Aaron Yee had taken his '05 Lotus Elise about as far as he could, with a list of mods that included a supercharger, carbon seats, more powerful brakes, and a set of Nitron coilovers. It wasn't just about being done or bored. How can you get tired of 260 hp propelling 2,000 pounds? He hadn't. He just saw a natural transition to the Noble M400, which he describes as a "Lotus on steroids."
Lotus founder, Colin Chapman, wasn't the first to realize that cars perform better with less mass. He just immortalized with the famous quote, "Add lightness to go faster." The ethos of striving toward favorable power-to-weight ratios is a British tradition Chapman could easily take credit for when you look at all the manufacturers who came during and after his time and adhered to the mantra. Companies such as TVR, Marcos, Ginetta, Ariel, Radical, and Caparo certainly fit the mold.
To that list, you can also add Noble, which was founded in 1999 by designer and engineer Lee Noble. His first car, the M10, was similar to Toyota's MR Spyder and didn't sell very well. But his second car, the M12, made others take notice. It's mid-engined like the M10 but bigger and powered by a twin-turbo 2.5-liter Ford V6 (and later a 3.0-liter version). It wore some swoopy, yet purposeful, fiberglass bodywork that was neither groundbreaking nor behind the times. The company continued to improve upon the car and eventually created a track version of the M12 renamed the M400.
Yee said his M400 is one of about 220 Nobles that have been imported to the U.S., 100 of those being M400s. Nobles are imported as kit cars exclusively by 1G Racing, which started in Ohio and is now located in Florida. The cars are imported without engines or transmissions and the buyer needs to acquire the drivetrain from a separate supplier in order to qualify as a kit car in the eyes of the feds. 1G eventually bought the rights to the M12/M400 and now produces a newer version of the car called Rossion.
Yee has owned his for nearly two years and in that time, he's expanded its envelope with thoughtful, functional upgrades. He said the mods aren't aimed at creating the most-powerful M400 around, as that would probably end up hurting its driveability. Instead, he chose proven bolt-on parts. Yee has had almost all of the tuning done by TurboHoses of Livermore, California, which has established itself as one of the go-to shops for Noble service and performance. His car uses TurboHoses' larger intercooler with custom piping, and they also installed larger injectors, an upgraded fuel pump, the GReddy blow-off valve, and a custom 3-inch exhaust system.
Yee said a stock M400 dynos at 350 whp, and his car measured 400 whp before the exhaust and intercooler were installed. With some fine-tuning of the ECU, he'd expect to see 425-430 whp. So plug in the 2,337-pound weight Noble claimed for the car and you're looking at less than 5 pounds for every horsepower at the crank. That explains why a stock M400 can clock 0-60 mph in the low-3-second range and scoot down the quarter-mile in around 12 seconds, give or take a few tenths.
In addition to the straight-line performance, Nobles have also been lauded for their handling. Yee said his M400 feels just as precise and flickable as the lighter Elise, but because it weighs about 300 pounds more, it also feels more stable. He added 20 mm of width to the contact patches on the front corners by going to 245/40-18 Nitto NT-01s and 10 mm to the rear with 275/35-18. Handling was further optimized with a corner balance and alignment of the already capable Noble chassis.
As much as he likes the car's blistering acceleration and scalpel-sharp handling, Yee also likes being the only Noble at the many car shows he attends in the Bay Area, which oftentimes ends with him taking home the trophy for best exotic. With that exclusivity also comes the problem of getting parts. Noble stopped making replacement parts for the M400, and Yee heard that all of the old stock has since sold out. If anything from a body panel to a window regulator breaks, the owner's stuck with having the part fabricated. That's why he decided to preserve it instead of changing too much.
That hasn't stopped him from putting miles on it. Yee said he usually drives it five times a week, sometimes to work or for quick errands, but mostly in the twisties around the Bay Area, where's he's not afraid to cane it without mercy. It's raw and pure and free of computer-controlled minders that only detract from the experience. Maybe instead of the 3M matte blue, Yee should've wrapped it in a shade of green, for envy.
Tech Spec 2005 Noble M400
Mid-engine, RWD, 2-pass, 2-door coupe
3.0-liter, 430-whp (est), twin-turbo DOHC 24V V6, Garrett T28 turbos, TurboHoses custom intercooler, upgraded injectors and fuel pump, GReddy blow-off valve, 3-inch exhuast
six-speed manual, Quaife limited-slip differential
four-piston calipers, 13.0-inch rotors (f/r)
Upper and lower A-arm with Dynamic Racing adjustable coilovers with H&R springs, adjustable antiroll bars (f/r)
Wheels & Tires
Noble three-piece 18x8.5-inch (f) 18x10-inch (r) wheels, Nitto NT-01 245/40-18 (f) 275/35-18 (r) tires
3M Matte Blue Metallic wrap