Classified spotlight: Light Car Company Rocket



The PalmPilot was among the first personal digital assistants. Its chunky dimensions were launched in 1997 and enabled the tech-conscious businessperson to scribe notes, monitor daily schedules and organise extensive contact lists. Usefully, it could also sync with a traditional desktop PC. Manual transfers were a thing of the past and rolodexes were binned the world over.

In tech terms, ’97 now feels a long time ago as the functionality of the PalmPilot has been replicated and eclipsed by Dropbox, iCloud and the vast array of handheld personal computing devices. It was a technology ahead of its time.

The same can be said of the Rocket – not the kind you’d find attached to a space shuttle in the ‘60s or a warhead today, but the Light Car Company’s bonkers creation from 1992. The operation was founded by Chris Craft who, together with a small team of petrolheads, set about building a competition car with number plates.

In Craft’s words: “The [McLaren] F1 gives you most of Gordon’s singular vision, the Rocket gives you all of it.” Gordon is, of course, Gordon Murray, the brain behind the Brabham fan car and Nelson Piquet’s title winning BT49 and BT52. He also played a key role in no less than four of McLaren’s constructors’ titles and such is his contribution to Formula 1, the South African is currently a contender for Motor Sport‘s 2016 Hall of Fame induction.

Murray’s McLaren F1 is a vehicle more revered than virtually all other road-going exotica put together; given the its achievements, Craft’s claim is distinctly provocative. He himself has a distinguished career in motor sport, progressing to Formula 1 for a short while before returning to greener pastures. Though Craft’s first job involved packing ladies underwear – a position he reportedly enjoyed – his father soon engineered a switch to the Ford Motor Company.

From the archive: Simon Taylor has lunch with Chris Craft and Keith Greene (2012)

His involvement with the American manufacturer set Craft on a pathway to two grands prix races in 1971, though his saloon and sports car performances speak more for his talent. Partnered with team owner and fellow driver Alain de Cadenet, Craft took third place at Le Mans in ’76 driving a Lola T380 propelled by a Ford Cosworth DFV. Craft continued to race into the ‘80s but as his driving career took a back seat, the Rocket came to the fore.

Clarity of thought often leads to the best designs and the Light Car Company didn’t suffer from muddied objectives. The Rocket was formed from a skeletal space frame chassis and powered by an engine plucked from a Yamaha FZR1000. The 1000cc unit helped minimise weight, a necessity given the company’s straight-talking title. The magic number? 390kg.

Just dwell on that figure for a moment. There are people who can bench press 390kg (though they themselves are unlikely to squeeze into the car). A conventionally light Lotus Elise is more than double the weight of a Rocket. Even an Ariel Atom seems a little portly by comparison.

And yet, the Atom is, I believe, the spiritual successor to the Rocket. Its combination of wacky looks and single-mindedness mimic the Rocket’s approach 10 years prior. Ariel’s success demonstrates Craft and Murray nailed the extreme road car concept but unfortunately for the Light Car Company, they seemed to do so in the wrong decade. Part of the problem may have been the sheer cost of the thing. At £38,000 in 1992, the Rocket wasn’t cheap. Even so, for a clean-sheet design penned by an F1 giant a production run of 47 cars seems less than the team deserved.

Though the Light Car Company has recently restarted production – three more’s the aim – this weeks spotlight is a fantastically bright Rocket from ’94. Its ‘60s F1 silhouette is sprayed in a glossy orange, a neat link to Murray’s McLaren tenure and a fantastic hue in its own right. The cockpit too is a thing of beauty. The leather-bound wheel is adorned with nothing more than the model’s technicolour logo and, appropriately for a machine which delivers such driver involvement, it places you quite literally at the centre of things.

It needn’t be a solitary experience either for a removable faring allows a passenger to drop behind the driver, the former’s legs hugging the latter’s hips. While not the most social arrangement, a pillion ride in a Rocket is likely to linger in the memory banks. As is the view from behind its cylindrical body where the solitary exhaust pokes cheekily from its surrounds looking for all the world like a fuse begging to be lit and pointed down some twisting blacktop.

This example, 11,000 miles strong, is both a fantastic piece of history and the perfect way to tackle Silverstone’s next track-day. Not many drivers get the opportunity to experience Copse from slap-bang between a front axle – Rocket owners are indeed a privileged few.

Click here to visit this car’s classified page

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