What was your first car? We bet it wasn’t a flame-spitting, tyre-shredding, 600bhp Sapphire Cosworth. For Tommi Huttunen it was…
Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Jamie King. Photos: Jape Tiitenen
Cast your mind back to when you were 17 years old (we know that’s a lot more rewinding to do for some readers than others…), and remember when you were deciding on what your first car should be.
Older readers might recite things like 1.1-litre Mk1 Escorts, those in their 30s might have been looking at base-model Mk3 Fiestas and Mk4 Escorts, while younger readers have a much more appealing choice of sporty-looking, turbocharged 1.0-litre Fiestas and the like. But not many people would have bought, rebuilt, and then tuned a rear-wheel-drive Sapphire Cosworth to use as their first ever car. Tommi Huttunen is not most people…
Tommi explains, “As I approached driving age [18 in his native Finland], I started looking at options for my first car. It never occurred to me to take an old Sierra as my first car.
“But in December 2014 one of my classmates said that he had heard about a genuine Sapphire Cosworth just sat in the parking lot of an old, terraced house.”
Intrigued, Tommi went straight round for a closer look. Upon further investigation he discovered the car had been off the road since the summer of 2013 and it was clear it hadn’t been driven in a while. But with the Finnish equivalent of an MOT certificate expiring only 18 months-or-so earlier, Tommi figured ‘how bad can it be?’ and inquired if it was for sale.
It was, and the price was good, so the cogs started whirring in Tommi’s head. But before he could seal the deal he had the difficult task of convincing his family that a Sapphire Cosworth was the perfect first car. Amazingly, he somehow managed to win that argument, and after a quick test drive (sliding sideways in the snow), the Cossie was loaded onto the back of a trailer and heading to Tommi’s garage.
“We had to trailer it as there were a couple of oil leaks,” remembers Tommi, “but looking at the last test certificate there was nothing to note other than a couple of small rust bubbles just starting.”
With the Cossie back in the warm and dry, Tommi was able to get a closer look at what was destined to become his first car. He freed off the brakes, checked the fluids, and went off for a quick drive.
He says, “The start seemed promising, but when the turbo hit 1-bar of boost the breather emptied all of the engine’s oil out onto the floor.” The YB motor was clearly not in good health. Gutted, Tommi parked the Cossie and left it for a few months while he calmed down.
But as any Cossie owner will testify, as much as they test your patience you can never leave them alone. A few weeks later, with motivation creeping back, Tommi found himself working on the Saph again. But all was not well.
After lifting the carpet he unearthed several cracks in the floor and chassis rails, and the whole underside was full of rust holes. The car was duly stripped completely, sandblasted, repaired (Tommi reckons at least 100 hours’ welding was needed to get everything structurally sound again), before some substantial rust-proofing was applied to prevent anything happening in the future. Then the shell was sent off for a fresh respray.
While the car was in the paint shop, the fabled YB engine was dismantled and readied for a full rebuild. And have you ever known a YB to be rebuilt with less power than it had previously? Of course not. The story follows a similar path here, only Tommi jumped a few steps and went straight for a massive BorgWarner EFR 8374 turbo as the key ingredient in this rebuild.
The rest of the car returned from the paint shop in September 2015 – taking a little longer than the original plan of a quick refresh – and during the summer of 2016 Tommi reassembled everything and decided to get the car driveable. Other upgrades to the suspension, bigger brakes, and a few more tweaks here and there also all found their way onto the car.
With conditions too bad to drive over the following winter months, Tommi had to wait until February 2017 before he could finally get out on the road for the first test.
He recalls, “That test also started well and I even started to have thoughts about getting it booked in for the katsastus [Finnish MOT]. But before the time came to swap the winter tyres for summer ones (when I wanted to book the test), I had broken the engine again. All I could do was remove it, disassemble it, and see what had gone wrong.”
Tommi spent the next couple of years buying, selling and accumulating parts; a new crank and block was sourced, and all the old standard parts that were no longer used were sold. During this time, Tommi made various tweaks too; things like smoothing the engine bay, swapping the cloth Recaro interior for full Raven leather and then flocking the dash in black to match.
But progress was slow and sporadic; there was no plan and no end goal. “That’s when I decided to set a deadline,” says Tommi. “There was an American car show that I booked the car in for, and I said the car would need to be driving by then.”
With the show a few weeks away and the workload mounting up, Tommi got stuck into finishing the project. It was a slog and included lots of late nights and early starts, but at 6pm the night before the show, the car was looking good and ready to be fired up.
Sadly, Tommi couldn’t bring the freshly-built YB to life before it was time to load the car into the trailer and head for Helsinki.
Clearly he was disappointed, but the positive comments the young Cossie fan received from the show fuelled his inspiration, and after a week on display Tommi was soon looking forward to getting the Sapphire back home where he could get to work – without the pressure of a looming deadline – on getting the YB started.
With a methodically approach the new powerplant soon burst into life. “Yes, it was a great feeling,” smiles Tommi. A few tweaks ensured the Cossie was running well enough to be taken to the dyno. The first visit highlighted a few issues that needed ironing out, but with those sorted the return visit went very well indeed; the new engine produced an impressive 600bhp and 472lb.ft, at a relatively low boost setting of 1.5-bar.
Needless to say, after waiting so long to get out on the road in his 600bhp Sapphire Cossworth, Tommi enjoyed the rest of summer: “I think I covered about 5000km and went through a lot of rear tyres.”
So, after taking so long to get on the road, surely Tommi isn’t going to mess with it now? Of course he is – it’s a Cossie and we can’t leave them alone; he’s already got his eyes on a stronger rear diff and winding up the boost.
He may have had to hang on until his 20s to get rolling in his epic 600bhp Sapphire Cosworth, but for Tommi it’s all been worth the wait.
Tech Spec: 600bhp Sapphire Cosworth
1993cc Cosworth YB, 200 block, long-studded, Coopers rings, ACL bearings, forged pistons, forged conrods, under-piston oil spray jets, big-wing sump, high-pressure oil pump, Cat Cams camshafts, double springs, Piper vernier pulleys, carbon fibre (prototype) inlet plenum, Jenvey throttle body, Bosch 2000cc injectors, Fuelab adjustable fuel pressure regulator, BorgWarner EFR 8374 turbo, custom exhaust manifold with 4in downpipe, stand-alone engine management system, coil-on-plug upgrade, custom oil breather system, Thrust intercooler, Airtec radiator
600bhp and 640Nm (472lb.ft)
Sapphire Cosworth BorgWarner T5 gearbox, lightweight steel flywheel, four-paddle clutch, Gripper plated-type limited-slip differential
Seam-welded chassis, reinforced strut towers, 28mm front and 18mm anti-roll bars, Gaz Gold coilovers
Front: 328mm discs with four-pot Brembo callipers and Ferodo D2500 pads; rear: 300mm discs with two-pot Brembo callipers and Ferodo D2500 pads, plus original 2WD Cosworth callipers with handbrake function
Wheels & Tyres:
8x17in Compomotive TH alloys in ET25 offset, with Hankook 215/40×17 (front) and 235/35×17 (rear) tyres
Sapphire Cosworth 2WD, LHD, body soundproofed with STP Black Gold bitumen mat, 4×4 vented bonnet with carbon vents and AeroCatches, carbon mirrors caps, fibreglass front bumper with rubber splitter and quick locks
Recaro leather interior, flocked dashboard, roof and interior trim panels, black carpets, Pioneer head unit, Ground Zero speakers and 8in sub in boot