I thought I would share a few thoughts and observations on a number of things that have recently caught my attention in the auto universe. The include the last several decades of horsepower increases, McLaren’s current portfolio, and new news on a number of smaller hypercar manufacturers. None of these has enough depth for a full blog but thought they were still worthy of sharing.
The Horsepower Race to ???
Every new sports and supercar model seems to come with more bhp than the prior version. 20 years ago, these increases were more modest but today they seem to be jumping in substantially larger increments with each new model. If you just look at the limited edition Ferrari hypercars, the 1985 288 GTO: 400 bhp, F40: 478 bhp, F50: 520 bhp, Enzo: 660 bhp, LaFerrari: 950 bhp, it took 3 models and almost 20 years for bph to rise by 250 before it jumped 300 bhp between the latest two. However, all that added power has come with ever increasing weight. Call it the McDonalds effect, hypercars have been slowly supersized growing bigger mid engine bellies than each succeeding generation. When you break it down though, a Ferrari F40 and a LaFerrari have almost exactly the same power to weight ratio. Net net, 27 years of progress on power delivery just served to offset weight gains. Question is what does all this really mean and how does it all translate to in the real driving world?
EVO magazine’s tag line is the “Thrill of Driving”. I’ve always thought that driver engagement was at the very core of this philosophy. On a back country road or a mountain pass, light and nimble are as important as pure power. I’ve driven our F40 up a number of alpine passes, across the back roads of Wales, on multiple tracks, and down the coast of Portugal and never once thought that I needed more horsepower (bigger and better brakes have would have been nice in a few instances). The F40 is about as analogue as it gets and that translates easily into a very high level of driver engagement. When you look at the Enzo and LaFerrari, the extra horsepower has come with an increasing amount of digitization, much of it needed to keep the car stable and drivable. If you ever really want to scare yourself, get behind the wheel of a Ferrari 599 GTO and turn off all the driver’s aids. Sheer terror and a high level driver engagement are not quite the same thing. While so much development focus has been on the science of power, perhaps more should now be on the art of engagement. Progress can be quite illusional at times. After 75+ years, we again have a major land war in Europe.
McLaren’s Vow of Chasity
After behaving for years like a wired 18 year old shot full of testosterone and let loose on the Reeperbahn, McLaren seemed to grab and launch every mid engine model idea that came across Mike Flewitt’s desk. In the post Flewitt era, McLaren has become the equivalent of a Benedictine monk. McLaren’s vow of celibacy & silence has only been broken once in the past year, for the Artura launch (I am ignoring the 765LT Spider as everyone knew it was coming as soon as the 765LT was announced back in 2020 and the 720GT3X as its track only and I would be willing to put money down that you can count the number sold using your fingers and maybe one set of toes.). With the retirement of the Sport Series models and needed break on the Ultimate Series line, this has left McLaren dealers with only the aging 720S Spider & the little known GT to sell. Once production finally starts and Artura’s start appearing on owner’s driveways, it will help, but McLaren still needs more new news to fill the gap until a 720S replacement arrives in 2024/2025. With a little creativity I am sure they can fill the pipeline gap with a couple of highly desirable options before the hybrids fully take over. In addition, having gotten their financial house now in much better order, McLaren is in a much stronger position to execute the plan.
A very wise and worldly friend, who has forgotten more about supercars than I will ever know, recently made the suggestion that McLaren should take a page out of Ferrari’s book and drop the 765LT engine in the 720S, detune it slightly, update the interior a bit, and call it the 750S. This is essentially what Ferrari did with the 488 Pista and F8 Tributo. Doing this would breathe new fresh life into the 7XXS model line and easily carry it for another couple of years. Couple a 750S with my past suggestion that McLaren develop a limited run of 1,000 light weight manual final V8 twin turbo barchettas based off the 7xx platform and this should carry McLaren nicely until the 720S replacement is ready in a few years. While McLaren will have to detune the V8 TT engine down to around 630 bph to be able to mate it to a 6 speed manual gearbox, you should be able to save a few hundred pounds by eliminating the automatic convertible top and replacing it with a light weight carbon fiber removable panel while swapping out the active aero for a simple fixed rear wing.
If McLaren can pull off a 630M, it might just be the most exciting car they have built in the last decade. A 750S would renew excitement around the 7xx platform and extend its life. Both of these ideas are well within McLaren’s engineering expertise and should be quick to turn around.
There has been a bit of new news among a number of the Boutique Hypercar manufacturers since I last posted an update back in June 2021 (Boutique Hypercar Manufacturers). Czinger, De Tomaso, Gordon Murray Automotive (GMA), and Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus (SCG), have all recently been in the news.
Starting with the Czinger 21C, its last big public splash was in October 2021 when Czinger claimed the 21C smashed the lap record for homologated high-performance vehicles at Circuit of the Americas by six seconds. Only issue is the 21C prototype that was run is far from being fully homologated and comparing a prototype against a fully street legal production car isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. While it might create a bit of short term positive PR around the brand, it sets Czinger up as overpromising if the final production car doesn’t deliver the same levels of performance. One clear area of expertise in the Czinger organization is the PR department which has orchestrated a series of glowing articles on the company across a number of major publications in the last several months.
When the 21C was unveiled back in early 2020 it had a list price of $1.7 million, an intended production run of 80 units with production originally targeted to start in 2021. Currently it looks like the price has risen to $2 million with production now targeted to start in early 2023. Czinger has claimed that the 21C will be fully homologated in both the US and Europe. Unless that process is well underway, and Czinger has not released any information that would indicate it is, an early 2023 production start date sounds highly ambitious. One area that is quite intriguing is Czinger’s unique selling point around the use of a complex additive manufacturing process (basically 3D printing) which allows for parts to be designed, combined, and tested in digitally before the parts are “printed” and then assembled in the real world.
De Tomaso P72
De Tomaso made little to no noise in 2021 other than posting a couple of videos about their past, a few line drawings, and black and white pictures of a gearbox housing. This comes after 2020’s only significant develop being a rather arrogant statement that they were moving their operations to the US as “the time has come to restore the romance, beauty, passion, and elegance in the luxury American automotive industry.”
As the calendar flipped over into 2022, it turns out that De Tomaso will not be moving to the US, leaving the poor American automotive industry unrestored and romance starved. Instead, De Tomaso has entered into a partnership with the Capricorn Group to now co-developing the P72. In the press release announcing the partnership, De Tomaso also stated that a new carbon fiber chassis and suspension would be developed vs. the one they had originally planned to use. To produce the P72 they will be building a new factory at the Nürburgring, which is set for completion in summer 2022. Customer deliveries are now targeted to start in the first half of 2023. The timing on all of this feels like it is somewhere between overly ambitious and downright delusional. De Tomaso promised the P72 would be fully homologated, and the start of that process seems a long way off given they are still finalizing the chassis. Given all of this, it very much looks like DeTomaso is the early front runner to win the Tobais Moers award for Hypercar Development Delays when we hand out the SSO Awards later this year.
GMA continues to get everything right. The GMA T.50’s debut at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting was a smashing success and came off flawlessly. While the T.50s fan still feels a bit gimmicky, the rest of the T.50 on paper is pure brilliance. A high revving V12, manual gearbox, central driving position, and carbon fiber tub is as good as it gets. There have been a steady stream of customers posting on social media about the spec’ing process and it seems like GMA is very much on track to deliver the first customer cars in 2022. They recently announced a second model, the T.33 and all 100 build slots at $1.85 million each sold out almost instantly. GMA is in the process of building a new Headquarters and Production facility in the UK where both the T.50 & T.33 will be produced.
Following a similar philosophy to Ferrari in the early days, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus is a racing team that both designs and builds their own race cars. SCG then adapts these race cars for the road and sells to customers to help fund its racing activities. The SCG 007 recently finished on the podium at the 1000 miles of Sebring and is expected to be highly competitive at Le Mans this year. In very exciting news, SCG has just begun production on the 1st customer SCG 004S, which is the fully homologated, US road legal, version of the SCG 004C GT3 race car. We do have a SCG 004S on order (SCG 004S Anticipation) and just recently finalized the spec. Delivery date is still TBD but should be sometime this summer.
While there have been huge leaps in horsepower over the past several decades, perhaps a bit more focus on Colin Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness” might have been useful. Going into the hybrid era, it’s probably more relevant now than ever before given the weight gains that come with batteries and electric motors. On McLaren, they have been doing a lot of things right in the past couple of years and gotten their house in much better order. While I strongly support the move to a much longer gap between new hypercar models, the renewed focus on build quality, and simplifying the base model range, they do have an opportunity to use the existing 7xx platform to create a bridge until the next generation supercar is ready for launch. On the Boutique Hypercar manufacturers, two seem to be thriving and the other two seem to excel at PR. Of the two that are thriving, both are run by highly successful businessmen with extensive backgrounds in racing, deep connections in the industry, & decades of experience in the supercar arena.
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