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The Telford workshop where speed is king

By Mark Andrews | Telford | News | Published: | Last Updated:

The adrenaline coursing through the veins, the sweaty palms and the white knuckles . . .

"You can get a little nervous before a race. The wait, while the man is counting three, two, one, seems longer than the race itself, because you have so much to concentrate on."

Which is perhaps understandable, given that Mike Little's last race saw him reach speeds of 237 mph. In a Nissan Qashqai. That's right, 237mph in a car more commonly seen pottering around on the school run.

"It's the wackiest car we have done yet," says Mike's boss Kevan Kemp, the owner and founder of Severn Valley Motorsport in Telford.

THE WORLDS FASTEST SUV - SVM Nissan Qashqai-R '2000HP' - 237.6MPH! (WORLD SUV TOP SPEED RECORD)

And that is certainly saying something. The Severn Valley workshop in Halesfield looks like a set from The Fast and the Furious. Brightly coloured supercars everywhere you look. A Lamborghini-orange Nissan GTR, resembling a sort of 21st century General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard.

A vivid-green GTR which has been tweaked to pump out a mind-boggling 1,500bhp. And another one which manages 2,000bhp. To put that in context, a high-performance Ford Mondeo ST produces 237bhp. And a bog-standard repmobile about 150. These cars are for the seriously committed.

There are one or two classic Fords also dotted around the building; a 1980s Ford Capri, a Sierra Cosworth, and most intriguing of all a timid-looking Mk1 Ford Escort which is being given a does of supercar power as part of the Severn Valley treatment. But it's the Nissan GTRs that dominate though, with almost every possible trim, colour and power combination on display.

A bright orange Nissan GTR getting the "650 conversion"

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"Most people start with the 650 conversion, which gives a GTR 650bhp," says Mike, who is 51.

"That costs about £6,000, but once they have had that done, they usually bring it back for more.

"It can be quite addictive, and we have known people who spend £150,000-plus on their car. For that you are going to get something special, something that breaks records."

On a car that costs about £90,000 to begin with, that is a serious investment, and one that puts the cars firmly in Ferrari territory. A lot of money for a Nissan?

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"For that you get a car that will beat a Ferrari, it will beat anything over a mile.

Wolf in sheep's clothing ­­– this Nissan Juke R will be worth £400,000 when the work has been completed

"The only thing that beat the Qashqai over a mile was a £5 million Koenigsegg, and over three-quarters of a mile the Qashquai beat that."

Mike reckons the Qashqai, which conceals a GTR chassis and running gear beneath its humdrum bodywork, cost about £200,000 to build when all the man-hours are totted up, although he prefers not to think about that. And while its massive performance might make the weekly trip to Tesco a little more entertaining, there are disadvantages.

"I would imagine it does about 4-5 mpg," he says. "It's road legal, but you would never take it out on the road, it's too powerful, you could get into trouble."

Record breaker – Severn Valley's Nissan Qashqai is the fastest sports utility vehicle in the world

It is by no means the first time Mike and Kevan have produced an unlikely tyre shredder. Back in the mid 1990s, they produced a Cosworth-engined Ford Transit, which produced 650bhp and had a maximum speed of 150mph.

"We're a bit wacky," says Kevan, who founded the business in Ironbridge in the 1980s when he began tuning Nissan 240Zs.

Yet the car that is probably the most valuable in the workshop is also the one which looks the least likely supercar of all. Looking rather forlorn among all the spoilers and fat tyres is what at first glance appears to be the shell of an old white Nissan Juke. Closer examination reveals that the shell is mounted on a shortened GTR chassis, and the car is actually an ultra rare Nissan Juke R, which combines the workaday mini MPV bodywork with the blistering performance of a road racer. And which Nissan normally retails for £400,000.

"It was that which gave us the idea for the Qashqai," says Mike.

Record breaker – Severn Valley's Nissan Qashqai is the fastest sports utility vehicle in the world

"They had to shorten the length of the chassis for the Juke, but we noticed that the Qashqai was almost the same dimensions as the GTR, so we ended up buying a GTR R35 and a brand new Qashqai, and cut the top off the Qashqai and welded it to the GTR.

"When Nissan found out about it, they saw we had done such a nice job with the Qashqai that they let us have the Juke."

Severn Valley's customers come from all over the world, including one who recently arranged from his car to be transported from his home in Majorca, although he says 95 per cent are from across the UK.

He says they come from all backgrounds and all walks of life, although the one thing they all share is a passion for their cars.

"We do have quite wealthy people, sometimes they are very competitive and want their car to be better than anything else, and we have people who will spend their life savings on their car."

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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