The Forgotten British Icon: A Look Back At The Spectre R42

The Spectre R42 is a forgotten British icon. Instead, many believe it to be the Supercar that established Britain in […]

Spectre R42

The Spectre R42 is a forgotten British icon. Instead, many believe it to be the Supercar that established Britain in the world of high-speed automobiles. 

When one thinks of buying and owning a supercar, the first country that comes to mind is Italy, which happens to be home to some of the most prestigious and renowned supercar makers like Lamborghini and Ferrari. Apart from Italy, sometimes even Germany is considered as it is automotive with leading brands like Mercedes and BMW. Generally, people look towards British cars as a status symbol, and only niche customers buy them. Vehicles like the Land Rover and Jaguar ooze class as they are one of the most comfortable and luxurious ones out there. 

Back in 1994, one British company decided to take on the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari by building a Supercar from scratch and what they ended up creating was the brilliant Spectre R42. Although the vehicle was targeting the European market, it had a heavy resemblance with the American Ford GT, and with just around 23 units ever produced, it happens to be one of the rarest Supercars out there.  

Birth Of A Legend 

Spectre wanted to build a race car that is street legal, which explains that it is super low to the ground and yet has a lot of leather and wood on the interior. There is a common misconception about sports cars that they are super hard in the suspension setup, but the truth is they have excellent body control, and the Spectre R42 has stellar dynamics. 

By placing the engine far forward and the passenger compartment towards the back, the vehicle has very neutral handling and does not under or oversteer in any driving condition. By having a lightweight construction, the vehicle also has an excellent power-to-weight ratio allowing it to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 4 seconds, and three decades ago, this was considered an incredible number. 

A Fire-Breathing Powertrain

Powering the Spectre R42 was a 4.6-liter V8 engine source from Ford. The engine had a power output of 335 HP, and it sent power to the rear wheels primarily with the help of a 5-speed manual gearbox. This engine was also doing its duty in the Ford Mustang Cobra edition, with a top speed of close to 175 mph. 

An Iconic Racing Design 

Coming to the design of the vehicle, it looks like a Supercar from every angle but what is astonishing about the Spectre R42 is that it is crafted primarily out of parts borrowed from other automobiles. The vehicle was designed by Ray Christopher, who happens to be the designer of the Ford GT40. The four-time Le Mans-winning car does have a striking design and is perhaps one of the best vehicles to come out of the Ford factory. 

Before the final production version of the Ford GT was launched, there were hundreds of sketches and prototype designs which all led to the inspiration behind the Spectre R42. Even the name of the vehicle R42 is inspired by Ford GT 40 as the Spectre stands 42 inches above the ground while the Ford GT40 is 40 inches off the ground. 

The R in the name stands for Ray Christopher, the mastermind behind this design. The design also stole some inspiration from the famous Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari 288 GTO. Considering only 23 units were made three decades ago, building a single model took nearly 2,000 hours as the vehicle was completely hand-built. To reduce production costs and save time, the manufacturer also borrowed parts from other ordinary cars, like the door handles and the pop-up headlamps that come straight from the Toyota MR2. 

The tail lights also happen to be borrowed from a Honda Legend. The air vents and some bits of the interior were borrowed from a Ford Fiesta. The framework of the car was primarily made out of fiberglass and aluminum, keeping the weight down and close to 2,000 lbs. The vehicle was also aerodynamically so efficient that it had a coefficient of drag of just 0.28, which was the best in its class. There was also a much more advanced and powerful version of the Spectre R42, which was named Spectre R42 GTR. 

The R42 GTR is the racing variant of the R42. Introduced at the 1996 London Motor Show under the ALCO-Spectre racing program, the car was built under FIA regulations to compete in the BRDG GT racing series and the 24 Hours of LeMans. The 4.6-liter V8 engine used in the road car was modified to generate a power output of 600 PS (441 kW; 592 hp) and was mated to a 6-speed sequential manual transmission. The car weighed a total of 1,000 kg (2,205 lb). 

Despite being scheduled to compete at the 1997 24 Hours of LeMans, financial troubles among the company forced them to abandon the project, and the car never went racing. However, the Spectre R42 will always remain an iconic British car that, even three decades after its launch, looks fresh and indeed a collector’s item considering the low production units and skyrocketing price tags.