Noble M12 GTO-3R & Noble’s Prize & 164 « Classic cars

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Noble M12 GTO-3R & Noble’s Prize & 164 « Classic cars
Noble M12 GTO

Articles: Noble M12 GTO-3R #8211; Noble#8217;s Prize #8211; 164

March 5th, 2008 by

Take a look through the specifications of the Noble M12 available for the first time in New Zealand and the impression you get is of a ‘bitsa’. However, Tim quickly discovered that the M12 GT03R is much more than the sum of its parts.

We’ve all tried it; it’s just that some have got further designing a super car that is. Perhaps it was only in our minds, or maybe we’ve scribbled ‘proper’ design sketches on a fag packet or serviette. Some may even have bought the running gear and laid it out on the floor of the workshop.

Many with the know-how have built their own car, but gone no further. Some have built a mock-up and presented it to the press, giving their creation the name of some long forgotten sports car, taken orders and spoken of a huge waiting list. A few have even gone so far as putting their whole livelihood behind their car, only to find a fatal flaw in the design, manufacture, business case or discover they have simply misread demand.

Very few sports car projects without a heritage ever get off the ground. Indeed, the concept of an ‘ideal sports car’ has put the skids under some quite substantial organisations.

Not a subject to be treated lightly then. It would be true to say that everyone’s idea of the ideal sports car is different. Lee Noble has been involved in a few of the above ventures himself, but has also been involved in some of the more successful.

Noble’s Ultima sports car was considered so good it was used as the prototype and test-bed for Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1, while being touted by many as the ultimate sports car. Noble has accumulated excellent credentials to venture into an enterprise like this.

Twenty odd years ago he could be found behind the wheel of a Lotus Europa at the front of the grid in production sports car racing, and he collected many notable successes along the way. Now the Europa may not have been a total commercial success, but in terms of handling at the time, there was nothing to touch it. A typical example of ‘great concept, poor execution’ by Colin Chapman.

Noble was clearly influenced by Chapman as his next project was a replica Lotus 23B, an early ‘60s sports racer that launched Jim Clark’s career, the Lotus-Ford twin-cam engine and a project that made the likes of Ferrari realise the engine had to go behind the driver even in a sportscar.

Noble’s 23B replica quickly earned him a reputation for exemplary fit and finish, selling over sixty examples and getting him into another market altogether; reproducing P4 Ferraris one of the most naturally beautiful sports racers ever and one of the few Ferraris to give Chris Amon any silverware. This replica was so popular, he sold over 250 examples before getting into the Ultima and Pro-Sport products. But this time, the concept was all his own.

The Pro-Sport had an F3000 engine and an upmarket race series all of its own.

The 372kW Ascari project was a qualified success; a supercar using Chev-power actually raced at LeMans, but Noble wasn’t happy with it and sold his interests in the company.

Lee Noble’s spell in the development of the McLaren F1 and the Ultima, as well as his own Ascari project, gave him one crucial advantage as he struggled to develop a car to carry his own name experience. He hasn’t wasted it. Noble has learnt his lessons and learnt them well, because if there is one thing the M12 GTO3R oozes, it is an ambience of experienced integrity.

Quite simply, the Noble is very much more than the sum of its parts. It has been designed, developed, manufactured and sold by someone who really knows what he’s doing, someone who knows the limitations and has kept well within them. In doing so, Noble has produced something that, while perhaps unexceptional on paper, clearly displays all the marks of having been touched by King Midas.

I am, and I’m not

Put it this way: if I told you that a car called Noble with a Mondeo engine in the back of a tubular space-frame would threaten Lamborghini, Porsche or Ferrari for desirability, you would think I was off my rocker. Well I am, and I’m not. There is only one danger with this enterprise and that is not enough potential customers will ever get their bums into the M12’s driving seat and that would probably be because of the name or, to be more precise, the lack of a known name.

Noble it sounds strong and British; has all the right intonations, but has no history whatsoever, and heritage has sold many a very ordinary motorcar.

In the same way Jack Brabham and Bruce McLaren once built their racing cars, Noble has followed the KISS principle, (‘keep it simple, stupid’) and the M12 possesses no technical marvels. Noble has not stretched the development budget on innovative irrelevancies, he just made a car that is thoroughly rewarding to drive, own and maintain. The Noble was not released to a hiss and a roar, just placed under some very influential and respected backsides.

Its reputation simply spoke for itself.

One Damon Graham Devereux Hill, who could ring up any manufacturer and get them to give him any car for free based on the publicity value, has just paid money for one. Noble guy, Noble car.

Esprit Eclipsed

The Noble fairytale almost sounds too good to be true and, just to give it some stark reality, the first car to carry Noble’s name nearly tripped him up. The M10 roadster was a perfect drive but a blot on the landscape. The M12 rescued the situation. Its styling may be slightly fussy, but it is photogenic and purposeful. With its deep, kerb scraping front air dam, massive 18-inch alloy rims and outrageous rear wing, there is little to doubt the Noble’s purpose.

Suddenly, that doyen of British super cars the Lotus Esprit V8 has been eclipsed by a young upstart! Having created a superb reputation among those who know, Noble has also been quick to take his project to a higher level with the 317kW (425bhp) M400. There is also the enticing prototype GTC a convertible M12.

In its short history the Noble has won ‘Specialist manufacturer of the Year’, while M12 won UK Autocar’s ‘Grip Challenge’, as well as best car in a group test with a GT3, M3CSL and TVR 350.

The upstart is now here in New Zealand, we have tried it, and we are, to say the least, impressed. Imported by someone who should know a Lotus competitor when he sees one, Roger Phillips of Lotus NZ, you can sign on the dotted line at his showroom in East Tamaki. Roger is now the official Asia Pacific representative for Noble Cars.

A sound move, Roger!

Noble M12 GTO

Our little secret

The Noble M12 GT03R feels more robust than any Lotus Esprit I’ve ever driven and easily matches it on agility and speed that shows the Noble in a pretty good light when comparing it with the best Italy or Germany can produce, and at a fraction of the cost.

With its deep, kerb scraping front air dam, massive 18-inch alloy rims and outrageous rear wing, there is little to doubt the Noble’s purpose

What it has in common with the Lotus is a definitive tactility missing from most super cars. This gives you total confidence in your steed and the surface it feels clamped down to. The ride is firm, but beautifully damped and this is where the M12 starts to outreach the opposition.

The development of the chassis and controls was so subtle and precise, the pleasure will be not just be in driving the car, but in the smugness of owning a little secret no one else has discovered.

One of the problems with keeping that secret will be the sensational growl from the Garrett T25 turbocharged Duratec motor; sheer bliss from inside and out, but at a volume that will not go unnoticed. There is nothing like the sound of an unrestrained V6 being given its head, and when the twin Garrets chime in, you are greeted with a full-blown array of orchestral effects as you rip through the Getrag six-speed cogs.

The M12 is not all mouth and trousers though. Weighing in at 1080kg and kicking out 475Nm of torque on its way to a power output of 262kW, the Noble has a very respectable power-to-weight ratio and puts that power down with authority. Noble claims a 0-100kph in under four seconds and it doesn’t have the traditional turbocharged mid-range whack-in-the-back that can unsettle the grippiest tyres while cornering.

Having made the point that the Noble is simple and light, without the driving experience being polluted by electronic or safety gizmos, it is important you don’t go away with the impression Noble has skimped on the M12. Sure, you can go to the Ford dealer and buy some of the controls and switchgear, but leather and high quality materials are elegantly used to cover the simple shapes of the roll-cage and interior panelling, and their wasn’t a single rattle within earshot.

The interior is also roomy for two and easier to get into than most super cars, but you either carry a passenger or luggage not both.

The M12’s steel space-frame chassis, along with the bonded and riveted alloy body panels, are made in South Africa of all places. No doubt the exchange rate keeps costs down and quality up. Completed body/chassis units are then shipped to Leicestershire in England for the heart and soul to be implanted and man, this car has soul.

Drifting the M12 through fast corners simply adds to the adrenalin burst of driving the Noble

The power starts way down low and just keeps on coming in one big rip-curl, allowing the driver to plant it out of a corner safe in the knowledge the turbochargers will help him face his destination rather than from whence he came. Part of this predictability is thanks to a Quaiffe torque-sensing differential which, like the rest of the car, is totally linear in its response, both through the controls and on the road. This allows the driver to challenge and reward himself in equal measure.

The Noble will both understeer and oversteer with some provocation, but the linear steering and throttle responses allow measured adjustments to the car’s balance that really inspire a keen and experienced driver. Drifting the M12 through fast corners during which it is remarkably composed and manageable simply adds to the adrenalin burst of driving the Noble.

Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
Noble M12 GTO
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