Minerva targets Bugatti with new hybrid hypercar
The JM Brabazon will be the company's first new car in 76 years and, if it can get beyond the pre-concept stage, it could give smaller supercar companies a serious challenge in terms of luxury, exclusivity and performance.
Named after Lord John Moore‐Brabazon of Tara, Britain's first aviator and an all-round 19th century polymorph, the car will be capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in 2.1 seconds and onto a top speed of over 400km/h.
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But, because it will be using a hybrid petrol-electric powertrain, it will also be able to offer 100km of emissions-free motoring just on the battery.
The success of companies such as Hennessey Performance, Pagani and of course Koenigsegg prove that there is definitely a demand for boutique supercars, especially as Ferrari, Lamborghini and Porsche are now so popular to be seen as ubiquitous or even 'common' by the world's superrich.
However, for every success story there is also a dream in tatters. And every year, another new boutique luxury or sport brand announces itself, its intentions and a set of speculative specifications relating to the car it aims to create and nothing is ever heard of them again.
So the news that Minerva Automobiles is planning to resurrect itself with a new hybrid supercar must be approached with caution.
Minerva Automobiles was the world's first recognized luxury automotive brand. Founded in Antwerp and London, the company was building its first car way back in 1897, nine years before Charles Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce thought that it might be a good idea to pool their collective resources.
But times change. Rolls-Royce this year celebrated record sales, record demand, record revenues and record requests for bespoke features and customization, while the Minerva of old, which once counted kings, queens, emperors, regents and industrialists as its clients, is no more.
The company stopped building luxury cars in 1938 and stopped building cars altogether in 1956.
The new Minerva JM Brabazon will come in two levels of trim, fit and finish -- Royal and Excellence -- and both promise levels of precision engineering that can only be bettered by yanking the back plate of a Rolex and peering inside. The Excellence variation also offers a choice of gold or platinum interior or exterior accents.
The company also claims that the car will have a 1:1 power to weight ratio -- 1200hp (thanks to a six-liter V12 mated with an electric motor) and a kerb weight of 1200kg thanks to a carbon fiber moncoque. Plus, thanks to four-wheel steering and four-wheel drive, all of that power won't send the car into a spin.
And the initial interior and exterior renders do look impressive, but, unfortunately, they are just renders. The company also says that the bi-turbo V12 engine that will be powering the car is being fully custom designed and developed for the new vehicle, as is a seven-speed dual clutch paddle shift gearbox.
It's information like this that really matters when a car is looking to become an alternative to a Bugatti Veyron. For example, the McLaren F1, one of the fastest cars ever made and one of the most collectable, was powered by an 'off the shelf,' though admittedly tuned BMW V12 because BMW's engine was better than anything McLaren, a Formula One racing team, could have built in house.
And, if the new car fails to live up to performance expectations or worse still, becomes the automotive equivalent of vaporware, it will be a real shame, as 100 years ago, the company was a true pioneer, just like Bugatti.