Think supercars and you immediately think Ferrari, Lamborghini, Pagani and so on. You might throw a Koenigsegg into the mix, maybe an Aston Martin, and definitely the Bugatti Veyron. Digging deeper brings up McLaren, Maserati and the like, all well known names in the world of supercars in the 21st century. A recent scan through the adverts in a classic car magazine reminded me that these are not the only names to contend with. Simmering beneath the surface are a raft of small volume makers who are hoping to break into the market. Have you heard of the Minotaur, for example? What about Noble? These – and many others – are fascinating machines that deserve a mention. Let’s have a look at some of the lesser known supercars, and see if we can sing their praises high enough.
The Minotaur – Vision Sports Cars Stunning Supercar
Never heard of Vision Sports Cars? Neither had we, but the Minotaur – not a great name – deserves a mention. You might well ask why anybody would spend their hard earned cash on one of these when there are Ferraris to be had, but surely exclusivity is a bonus? The Minotaur is – after all – as exclusive as it gets. Built by a small company in the UK the Minotaur is not sure whether it is an out and out performance car or a luxury tourer. With leather and Wilton carpets in the interior and a throbbing 5.7 litre Chevrolet V8 it promises great performance, and it looks the part too. The purists will sneer at a car that comes from a kit car builder – that is what Vision’s main business is – but everyone has to start somewhere. Fancy one yourself? If so there is a 2009 model on sale for the bargain price of £24,995 ($40,000) – try finding something else as rare as this for that little.
Ascari – Great Name, Great Car?
Since the year 2000 Ascari has been producing some stunning supercars with limited commercial success. It is far from easy to get a foot in the door to this lucrative market, and without a true pedigree the chances of making it are unlikely. It’s an interesting parallel that Pagani used the name of the great Juan Manual Fangio when marketing the Zonda (Mr Pagani is, in fact, an ex-Lamborghini man with a long history in the automobile world) just as Ascari has drawn on the name of one of his great rivals, the double world champion Alberto Ascari. The main product – the KZ1 – is a good looking machine that is credited with excellent build quality, stunning performance and superb credentials all-round, but although it is a hand-built machine that can top 200mph it looks expensive at almost £250,000 ($400,000). The company planned to build 50, but quite how many have been sold is open to question. Still, great engineering and classy design deserves to be recognized.
Spyker – Another Old Name Revived
It may not be a name that instantly springs to mind when talking of automotive history but Spyker was renowned Dutch car and aircraft manufacturer formed in the late 19th century. With a history of innovation there is much to be said for those early cars, but it’s the modern incarnation of the company we are interested in. The car we want to concentrate on is the Spyker C8, a model made in a bewildering variety of forms. The future of the company is in grave doubt, however, as financial problems have reared their ugly head. Of the small volume supercars the C8 is one of the most accomplished offering excellent performance from an Audi V8 in a stunning body, and these are sought after cars that will endure. Handling is excellent, they look quite sensational and quality is second to none. Spyker remains an example of the difficulty in getting into the supercar market, and one that is a cautionary tale for aspiring Ferrari-challengers the world over.
Noble – A Success Story
It is perhaps unfair to list Noble among the ‘unknown’ supercar makers for this is one company that appears to have got it right. With a long list of excellent models in its past, starting with the 2001 M12, Noble may have been the most direct competitor for Ascari, had that company prospered. The current model, the M600, it is interesting that the M600 bears more than a passing resemblance to one of its closest competitors, the McLaren MP4-12c, for the concept is similar. This is a fine handling car that is intended to bring the driving experienced back to the driver, as it eschews to some degree the modern ‘driver aids’ that make 21st century supercars anodyne to some. The Noble is an excellent attempt at getting to grips with the supercar and it should go down in history as one of the success stories in a field littered with failures. It is, at once, exclusive, desirable and a quality product.
Supercars are the stuff of legend, especially where the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini are concerned. It could be argued that the Pagani Zonda has secured a place in that legend, too, but what about the four contenders mentioned above? Destined to play a minor role, they are nevertheless noteworthy machines with a deserving appeal. It is left to the smaller specialists to provide the interesting diversions from the main stream, just as it has always been.