August 20, 2003
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by Paul Williams
There are cars you need for transportation, and cars you buy for fun. For that reason, you wouldn’t drive a Diva Speedster HR to get to work. You’d be having so much fun, you’d probably drive right by.
The Diva is the product of Canadian kit-car builder EVA Sportscars. Go there, and you won’t find a fancy glass and steel factory, with industrial robots and white-coated technicians hovering over newly minted cars.
Located in rural Vankleek Hill, Ontario, EVA Sportscars is literally a cottage industry.
Chris Williams is the proprietor, engineer, designer, builder, test driver and one-man production line from which the Diva emerges. His factory consists of a ground-floor chassis fabrication shop where old signs from international racetracks hang lop-sided from the walls.
Above the chassis works is a spacious fibreglass studio, used to construct the Diva bodies. Out front is a showroom with three or four finished cars on a shiny chequered-flag floor.
Mr. Williams builds every Diva from scratch, by hand. That means he cuts, assembles and welds the 1.25″ tubular space frame chassis, and lays the fibreglass for each body, including the bespoke bucket seats.
He also installs a front and rear suspension and supplies the steering rack and column, radiator, gas tank, windshield, rear axle casing and various pedals, lights and the grille as part of the $13,500 kit. Over the years he’s built 30 Divas, among other projects (most recently, Cobra lookalike kit cars).
It’s up to the customer to add a powertrain of choice, instruments, upholstery, paint, brakes of choice, wiring harness and exhaust. Typically, GM or Ford V8-engines are used.
“It’s basically a fun toy,” says the mild-mannered Englishman. “I did my training as an automobile engineer at the Standard-Triumph car company in England. My job was to crash things into walls, make them stronger, and crash them again.”
After arriving in Canada in the late-1970s, Mr. Williams set about designing his own car. His first effort was the Toyota-powered Beva sports car. His US distributor kept suggesting more power for the Beva, however, and Mr. Williams was happy to oblige.
Mr. Williams’ experience as a prototype tester was put to good use developing a lightweight (90 kilogram), super-strong chassis that could handle big horsepower. That chassis has evolved over the years, but the multi-triangulated space frame concept remains.
Each chassis uses almost 70 metres of cold-rolled, electric welded, powder coated steel. The front suspension features custom double “A” arm top and bottom wishbones with urethane bushes, and the rear suspension is a five-link design with coil over shocks, four massive trailing arms and a Panhard rod (Winston Cup style).
Using that chassis, and a body of his own design, Mr. Williams built his first Diva in 1993. Its appearance is a cross between a Lotus Seven and Plymouth Prowler, but it’s not delicate, like the Lotus, and it’ll handle twice the power of the Prowler.
The featured Inca Gold pearlcoat Speedster HR is Chris Williams’ ultimate Diva. He built it to demonstrate what you can do with the car. Fully equipped it weighs less than 900 kg (2000 pounds)
“What’s my dream Diva?” he replies to the question. “You’re looking at it right there. The HR stands for Hot Rod. It’s got a shorter, wider rear-end than the standard Diva, and the power is awesome. Unlike the typical hot rod, it handles, too.”
Under the hood is a carbureted 350 cubic inch GM V8 making 450 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque. Engine specialist and former National Hot Rod Association champion Don MacCallum built the $7000 motor. It’s mated to a GM TH350 automatic transmission with shift kit, although the Diva buyer could choose a manual gearbox.
Power is sent to the rear wheels with a converted Ford Motorsport 8.8″ limited slip differential, and put to the ground with massive, 12″ wide, Mickey Thompson cross-ply tires on 15″ chrome Bart Racing rims. 15″ x 9″ rims are on the front.
“The car is really a dragster for the road,” says a well-pleased Mr Williams. Just a super fun machine.”
That’s typical British understatement. “Super fun” doesn’t come close to describing the genuine thrill of driving this car.
There are no doors (“it’s easier to build without doors, and stronger, too,” explains Mr. Williams), so you have to sort of fold yourself into the cockpit. The bucket seat is snug, and after you’ve squeezed under the small steering wheel, and strapped yourself in with the four-point racing harness, you feel like you’ve just put the car on.
There’s no key, just a switch for the electric fuel pump and a button for the motor. Flick the switch, press the button and your response is decidedly physical. Blip the throttle and the sound of that engine is guaranteed to raise your pulse. It’s like having a tiger on a leash.
Put the Diva in gear and the whole car sort of hunkers down and grunts. Let your foot off the brake, and the car slowly moves ahead. Look down the long hood and you’ll see the cycle-fendered front wheels react independently to the road surface (that surface, by the way, is about 10″ from your elbow).
You’re sitting almost at the back of the car, and there’s really only one thing you want to do.
Step on the gas, and the Diva HR catapults forward. It’s a roar of engine noise, and a blur of acceleration, as the Mickey Thompsons battle to hang onto the road, and you battle to hang onto the steering wheel. Woo hoo!
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The Diva HR corners with imperceptible body roll. There are no power brakes, but the four-wheel discs bring the car smartly down from speed. What a rush. Time to do it again.
The basic Diva Speedster HR kit sells for $13,500. You don’t have to install a Don MacCallum engine, but if you did, that’s at least another $7000. Add another $5-9000 for additional components and you’re looking at about $30,000 for the completed car (plus labour, if you hire someone to build it). Of course, it’s a lot cheaper if you source your own engine and assemble the car yourself.
Chris Williams’ ultimate Diva HR is not currently for sale. As a kit-car builder (not an automobile manufacturer) he cannot sell cars ready for the road.
The Diva Speedster HR, along with variations called the Speedster and Roadster are available from EVA Sporstcars at (613) 678-3377. Vankleek Hill is between Ottawa and Montreal.
Diva Speedster HR
- Manufacturer: EVA Sportscars, Vankleek Hill, Ontario
- Type: Mid-front engine, rear-wheel drive, two-seat roadster
- Body: Hand laminated fibre glass
- Chassis: Fully triangulated mild steel
- Engine: Custom built GM 350
- Power: 450 horsepower, 460 lb.-ft torque
- Convertible top: None
- Transmission: GM TH350 three-speed automatic
- Price: $13,500 plus drivetrain and finishing components