My entire body is being assaulted. The acceleration I’m experiencing is so incredibly brutal that the only thing close to this sensation would be receiving multiple stab wounds. With every squeeze of the throttle, no matter which of the six gears this car is in, the force is relentless, unstoppable, almost evil. If I didn’t have a crash helmet on with my visor pulled down, airborne insects would become projectiles. Every gear change sends a violent shock through my torso and then, when I’m hard on the brakes, every organ in my body is thrown forward, trying to find some way out.
This is the Caparo T1, and while the Bugatti Veyron remains the king when it comes to top speed, this is the fastest accelerating road-legal car on the planet. It will see off 60 mph from rest in less than 2.5 seconds. Under braking and cornering it pulls up to 3.5g, which you’d normally have to be an aerobatic pilot to experience. If you’re fed up with the latest sports car being referred to as an F1 car for the road then look away now. Because that’s exactly what the T1 is. This is the real deal.
It’s not a new car, the T1. It was first driven and written about three years ago and it’s fair to say the reviews were mixed. While nobody was in any doubt about the Caparo’s formidable pace, it was the dynamics of the thing that were called into question. The problem was that the car was underdeveloped and should never have been given to any journalist until it had been sufficiently refined. At the very least until it could go around corners properly.
Three years down the line and I’m having my day. For once, a car manufacturer’s marketing material is right on the money. Nothing can prepare you for the take-off speed, the sales brochure says. All aspects of the car’s performance are instantaneous: acceleration, cornering, braking. But especially the acceleration. It distorts your perception of time and distance Couldn’t have put it better myself.
The secret to the Caparo T1’s incredible performance is in its power-to-weight ratio. Its V8 engine produces 575 hp, which is pretty average for a supercar these days, but it weighs just 1,200 pounds. Which means its power-to-weight ratio is double that of the Veyron. Which means driving it is rather scary. And you don’t even need to drive it to experience the ultimate four-wheeled adrenaline rush because there’s even a passenger seat in its cramped cockpit, slightly aft of the driver’s.
Caparo could well be the biggest company you’ve never heard of. That garden furniture you have outside the house? If it has steel components they could well have come from Caparo. The steel used to make the taxi you took a ride in may also have been supplied by them. Need ten million nuts and bolts for that skyscraper you’re building? Give Caparo a call and they’ll sort you out. Like many huge corporations, it has many different divisions, and when Caparo got to hear about a project being run by two of the engineers that brought the McLaren F1 to fruition Ben Scott-Geddes and Graham Halsteadthe company decided to back it and Caparo the automobile manufacturer became a reality.
They like to keep everything in-house if at all possible. So they bought the design rights to an engine initially developed by Menard for Indy Car racing. They bought AP, the brake manufacturer, too. So it’s fair to say that money wasn’t really an object in developing the T1 and the car’s design is a result of some of the greatest thinking in the business. There are no pretensions about it being a normal careverything is about shocking speed. There’s no trunk, nowhere to store anything at all apart from a pocket inside the bare carbon-fiber tub for your maps and driving license, not that you’ll hang on to that for long if you drive it on public roads. There’s a canopy available if you don’t fancy the fresh air experience, and it’s manufactured to aerospace standards. The car I’m in doesn’t have so much as a windshield.
In essence it’s the ultimate track-day toy, it just so happens that you won’t need to transport it to the circuit on a trailer. There’s no dashboard as suchjust a row of switches. The steering wheel is a bespoke racing item that needs to be removed and refitted just to climb aboard and it displays essential information like the gear you’re in, revs, speed, whatever you want. Behind it are two paddles to operate the sequential gearbox.
Climb inside, fix the wheel to the dash. Thumb the starter switch and the V8 erupts just a few millimeters behind your back, with a roar that tells you this is no namby-pamby cruiser. You need to use the clutch pedal for first gear but once you’re on the move it isn’t needed. What’s needed is a huge dose of bravado before you unleash hell.
My first experience is en route to an airfield where we’ve been granted permission to conduct some high-speed runs. You don’t so much sit in the T1 as lie in it. And this means you don’t get to see much of your surroundings. There’s no chance you’ll see the guy driving that truck you’re sharing road space with as the car is no taller than his tires.
Once the road clears I squeeze the throttle and BAM! The Caparo catches up with the rest of the traffic in a heartbeat. The world becomes a blur and it’s difficult to keep the nose pointed in the right direction because of the physical forces at work. There’s nothing to insulate the car’s occupants from the engine’s vibrations and every gear change results in a jolt that would have lesser cars disintegrating.
There are mirrors housed in the top of each front wing/mudguard and these also house the front headlamps. Rear lamps and indicators are LED items incorporated into the rear wing. It has adjustable dampers and you can raise the ride height to overcome uneven road surfaces, but that’s where concessions to real world usability end. There’s only one thing on the T1’s agenda: speed. Truly shocking speed.
I’ve driven a Veyron and while the power of that thing never leaves you, it’s an easy car to drive. In fact that’s the most impressive thing about it--it’s no more difficult to pilot than a GTI. In the T1, however, you’re totally exposed to the elements, which simply serves to heighten the feeling that you’re being assaulted. Don’t think that’s a criticism, though. It’s a life-affirming experience, one that never fails to have you reeling in shock, horror, and utter joy. It’s like sex used to be before you got married and everything went steadily downhill.
Speed this instant needs to be able to be wiped off in an instant, too. And the Caparo’s braking is almost as shocking as its ability to gather pace. That they decided to fit steel discs here must cast a shadow of doubt over the current obsession with carbon items because they are incredibly effective. When a car can reach 100 mph in less than five seconds, they need to be. The car’s wings and splitters generate colossal downforce and you can feel it being pushed harder onto the road the faster you go.
Reaching the airfield, things get even more hairy and the T1’s development over the past three years is obvious. It takes corners as if they aren’t there thanks to its revised suspension geometry, and its adjustable traction control gives it frankly stunning levels of grip. Turn it off and the T1 leaves longer black lines on the runway than a 747 could manage.
Those early critics have been silenced. The T1 can corner with supernatural tenacity, at least with the adjustable traction control fully on. There’s so much grip, generated not only through downforce, but by its humongous tires, that there’s no way it’ll come unstuck in the dry. Reduce the input of that traction control, however, and the things snakes around like a sidewinder, turning its rear boots into molten rubber. Which is fun enough but experiencing the g-forces at work when you’re giving it some is what it’s all about here.
The T1 is many things: pointless, irrelevant, impractical, expensive, noisy, brutal, unforgiving. But bloody hell it’s a thrill machine like no other and completely addictive. Many have said there’ll never be another McLaren F1 or Bugatti Veyron, that these cars are destined to be viewed as some kind of ultimate in car design. You can now add the Caparo T1 to that exclusive list. It’s utterly astonishing.
At just 1,200 pounds, its power-to-weight ratio is double that of a Veyron.
Longitudinal mid engine, rear-wheel drive
3.5-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve
Six-speed sequential manual
Fully independent front and rear
Ventilated steel racing rotors (13.9-inch front and rear), six-piston calipers (f), four-piston calipers (r)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 160.1/75.7/42.4
Wheelbase: 114.2 in.
Curb Weight: 1,200 lb
Peak Power: 575 hp @ 10,5000 rpm
Peak Torque: 309 lb-ft @ 9000 rpm
0-62 mph: 2.4 sec.
Top Speed: 205 mph (limited)