What is it?
If every new sports car project that came along succeeded, we'd need to double our server capacity just to keep up. Sadly, most new projects don't succeed, but you could see the Zenos E10 S was special when it first arrived; that there’s something about it, something credible, that the people in charge had a plan: make a car people want to buy, not just the car you want to build.
By the end of the year, then, 80 Zenos E10 Ss, lightweight, two-seat sports cars with no roof, will have exited the factory gates at Wymondham in Norfolk, with founder Mark Edwards – co-founder Ansar Ali has taken a back seat but remains a supporter and shareholder – predicting that 120 cars will be sold next year.
Currently production is sold out until April, and by the end of January’s Autosport International Show he’d like orders for well over half of the year.
So who’s buying E10s? And what do they come out of? Edwards says there is no typical buyer. Some have had motorbikes but now have families, some flit between other lightweight brands with no particular loyalty, some have big collections.
But what has surprised Edwards is that the E10 S, a 2.0-litre, 250bhp car with no weather gear, isn’t necessarily the preserve of track-day enthusiasts.
We’ve found it rides pretty well, with a flow and lightweight agility not unlike an early Lotus Elise. Maybe that’s part of the appeal for road-based drivers, but ditto too the fact, I suspect, that it’s priced from an entirely attainable £29,995 – the purpose of the Zenos exercise in the first place being to bring a new but also relatively affordable car to market. It’s possible that track enthusiasts want something a little more hardcore and are prepared to pay for it.
As if by magic, then, here is one, the Zenos E10 R. At least, a development prototype. It’s the “fastest, most focused and most thrilling model yet”, according to the press release and, you suspect, a car that Edwards and the team just quite fancied building. They think that perhaps 20 or 30 of next year’s production will be this R model, which features a 2.3-litre Ford Ecoboost engine and significantly more power than the E10 S.
The glib way to look at it is that it’s the Ford Focus RS motor. Which is not entirely accurate. Yes, it’s the same base unit, sourced through Hendy Power, one of Ford’s approved engine suppliers. But instead of the Ford-specific Focus state of tune, Zenos gets its 350bhp at 6000rpm and 349lb ft at 4000rpm via a Specialist Components ECU.
Given a dry weight of 700kg, that’s enough for 500bhp per tonne, alhough in road trim it’ll work out a little less than that.
Other changes between E10 S and R have been born through choice rather than necessity. The car needs no more cooling ducts so the bodywork remains entirely unchanged – essential when your ethos is keeping costs lower – although the 2.3-litre engine comes with a bigger intercooler that’s 40% more efficient.
Other than that, Zenos has fitted lighter wheels (saving 2.5kg a corner), a six-speed gearbox (the S gets a five-speed unit, with the six-speed ’box available as an option) and the S’s uprated brakes, plus composite seats with four-point harnesses. Pricing stays with a fairly clear structure: the S was under £30,000, the R is £39,995.