There was once a time when you’d go to a car company to order a chassis with running gear, and then go to someone else to clothe it.
These metal-tailors were known as Coachbuilders and this way of producing cars was popular up until the Second World War.
Since then, the buying public has been more than happy picking a complete car from a showroom floor. The art of coachbuilding was almost lost, but a few have dared to keep it alive, and even among those, only a few are still in the game.
So I thought it would be my duty to bring some of these modern coachbuilt creations to your attention. Some have gone on to fulfill their makers vision, while others have fallen far short of their target.
We’ll start off with one that didn’t get very far, but I wish it did. I’m talking about the 2009 Devon GTX. This stunning, gull-winged creation was designed by a Swede named Daniel Paulin. The project was the brain-child of Scott Devon who wanted to make a new American supercar that could rival the very best from around the world.
What it was in reality was a re-clothed Dodge Viper SRT-10. So it used the Viper’s chassis and running gear, but now featuring a much nicer interior and distinctive exterior. Power came from the same 8.4-liter, V10 found in the last generation Viper’s (last, until the next one arrives), with power slightly tweaked up to produce 650-hp. Thanks to its light-weight, aircraft quality carbon-fiber body which produced ample downforce, it was a very capable track day machine, setting lap records at both Willow Springs and Laguna Seca Raceway.
So a pretty body with performance to match, and all for just $500,000; what could go wrong? Well for a start, Dodge killed off the Viper in 2010, which meant Devon’s supply was going to get affected seriously. Oh, another reason was its half-a-million dollars price tag, which made the GTX five-times more expensive than the Viper SRT-10 it was based on. In the end, just two cars were produced and will likely be the only ones ever made. Shame.
The Tramonto was the creation of Henrik Fisker, who wanted to do his own cars after designing cars for BMW and Aston Martin. His idea was to start a modern coachbuild company, and his first creations relied on BMW and Mercedes-Benz platforms. Since he only ever made one customer car based on the BMW M6, called the Latigo CS V10, we will today look at the one that was a bit more successful, the Tramonto; which was built on any Mercedes-Benz SL platform you’d want. So some were based on the regular SL550, and some went all out and had theirs based on the SL65. The most popular conversion was on the SL55 platform, with power tweaked by Kleeman engineering. This pushed the performance from 500-hp to just over 600-hp.
I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in a few of these vehicles, and I can tell you, it is one stunning looking and sounding car, and the performance would please even the most jaded car enthusiast.
With pricing starting from around $225,000, it wasn’t ludicrously expensive for such a car either. However, things didn’t go as planned. Fisker wanted to produce 150 examples of the Tramonto, but only 13-examples got made. While some might say the project failed, but it helped attract other companies to knock on Mr. Fisker’s door. He designed a wrist watch, and also designed the Artega GT, plus he attracted investors to back him on his new project, the plug-in hybrid Fisker Karma.
So the Fisker name is still very much alive, I just wish more people backed him on the coachbuild side of things, because these creations were truly stunning.
The next car on my list is something very few people know about. It’s called the Benarrow PB5 and it’s based on an Audi S5. This German creation uses a MTM tuned 4.2-liter, V8 motor, which now produces 510-hp. According to its maker, this car can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 4.5 seconds and top speed is pegged at 305 km/h. Fast, but the performance is not its main attraction. Love it or hate it, but its most defining feature is its body. It is very unique and harks back to some Zagato design language from the early 1990’s. I like it a lot.
Not much information is available on this vehicle, so I decided to get in touch with them. Thankfully they replied to my e-mail and told me that thus far only 5 cars have been produced. They didn’t comment on if the project is still alive and well. If you want one, be ready to shell out $350,000 for one of these. Personally, I think its worth it, but then I’m in no position to write a cheque for that amount.
If I could write a big cheque, I’d be even more interested in the Carlsson C25 Royale. This coachbuilt creation is based on the Mercedes-Benz SL65, but instead of being a convertible, Carlsson has turned it into a proper coupe. So it will be stiffer than the car it is based on, which is a good thing, because it has to deal with a lot of power. Carlsson claims the C25 produces 753-hp and 848 lb/ft of torque. So yes, it’ll be very, very fast, but that is not the point behind this car.
The point is, Carlsson wanted to do something special for its 25 distributors around the world, and hence decided to make a car for each of them.
Since these dealers are in different countries, there will only be one example per country. So chances of running into one are seriously slim, unless there is some kind of meet in a place like Monaco.
You’ll have to spend a bit less to have this next one, and it is perhaps the best of the lot. It’s called the Ruf CTR3, and its the creation of long time Porsche tuner Alois Ruf.
Tuner is perhaps the wrong word because Ruf has a full manufacturers license, and makes his cars as a whole. While most of his creations look very much like production Porsche’s, but the CTR3 was different. It is a bit of a Frankenstein monster, because the chassis is a bit 911 and a bit Cayman, but the result is something altogether more awesome.
It looks like a love child between a Carrera GT and a Cayman S, and it honestly looks better than anything Porsche ever created. It’s seriously fast too. Power comes courtesy of a 3.8-liter, twin-turbo, flat-six which produces 691-hp and 660-lb/ft of torque. According to Ruf, it will sprint from 0-100 km/h in just 3.1 seconds, and top speed is an eye-watering 375 km/h.
Ruf planned on producing 50 examples of the CTR3, and while I cannot confirm how many he has made, judging by YouTube videos and Google searches, there seem to be plenty of these around. This proves, that you can produce a $500,000 car that not many people have heard of, and be successful at it.
So I hope you all enjoyed this list, and if you didn’t know these cars existed, you do now.