Most Americans couldn’t spot a British car even if they were surrounded by them; a double-decker bus maybe, but not a car. That is our loss. The British seem to thrive on creating obscure, yet thrilling sports cars that can be easily divided into two categories: affordable thrillers and near-supercars. The Elemental RP1 falls into the near-supercar group.
It is easy to forgive that you have never heard of the RP1, the prototype is the only one in existance at this time, so most Brits have never heard of it either. The brainchild of a production team headed by a former McLaren engineer, the Elemental RP1 is designed to be a street legal sports car that only truly feels at home on roads that neglect to post speed limits, say the Autobahn or an aircraft runway.
You can tell the RP1 is a one-off prototype…the body is banged up from a year’s worth of testing. Having a single prototype is the harbinger of a low budget start-up too, so it can be easily forgiven in the uber competitive world of boutique car production. If you look past the dings, you can see an edgy design that puts you in mind of a two-seat F1 racer sans the racing features. The body is mostly carbon fiber overlaying a series of steel subframes, giving the RP1 a curb weight of just 1,435 lbs. As if that isn’t light enough, the production models are scheduled to weigh in at 1300 lbs.
The RP1 is a pusher (engine/transmission in the rear) that is powered by a tuned 2.0L Ford EcoBoost engine. The tuned powerplant provides 320 hp to the rear wheels through a Hewland sequential transmission that meets race specs. The horsepower rating gives the RP1 a weight-to-power ratio that is similar to the McLaren 675LT. Just in case buyers in England want to actually race the car, they can opt for a 1.0L two-cylinder EcoBoost, allowing them to compete without incurring a weight penalty.
Elemental RP1: How It Drives
Mike Duff over at Car and Driver was recently offered the chance to drive the RP1. He had this to say:
”Just getting in makes you feel like a racer, standing on the seat and then sliding under the steering wheel. There’s a clutch pedal for low-speed maneuvering; beyond that the gearbox is pure sequential, controlled by paddles behind the steering wheel. The highly tuned EcoBoost feels lumpy at low speeds, but on the track it quickly clears its throat and starts to pull very hard, sending an exciting thrill of vibration through the driver’s seat.”
All of those things could be said about nearly every sports car, but the RP1’s designers are betting on its ability to take turns as if stuck to the track. The steering gets heavier in high speed turns as aerodynamic downforce and the adhesion created by the diffuser begin to takeover. The combination takes a great deal of physical strength to handle. Drivers will have to be in top shape in order to drive this number!
Unfortunately, there are no current plans to bring the RP1 to the States. Hell, Elemental only has one prototype, so selling the car outside of the British Isles seems ambitious at this time. What’s the RP1 price? When the production models do go on sale, they will have a price tag of $115,000, that’s 75,500 pounds for the Brits. With such a low price point, Elemental should plan to export sooner than later.
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