Car forums are an addictively popular cyber playground for big boys and their toys.
These online motor clubs are where enthusiasts swap stories and experiences, share information and glean ideas from like-minded fellow owners.
Kayne Seale, a 21-year-old IT specialist based near Maidstone in Kent, and proud owner of a Ford Fiesta Mk6 Zetec S 1.6 TDCi, is a member of four such internet communities: fiestaownersclub.com, fiestastoc.com (Fiesta ST Owners Club), zsoc.com (Zetec S Owners Club) and tdocuk.com (Turbo Diesel Owners Club).
When first-time diesel owner Kayne originally bought his car two years ago, it was with economy foremost in mind, at a time when he was doing a longish daily commute.
“The job changed, but the car stayed. I had got used to the good mpg,” he says. Something else was also about to change. As a young man with Clarkson tendencies behind the wheel, he was intrigued by the thought of improving on the Fiesta’s standard power output.
Chatting to fellow forum members, it dawned on him that much of the talk between them about tuning – a very popular topic – featured petrol models, and that troubled him. “I saw these people’s cars change, while mine stayed the same. I thought: I want a bit of that!” Kayne recalls.
Information about tuning a diesel seemed to be rather sparse on the forums, but the seed was already planted in his mind to do something about modifying his diesel Ford. Then came a light bulb moment that instantly switched on his determination to get on and do it.
“I saw a Fabia vRS go past me on the road one day, and I thought: I’m not having that! It energised me to start finding out more about what I could have done to my car.” The answer was rather a lot, as the avalanche of technical documentation that he has since amassed confirms.
Today his Zetec S TDCi has been transformed from its standard origins to a hot pocket rocket than can not only keep up with a Fabia vRS, but would beat it off the line in a traffic lights Grand Prix.
At the heart of the changes is a Mountune MRD270 tuning kit that increased the Fiesta’s standard 88bhp to a much peppier 115bhp. Subsequent remapping – twice – has boosted this even further to 133bhp, and pushed the peak torque up to 230lb ft. “It’s brilliant, it goes like a train,” says its proud owner.
The EGR (exhaust gas recirculation) valve has been blanked, preventing gases from going back through the engine, improving flow and with the benefit of cleaner running. The added power has made other changes necessary too. The front brakes have been changed to 300 millimetre discs from a Mondeo, the back ones to 280 from a Focus ST.
The car has a new intercooler that took some time to get right. “I tried three different set-ups, and it was the last one that worked,” says Kayne. “It took a lot of maths and a lot of jiggery-pokery to sort it. I fitted it with my dad on a winter day in the snow, and we were freezing, but it was worth it.”
A different air filter has been fitted, tailored to come straight off the turbo, and designed to create a bit of noise. The car’s exhaust system has been modified with an AMD Milltek ST150 Cat-back rear valance insert, with associated pipework to upgrade the rear silencer.
Modest body kit modifications have added visual muscle, with colour coded side skirts, door handles and boot lifts, a new diffuser and a front splitter with fins. The car’s glass has been tinted for a moodier, sportier look worthy of the performance enhancement.
“A friend did it for me, and it is as dark as you can legally go,” says Kayne – which means that there must still be 70 per cent passage of light through the side windows, and 75 per cent through the windscreen.
Friends and fellow forum members are intrigued by his tuned Fiesta, Kayne reports. “People say, ‘why have you done this to a diesel?’ Everyone else does it to petrol cars, so why not? I don’t know anyone else who has tuned their diesel like mine, but I love it, I’m thrown back in the seat when I accelerate and it puts a smile on my face. I’m a pain in the backside about things like this, but I like to be unique.”
The car gets a lot of attention, not all of it welcome, including from the police. “Yes, I have been stopped. Apparently I was going a bit too quickly, but I have never been booked. People talk to me about my car all the time, ask questions when I park. It makes a great noise, it’s deeper with a lot more rumble. It does get a lot of attention.”
A lot of insurance bill too, surely? “It’s not really that bad, it costs me £1,000 a year to insure, and I’m 21.”
So is the car now to his liking? “Well…” says Kayne, “I have found a turbo kit in Portugal, via TRW Performance, that would push the horsepower up to 230. For that I would have to have a different clutch and some other changes. The other route I am looking at is water/methanol injection to give a higher combustion level…”
It seems that it is not only car forums that are addictive for performance-motivated owners like Kayne. So is tuning.