Rise of the Falcon F7 One Man’s Quest To Build an American Supercar | (2013-08-8)

As the world reels from shrinking economies, one Detroit man has found an opportunity to build an incredible supercar almost in his backyard.

Jeff Lemke, a 41-year-old car nut, spent 12 years building composite body panels that Dodge Viper owners could buy to keep rain and wind out of their admittedly leaky sports cars. It was a good business, but in 2009 Lemke decided to do something a little more ambitious. He decided to build his very own supercar.

That car is the Falcon F7, a midengine aluminum monocoque sport coupe powered by a 620-horsepower V8. And in true supercar fashion, it promises a 200-mph top speed and a price of $245,000.

So far, Lemke and his team at Falcon Motorsports in rural Holly, Michigan, about an hour outside of Detroit, have built and sold only one production car. But they have an unpainted development car and a chassis mule that runs, too, so the dream is still alive.

Supercar Dreams
“When I was designing the car I had a big poster of the Ford GT hanging in my office for inspiration. It’s beautiful,” Lemke says. He took his mind’s images of all of his favorites and blended them into a single car. “I knew what I wanted and I just drew that. People can see each of those cars in the design of the F7.”

While Lemke was in engineering school, he had the youthful, wild dream that someday he would be designing future Corvettes. “I knew some Corvette engineers, and they said it didn’t work like that. They told me someone would assign me to make door locks. I didn’t have time to do that. I wanted to start right away.”

There’s an advantage Lemke had: The Detroit area school system teaches its pupils about the successes and methods used by famous denizens such as Henry Ford and GM’s Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell to create cars. “I took the Henry Ford approach: If there is something that I can’t do or I don’t know, I’m going to find somebody who does and get it done.”

Local Knowledge
Lemke started the design in 2009: “I laid out this car in foam. It was during tough economic times, and a lot of companies were willing to do work on the body and other parts of development just to keep the lights on. The styling and surfacing was done by the community of experts in the area. I could never have built this car anywhere else,” he explains.

“It’s easy to find an expert in body surfacing here. There so much expertise in Detroit, I couldn’t have built this car if there wasn’t the expertise. When people saw where I was going with it, so many guys at OEM companies donated their time, and they told me, ‘I just want to be part of it.'”

Lemke’s original plan was to build a midengine version of the Corvette, on a hydroformed steel frame, he says. Fate, however, changed Lemke’s mind toward more modern sports car design.

Racecar Roots
It started when a local racecar builder offered to participate in the project by providing an aluminum tub and suspension. His name was Fran Hall and his Superlite SLC sports racer dominated the unlimited class in the NASA regional racing series in 2011. Lemke was surprised when Hall offered him an SLC chassis after seeing Lemke’s original steel-based design, then called the Mach 7, at the Detroit auto show.

The new car, called the F7, weighs just 2,800 pounds and rides on the same 105-inch wheelbase as Hall’s racers. Overall length is 174 inches, 3 inches longer than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2, while the Falcon F7 rides 2 inches lower. The F7 is also 3 inches wider than the Gallardo, following the ages-old mantra in the Detroit car-building business of aiming toward “longer, lower and wider” cars.

The engine is the 7.0-liter, small-block V8 from the Corvette Z06. Lemke adds a unique carbon-fiber intake manifold, and the engine sits exposed through a hole on the top of the engine lid behind the driver. Power travels through a Ricardo six-speed transaxle to the 20-inch 335/30 rear tires. Front wheels carry slightly smaller 275/35 20-inch tires, while encompassing 15-inch rotors. Rear rotors are 14 inches in diameter; brakes are four-piston Stop Tech calipers.

Doesn’t Feel Home Grown
We’ve driven hand-built concept cars and prototypes that well-meaning engineers have built in their home garages, and the hand-built Falcon F7 is well beyond any of these results in terms of construction and performance.

The F7 we drove (the first and only production model) feels much more refined than even the original Dodge Viper, the V10 400-hp sport coupe developed on a shoestring by then-Chrysler boss Bob Lutz.

In reality, the original Dodge Viper had little aerodynamic finesse, and would lift its nose at speeds where a Porsche 911 Turbo was not even in its power band. The Falcon F7, despite its aggressive gaping shark mouth design, does not lift. And because of that, 200 mph is attainable, according to Lemke. We didn’t drive it that fast on public roads, but we did pass 100 mph and it felt solid.

Launching to 60 mph is said to take just over 3 seconds, and it feels controlled throughout. The tweaked 7.0-liter pushrod V8 power plant generates roughly 620 hp and feels happy to rev, especially since it has less car to move. A Corvette Z06 weighs about 400 pounds more than the 2,800-pound Falcon F7.

With the enormous 20-inch Michelin Pilot Sport tires, limits are very high for a street car. It takes a conscious effort to break the rear tires loose, even using full throttle. On this first production car, there is no assist for the brakes, so the pedal requires considerable effort. Braking assist is planned for future F7s.

Sounds Like a Supercar
The best part about going fast in the Falcon F7 is the sound of its V8. It’s much louder than its Corvette counterpart, yet the engine sounds so balanced and harmonious that you feel it wants to rev far beyond our 5,000-rpm cruising speed.

The electrically assisted rack-and-pinion unit is from the Fran Hall racecar, and is likely too light for track use. We found that it has plenty of road feel; it’s just that the efforts are very low — you can drive this car easily using only a thumb and forefinger of each hand.

The F7 tracks straight, something we wouldn’t always expect of a car bred from racing components, and bumps don’t need corrections through the steering wheel. Body roll is minimal as you’d expect from a race suspension, and although wheel travel is short, the F7 is not too harsh on the street. Suspension isolation is much better than the racing version of the chassis, and that tuning is deliberate, says Lemke: “I wanted to be able to have a conversation with my wife while I’m driving.”

Like the supple ride, the seats are not racing stiff, either. Still, the passenger seat is squeezed into a narrow channel between the door and an exposed brace for the A-pillar roll hoop, so it doesn’t allow much room to move around. Lemke says the exposed roll hoop is meant to add to the race-bred character of the car.

Business Plan
Here’s the tricky part of building a supercar in your backyard: Lots of people have tried it and failed. “I want to get a few more cars on the road so people can see that it’s real,” Lemke reveals. “People say this is just a concept car, but I don’t want to rush it to production if it’s not ready.” To get ready for production, Lemke sold the first car with a lifetime guarantee to a New York enthusiast. As Lemke develops improvements and refinements to the first car, he is adding them to the customer’s car without cost.

However, Lemke is not going to sell future Falcon F7s as turnkey automobiles. “We have a manufacturer’s license, and we discussed selling completed cars for a long time, but we will sell it as a component car, with the buyer titling the car [as a home-built machine] and participating in the development.” Ferrari uses a similar, but much larger, program of leasing race-bound production cars to customers and then capturing on-track data for development.

Lemke expects to build up to 10 production cars in 2013, and then up to 25 in 2014. There is also an “investor” option that allows a potential buyer to give $250,000 to the Falcon company and participate in the car’s development. After three years, the customer can take delivery of a new, un-driven car plus an interest incentive, or get the $250,000 back with interest and no car.

“I have people come up to me on a regular basis and say, ‘You are living my dream.’ The risk factor and the stress of building more cars are overwhelming. Guys tell me, ‘I can’t believe you did this.’ It’s not easy. I love the public enthusiasm and that’s what keeps me going.”

9 Lesser Known Automakers - Yahoo

9 of America’s Lesser-Known Automakers | Yahoo News (2013-07-12)

Beyond the big three giant car companies in the U.S., most people are familiar with the names of famed U.S. carmakers that no longer exist, such as Duesenberg, Studebaker, and Packard. But there are lesser-known companies, such as these, still making cars today (and some more recently deceased).

What began as a model built by Studebaker in the early 1960s became its own car company—one that changed hands its share of times. Avantis were based on versions of a rounded-wedge design created by Raymond Loewy and sold for the 1963 and 1964 model years. A new Avanti Motor Corporation created the Avantia II using GM mechanicals. That lasted until 1985. In 1987 the company was sold again, and this time the New Avanti Motor Corporation lasted until the early 1990s. In 2000 production of a GM-platform Avanti began in Georgia. It switched to Ford drivelines in 2004, and these cars were little more than Mustangs underneath with styling similar to the original Avantis. By 2006 production had moved to the spring break mecca, Cancun, Mexico, with total production being only about a few hundred cars. The last Avantis to be made rolled off the line in 2007—though you can never count out another comeback.
Reeves Callaway is an auto fanatic who began building and selling turbocharger kits for BMWs and Volkswagen GTIs in the early 1970s, then moved into hot-rodding Corvettes in the 1980s. Today his company takes Corvettes, Camaros, and even Silverado pickups and modifies them at his Connecticut or California facilities. Most of the tuning goes into the hand-built engines, which upgrade the output to 650 hp for the C16 (Callaway’s version of the C6 Corvette). Callaway also adds special leather interiors and matching luggage. Callaway’s cars can be serviced at Chevrolet dealers and carry a three-year or 36,000-mile warranty, just like Chevy’s own cars. Buyers can take delivery of a Callaway Corvette at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky. Callaway Camaros come with aerodynamic body panels and a 572-hp engine, plus embroidered headrests and floor mats.
Toward the end of the 1980s, when showroom stock racing was crowded with high-priced sport coupes, Warren Mosler created his own low-slung, lightweight racing cars modeled after aerodynamic prototype GT cars. Mosler’s original Consulier was powered by the latest turbocharged 2.2-liter Chrysler four-cylinder that made so much power Carroll Shelby lent his name to the Dodge Omni GLH (nicknamed “Goes Like Hell”) economy hatchback. Mosler built enough Consuliers that they qualified as production cars and were street legal. These days, the new Mosler MT900SCs—which share a low-slung, midengine configuration with the original Consuliers—get to 60 mph in a claimed 3.1 seconds and can top 190 mph. The MT900SC’s engine is based on a 7.0-liter Corvette LS7 V-8 that is standard equipment in the Corvette Z06. Racing versions have been tuned to more than 1000 hp.
In 1988 pharmaceutical company founder Donald Panoz bought the design of a racing car chassis in Ireland and started development of the Panoz Roadster, which went on the market in 1990 to embody “brute strength and raw power built for the absolute pleasure of high-speed driving,” according to the company’s promotional materials. That car, as well as its descendants—the bare-bones 1996 AIV (aluminum intensive vehicle) and the 1997 Esperante—are darty and race-car-like on the road, running on aluminum Ford V-8s.
Also in 1997 Panoz began racing his cars at Le Mans. A couple years later he started the now-popular American Le Mans Series and began buying racetracks and opening driving schools.
SSC stands for Shelby SuperCars, created by Jerod Shelby—no relation to the legendary Carroll Shelby. SSC’s Jerod Shelby is a kart racer and designer from central Washington State, where SSC is headquartered. Last summer SSC announced plans to build five versions of its 1300-hp, seven-speed Ultimate Aero XT supercar, which is an evolution of the company’s Tuatara supercar. This twin-turbo V-8-powered midengine GT sports car is currently SSC’s fastest car, and was also recognized by the Guinness World Record folks as the fastest production car in the world until the Hennessey Venom GT took that honor.
Jeff Lemke, a 41-year-old Detroit-area car nut, spent more than a decade building composite body panels for Dodge Vipers. But in 2009 he chased his dream to build his own car, the Falcon F7. This two-seater features a midmounted Corvette LS7 V-8 engine. There are three running cars, and the first production model was sold to a New York enthusiast in 2012. Lemke claims a top speed over 200 mph, and we drove the production car at over 100 mph. It’s 3 inches longer than a Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 and 2 inches lower. The chassis is based on an aluminum monocoque from a race car and the body is carbon fiber.
Ever since John Hennessey’s hot-rodded Dodge Vipers from the 1990s started racing in open highway time trials in the West and in Mexico, the Texas tuner has gained a reputation as a top-speed addict. His twin-turbo V-10 Viper set a record in a Road & Track magazine test in 2007, which led Hennessey to completely rework his top-speed concept with a brand-new design: a Lotus Exige two-seater with a Corvette LS7 V-8.
The new Venom GT is lighter and smaller, yet the twin-turbo treatment carries over to the 7.0-liter V-8 engine that makes 1244 hp and drives the rear wheels through a Ricardo six-speed manual gearbox, the same that was used on Ford’s GT. The Venom GT has longer front and rear subframes than its Lotus donor car, as well as longer and more aerodynamic bodywork. Eight of these cars have been built—a black one for rocker Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The price of the Venom GT is about $1 million per copy, and top speed is a claimed 278 mph. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, just make it turn a little faster,” Hennessey has said, saying that increased horsepower models are in the works.
DeLorean Motor Company of Humble
John DeLorean, the late charismatic former GM executive, founded his own car company to build two-seat sport coupes in 1981 and 1982. But the venture failed after producing about 9000 cars. A liquidator purchased unsold cars shortly after the company failed, and small independent companies began to carry replacement parts for the unique midengine stainless-steel-body cars.
In 2007 one of these companies, DMC Texas, began to produce new cars made from mostly stock parts, and sold these 1980s restorations for about $60,000 each. Now called DeLorean Motor Company of Humble, it also sells refurbished used DeLoreans from its shop in Humble, Texas. Plans are in the works to build and sell all-electric DeLoreans starting around $90,000, which will feature a 100-mile range and a 260-hp electric motor.
(PopMech has also visited the guys at DeLorean Northwest, a Washington State shop that restores these cars.)
VIA Motors
The huge utility Pacific Gas and Electric operates a fleet of more than 13,000 vehicles in California. Soon many of those will be replaced by all-electric work trucks, vans, and SUVs, through a partnership with VIA Motors, a custom EV-maker that has former General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz on hand as spokesman.
VIA’s eREV (extended-range electric vehicle) lineup includes pickups, vans, and full-size SUVs that can travel 40 miles on battery power and switch to fuel-powered generators that can produce from 15 to 50 kilowatts to recharge batteries and supply power to homes during emergencies. During typical driving, VIA claims its trucks can achieve 100 mpge.
“VIA’s partnership with PG&E, and the introduction of the world’s first extended-range electric work trucks, SUVs, and cargo vans in their fleet, marks a turning point in the electrification of the industry’s fleets,” Lutz says. “As the world becomes more aware of the economic advantages of this ultraclean technology, I am convinced that this type of electric vehicle will become very popular with consumers as well, and will help end our dependence on oil.”
Yahoo News
Detroit Auto Show

Detroit auto show: What does $8 million in vehicles look like? Find out at ‘The Gallery’ | (2013-01-09)

One of Detroit’s most exclusive automotive events will once again combine some of the world’s most expensive vehicles with the cooking of a world-renowned chef.

“The Gallery,” a prelude to the official start of the 2013 North American International Auto Show, will feature about 30 exotic vehicles and a meal prepared by Chef Wolfgang Puck.
“It’s been a tremendous success,” Bob Caza, The Gallery producer told during a media preview last year. “We see our number of products increase every year, the number of people increase every year and the number of sales.”
The vehicles displayed at the event last year totaled about $8 million, including a $2 million Aston Martin One-77. This year shouldn’t be any different.
Vehicles brands expected for the event include Aston Martin, Bentley, Falcon Motorsports, Ferrari, Fisker, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Land Rover, Lexus, Lingenfelter, Maserati, Porsche, Rolls-Royce and Shelby American.
The Gallery is from 6:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at MGM Grand Detroit, 1777 3rd St. in Detroit.
Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert’s Opportunity Detroit is presenting sponsor of The Gallery, which is now in its sixth year.
Enlarge Michael Wayland |
Hyundai will debut a new concept luxury vehicle called the HCD-14 at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit next week. (Courtesy image)
2013 Detroit auto show: Expected debuts gallery (14 photos)
Opportunity Detroit is the theme of a new branding campaign created by Rock Ventures LLC, Gilbert’s real estate purchasing arm, to showcase the best of Detroit and the city’s many emerging business opportunities.
The Gallery is not open to the public. There is an opportunity for a limited number of people to purchase tickets, which are available for $500 each. Tickets will not be available at the door, but may be purchased in advance by contacting The Fulkerson Group at 248-593-9740.
As we did last year, will have an up-close look at The Gallery before the event begins on Sunday.
The 2013 NAIAS is open to the public from Jan. 19-27. More than 40 unveilings from the world’s top automakers are expected during the show’s press preview days Jan. 14 and 15, followed by industry days Jan. 16 and 17. The charity preview, which raised $3 million last year, is Jan. 18.