One of the world’s most accomplished automotive designers, Lee Noble, is to once more start his own company, and plans to produce an ultra light weight mid-engined V8 Grand Tourer supercar. Two images were released today and that's one of them at right. Noble's track record is good as it gets, having penned a string of the world’s best-handling and fastest accelerating supercars including the Ultima GTR, Ascari Ecosse and Noble M12, but in announcing his new company, to be known as Fenix, Noble has promised a 1200 kg 638 bhp car with a 0-100mph time of under seven seconds and a price tag under USD125,000. The car will target serious track day drivers, while also being completely usable on the public road.
Fenix (presumably as in Phoenix – the mythical bird of Persian mythology which perpetually rises again from the ashes) announced last year that the new car would be “one of the most dramatic supercars of the century” and that it would be available in 2010.
“Our new car will offer buyers performance and dynamics that they’d normally have to spend well over £100,000 to experience, but at a far more affordable price,” said Noble. “It will combine simplicity, strength and agility, while its two-seat, closed body will ensure sensible levels of refinement for road use. “And thanks to a feature which will be revealed nearer the car’s launch, it will be amazingly practical too, for both track and road users.”
Development of the car began in earnest a year ago, and the first prototype, which will be used to validate the all-new chassis and powertrain, is currently being built in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in the same Hi-Tech Automotive plant that produced the M12 for Noble Automotive.
With over 25 years’ experience in the low volume sports car market, Lee’s pragmatic approach to producing super-fast, giant-killing cars has won him credibility among buyers and the media alike. So while the first pictures of his new creation (due early next year) are sure to cause a stir, Lee’s grounded philosophy to manufacturing will ensure that the car is a production reality.
Noble is renowned for the speed of his development of new cars. He founded Noble Automotive in 1998 and a year later delivered its first offering, the M10 roadster, to the media. Autocar declared the M10, “…one of the most complete and exciting British mid-engined two seaters we’ve driven.”
The M12 went on to achieve similar acclaim. Circuit Driver magazine wrote of the M12, “Call us a bunch of sceptics but we wondered whether people were going a bit over the top with the whole Noble thing. But we take it all back. The Noble really is an astonishing piece of kit and a true supercar destroyer.”
In 2004, in announcing the M400 as winner of its Britain’s Best Driver’s Car award, Autocar wrote “…above all we love the Noble for providing more of everything than anything else here, and doing it equally on road and track. Zuffenhausen, Hethel, Tokyo and Modena, you have 12 months…”
Noble has won countless awards for the cars he has built, including Autocar’s Specialist Manufacturer of the Year (2001), Top Gear’s Best Driver’s Car (2001 & 2002), Autocar’s Best Driver’s Car (2004) and Evo’s Road & Track Car of the Year (2005).
Now although Noble is getting back into the business, it should be noted that the company that bears his name continues onwards developing outrageously fast and desirable automobiles. Noble sold the company in 2006, and resigned in 2008. Noble Automotive's latest beastie, developed without the founders involvement, is the M600 which was shown for the first time at Goodwood Revival in September. It runs a 4.4 litre Volvo V8 engine with twin Garrett turbos, produces 650 bhp and tops out at 225 mph. The GBP200,000 car is comprised almost entirely of composite materials and its light weight and whopping 618 ft pound of torque enables it to hit 60 mph in 3.0 seconds, putting it in the elite supercar category and a direct competitor to the fastest Ferrari, Koenigsegg and Porsche models.
Fenix meanwhile has announced that it will be offering a choice of two engines for the new car. GM’s 480bhp LS3 V8 will be the ’base’ unit, while the 6.2-litre supercharged LS9 V8, as seen in the recently launched Corvette ZR1, will provide customers with a 638bhp power option.
Factor in a target kerb weight of 1200kgs, and performance in either car will be prodigious, but Fenix estimates that the LS9-engined car should accelerate from 0-100mph in under seven seconds on its way to a top speed of around 200mph.
“Our first prototype is now in build and development will start in around one month’s time,” said Lee. “We’ll be hot-weather testing the first prototype on the mountain roads around Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where the car will be manufactured. But I’m itching to get the car back to the UK where I can set it up on roads I know well.” Never one to mince words, Noble announced yesterday, “The M12 was hugely successful, but we needed to move the game on in terms of design.”
“The new car’s styling owes nothing to what I’ve done before and has quite literally been a ‘clean sheet’ exercise from the start. It’s edgy, with powerful lines, and aerodynamically will be in another league to any of my previous cars.”