What is it?
When you first see it in the flesh, you can mistake the Farbio GTS for a McLaren F1. This visual impact, combined with an attractive £60,000 entry price and the surprising refinement and quality levels you discover as you investigate further, are the things that lift this newly launched, Wiltshire-made sports car out of the “hopeful” league and promise a true production future.
Farbio is a new company owned by ex-Marcos sports car specialist Chris Marsh and based in a new factory near Bath. It recently acquired rights to the promising Ford V6-powered Farboud mid-engined coupe, has developed and redesigned it in key areas, and is now making a car a week, with the aim of reaching 150 cars a year beyond 2008. The first customer car will be delivered next month to a London owner.
What’s it like?
The Farbio GTS combines dependable technology (classic steel space-frame; proven Ford transverse powertrain; all-independent wishbone suspension) with impressive modern components. It’s got an all-carbonfibre body made and painted on site, and a touchscreen-based ancillary control system (for audio, ventilation, navigation) which is so simple, organised and intuitive that it deserves to be adopted by mainstream car-makers.
The Farbio GTS comes in two guises, the normally aspirated 262bhp version we tested, and a £10,000 more expensive supercharged model whose 384bhp is accompanied by extra airscoops, an intercooler, trickier tyres and traction control. The base car weighs only 1050kg, so it feels fast, and proves the fact against the stopwatch (0-60 mph 4.8 sec).
On the road, the car feels instantly special. You sit low and forward, with a fine view to the front over the prominent wheel-humps and no difficulty with rear three-quarter vision. The engine belies its Ford roots: careful development of the exhaust and induction systems make it sound quite a lot like a Ferrari.
When you let in the short-throw clutch, the light weight becomes instantly obvious. Despite the exotic sound-effects, it feels flexible and easy to drive. Prod the right pedal and it accelerates strongly, revving smoothly. Performance is more brisk than explosive.
The GTS chassis’ stability and near-neutral handling reflects Chris Marsh’s experience developing Marcos road and race cars: this car rides fairly softly, yet it hardly rolls on corners and displays nothing more than a whiff of stabilising understeer even when pressed hard.
Should I buy one?
Our test car, the development prototype, had a bit of throttle stiction, and could have done with a bit more steering centre feel. It was always easy and accurate to drive, though, and had the reassuring feel of a professionally developed car.
So there's no doubt about it; if Marsh and his colleagues can put the finishing touches to what they, and Arash Farboud, have started with the Farbio GTS, they will create one of the finest independently produced British sports cars of the last 10 years.
If you're predisposed to British sport cars, you won't need Autocar's recommendation to want to drive the Farbio GTS. With the uncertainty surrounding Noble and TVR and the recent closure of Marcos, lovers of the cars those companies produced will surely welcome something new, truly homemade and genuinely impressive to drive. Yet whether you're predisposed to like this car or not, we'd wager you finish that test drive greatly impressed.
Impressed enough to place a deposit? Well, very possibly. You may have to wait a while for a production slot; Farbio has an impressive bank of international orders already. However, on evidence of this first drive, it’s easy to see why the queue is forming so quickly.