Prototype feels a bit like driving a 1950s Formula One car

What is it?

In case you aren’t familiar (I wasn’t) Veritas is a German manufacturer with a history stretching back to 1949. Although it hasn’t produced a car since the 1950s, Vermont, who acquired the brand, are hoping to rejuvenate the name with this, the RSIII.

If it looks a little familiar, that’s because we first saw a concept car back in 2001. But with the company due to unveil a full production version at the Salon Prive show in July, we’ve now got an opportunity to drive a pre-production prototype.

There are quite a few significant differences though. The prototype you see here is powered by a 5.0-litre V8 from the previous generation M5, except with a little light fettling pushing the power up to 434bhp. The production version will get the current M5’s 500bhp V10. And that’s the standard engine. If you ask Veritas nicely they’ll bore the V10 out to 5.5-litres to produce 600bhp - which is awful lot when you consider the RSIII weighs only 1050kg.

The styling will also change slightly for production, most notably with the pronounced power bulge more neatly incorporated into the overall shape. Today the body panels are made from plastic, but on production version they will be carbonfibre. Underneath is a steel ladder frame chassis.

Where this prototype does mirror the production version is that both are open-topped 1+1s (a single-seater with an occasional flip up passenger seat) with a front mounted engine powering the rear wheels. And both have power to weight ratios north of 400bhp/tonne and minimal safety systems.

This prototype has neither traction control nor ABS; the production car may get switchable traction control. So while not exactly representative of the version you will actually be able to buy, this prototype goes a long way to describing the Veritas experience.

What’s it like?

In a way, exactly how it looks. Despite looking unapologetically futuristic, Veritas claim the RSIII is styled to look like a modern interpretation of the original 1940s cars. Which sort of makes sense when you see the two together, and even more so when you drive it. The best way I can describe it, is to say it is exactly how I image a 1950s Formula One machine would be like to drive.

Despite use of some flash new materials, in its layout and operation the cockpit is entirely conventional. A row of toggle switches, minimal dials, three pedals, a steering wheel and a conventional H-pattern gearbox are all present. Even how you sit relatively upright looking out over that long curving bonnet, is refreshingly old fashioned.

Thankfully Veritas has made full use of modern technology when it comes to the tyres, fitting massive 325/25ZR20s Dunlops at the rear. Despite this, and bone dry test conditions, you need to be judicious with the throttle even in third gear in a straight line. It will spin its way through second even on half throttle, and that’s only with the prototype's 434bhp.

Such instant ferocious power could be intimidating if the RSIII wasn’t so nicely balanced and the control weights so well defined. The throttle pedal has a long travel, but almost perfect weighting and modulation, such that you can accurately and intuitively meter out the engine’s performance. The pedal spacing is also ideal for heal and toe downchanges.

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The steering is accurate, provides decent feel, and despite no assistance is easy to manage. Although only 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, this is due to the relative lack of lock than the speed of the rack, and while the RSIII is impressively stable at speeds, I’d like a slightly quicker response.

Unlike most mainstream production cars the RSIII doesn’t have a huge wedge of safety understeer dialled into the chassis. It is instead quite neutrally balanced, and extremely responsive to the throttle. You need to concentrate and not take liberties, but approach it carefully and the RSIII can be balanced sweetly on the power.

Even with the promise of 500bhp from the production cars, it seems a shame to lose an engine as good as this. The old M5’s V8 was an absolute cracker, but here with the wick turned up and what sounds like almost zero silencing, it is difficult to imagine how the V10 can top it. More than the headline power, what impresses is the combination of mid-range response and top-end zing. And the noise. Photographer Stan said it was easily the loudest car he’s heard in a long time.

If you’ve ever been to Goodwood, either for the Festival or Revival, well that’s what the RSIII sounds like - the internal combustion engine unrestrained by modern regulations. Brilliant.

Should I buy one?

Well you can’t buy this one. But should you buy the production car? Well the very obvious issue here is the price. Veritas are asking a whopping 330,000 Euros (£280,000) plus taxes, which is a tremendous amount when you consider the cost of the donor mechanicals.

Veritas is planning a production run of only 30 RSIIIs before moving on the next model, so there is a degree of exclusivity built into the price, but the real justification (according to Veritas) is the use of exotic materials – notably the carbonfibre bodyshell.

I can’t comment on this, having only driven and seen this prototype, which uses plastic in place of carbon. What I can conclude is that if Veritas can deliver the sort of static drama to match the driving experience, it will have built a very special, compelling machine.

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Jamie Corstorphine

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aceman 20 June 2009

Re: Veritas RSIII

Orangewheels wrote:

Autocar wrote:

What’s it like?

In a way, exactly how it looks

A Big silver P*nis then? I'd rather have the SLR stirling moss and that isnt exactly a looker.

I no it's not that good for looks but it isn't that bad! I mean come on.

Topkat 18 June 2009

Re: Veritas RSIII

300k for that? I'll have a collection of cars instead ;-)

Peter Cavellini 18 June 2009

Re: Veritas RSIII

Didn't we see cars with faces like that on hong kong foowy?,i mean there doesn't look like there's much imagination gone into the shape has there?, in fact its got a bit of the kit car about it.No its just a posh plaything, won't be that biblical to drive, and will probably end up in concours competitions, in fact its not even in tune with what car design is today!