By on July 24, 2020

Ever hear of a sporting automotive manufacturer called Spectre? I hadn’t either, until I watched a very old Top Gear clip on YouTube in which Clarkson and some other people visit the 1997 British International Motor Show.

Intrigued, I decide I’d find one for sale. Turns out the listing I found was for the rarest Spectre of all.

The Spectre story started in the early Nineties, with replica car man Ray Christopher. Experienced in creating replica versions of the legendary Ford GT40, Christopher dreamed of maintaining the racing spirit of the GT40, but in an all-new sports car. He started design work in 1992, and by 1993 a prototype was ready for its debut at the London Motor Show. Shown by Christopher’s company GT Development, its new car was the R42. The name was an homage to the original GT40’s height.

With the advantage of modern technology and know-how, Christopher incorporated design elements from other exciting cars, namely from the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari. However, he mandated the proportions of his new car be similar to the GT40. The R45 which resulted was mid-engine, rear-drive, and fittingly was powered by a 4.6-liter Mustang Cobra V8 (350 horsepower). A five-speed manual was the standard transmission offering; a six-speed optional.

Though originally planned in carbon fiber, construction of the R42’s body was entirely fiberglass. The shell was mounted on a honeycomb monocoque chassis, with the subframe and roll bars made of steel. Overall length was just 162 inches, width 73 inches, and the height stayed very low at 43 inches.

Before the R45 could enter production, however, GT Development went into bankruptcy as the early Nineties economic recession took hold. Assets were purchased in early 1995 by GT Development’s former salesman, Anders Hildebrand. Hildebrand named his new company Spectre Motors Inc., and put the R42 into production four months later in Dorcet, England.

Between 1995 and 1998, the R42 was sold to literally some excited customers across Europe. However, at a cost of $172,000 (inflation adjusted), most buyers stayed away from a car with no pedigree, MR2 door handles, the tail lamps from an Acura 3.5RL, and interior components from a Ford Fiesta.

Over its four year run, a total of 23 R42s were sold. Hildebrand thought a more powerful car would entice more customers, which leads to today’s R45. While the R42 was still in production, the R45 was developed. The lightly reworked model featured a carbon fiber body, and the same 4.6-liter V8. Other details are scant, but it’s assumed more modifications would have occurred to the engine for greater power.

Two examples of the R45 were created: One an unspecified color, and the other painted yellow. The yellow one was shown in 1997 at the London Motor show, and Spectre made the claim that a full production version would debut at the same show in 1998. But Spectre was out of money, and closed up shop before 1998’s show.

What was left of Spectre were the two prototype R45s. The yellow auto show example eventually made its way to a dealer called The Hairpin Company in Wiltshire, just 59 miles from where the R45 was born. They listed it in 2016 for an unspecified sum, but the ad has since been removed. If you see a yellow R45 for sale in future, it’s most assuredly this very car.

[Images: seller]

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14 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 2001 Spectre Supersport R45, One of Two...”

  • avatar

    So, an off-brand take on a 20 year-old Ford design by a company that can’t afford to keep the lights on?

    I’ll take two please.

  • avatar

    “MR2 door handles, the tail lamps from an Acura 3.5RL, and interior components from a Ford Fiesta”

    If you’ve ever asked yourself why low-volume OEM’s do this, the answer is “Vendor Tooling”. To do plastic injection-molded parts you need steel dies (tooling) which cost money. The OEM pays the money up-front [usually] and amortizes the expense over each unit produced. Small production = huge per-unit amortization of vendor tooling. The cost of actually producing the part isn’t so high.

    The tooling is located at the vendor (plastic part supplier) but belongs to the OEM [often]. [If they go belly-up we get to go retrieve our tooling so that someone else can use it to crank out our parts.]

    (If you are bored on road trips, look at large motorhomes and try to identify the donor vehicle for the taillamp assemblies.)

    [If you are extra-bored during COVID, take apart a headlamp or taillamp assembly and count all the parts – may surprise yourself.]

    • 0 avatar

      Do you think advances in additive manufacturing will help alleviate this problem for low-volume producers?

      • 0 avatar

        Yes absolutely. You could make the parts using additive manufacturing (inner assembly), or you could make limited-run dies using additive manufacturing and still injection mold the parts (clear lenses).

        • 0 avatar

          @toolguy: Additive manufacturing is fantastic for a small shop. Didn’t Porsche just use it for pistons? I’m using it for robotics and it’s a gamechanger. I can work remotely with a mechanical engineer, print the part, then send back feedback for changes. All within hours. I’m even able to make changes myself. Some stuff, like bearing balls and some other hardware I don’t print, but it’s amazing what you can do. I can even print with various plastics embedded with either carbon fiber or metals.

          Low-cost additive printing also has the potential of producing some of the cheap plastic stuff you get at Walmart that’s currently made in china. My daughter sometimes sends me stuff to print like a dog waste bag holder for the dog leash. Normally, it would have been bought at walmart and made in china. Instead, it gets made in the USA. I think there’s a business case for small local shops that could produce these items locally on-demand and reduce trade with china.

  • avatar

    its late and im sleepy so ill use that as my defense my next comment but: that ting makes me think of the car that would have been if Ferrari made a second gen of the Testarosa. (yep i know i spelled that wrong…)

    • 0 avatar

      They did make one, it’s the 355.

      • 0 avatar

        No, the Testarossa has a flat-12 and the F355 has a less-powerful V8. Also they were sold at the same time.

        • 0 avatar
          Tele Vision

          I drove a Testarossa. I had it for an afternoon but returned it in less than an hour. Heaviest clutch I’ve ever had to use ( including Cat and John Deere stuff ); cars crowding us to take pictures; incredibly wide; and an overpowering smell of raw fuel. Oh, and tiny inside due to enormous sills. The Lady Friend hated it.

        • 0 avatar

          The next 12 cylinder mid-engine was the F-50, followed by the Enzo, then the LaFerrari.

          • 0 avatar

            @Tele Vision” Yeah, mid-engine exotic ownership can be a pain if you don’t like attention. They don’t seem to notice a front-engine as much, but mid-engines get a lot of attention. The worst is when someone passes you to get a look, then slows down to get you to pass for another look, then they repeat the process by passing you again.

  • avatar

    If anyone is bored this weekend and wants to see a former RR feature in action, Jay Leno made a video about his Monteverdi High Speed 375 a few weeks ago.

    Really cool “grand touring” car.

  • avatar

    Keeping that thing running might be surprisingly easy, what with the Ford engine.

  • avatar

    It’s very attractive from the front and front quarter. The back gives me an “ugly Koenigsegg” vibe though.

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