS. The Gallardo is not in his league)
The interior looks as if modelled after Fast and Furious. There are a bunch of gauges on the headliner – fuel pressure, fuel-air ratio (so that you can see if NOS turns the mixture too lean). There is also a gauge for ATF pressure, really useful for the automatic transmission. Oil pressure, water temperature and intake air temperature. There is a line of switches above the passenger seat but Kornel can no longer remember all their functions. We can recognise the NOS standby switch, the power cut switch and the immobiliser from the Corvette. You would have a hard time trying to steal this car if your desire for a fast beauty of a car should lead you to the dark side.
“On a scale of 0-100 where zero is a nightmare and a hundred is the best time ever, where would you place this project?”
“Oh, this has definitely been fun. I took a month off from my job to work on the car and I was in the garage from 5 am to 10 pm every day! Only stopped when my family came and ordered me inside – this does not sound like a nightmare, does it?”