How many of you oldsters remember the Lotus Seven (now the Caterham Seven)? Years ago, I drove one for about five minutes and have never been the same since. Lotus and Colin Chapman pioneered the idea of very lightweight, high-performing sports cars, and the world hasn’t been the same since.
But sports cars have gotten more powerful, a lot heavier, and less efficient at getting somewhere. Like many of us.
Now comes a resurrection of the Lotus/Chapman concept, the TEEWAVE AR1, a car that was designed and built in just nine months. The electric powertrain comes from Mitsubishi’s i-MiEV, producing a mere 63 hp and 133 lb-ft of torque. The car is about the size of an Elise or a Miata and weighs just 1,852 pounds.
Range is claimed to be 114 miles; recharging takes six hours. It is 882 pounds lighter than the Tesla Roadster, but the Roadster is a lot more powerful. The TEEWAVE may be peerless in handling, but 0-62 mph takes 11.4 seconds and cries out for a power boost.
The car was commissioned by Toray Industries of Japan, a leading maker of carbon fiber. Toray contacted England’s Gordon Murray Design to develop and build the prototype, which was done in an amazing nine months.
Gordon Murray made his name as a designer for Brabham and then McLaren, doing very successful Formula 1 cars, then the incredible McLaren F1 road car in the ‘90s, and later the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.
A carbon fiber monocoque structure, or tub, underpins everything in the AR1, and the battery pack and motor are behind the passenger compartment. Carbon fiber is used extensively in the body panels, dashboard, seats and front-end energy absorber. Crash safety is extraordinary, since the material is very energy-absorbent. Details are in Toray’s press release.
The car is production-ready, so they say. Let’s give it more power and get it online, we say.
Sports-car design used to innovate and lead the way for the auto industry. Maybe it can do so again.
Many sports cars have gone the way of the muscle car. Do you think that day is finally coming to an end?