Wierd, freaky, wacky, and downright crazy cars of the past
Colin Chapman of Lotus Cars always believed that a successful racing car should be as light as possible. Car designer Gordon Murray and racing driver Chris Craft decided, in 1992, to take his ideas even further and design the ultimate light weight racing/road car. The result was the Rocket.
The decision was made to use a lightweight motorbike engine and the Yamaha FZR1000 with the four stroke power valve system, which automatically controls the pressure within the exhaust system to give maximum performance at any particular engine speed, fitted the bill. Using a motorbike engine though created another issue; bikes don't have reverse gears! However Peter Weisman, a friend of his and a transmission expert, designed a system for him which not only provided five forward gears plus a reverse but also put two speeds into the final drive which gave a total of 10 possible gears. The lower speed setting gave smooth takeoff and lower speed handling whilst the top one was ideal for cruising.
The car was built like a Formula One racer with the engine and gearbox part of the structure, rather than supported by framing; this enabled even more weight paring.
The result has been a car which is not only incredibly fast but also very light and surefooted through corners.
The intention always was to make this car into a two seater. Side-by-side seating was impractical but there is space behind the driver for a passenger, although that passenger has to sit with legs on either side of the driver! Nevertheless it is a reasonably comfortable position even for persons of above average height.
The result is possibly the most exciting car that you can drive on both track and public road. With a maximum speed of 150 mph and acceleration of 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds the performance is impressive enough, but with the driver sitting so close to the road the sensation of speed is far greater and the lightness of the car helps it to swing around corners effortlessly.
Somewhere between 40 and 50 cars were sold before manufacture ceased in 1998. The selling price then was about £38,000 each, which was a fair bit of money at the time but considering that each car was handmade it was really a bargain. owners have included Microsoft's Bill Gates, George Harrison of the Beatles and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits; to buy one now would cost anything up to around a hundred thousand pounds.
The car is street legal, but only just! There is no roof. No doors. No windscreen worth speaking of. Luggage space? Forget it. This is a car to be driven for the sheer pleasure of driving.