Rare Rides: The 1996 Vector M12, an Elusive Supercar (Part I)

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1996 vector m12 an elusive supercar part i

Which elite-class supercar features the marker lights from a Miata, rear lamps from a Cavalier, and the steering wheel of a Mustang? There’s only one answer: The Vector M12.

The Vector Motors Corporation had a tumultuous history. Founded under the name Vehicle Design Force in 1971, Gerald Wiegert had a dream: to build an American supercar. Teaming up with an auto body expert, the company’s Vector showed up in prototype form at the LA Auto Show in 1976. In 1977 the company was renamed Vector Aeromotive and the first Vector design was scrapped in favor of a new one, the W2.

The W2 concept debuted in 1978 and was in working format by 1979. Tested by all the big car mags of the day, the W2 had a theoretical top speed of 230 miles an hour. And yet production never started, even though the lone W2 racked up over 100,000 miles on its odometer. Things went quiet for a while.

A decade later, Vector started actual production of an evolved version of the W2 called the W8. Under the wedged aerodynamic body was a twin-turbo small block Chevrolet V8, paired with an automatic Oldsmobile transmission. Hand-built, production of the W2 was slow, and an asking price of $455,000 kept many orders away. Between 1989 and 1993, 22 W8s came to fruition.

Vector developed a revised W8 called the WX-3 in the early Nineties, building two total examples. Around the same time, the company caught the eye of an Indonesian named Tommy Suharto. Mr. Suharto happened to be wealthy, and also the son of a dictator. He owned a company called MegaTech, which quickly purchased a controlling interest in Vector. Unwillingly under new ownership, the board officially asked Wiegert to step down from the leadership of the company he founded. He refused and proceeded to lock down Vector’s headquarters, which resulted in his termination.

MegaTech-owned Vector moved its HQ from California to Florida, as the Floridian building was still owned by former founder Weigert. There, Vector shared space with another company MegaTech owned: Lamborghini. Jointly, Vector and Lamborghini used the WX-3 as foundation for an all-new car, the M12. The new car was powered by the 5.7-liter V12 from a Lamborghini Diablo. M12 production began in Florida in 1995, and the new Vector made its debut at the 1996 edition of NAIAS.

Shortly after, it went on sale officially to an excited (or perhaps unaware) American public. But that’s not the end of Vector’s story; stay tuned for Part II.

[Images: RM Sotheby’s]

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2 of 17 comments
  • Brn Brn on Aug 12, 2019

    The looks have stood the test of time.

  • Flipper35 Flipper35 on Aug 13, 2019

    I would rather have a Diablo or a Noble M12 than this. The styling is a mish-mash. The prototype and W8 had character at least.

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