Now here's a car we've been awaiting for almost too long. Italian sports car builder Covini Engineering has partnered with PMI SpA to finally unveil the production version of the six-wheeled Covini C6W Supercar at the Racing Professional Motor Show in Bologna.
We first wrote up the C6W in great detail in 2004 and had feared that an ingenious engineering concept might never see the road.
The Covini was inspired by the Tyrell P34 Formula One car of the seventies. The Tyrell was not the only F1 development to include the possibility of four front wheels and it was only a rule change that prevented the world's most watched sporting event from spawning a whole new set of engineering solutions.
The rationale for four front-wheels was first detailed in a landmark Ford concept car shown at the World Fair in 1963 - the Seattle-ite's specification still stands up nearly half a century later - interchangeable fuel cell power units, interchangeable bodies, computer navigation and information systems, and four driving and steering wheels. That's it bottom right.
Pricing details and availability dates of the long-awaited C6W have not yet been announced, but the distinctive nature of the vehicle and its performance figures point towards a price tag of at least Ferrari proportions. Rumors on Italian automotive web sites suggest a price in the vicinity of EUR300,000 (around US$400,000) for the 300 km/h rear-wheel-drive C6W.
A full explanation of the numerous benefits of four front wheels can be found in our original article, but in short, they include significantly better braking, cornering and "feel" - exactly the same benefits you obtain from adding two front wheels to a motorcycle, which has become a popular engineering solution of recent times and threatens to become a lot more popular as road congestion and energy efficiency drives the world towards smaller roadgoing vehicles.
The six-wheeler C6W is to be powered by a 4.2-liter Audi-sourced V8 delivering its 440 bhp and 346 lb-ft torque driving through a six-speed manual gearbox.
The dimensions of the production model remain almost identical to the original C6W in being 4.18 m long, 1.99 m wide and 1.08 m high.
The weight has been kept to just 1150 kg using a tubular steel frame and a lightweight carbon fiber body. If the Covini C6W is as good as we expect it to be, it might lead the way to more manufacturers going the way of six wheels, now that computers and sensors and material science have all advanced to the degree necessary to control all the complexities of what's happening with those front wheels.
For performance enthusiasts, four front wheels offer the ability to get around a racetrack faster than ever before as better traction offers higher cornering speeds and deeper braking, particularly when the pavement is slippery or less than ideal.
The new partnership with PMI SpA promises much for Covini - already there is talk of several new and inspired projects coming to light over the next twelve months, including a diesel-powered supercar and an even more hush-hush project that has those that know very excited.
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