Covini to produce hybrid Speedster version of six-wheeled supercar
By Mike Hanlon
August 11, 2011
Covini is testing a new petrol-electric hybrid "speedster" version of the new 434 bhp V8 C3A. In testing, the track-only hybrid is apparently proving to be extremely fast with excellent braking and handling. The six-wheelTyrell P34 Formula One car won an F1 race before it was banned, so the logical benefits of four-front-wheels (reduced high speed lift and improved aerodynamics, more rubber, more braking power and more grip, particularly in treacherous conditions) are once again being validated.
The Covini four wheel project has been going on for a decade now and we first wrote up the C6 eight years ago.
Italian mechanical engineer Ferruccio Covini came up with the idea of a modern version of the four-front wheels inspired by the logical engineering advantages of the P34 Tyrell.
The original concept was a product of a Ford America's Seattle-ite "far future" concept car built for the world fair in 1963.
Of all the concept cars produced throughout history, many of which have forecast technologies far before their time, the Ford Seattle-ite XXI, built to symbolize the future of American technological know-how for the 1963 World's Fair, was the boldest.
Amongst a range of concepts, the car encompassed interchangeable nuclear fuel cell power units, interchangeable bodies, interactive computer navigation, mapping and other remote auto information systems, and four driving and steering wheels. The concept car was non-functional, as the technologies to produce it did not exist.
The car drive train is expected to be equally balanced between petrol and electric power contribution, and while the hybrid will have regenerative braking, the press information indicates a single electric motor.
The current Covini C3A was one of the most exciting cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year - the only supercar indeed, car of any kind with four front wheels. Covini has taken the very sound engineering principles which support the four-front wheels concept. More rubber on the road means better steering and braking and with modern brakes, suspension and advanced computerized control systems, the modern interpretation is very compelling.
The petrol-engined C3A is rear-wheel drive, though what the hybrid vehicle's power train might be has not yet been revealed in full. The car that drove up Lord March's drieveway at Goodwood has longitudinally-mounted 434hp eight-cylinder engine of Audi parentage driving those wheels.
The normally-aspirated V8 produces maximum torque of around 470Nm at 2,700rpm, suggesting the performance of the 1150kg will be spectacular indeed.
The chassis achieves its light weight by virtue of a combination of a steel tubular spaceframe with carbon fiber structural parts and composite panels and an independent suspension with front and rear wishbones. The body work is glass fiber and carbon fiber.
In terms of the Covini's most obvious feature, the four 15 inch front wheels run 205/45-15 tires and the two 20 inch rear wheels run 345/25-20 tires.
Covini has gone to a lot of trouble to develop the lightweight wheels, pushrod front suspension and steering of the four wheels, so it will be interesting to see whether four electric wheel motors will find their way onto the front of the C3A hybrid. If four-wheel drive offers more traction than two-wheel drive, then surely six-wheel drive will be better still. Four moderately powered electric motors at the front would provide more than enough oomph to balance whatever horsepower is being fed to the rear wheels.
The press release does however mention one electric motor, not four or five. We'll trust that to Covini for now, and look forward to the prospect of the open topped track car breaking cover.
ADDENDUM - A number of people have contacted us about the four-front-wheeled concept being used by different manufacturers and yes - we missed one. The Panther 6 was inspired by the Tyrell P34 and two prototypes were built back in the seventies - they reportedly did more than 200 mph but for various reasons never saw full production.
Then there were two movie car's Miss Penelope's pink chauffer-driven Cadillac in Thunderbirds and Captain Nemo's car in "The League of extraordinary Gentlemen" pictured below.