The Bug:R is a new kind of raised, doorless sports car, much better than a classic beach buggy because it’s mid-engined and uniquely engineered, but with the same simple appeal. The engine is a standard 2.0-litre Ford Duratec with around 130bhp. Noble’s plan is to build about 50 a year and price them around £22,000, the final price depending to a small extent on stuff like the choice of wheels and colour, although there’s no plan to offer a lot of options. No doors, for instance.
You’ll order your car either online or directly from Noble, and you’ll probably meet him personally when you pick it up. He hopes you will, because that’s the kind of company he wants to run. There won’t be a dedicated British assembly plant: cars will be made in South Africa by Jimmy Price’s Superformance business, the same firm – slimmed post-recession – that part-made the 1500-odd Noble M12s that hit the market before 2009, although back then the engines were fitted here.
“I’ve learnt a lot from the M12 years,” says Noble. “I’m convinced we’re better off importing the cars fully built, and Jimmy can make ’em better than anyone.”
So far, there’s only one prototype, but the design is so simple, so strong, and depends so much on Ford-sourced components designed for a vehicle twice as heavy, that it has worked perfectly out of the box. Noble, famously capable in the workshop, has fabricated every Bug:R prototype piece himself, right down to the strikingly well-finished hand-laid glassfibre panels. He has already tested it within an inch of its life. “I’ve thrashed this car long and hard at Bruntingthorpe,” he says, “over gravel and big bumps, and flat out around the handling circuit. I can honestly say it’s the first car I’ve had when nothing – absolutely nothing – has gone wrong. And it goes amazingly well.”
In Noble’s backyard, I have a little play myself, feeling the dependable base torque of the engine, marvelling at the lightly loaded, non-power steering and the ease with which a car with zero overhangs and a centralised mass can turn, despite having spring rates quite a lot softer than most sports cars. In another life, says Noble, he’d have wanted to fabricate every single suspension component, including uprights. But the 850kg Bug:R layout, front and rear, is based on Ford Mondeo strut front suspension parts, massively strong for the duty they’re being put to, and just about perfect after being set up with unique Noble geometry.
Lee gestures at the bog-standard Mondeo strut, which sports a smaller-than-standard spring because of the car’s low weight. “Over the years, I’ve used every big-name shock absorber in the business on my cars,” he says, “but I honestly think these are the best. And they cost £35 a throw…”