Bellett GT Café Racer

If a classic drive from the late 1960’s with current comfort level is attractive then the Bellett GT/R is the perfect choice as a start vehicle for a café racer project as it’s lighter and stiffer. Throughout the over 10 year GT production life Isuzu added a range of accessories and options but more importantly continued on the G series of engines and gearboxes into new models well after the Bellett had ceased production.

The first Bellett GT was equipped with a G150 engine that was a derivative of the earlier Rootes Hillman/Sunbeam engine group so the bore spacing and bell housings are all the same from the Alpine Monte Carlo of the 1950s to the Gemini Group A the 1980’s and the basic G series were used in cars, trucks, SUVs and many different vehicles from the exotic 117 to the US LUV Chevrolet pickup. The Sunbeam Alpine of the late ‘50s era was an early inspiration for Isuzu and GM along the way made it worldwide.

So the parts bin has lots of options. The best choice for a café racer GT/R comes down to which twin cam engine variant to use as there are 1600, 1800 and 2 litre standard variants of the same G series range. All are robust and have alloy 8 valve cross flow heads and have the engine mount points so as to be just bolted into a Bellett GT/R chassis. There are similarly a range of alloy 4 and 5 speed gearboxes with remote gear sticks that all bolt up and have the same overall length so that the standard tail shaft fits with just a mod to the rear gearbox mounting. The drive line can handle any Isuzu G series power combination providing the original or sports kit rear 3/4 leaf and coil over system is maintained as this limits suspension windup under extreme acceleration or two wheeling around corners at the limit on the race track.

Interior comfort and relaxed cruising at touring highway speeds means upgrading the tombstone original seats with more comfortable ones, updating the sound insulation on the floors and doors with current high density quality insultation, remembering to insulate both the floor, the firewall and under the rear seat. The dash and controls are classic and functional so need no upgrade. The 2 speed heater demister is also ok but the demist leaves room for improvement and the best way to improve it is to install the optional air conditioning that was available from late 1968 as a factory option for only OHC cars and not the DOHC due mainly to lack of space to fit the compressor. Advances in compressor design have meant that newer rotary compressors are smaller and can now be fitted to the DOHC engine, located under the twin dual choke carburettors.

The air conditioner room unit mounts under the dash where the passenger parcel shelf is normally located. The condenser mounts in front of the radiator and whilst the piping is compact and it is reasonably simple to access to maintain.

Air conditioning completes the interior upgrade and provided a standard induction air box and quiet exhaust are used, normal levels of conversation and radio are enjoyable at 110 kph touring speeds.

External looks may be improved with the fitment of period Watanabe type A alloy wheels. These were originally designed in Japan in the era and well suit the Bellett GT. Brakes are adequate for heavy road use with uprated pads in standard form but if you need more there is a homologated larger brake set that is available, if required for actual track competition. Other updates to lights, electric fans, stripes and the like are all down to one’s taste.

Building the café racer GT/R is not difficult providing you start with a reasonable and original car.
Tom Amos