Sleek, Sexy, and Oh So Expensive Cars on Display in Detroit

If you want to see the opulent car James Bond drove in the movie Spectre, look no further than Detroit. The Aston Martin DB10, created for the movie, was among the ultra-luxury cars on display at the MGM Grand Detroit, at an event that kicks off the North American International Auto Show. Known as The Gallery, this showcase for some of the world’s finest cars also featured vehicles from the venerable Rolls Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini and Maserati brands. Aston Martin showed off several cars beyond the DB10, including the Vanquish, which is priced at about $320,695. Also on display were the Falcon F7, priced at $245,000, and the Porsche 911 Turbo, priced at a relative bargain of just under $153,000. In all, cars valued at more than seven million dollars were on display for those who dare to dream.

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MADE IN MICHIGAN: The Falcon F7 is a true American supercar – and a modern masterpiece

Michigan has been synonymous with the automotive industry for more than a century. Revitalization is in the air, being helped along with an exciting start-up venture based in the small village of Holly, about 55 miles north of Detroit in the heart of car country.

Despite the severe economic downturn in 2009, engineer Jeff Lemke, CEO of Falcon Motorsports, decided to turn his focus from tinkering and retrofitting Vipers and Corvettes and pursue a dream of building his very own supercar. It turned out that Lemke’s timing couldn’t have been better. Many auto experts in the state found themselves with time on their hands and were eager to contribute to the project. The end result, which turned heads at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, was an incredible hand-built mid-engine missile with the heart of an American hot rod.

The design of the F7’s exhaust is just one element directly inspired by fighter jets.

Painstakingly crafted almost entirely out of aluminum, carbon fiber and Kevlar, the Falcon F7 is a “cocktail” of all the cars Lemke’s ever loved: the Ferrari 288 GTO, Lamborghini, Corvette, Dodge Viper, Ford GT. It’s also part fighter jet. Lemke incorporated many features from U.S. fighter aircraft – including the exhaust and the instrument gauges – into the design (the name F7 is even a nod to the F15 jet). The mix of materials used makes the car incredibly lightweight at about 2,800 pounds.

Falcon is building their ninth F7, making this extraordinary vehicle a true hand-crafted ultra-low-production supercar. Lemke says that purchasing a car from his company is a “very intimate experience,” with each car set up exclusively for each individual customer. Some owners want to be on the race track all the time, while others just want to drive around in a statement-making GT car. One gentleman reportedly had his Falcon painted to match the color of his wife’s favorite handbag.

A new Falcon F7 costs approximately $295,000 for the standard 620hp model and $395,000 for the twin-turbo 1100hp version. It’s a lot of car for the money – especially when taking into consideration other carbon-fiber supercars of this caliber sell for significantly more, often into the seven figures.

The sleek design of the Falcon F7 is a blend of all the cars Falcon Motorsports CEO Jeff Lemke has ever loved – and is even part fighter jet.

The unique style of the Falcon F7 prototype caught the eye of a New York businessman, who approached Lemke at the Detroit Auto Show and told him he’d purchase the very first one. He did just that. “The Falcon is kind of out of this world,” he says. “It’s not something you’d normally see on the road. It’s an American exotic car.”

This VIN #001 Falcon Series 1 F7 is painted Sunset Orange – the only F7 sporting that color. The motor is an LS7 427ci with Lingenfelter performance components and a custom carbon-fiber intake manifold with separate plenums for each bank and long runners, creating 620hp and 600 ft/lbs of torque. A removable Targa roof panel exposes the top of the motor – a thing of beauty in its own right – through the massive rear decklid. (That decklid, by the way, is one of the largest single-piece carbon-fiber car panels in existence.)
The interior of the VIN #001 Falcon F7. The car “is kind of out of this world,” says the owner.
The transaxle is a Ricardo 6-speed, while the suspension is a coilover pushrod system with street-friendly damping, along with lightweight billet aluminum control arms and spindle uprights. This very first F7 uses a StopTech 4-piston braking system with 15-inch rotors front and rear. The 7-foot-wide and 44-inch high supercar has custom Forgeline 5-spoke wheels (10-inch front and 13-inch rear) wrapped in 20-inch Pirelli Pzeros.

Open the door to this Falcon and you’ll see black and orange custom leather from Venzano Interiors, along with custom billet gauges and knobs. Air conditioning, power windows, a keyless ignition and even two pieces of custom luggage add still more appeal to this remarkable car. “It’s a great driver,” says the current owner. “I can take it to the track if I want to, but it’s mostly set up for the street.”

There will be no mistaking the perfectly pitched roar of this 2012 Falcon Series 1 F7 VIN #001 as it motors onto the block at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas auction at No Reserve in September 2015. This remarkable rolling work of art is certain to turn more than a few heads.

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Motor City Exotics: The Gallery at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Michigan-based Falcon Motorsports builds this low volume mid-engine supercar. The Falcon F7 is powered by a mid-mounted GM 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 modified to 620 hp and 600 lb-ft — a huge improvement over the 505-hp, 481 lb-ft LS7 found in the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 and C6 Corvette Z06. The carbon-fiber/Kevlar-intensive Falcon F7 weighs just 2,850 pounds. Brembo carbon-ceramic brakes are standard.

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Falcon F7: America’s $395K Ferrari Fighter | (2014-05-19)

In the backyard of the big three automakers, a small start-up is producing some very high-end supercars. Based in Holly, Michigan, Falcon Motorsports is making cars the old-fashioned way: By hand. Bloomberg traveled there to see how the family-run operation is churning out custom cars that start at $295,000.



‘The Gallery’ Event Showcases High-End Cars at 2014 Detroit Show | (2014-01-16)

The first official event of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, The Gallery is a special invitation-only event that showcases some of the best high-end luxury and performance cars. Unlike a typical car show, attendees are allowed full access to these automobiles, getting the chance to sit behind the wheel of a Ferrari, McLaren, Aston Martin and more.

Aston Martin V12 Vantage S: Aston Martin stuffed a 565-hp 5.9-liter V-12 into its smallest car to create the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S. The automaker claims the V12 Vantage S is the second fastest car in its history behind the seven-figure One-77 supercar. Large carbon ceramic brakes stop the car with authority, though the automated single-clutch transmission offers questionable performance.

Aston Martin Vanquish Volante: With a 5.9-liter V-12 producing 565 hp, the Vanquish Volante offers an irresistible combination of looks and performance. Its long list of performance goodies includes Brembo Carbon Ceramic Matrix brakes and a Positive Torque Control system.

Bentley Continental GTC: This convertible Bentley is large, luxurious and puts down some impressive stats. For starters, its 6.0-liter twin-turbo W-12 engine makes 616 hp and Bentley says the Continental GTC will run from 0-60 mph in about four seconds, despite its curb weight of well over 5000 pounds.

Bentley Flying Spur: A 5644-pound sedan that does 0 to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds? Say hello to the 616-hp Bentley Flying Spur. Under the long hood sits a twin-turbo 6.0-liter W-12 mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that routes power to all four wheels.

Bentley Mulsanne: The Mulsanne is one of the most expensive and special luxury cars available on the market. Even more astonishing is its ability to accelerate from 0-60 mph in under five seconds, despite its curb weight that approaches 6000 pounds.

Falcon F7: Built in Detroit, the mid-engine rear-drive Falcon F7 is powered by a modified 620-hp 7.0-liter LS7 V-8 from the last generation Chevrolet Corvette Z06. With a body and monocoque chassis constructed of aluminum, carbon fiber, and Kevlar, the Falcon F7 weighs a mere 2850 pounds giving it a power-to-weight ratio of just under 4.6 pounds per horsepower.

Ferrari F12 Berlinetta: At a tick over two tons (4003 pounds), the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta is no lightweight, but it makes up for it with a 731-hp 6.3-liter V-12 mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. In our testing, the F12 Berlinetta reached 60 mph in 3.6 seconds.

Ferrari 458 Spider: Widely called one of the best-driving cars ever produced, the Ferrari 458 Spider features a mid-mounted 4.5-liter V-8 producing an impressive 557 hp. And thanks to its low-slung body, the 458 Spider will easily turn heads on the street.

Jaguar XFR: Sporting a 510-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 and eight-speed automatic transmission, the Jaguar XFR sedan is one ferocious kitty. While the standard XFR is limited to 155 mph, an optional Speed Pack (suspension and aerodynamic enhancements) raises the limiter to 174 mph. Fast cat indeed.

Lamborghini Aventador Roadster: Boasting a 6.5-liter V-12 making close to 700 hp, the Aventador Roadster is one special and fast supercar. Its body consists of composite materials and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox ensures quick and smooth shifts.

Lamborghini Gallardo: The Gallardo has been a very successful car for Lamborghini thanks to its menacing and attractive body and powerful V-10 engine. Look for its successor, the Huracan, to arrive sometime in 2014.

Lingenfelter Corvette: The tuners over at Lingenfelter are not shy when it comes to modifying vehicles, new and old. That said, the Lingenfelter Corvette they’ve created combines a powerful and impressive powertrain and a classic ‘Vette bodystyle.

Maserati Ghibli: The Ghibli is the newest addition to the Maserati family. With a number of engine choices and four-door practicality, the Ghibli fits in nicely between the two-door GranTurismo and the Quattroporte flagship sedan.

Maserati GranTurismo: This Italian coupe gets its sweet-sounding V-8 from Ferrari. Not only is the GranTurismo fast, but it’s also a suitable grand tourer, perfect for road trips.

McLaren 12C Spider: The McLaren 12C Spider is the open-roof version of the 12C coupe, allowing the driver to work on his tan and track skills. Perhaps more impressive than its butterfly-style doors is its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-8, which produces an astonishing 616 hp.

Porsche 911: The Porsche 911 is one of the most iconic sports cars on the road today, which hasn’t strayed from its rear-engine formula since its introduction decades ago. The current iteration includes a number of variants like the Targa roof body style.

Porsche Cayman S: With its mid-mounted flat-six engine, the Cayman S offers a rewarding driving experience. Its combination of balance, power, and handling is difficult to match.

Rolls-Royce Wraith: The Wraith is a new model from Rolls-Royce with many distinctive features including its suicide-style doors. The Wraith also showcases top-notch craftsmanship with premium leather and high-quality accents.

SRT Viper TA: This special Viper is built specifically to conquer the track. In addition to its 640-hp 8.4-liter V-10 engine, the Viper TA sports high-performance wheels and suspension bits.

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Detroit prepares to host international car event | (2014-01-14)

America’s Motor City is getting ready to host the North American International Auto Show, or you might know it better as the Detroit Auto Show. It will be Detroit’s first major event since the city filed for bankruptcy, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

We are here at The Gallery, the event, which officially kicks off two weeks of the 2014 North American International Auto Show here in Detroit.

And this is a sort of an appetizer – a display of the world’s most elite vehicles: 28 of them in total.

And it’s really la cre de la cre of luxury and performance car-makers – Maserati, Bentley, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, Porsche, Jaguar and Rolls Royce.

These are very special cars with very special price tags – from $100,00 to $400,000.

One car that especially drew our attention is this one – Falcon F7, it’s a sports car that’s produced here in the Detroit metro area.The entire shell or body of the car is made of carbon fiber, which is a material that is a lot lighter than steel.

It’s what’s called an exotic boutique car – and so far only 8 of these cars have been made and sold in the world.

So there you go – a very special car. Yours for just $225,000.

The auto show itself will be huge. This year will see 500 vehicles on display and more than 50 new model and concept introductions.

Around 5,000 journalists from around the globe will be here covering the event. And some 800,000 people are expected to attend the public show.

And all of this is, of course, going to be extremely beneficial for Detroit’s economy.

One of the biggest introductions is going to be from Ford. It’s expected to unveil its latest 2015 model of its F-150 pickup truck – which has, of course, been the best selling car in this country over the past 30 years.


Detroit auto show: The Gallery 2014 features $7 million in ultra-luxury vehicles | (2014-01-12)

DETROIT, MI- “The Gallery” continues to evolve as the North American International Auto Show’s premier event for ultra-luxury car buyers.

The private event — attended by about 400 or so people Saturday night — featured nearly 30 vehicles valued at more than $7 million, according to officials. For the first time in its seven-year history, the Gallery also featured a fashion show from Detroit’s Styleline Magazine with fashions provided by Neiman Marcus.

“It was high energy,” said Bob Caza, producer of the event and executive director 9 Communications.

Caza said the average price point of the vehicles is between $100,000-$200,000. The most expensive vehicle on display was the Lamborghini Aventador with a price tag just under $400,000.

Vehicles brands at the event included Aston Martin, Bentley, Falcon Motorsports, Ferrari, Jaguar, Lamborghini, Lingenfelter, Maserati, McLaren, Porsche, Range Rover, Rolls-Royce and SRT.

A handful of the 13 brands in attendance, Caza said, either sold vehicles or have sales pending.

“There was a lot of cars moving last night, which is always good” he told MLive during a media preview of the vehicles Sunday morning.

One of the most popular vehicles at The Gallery, according to officials, was the Michigan-made Falcon F7, a carbon fiber body super car featuring a 427 cubic inch LS-7 engine with Lingenfelter high performance components.

“It’s amazing,” said Noel Thompson, of Falcon Motor Sports in Holly, Mich. “This car always attracts a lot of attention.”

The F7 has a price tag of $229,000.

The event was presented by Dan Gilbert’s Opportunity Detroit. Limited presale tickets were available for $500 each, but most attendees were exclusively invited.

The NAIAS is considered one of the top global automotive events in the world and of huge importance to Metro Detroit. Since its introduction 25 years ago, officials estimate the show has had a $9.7 billion economic impact on the region. This year is expected to have a $365 million impact.

The Detroit auto show will be open to the public from Jan. 18-26 at Cobo Center, One Washington Blvd., following Press Preview Jan. 13-14; Industry Preview Jan. 15-16; and the Charity Preview featuring musician Sheryl Crow on Jan. 17.

Automakers are expected to unveil more than 50 vehicles during the two-day Press Preview to start the 2014 NAIAS.


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.”
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