Automotive history is littered with great ideas and good intentions, most of them created by talented engineers and designers. So what makes VUHL any different? That’s the question I asked myself as a I spoke with Guillermo Echeverria, co-founder of Mexico’s newest sportscar maker at today’s private launch in the Royal Automobile Club, London.
The VUHL 05, which will debut at this month’s Goodwood Festival of Speed joins a niche group of ultra-focused sportscars occupied by KTM’s X-Bow, Ariel’s Atom and the now defunct Lotus 2-Eleven. To that list you could add the Caterham Seven and BAC Mono, so when we say ‘niche’ we mean specialised with limited demand.
So, is there room for another player? That depends on what VUHL has to offer.
Anyone familiar with Lotus will probably see the 05 as a 2-Eleven reincarnated – the VUHL looks wider and longer than the Lotus, otherwise you’ll recognise a similar extruded aluminium tub, OMP aluminium pedals and sparse interior.
It’s powered by a 285bhp 2-litre turbocharged Ford EcoBoost engine producing 310lb-ft (420Nm) of torque. The entire car weighs just 725kg (or 25kg less when specified with the optional carbon fibre bodywork), giving it a power to weight ratio of around 400bhp per tonne.
That’s enough to propel it from zero to 62mph in 3.7 seconds and reach a maximum speed of 152mph. Guillermo says that further weight saving measures will be available, saving up to 18kg through the use of lightweight components.
The VUHL transfers that power to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox – Guillermo tells me they explored a sequential mechanism, but decided that a manual shift would better differentiate their car from the competition.
The Lotus 2-Eleven by comparison weighs 670kg and packs a 252bhp 1.8-litre supercharged engine, which has a power to weight ratio around 25% less than the VUHL. Of course the 2-Eleven ceased production in 2011 after its engine was discontinued – Lotus now use the 1ZR and 2ZR engines in the Elise and 2GR-FE engine in the Exige. Some 408 2-Elevens were made between 2007 and 2011 (358 down the production line, 50 as pure race cars with 10 of these built by Lotus Racing) and at £41,095 (when new) they’re now trading at around £30,000 in the used car listings.
The VUHL 05 is priced above a Lotus Elise, but less than a KTM X-Bow, starting at £59,900 and rising to £69,900 for the ‘Edition One’ launch model which features matt silver bodywork, an anodised black interior and larger wheels and tyres.
Its chassis features a three-section bonded aluminium tub, designed to make the car easier to repair in a crash, which comprises aluminium extrusions and aluminium honeycomb sections. Unlike the new Detroit Electric SP:01 which is built upon the Lotus Small Car Platform, VUHL designed and engineered their aluminium chassis from scratch, taking their inspiration from the aerospace sector and resulting in a chassis they claim has three-times the torsional rigidity of a Lotus Elise.
As is the norm for a track car, everything is adjustable, including camber, castor, ride-height and damping, although Guillermo says the 05 will come with a setup which most drivers will find already optimised for the track.
The standard body is made from RTM reinforced plastic and spans the length of the car, so damage to a corner may prove costly, but on the plus side presents the 05′s flowing lines without interruption. As with the KTM X-Bow, the VUHL 05 comes without a windscreen (or doors for that matter) but Guillermo tells me they’ve been developing a windscreen with wipers as an option, which they hope to have available at launch.
Before that, the 05 will need to be homologated under IVA (Individual Vehicle Approval), a process that sounds more straightforward than it’s likely to be in practice.
The VUHL’s aerodynamics feature a flat underbody, which was shaped using CFD rather than a wind tunnel, together with front and lateral splitters, rear diffuser and a rear spoiler.
Although the press photos show the 05 wearing Toyo Proxes, VUHL have since signed a deal with Michelin who’ll provide their impressive new Pilot Super Sport tyres in 205/45 x 17 (front) and 235/45 x 18 (rear) sizes on the Edition One (16″ fronts and 17″ rears are fitted to the standard car). Brakes are by Wilwood and pedals by OMP.
Production will begin in Spring 2014, with an initial run of 20 cars, although VUHL have enough capacity for 50 cars a year at its factory in Mexico City. The UK and North America are the company’s core markets, although as yet they’ve not appointed any dealers, so if you’d like to reserve a car you’ll need to register your interest at www.VUHL05.com. (due to open soon).
The VUHL 05 will make its first public appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed where it will run in the ‘First Glance’ class as part of the Michelin Supercar Run. Mexican F1 driver Esteban Gutiérrez will share driving duties with former Renault UK and Formula Ford Festival Champion, Duncan Tappy, so make sure you look out for it during the event.
Images: VUHL, Steve Hindle.