Building cars, absolutely or partly, is big business in South Africa. Companies actuality accomplish catalytic converters, accumulate Hummer H3s, and aftermath right-hand-drive BMWs. A few South African firms additionally make, as business abstracts say, “pinpoint accurate, quality-crafted basic cars”—vehicles bigger accepted as kit cars. At atomic two versions of Ford’s GT40 are congenital in the Cape Town area, and a photocopy-faithful replica of the Lotus Seven is fabricated in Port Elizabeth.
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The baron of the re-creators is Superformance, which works with Hi-Tech Automotive, the branch that assembles those Hummers and produces those BMWs in Port Elizabeth. In the aftermost dozen years, Superformance has congenital added Shelby Cobra roadsters and coupes than Carroll Shelby anytime did. (Shelby, it should be noted, licenses these reproductions of his firstborn.)
Hi-Tech Automotive additionally builds the rolling anatomy for the Rossion Q1—a new and decidedly adapted adaptation of the Noble M400, the boss mini-GT car that British chassis-and-racecar architect Lee Noble advised in 1999 and Hi-Tech congenital until assembly accomplished aftermost year.
In February 2007, two Cincinnati entrepreneurs with South African roots—brothers-in-law Ian Grunes and Dean Rosen—purchased assembly rights to Noble cars (except in the United Kingdom, area Noble Automotive retained them). Grunes and Rosen say that what was already the Noble M400 will reappear in the United States, and from Barcelona to Beijing, by the end of this year as the Rossion Q1. (The aggregation name, Rossion, derives from combining, array of, Rosen and Ian.)
With tongues in cheeks, Grunes and Rosen say that their little bastard qualifies as the ultimate hybrid: The aboriginal architecture is from England, the anatomy and anatomy are congenital and accumulated in South Africa, and the appropriate agent is a Ford Duratec adapted in Texas. (The two men additionally jokingly affirmation to accord to the world’s aboriginal boyhood group: white African Americans.) They apprehend to advertise 75 Q1s a year in the United States. Already your rolling anatomy arrives, you can accept one of a dozen companies throughout the country install turbochargers and the appropriate Duratec V-6. “Could you specify addition engine?” asks Rosen. “Yes. Has anyone? No.”
As of the end of August, Rossion had accustomed 28 orders for Q1s from Americans. The bulk of the sportster, with the appropriate ability train, is $100,000. The car is accessible in colors called afterwards allegorical antagonism circuits: Laguna Seca blue, Monza red, and Silverstone green. One customer, however, has ordered his Q1 in an adorable adumbration of frost dejected to bout his Bentley.
Robb Report’s absolute drive of the Q1 in South Africa proves that the car is ancestors added avant-garde than the Noble M400. It has a abeyance that will not able your coccyx, an autogenous that is absolutely civilized, and exoteric curve that breeze gracefully. And active the car is exhilarating.
Entering and departure the Q1 is no easy, adroit accelerate for a 6-footer, but assuming those tasks is far added arduous with, say, a Lotus Exige S. Alike for abate drivers, basement is form-fitting, but there is abounding allowance for elbows, head, shoulders, hips, and size-12 Pilotis. Forward afterimage is fine, the rearview mirror recalls the letterbox format, and all controls are aural accessible ability of easily and feet. So the Q1 could serve as a circadian driver.
On two-lane twisties abreast the Hi-Tech plant, the car defies the administration norms of abreast sports cars. The abeyance displays not alike a convulsion of alternation and not alike a advancement of causticity back the disciplinarian makes near-reckless transitions from larboard to right. Back the Q1 exits a about-face in additional accessory and beneath a abundant foot, with 400 ft lbs of torque dictating the action, the appendage end accomplish out and becomes actual polite, about apologetic. The car seems afraid to abide its accelerate into a spin, so regaining ascendancy is a airing in the veld.
Steering is superb: Area you look, there you go. And back a ancestors of apes crosses the car’s fiberglass nose, its cast-iron, cross-drilled, 13-inch brakes assignment bigger than about-face thrust.
The Q1 accelerates like a $10 canteen rocket; Rossion claims a zero-to-60 time of 3.3 seconds—equal to the Ferrari Enzo’s—and we do not agnosticism it. The Q1’s ability arrives flat, even, and controlled, yet berserk ascending, and with a affable agent agenda that is, like the adduce of a small-block V-8, adult after actuality macho.
The Q1’s activity and administration are ancestral traits. The M400 had a power-to-weight arrangement that equaled 418 hp per ton, the affectionate of admeasurement that characterizes F/1 pole sitters. Road tests accepted that a Noble could bolt from blow to 60 mph as apace as any Lamborghini, bright the quarter-mile accessories faster than a Ferrari F430, and drove the Corvette Z06 and Porsche 911 GT3 in the slalom. Because of its atomic acceleration, its adhesion, and its laser steering, the M400 became a accomplished amid two-seater coupes. Then, aftermost year, this little car that did died at the age of 8.
At the time, Noble said he was suspending all accomplishment to focus his energies and moneys on a faster, added expensive, better-cushioned supercar, the M600. Noble Automotive complete a abstraction car and displayed it briefly in 2007, but the aggregation has yet to activate production. Customers who accept plunked bottomward deposits on Noble’s promised M600 and are gluttonous advice about it on the company’s web armpit will acquisition alone a July 2007 columnist absolution allurement abeyant buyers to be patient, adage that bearding assignment is continuing, and reminding them that no account is acceptable news.
Reasons for the M400’s annihilation and the M600’s adjournment are accessible to conjecture. Noble the man, assembly say, is too abundant the visionary: a accomplished and automatic designer, but astigmatic about the realities of bulk efficiency, broker expectations, and artefact business as the agent of all-around business. Noble the vehicle, others suggest, admitting its absorbing performance, could not escape its angel as a $100,000 kit car, with all of the requisite acerbity about the edges and an autogenous akin that of a arcade cart. A majority, including both Rosen and Grunes, concludes that aggregate stumbled over Noble’s allegedly awry business plan: to body a ravenously fast, abiding car that could excel at clue canicule but could additionally backpack the adult out to banquet after rumpling her accouterments too much. Call it a 60–40 accommodation benign racing.
Grunes, 40, and Rosen, 41, acquire solid car-building credentials. In the 1990s they operated Dynamic Motorsports, the sole (and successful) U.S. importer of the Superformance Cobra and GT40 replicas. Through 1G Racing, the duo alien Americans to the Noble M12 and M400. Although perceived as kit cars, the Nobles accustomed absolutely assembled, suspended, instrumented, insulated, upholstered, and wheeled. They were about turnkey cars, but for the absence of ability trains.
The ally are about two years into planning the M400’s new era. “There are a fair bulk of gravestones out there with the names of baby car manufacturers on them,” says Grunes, a above accountant who was built-in in South Africa and is now an American citizen. “But we’ve already been successful. Superformance [Cobras] revolutionized the component-car industry by alms a added complete product. Then we brought the Noble into the United States—a superb basic sports car—and marketed it successfully.”
Grunes says Rossion is assertive to angle the car bazaar on its fender afresh by “enriching the automotive apple with a sports-car casting that will amalgamate ultralight weight with astronomic performance, accomplished fit and finish, bespoke styling, and unparalleled dynamics.” Translated from the eloquent, that agency a business arrangement that reverses the Noble’s bias. Rossion affairs to body a sports car for fun, daily, alike adventurous driving—and for racing. Call it a 60–40 accommodation benign commuting.
“The key was to advance the architecture of a car bound 10 years ago and to augment its appeal,” Rosen explains. “We basic the car to accomplish all the statements. We had to beat all the boxes: ride, handling, styling, comfort. And we had to accomplish a car that would be at home on the clue and acceptable for demography a wife out to dinner.”
Rosen, the son of a arresting Ford banker in South Africa, was affairs and affairs cars in his mid-teens. “Although we lived on a horse ranch,” he says, “if there wasn’t an agent attached, I wasn’t interested. Activity was automobiles, automobiles, automobiles.” His activity additionally has included some offbeat auto-related schemes, amid them one that complex importing hearses from the United States to abode a perceived growing address in a country belled for its aerial annihilation rate.
Rosen additionally has alien left-hand-drive cars to right-hand-drive South Africa. In Johannesburg, the carjacking amount is almost one every hour, so the badge admonish that you drive with windows up, doors locked, and corpuscle phones on, and that you stop for no one. But in this acknowledged carjacking and car-theft basic of the world, bad guys are not absorbed in burglary left-hand-drive cars.
Now Rosen is focused on the Rossion Q1. “The ambush was to accomplish the Q1 distinguishable, not generic—but not too outlandish,” he says. “Only Lamborghini can do that.”
The Noble platform, Rosen decided, was exemplary, but the aerodynamics bare revision. The M400 was an angular clabber bean; a ample appearance would accept greater appeal. The Q1 retains the Noble’s 450 hp V-6 engine, accompanying turbochargers, and short-throw, 6-speed transmission. And, like the Noble, the Q1 has a top acceleration of 185 mph. But Rossion has added side-impact beams, switched the auto from casting to artificial admixture to abate weight, and added B-pillar ram-air intakes to advance circulation.
The Q1’s autogenous represents a complete redesign of the Noble’s. New niceties accommodate ability windows and mirrors and a abundantly bedlam council wheel, which replaces one that could accept appear from a assemblage car. Seats are fabricated of carbon fiber, but they are absolutely beautiful and comfortable. And the gearshift is black, slick, and contoured—no best a naked, aluminum balloon bigger ill-fitted to NASCAR fists.
Because the Q1 still qualifies as a basic car, admitting barely, it can abstain abounding U.S. assurance regulations: It has no airbags and no 5 mph bumpers, and it never underwent blast testing. The car additionally lacks absorption controls and antilock brakes, abbreviation bulk and backpack (curb weight is 2,390 pounds) and acknowledging the anticipation that semiskilled drivers do not charge such accessories.
“When I attending at [the Q1], I feel pride and affection for what we accept achieved,” says Grunes. “This is article Dean and I accept been absent about back the Noble, and assuredly we’ve done it. But we’re not activity to be a one-class wonder.”
So there will be a additional stage, maybe involving a roadster. Or maybe article beyond with a V-8.
“We’ve got the concept,” says Grunes.
“We’ve got the platform,” adds Rosen.
“Now we’re activity to ability for the stars,” says Grunes, “while befitting our anxiety durably on the ground.”
Rossion Automotive, 866.612.6625, www.rossioncars.com
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