For such a small country, Ireland has a suspiciously large motorsport and performance car community.
What’s funny though, is that you wouldn’t know it if you visited here. Most enthusiasts prefer to work quietly away from others, behind closed doors in sheds and workshops dotted all around the country. There’s an abundance of brilliant car builders, tuners, painters, electricians and countless other professions which make the motorsport and performance car industry here tick.
The challenge is finding these people though. A lot don’t advertise, instead preferring to operate on a word of mouth customer recruitment policy. That’s fine, but if you don’t know that someone exists and have to depend on the knowledge of others, it can make building a car a bit of a challenge.
I often have ideas for project cars which tend to fade away when I realise that I don’t have the talent to make them happen myself. I also don’t have a garage or workshop at my disposal or even somewhere to store this hypothetical project car during its construction. If I did, I would need to bring it to one place for fabrication, another for paint, another for wiring and another for assembly. The logistics alone would be enough to put you off the idea.
I’m obviously not alone in thinking this, because this is pretty much the main reason Stone Motorsport came to life. One business that can take a car in as a rusting shell and send it out the other side ready for action, without it ever having to leave the building. It’s a simple idea which I would imagine is common in many places, but as far as I’m aware, it’s the first of its kind here in Ireland.
Essentially, if you could build your dream workshop it would probably look something like this.
Located around an hour from Dublin’s City Centre, Stone Motorsport isn’t a place you’d find by accident. Even from the outside, you would be hard pushed to figure out what’s going inside when the large sliding door is closed. The on-site presence is low key, save for a few cars parked outside.
The first car that caught my attention was this innocent enough looking Golf 7R. Technically, it’s still stock, but what makes it interesting is that it’s a factory converted commercial; it’s not a car but a van. The rear interior has been removed, a bulkhead installed and a load area created in the back. Practical.
Beside it, an E60 M5 in the best colour the model ever came in, Sepang Bronze. These are about as tame as the cars come at Stone Motorsport.
I could have sneaked in through the workshop, but I thought it might be more interesting to bring you on a virtual tour of the premises, starting with the area most of us will spend time in, the waiting area. Before we proceed, take a moment to think of what the waiting area of your preferred local workshop looks like.
My guess is that it probably doesn’t have a full sized pool table, comfortable seating, a mini automotive library and a flat screen TV with full access to Netflix. Some might consider this overkill, but it automatically makes me think that if this much effort has been put into the waiting area, how much effort is going to be put into a project?
Upstairs is home to offices and a large open conference room, with a huge glass wall on one side overlooking the showroom and workshop floor. What’s that lurking behind the small glass windows off to the side?
Well, of course there’s an EP3 Civic Type R enclosed within the wall space. This particular Honda has a lot of history and sentimental value to the Stones, and it is, quite literally, one of those cars that they intend on keeping forever. They don’t really have a choice now.
In case you’re wondering how they got the car in there, the entire upstairs was built around it.
From up here, you have a perfect view of the showroom area, which is home to Gentleman Classics. Technically and legally, it’s a separate business to Stone Motorsport, but the two operations under one roof are a perfect fit. Gentleman Classics simply source and sell vintage cars collected from all over the world, with the bonus of being able to push any new project across the floor and have it restored in the Stone Motorsport side of the building.
There’s no particular affinity to one brand, era or even country of origin. On this particular day, there were three Porsche 912s, two Fiat 124 Spiders, a BMW 2002, a Beetle, a Mini and a Simca 1501 gathered. Conditions ranged from concours to completely original cars, the idea being that a customer can choose whether to purchase a car as is, or have it restored to a brand new finish.
I just assumed this was a replica the first time I saw it, and of course I assumed wrong. An original Porsche 356 Speedster is a rare sight in Ireland and one in this condition is practically a unicorn car.
The eagle-eyed amongst you might have spotted this MkII Escort, too. It’s obviously mid-build, but I’d like to keep the details to myself until it’s finished and we can arrange a full feature. The front wheels are a big clue as to the proposed end product.
Gentleman Classics is just the proverbial drop in the ocean though; the real heart of this operation is the left side of the building. Starting at the front, there’s a pair of two-post lifts with a four-post on the opposite side of the workshop. It’s here that routine and general maintenance can be carried out. And yes, there is a spotlight coming on the GS300…
This Lancer Evolution V belongs to one of the Stone brothers, Bryan, and is that really nice style of Evo that’s just perfect for the road.
Also located in the front workshop is a 2WD rolling road. It’s fully enclosed and the room is significantly soundproofed, to the point where during the lead up to a recent event, they were running a car at 2:00am on the dyno which couldn’t be heard outside. That’s one way to keep the neighbours happy.
The previous day was host to an open day with a Cars & Coffee type meet, so they just had Johno Hare’s quite beautiful West Lake Tire Motorsport Europe-liveried S15 casually parked on the rollers.
Pushing on beyond the front workshop, you’ll find a ’65 Mustang Fastback which has just landed in Ireland and will soon begin a restomod transformation. Mustangs are rare here, so this excites me greatly. Although I don’t think I could deal with the pressure of planning a build like this myself. Traditional or non-conventional? V8 or 2JZ? I’m already getting sweats just thinking about it.
Off to the side, is Stone’s new body and paint shop which is still under construction.
In case you’re wondering why the whole place is like a ghost town, it’s because I photographed everything while the staff were on their lunch break so as not to disturb them.
The next area is the first bay of the fabrication shop, which currently houses IDC Pro driver Wesley Keating’s 180SX. After sticking with an SR20 for far longer than any sane human should have, Wesley will make the jump to a V8 for the 2017 season.
When I visited, Stone Motorsport was fabricating a new exhaust manifold for the LSX engine to suit the compact RPS13 engine bay. Wesley has been knocking on the door of his first Pro class win for some years now, despite the significant disadvantage of the relatively underpowered SR20 in comparison to his competition.
I quite like that everything can be fabricated in house; from cages to manifolds to some seriously impressive metalwork repairing old rust-ridden shells. The Fiat 1500 at the centre of this photograph is currently being restored to completely original looks, but with an SR20DET at its heart.
The shells on the racking above, are cars with no immediate plans. With certain chassis getting rarer and rarer, it makes sense to stock pile some of them before their prices break into the stratosphere. There’s an S15, DC2, Escort MkII, Civic EG and an already prepped MINI just waiting to be resurrected.
Probably one of the most interesting builds is this Toyota Starlet KP, which I’ll be following with a close eye. To give you the short version, the ultimate goal is a 1:1 car, with one horsepower for every kilogram. A 2JZ-GE will be converted to a GTE in order to make this happen, but a target horsepower/weight of around 600 or 650 of each unit will be required. That will be an interesting car.
Like most good things, it’s often a simple idea that impresses the most. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been done before, but bringing it all under one roof makes it a unique place in Ireland. Showroom, workshop, bodyshop, paint booth, fabrication, engine building, storage and a rolling road – there’s nothing missing from that list that would prevent any sort of car being built or restored here.
The sheer variety of cars being worked on or present when I visited was even more impressive: drift, rally, vintage, modern fast road, time attack, circuit racers, muscle cars. There’s pretty much something for everyone and this was just what was present on one day.
The only problem is that they’ve pretty much removed every excuse I could use to build my next project car…
Cutting Room Floor