Launching a new car company


A new British sports car company has been created with a grand old name and a tub-thumpingly British (and really rather attractive) logo to go with it. Sadly that’s about all we know about David Brown Automotive and, indeed, the car it intends to present to the world in April.

Actually that’s not quite true. This David Brown is a wealthy entrepreneur, but otherwise unrelated to that David Brown and it has recruited a former stylist and designer from Land Rover to help shape the device and the Envisage Group to turn it from concept to reality. It will be expensive and made to order.

The problems after the launch

Now when it comes to doing things that are genuinely hard, as opposed to mildly vexatious or just a trifle taxing, one of few things more difficult than starting a new car company is keeping said company alive thereafter. Given quite a lot of someone else’s money, I reckon I know enough talented people in design and engineering to make a car that at least looked plausible and new.

Of course under the skin it would be nothing of the kind because without donor architecture I’d be sunk without trace, but I’d back myself to be able to talk a car company into letting me re-clothe one of their pre-existing products. As for my contribution to the project, I’d like to think I could write the press release. I could probably also burn what budget remained booking some ritzy location and some resting celebrities to associate themselves with the project and help me launch it.

So far so comparatively very easy. Where it gets tricky is if people actually like what they see. That makes you a manufacturer, which as everyone who has tried it tells me, is a whole new world of pain. Compared to getting your product to market at a price the customer is prepared to pay with the quality and reliability to ensure the warranty claims alone don’t finish you off, designing the car itself is as playing chopsticks is to Brahms.

The success stories

Not that this means it cannot be done: Lee Noble did it, as did Simon Saunders with his wonderfully exciting and eclectic Ariels – and both of these did so with standalone designs, but many more have come and gone, even when they had a big name to trade upon. Remember the Jensen SV-8, Invicta S1, Lister Storm, and AC Ace, not to mention established companies like TVR and Marcos? If they couldn’t make it, what chance has David Brown?

The answer is I have no greater idea than anyone else, nor will I until something new is known about the car. But I do wish him and his associates all the very best, not least because I believe that if fortune doesn’t actually favour the brave, then it bloody well should.

Frankel Automotive

In the meantime what car would you design given the funds? Mine would be a front-engined, rear-drive, two-seat coupé with a carbon tub and ally panels powered by a normally aspirated straight-six or V8 motor. I’d want its weight to be below 1200kg and its power-to-weight ratio to be around 300bhp per tonne, meaning I’d need a comparatively modest 360bhp. I’d spec tyres no more than 225mm across, a gentle limited-slip diff and a choice of manual or paddle-shift gears.

Realistically, it would probably have to cost over £100,000. That would make it more than twice the price of a Porsche Cayman S and if it were half as good to drive I’d be really chuffed. And it wouldn’t be a Porsche but a Frankel, so it would go wrong all the time and no one would buy it. Other than that, I reckon it would be plain sailing.

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