If all this sounds as if I don’t approve of Elemental’s new location, nothing could be further from the truth: I think it is fantastic, and I’m sure that many prospective owners will love the ‘secret society’ feel, especially because the local roads are fantastic for keen drivers.
When the build shop is complete and production has begun in earnest, Elemental will invite owners to come down and watch the finishing touches being made to their bespoke cars. It’s part of a master plan to immerse car owners in the company.
Production-spec Elemental RP1 - nearly every nut and bolt improved
Still, my first question to the team as myself and photographer Stan Papior wandered into the new factory – which bears that ‘we’re still unpacking’ look – was: “Why here, rather than a nondescript industrial unit in Motorsport Valley?”.
There is logic behind it, says design manager Guy Colborne: “It’s easy for everyone in the company to get to and we’ve got a lot of very good high-tech suppliers in this area.
“There are a lot of companies associated with McLaren up in Guildford and Farnborough, a lot of people doing boat work in Portsmouth and Southampton, and a massive amount of really good companies that do very high-tech machining and component work”.
Elemental has weaved a local web of the niche suppliers it needs to support the build of the RP1, and its computerised approach to the car’s design means creating components is “just a basic question of sending the data. If a supplier is a 30-40-minute car drive away, that’s perfect. Everyone’s really excited to work with us. We feel like we’re part of an industrial community”.
The composite work is done in conjunction with a Portuguese company called Optimal Structural Solutions, but the RP1 is predominantly British made. Significantly, Colborne senses that our nation’s ability in small-volume component manufacturing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years.
“It’s something this country is really good at,” he says. “When we were doing the very first prototypes, we were getting work done in China.
“But a really interesting thing happened in the last four or five years: the costs in China have gone up, and the costs in the UK have gone down. So it is now actually cheaper to use all of the UK suppliers. They have modernised so that they can do everything that the Chinese suppliers can do, and you don’t have constraints such as the language barrier and you’re not shipping components from halfway around the world.