While no Retropower project is the same, it’s probably fair to say that many are built along similar lines, at least in terms of how the individual commissioning them intends on driving them once complete. Case in point, the Murray Escort and the Greetham Imp – the two are wildly different in appearance and concept, yet both prioritise performance above all else.
Not everything is about performance though, at least not all of the time, and if you want to waft around in effortless comfort and style, well, then you need to look at the trio of Mercedes we’re currently building – Project Kaiser I, II and III. Actually, that’s not strictly true, what with the base of Project Kaiser III yet to be collected, much less begun. Still, Kaiser I and II are well underway, and with both representing distinct points in the Retropower build process, we thought it a prime time to take a closer look at both.
Kaiser I has proved to be one of the most popular cars in the Retropower stable, and it’s not that hard to see why. We’ve never built a car with quite as much understated menace as this, two parts ‘60s African dictator chic, one-part Darth Vader’s earth-bound transport – it really is a moody looking bit of kit.
It’s also littered with custom work throughout, starting with its interior. Plush doesn’t really do this justice, not when there’s this much custom leatherwork on show, nor the degree to which the whole cabin has been geared towards luxury. The centre console has been designed from the get-go as a focal point and therefore runs from front to back in a single, unbroken sweep. We’ve also included carefully designed cubby holes for the front and rear passengers with separate functionality; wireless phone charging and control of the air suspension up front, a whiskey bottle and holder at the back.
The ethos underpinning classic Jaguars used to be ‘grace, space and pace,’ and it describes this car pretty much perfectly. The pace element comes courtesy of Detroit, namely the trusty LS3 package – a 430bhp monster. This has been mated to a GM transmission, a 4L85-E auto-box. It looks set to be the ideal combination, with plenty of power and very little effort.
Then there’s the way Kaiser I looks, with its perfect coat of Malbec black paint, freshly restored brightwork and unique wheels. These are worth looking at in detail, as while they may at first appear to be standard Merc caps nothing could be further from the truth. The wheels themselves are 17in steels from US Wheel, each with the iconic Mercedes centre-cap attached. Getting said caps to remain in situ involved the creation of a wheel jig, a means of correctly locating and securing mounting rings, one for each wheel. The rings were then TIG brazed onto the steels and the caps clipped into position.
At the other end of the build process, we have Kaiser II, a W111 Coupe Mercedes and a car slated to be built along similar lines as Kaiser I. There are of course several advantages to undertaking a similar build mere months after the first, not least the ability to build upon hard-won knowledge.
The axles and subframes are a good example of the above, and we’ve opted to once again make use of the front and rear axles from a Jaguar X300 – and not merely because it underlines the whole ‘grace, space and pace’ thing mentioned earlier. We’ve found these components of the Jaguar chassis to be both well engineered and capable, both of which are handy attributes when you consider the 400bhp + they’ll eventually be charged with handling.
As for the bodywork alteration required to the Jaguar and GM hardware, we plan to do as little as possible. Obviously making these parts work will take a fair degree of custom fabrication, but, as the W111 derives much of its strength from the sill arrangement running between A and C pillar, we plan to retain both in an almost unchanged form. We’ll then fabricate our own, custom chassis fore and aft of the front and rear bulkheads.