Elemental says that the production development car is powered by a Ford 2.0-litre EcoBoost engine re-tuned to deliver 280bhp. However, the three-pot Ford 1.0-litre EcoBoost will also be offered alongside a version powered by a 999cc Honda Fireblade engine.
The traditional bloke in a shed doesn’t tend to make a credible sports car any more.
He has been usurped by 2014’s version, a far more advanced specimen, armed with the electronic tools, business nous and industry experience to design and engineer a car from his bedroom, proving that it will all work before a spanner is raised in anger.
The embodiment of this thoroughly modern way of making your own car from scratch – and making sure that it works – is the new Elemental RP1, a lightweight, mid-engined roadster with 500bhp per tonne that is road legal and can be on your driveway by this time next year.
Sitting between the likes of a Caterham Seven and a Lotus Exige in its blend of track and road abilities, the RP1 is the self-funded work of six men with decades of experience between them in Formula 1 and the aerospace industry, plus development work on road cars that include the McLaren P1.
With no real full-time company base to speak of, the six of them designed and engineered the car ‘in the cloud’, sharing CAD files and tweaking each other’s designs before coming together to build two prototypes, the second of which you see here.
Meet the six of them and they’ll compete to show you the design flourish, aerodynamic feature or piece of engineering sophistication of which they’re most proud.
Get on to the bigger picture and technical director John Begley, who first had the idea for the RP1 about seven years ago, tells you the “arbitrary task” that perhaps best sums up the RP1’s ability as a road car, before you get to its ability as a sports car or track-day weapon.
“It’s the sort of car you can live in the south-east of England with and drive it to Le Mans without filling up, is comfortable enough for the journey, has luggage space for some spare clothes and a tent, is lockable and secure, and can keep your feet warm when you drive off the ferry early in the morning,” says Begley, who worked with McLaren’s F1 team before switching to the automotive division to work on the Mercedes SLR McLaren, the 12C and the P1.
It can also be driven to a race track, raced and looked after with a handful of tools and then driven home, Begley adds. “Although in theory no one will probably do this, it shows how simple we’ve made it to look after,” he says.
That simplicity is key to the RP1’s appeal. Operations chief Ian Hall describes it as “a car to be manufactured”. Thought has been given to making the car easy to assemble, with most parts doing more than one job.
Designing the key structures in-house has allowed Elemental to control quality, and parts are sourced from only a handful of controlled, trusted suppliers. So easy is the RP1 to assemble that Hall reckons he could assemble one himself in only a few hours, using a simple set of tools and Allen keys.
Elemental is now on an advanced second prototype seen here, known as XP2 in a nod to the way that McLaren names its prototypes, and last week it began dynamic testing, tuning those computer simulations for road use. Further fine-tuning development is planned, including reducing the weight of various components, before order books can open in the spring.