When people talk about a breathtaking experience, what they usually mean is that it was highly memorable. And driving the Rodin FZED was clearly that. But it was also breathtaking in the most literal sense: when I was finally allowed to let the car rip, I either momentarily lost the ability to breathe or simply forgot to do so. Weeks later, it’s still not entirely clear.
But that’s what happens when an engine making 675bhp is allowed to power a car weighing 609kg. For the world’s fastest road car, the 300mph Bugatti Chiron, to match the FZED’s power-to-weight ratio, it would need – wait for it – another 500bhp.
Rodin Cars’ founder, Australian businessman David Dicker, reckons the FZED is the closest thing you can buy to a Formula 1 car while still keeping costs within the reach of the merely very wealthy, rather than the fabulously rich. The FZED costs around half a million quid, which isn’t much more than one of the more expensive GT3 race cars you can buy, and its 3.8-litre Cosworth V8 will go 3000 miles between rebuilds – after which you will probably need rebuilding too.
It doesn’t require an army of boffins to fire up and even very tall, middle-aged men can be made to feel entirely comfortable within its confines and not in the least bit ridiculous.
The car started life in 2011 as the Lotus T125 project. After that stalled, Dicker bought five unsold chassis and set about turning them into FZEDs. By replacing as much of the car as possible with titanium printed in-house, including every single fixing, he managed to carve more than 40kg out of the already flyweight 650kg Lotus. The engine has more power for fun yet develops it at lower revs for reliability. The entire management system is new and aimed at making the car far more drivable. There’s also a new pedal box, seat system, clutch actuator, steering wheel and so on and on. The car is now a very different beast.
The only problem is that if you want a test drive, you need to go to New Zealand’s South Island and visit the extraordinary facility that Dicker has had built there, which includes three test tracks, a factory containing some of the most advanced titanium 3D-printing machines in the world and a full pits complex with garaging and hospitality. This guy is serious.
Dicker will fly you out, put you up and provide you with an instructor: affable, unflappable Aussie racer Mark Williamson, who will then spend two days with you until he feels you’ve seen and done enough to be let loose in an uncorked FZED.
To give you some idea of the level you need to reach, you learn the track in a derestricted McLaren 570S GT4 racer. It’s some trainer. After at least two stints in that, each comprising dozens of laps, you do the same all over again in a Dallara Formula 3 car – because if you don’t do that and therefore fully acquaint yourself with the dark art of downforce, there’s literally no point even sitting in the FZED. After each session, Williamson assiduously talks you through the telemetry data and on-board camera footage. You’ll then get two sessions in said FZED, one using about 80% revs and throttle, one unlimited. And if, after that, you buy one, Rodin will knock the entire cost of the trip off the purchase price.