What is it?
The BAC Mono is built by the Cheshire based Briggs Automotive Company, and it’s the first serious attempt to produce a single-seater driving experience for the public road. Quite some attempt it is, too.
Costing £79,950 and with styling said to have been ‘heavily influenced’ by the Bjork video ‘All is full of love’ with a bit of F-22 Raptor jet fighter thrown in for god measure, the BAC Mono is one of the most extreme road cars we’ve yet come across. But the team behind it is convinced there’s a small but perfectly formed market for such a machine.
The fact that this year’s build allocation of 16 cars is already sold out and there’s a queue of people wanting to buy next year’s run of 50 cars would suggest that the team knows precisely what it is doing. As would the knowledge that Neill Briggs was the main consulting engineer on the original Focus RS and has been involved in the development of ‘quite a few Stuttgart-based cars’ in recent years.
Power comes from a 280bhp/206lb ft version of the four-cylinder, 2.3-litre Cosworth engine that’s also used by Caterham in the Seven CSR, amongst others. This is attached to a six-speed Hewland gearbox that’s lifted straight out of an F3 car, with paddle-operated hydraulic shifts. So although there are three perfectly placed pedals down in the surprisingly roomy footwell – just as you’d find in any car with a conventional manual gearbox – changing gear merely requires a gentle flick on one of the carbon fibre paddles, right to change up, left to change down.
A big green neutral button on the removable steering wheel enhances the ‘F1 car for the road’ impression, as does the fully adjustable pushrod suspension and a set of Kumho tyres that have been developed specifically for the car.
What’s it like?
Completely and utterly fantastic, quite frankly, but also a lot less scary, a lot better sorted and a whole heap more usable as a road car than you’d ever anticipate. There’s even a small but beautifully trimmed boot in the nose for heaven’s sake, alongside a tiny little tonneau cover in case it rains – although having said that this is not the world’s most practical road car.
Merely climbing into it is an event that requires a certain degree of dexterity, but once you’re ensconced the lack of compromise of the single seat design becomes immediately apparent. You press a centrally mounted button on the steering wheel and the digital screen comes to life – and from that moment onwards the driving experience has a strong whiff of F1 about it.
You wonder if it’s actually legal to begin with, so obvious is the connection to the competition world, right down to the fact that you have to wear a crash helmet, like it or not, seeing as there’s no windscreen whatsoever. Yet once you get going in it, the intimacy of the Mono’s driving experience and the immediacy of its response – be that via the steering wheel, the gearshift paddles, the brakes or the accelerator – is such that you become totally immersed in the business of driving it. Which makes it unique as far as road cars are concerned.
And, amazingly, the suspension isn’t in the least bit skateboard-like on the road, as you’d surely half expect it to be. There’s a real maturity in the way the Mono deals with poor surfaces. I’d say it rides better than a Lotus Elise for much of the time, which is little short of incredible given how much grip there is through any given corner, and how incisive the suspension feels at all times.
It also sounds and accelerates – and stops – in a way that no Elise driver could even dream about. To begin with the acceleration doesn’t somehow feel that nuts, considering there’s 520bhp per tonne and 0-60mph in 2.8sec on offer. Yet you soon realise that the scenery is disappearing at a rather ridiculous rate when you put your foot down, and that the engine seems to be on the rev limiter after no more than a couple of seconds after each upshift.
But it’s only when you start to lean on it through a fast corner that the genius of the Mono’s chassis become truly apparent. The balance it displays mid bend is absolutely epic, the steering precision near-perfect; and the way you can play with the tail end on entry provides the last and final piece of evidence about just how good, no, about how incredible this car actually is to drive.
Should I buy one?
If you have the money, the imagination and the desire to drive one of, if not THE most involving road cars that has ever been built, then why not? Who needs friends in life anyway…
Price: £79,950; Top speed : 170mph; 0-60mph: 2.8sec; Economy: 35-40mpg (approx); CO2: n/a; Kerb weight: 540kg; Engine type, cc : 2300cc, 4cyl, petrol; Power : 280bhp at 7700rpm; Torque: 206lb ft at 6000rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual sequential with paddles