Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cars & Coffee – 7/23/11

The Venom GT showed up today, piloted by the man whose name is on the back - John Hennessey. This stretched out Exige was just in England a couple of weeks ago being driven up the hill by GM engineer and racer John Heinricy, and now it's in the States, the only one of five on these shores. Three lucky customers are already driving theirs in various parts of Asia, and the fifth is the silver development car that is back in England.

The obvious similarity to a Lotus Exige is more than skin deep. John explained that the car uses the Exige cockpit almost intact, but veers off for the front and rear assemblies. The Venom GT looks like it's twice as long and wide as the car it is based on.

At one point John asked who wanted to see the engine and after several cheers of approval, the reverse-hinged rear clamshell was lifted to expose the heart of this beast. With boost set at a fairly modest 12 pounds, this turbo V8 derived from a Corvette LS9 motor delivers over 800 hp to its rear wheels. With the wick turned up, that number climbs closer to 1,200 at the crank, giving the 2,685-lb supercar a theoretical top speed of 277 mph.

This crazy cool missle hasn't had a chance to try to reach that v-max and John seems to be looking for a place to do it. When asked about taking it to the Texas Mile, John said, "That's only a mile though, we need a bit more than that. We could probably do 230 or a bit more in the mile, but nowhere near 270."

We also asked John if he thought about letting Top Gear and The Stig take a go at it and he responded, "We tried to get something together but the timing just didn't work out. We had done something with the magazine last year and were hoping to get on the show, but not this time."

With its LeMans-ready looks, British/American heritage and otherworldly performance, this could be looked at as a modern-day Cobra, but it more clearly fills the hole left by the demise of the Saleen S7 as the only true American supercar. The S7 ended up winning dozens of trophies in several different series during its relatively short lifespan. We don't know whether or not there are any plans to take the Venom GT racing, but if looks and sound are any indication, we doubt it would have a hard time winning a few trophies of its own.

At $950,000 we doubt we'll see a lot of these on the street either, although for those who can afford one, it represents quite a bargain compared to the Bugatti Veyron, one of the benchmarks in this class. While the Venom's top speed should exceed the Veyron SS's in a perfect world, the more amazing thing is the way the Venom outperforms that superGT at the dragstrip. Well, perhaps not at the typical dragstrip, but in the 0-200 sprint, the Veyron needs just over eight extra seconds to get there - 24.2 - 15.9 seconds. Simply amazing.

This was one of those weeks at Cars & Coffee where there wasn't just one highlight though, as David Sydorik brought a gorgeous Alfa Romeo TZ, Local Motors brought a Rally Fighter, Project Import brought a handful of race cars including a StopTech-equipped S2000 hardtop, someone brought a Ford  Escort Cosworth and a few hundred others brought something that was equally special to them. Epic week.

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