Belfast Telegraph

Engineer Phil Stevenson reunited with 'Rocket' 20 years on

By Cate McCurry

A car transformed from a piece of scrap metal into a racing rocket 20 years ago has been reunited with the man who breathed life into the motor.

Development engineer Phil Stevenson, who saved the car from the scrapheap, built the two-seater sports car as a labour of love in the 1980s based on components from a crashed Ford Escort rally car.

After two years of pouring his life into constructing what became dubbed the 'Stevenson Rocket', he sold it on for £1,000 before moving from Holywood, Co Down to Austria for work.

Yesterday, after some 20 years apart, the engineer was reunited with his hotrod at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum.

The racing machine had been snapped up by brothers and racing car fanatics Roy and Kieron Smyth.

Kieron, a retired architect, is also set to race the rocket - now worth a cool £25,000 - at the Cultra Hillclimb tomorrow.

Speaking about the reunification, Phil said he was "very excited" to see the motor.

He said: "I literally poured years of my life into getting a piece of scrap metal into a fantastic car with a great engine.

"I remember working late into the nights and weekends and was so passionate about the car.

"It's amazing to think that, after all these years, I will able to watch it race again. I'm delighted - it's like seeing an old friend again. I returned to Northern Ireland two years ago and now it has been almost 20 years since I last saw the car. It looks mostly the same but developed. It's an emotional day for me."

The love of restoring cars hasn't left Phil as he recently started his own business specialising in restoring vintage cars and racing cars. Kieron Smyth first fell in love with the car in the 1980s during its construction and after it came up for sale in 2007, he couldn't resist.

The car racing enthusiast, who is a former chairman of the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club Northern Ireland, christened the car the Stevenson Rocket.

The red racer, which can hit a top speed of around 100mph, is now known as their family pet.

Kieron said: "It's a phenomenal level to race in this car.

"My brother paid £1,750 which is for nothing now. It's a jewel of construction.

"I'm thrilled to be the custodian of what is a true product of Northern Ireland.

"When the opportunity arose to buy it, my brother and I were determined to ensure it would not leave Northern Ireland."

The Cultra Hillclimb takes place tomorrow from 10am to 5pm.

Belfast Telegraph


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