Of course, it was inevitably more complicated than that, as Router explains upon our visit to Qwest’s Dereham base for a look at the finished car. “The challenge was trying to design the changes so they are repeatable,” he says, standing beside the carbonfibre tub of a Jaguar XJR-8 and a 1:8 scale McLaren F1 model, mementos of former projects he has played a key part in. “It’s no good just cutting into it; we had to leave all major structural parts there so the crumple zones are unaffected.” This is where Router’s involvement paid dividends.
Having worked for McLaren, Lotus and TWR (the latter on its Jaguar Le Mans racers, including the winning XJR-9), as well as with Riversimple on its new Rasa hydrogen car, he knew how important these first stages would be to ensure as smooth a progression from design to production as possible. “Other companies sometimes cut into the first car and work it out as they go,” says Hindmarsh, “but we had the car laser scanned so Jim could create a full 3D digital model before any work began.” Three designs were made, one with the tailgate split in the D-pillar, another with a fully split tailgate and the third was the design you see here.
A 1:10 scale model with an interchangeable rear was produced for Hayton to live with for a few weeks to help make his decision. With the final design selected, the team went to Tesla for its approval. Hindmarsh said Elon Musk’s brand was “very supportive” of the idea, so long as no modifications were made to the car’s crash structure and electronics. As such, beneath the elongated rear section remain the original C-pillars, with the new car’s tinted rear glass hiding them from view.
The new bodywork that surrounds them is made entirely from carbonfibre, something all three Qwest founders agree will remain the core material of al future products because of its lightness and strength. In the Model S, it helped the team trim 12kg from the car’s kerb weight despite its expanded surface area.
“We sourced as many of the new materials as we could locally,” says Hindmarsh. “Aside from the Pilkington glass rear screen, which was an off-the-shelf product, pretty much everything we’ve added to the car is bespoke, but we made sure that the new parts can be readily sourced again and they’re all E-marked [with European certification].”
Even the interior fabric, which was sourced from a local Norfolk trimmer, looks and feels identical to the rest of the cabin – an illustration of the lengths the team went to ensure a seamless transition from original to new. Ted certainly approves, as he spends most of his time during our visit comfortably nestled in the warmth of the new car, only hopping out for our test drive.