WCS popped into HR Owen’s swanky Old Brompton Road sales suite this morning, for a rare chance to grab a coffee and a ‘walk around’ of the spectacular £165k, 305bhp BAC MONO conducted by the men who made it happen.
Neill (engineer) and Ian (designer) Briggs of the Briggs Automotive Company were in town to promote their tie-up with the dealer group now responsible for sales and marketing of the giant-killing BAC Mono single-seat supercar.
A few years ago, people thought a hyper car was a massive beast of a thing that wasn’t even much fun to drive…
With 70-odd BAC Monos already delivered (to 29 countries), and 30 more on an eight-month waiting list, we had to ask what led the Briggs Brothers into the new distribution arrangement.
After all, the car has gathered rave reviews from mag road testers like our own Pembroke Player Steve Sutcliffe, and garnered global headlines along with the scalps of the Porsche 918 and McLaren P1 GTR during Evo magazine’s Anglesey Circuit track shoot out. Doesn’t it sell itself?
Well not quite. “Things were relatively easy when we started this project,” says Neill. “Our background meant the two of us were already familiar with design, engineering, and even manufacture. What we don’t know about is how to sell cars, and the HR Owen arrangement allows us to let go and feel we’re in safe hands. Letting go is the hardest thing to do as an entrepreneur, but it’s vital for us to be able to focus on other things.”
A little more probing reveals that focus turning to a BAC business plan with three key strands. First is the development of the Mono itself, and as well as the ongoing performance and tech upgrades you’d expect, there’s a strategy to homologate the car to EU low volume type approval specs. This should broaden its appeal by opening up new markets, and BAC expects to scale up production from the current (already profitable) build rate of 2 and a half cars per month to 5 or 6 before 2020.
“This car is what defines our brand so the Mono is BAC’s ‘911’ model if you like,” says Neill, “but another super high performance car with more than one seat is a definite possibility within five years.”
It’s early days, as according to Neill the team is just embarking on the first phase of its hypercar project, which means working out the essential parameters. These include a hybrid powertrain, while a closed two-seat cabin is on the agenda too. “A closed cabin will make the car more usable in wet climates, but also more comfortable in hot ones,” reckons Neill, who says the company is working on the details of what he says will be a ‘seven figure’ hypercar with the help an advisory panel of Mono owners – and potential customers for the new car.
Many BAC Mono owners are the sorts of collectors who already own McLaren P1s or Porsche 918s. “When we decided to go ahead and build the Mono, we already knew 10 or 15 people who would buy one, and that was our risk mitigation,” says Neill. “In five years we’ll have a few hundred happy customers, who will all be looking for the next big thing.”
As for the competition from the big guns like Aston Martin, McLaren or Mercedes, Neill is unfazed. “A few years ago, people thought a hypercar was a massive beast of a thing that wasn’t even much fun to drive. We can all see where it’s going now with the racing tech going into cars like the new Mercedes, and it’s hugely exciting. It’s creating an environment where more people understand and value the ultimate driving performance, and that’s what we’re all about.”
The third strand of BAC’s plan is an ‘alternative powertrain’ version of the Mono – or at least a car very like it, offering single-seater thrills and a similar level of performance. “Think Formula E rather than F1 hybrid tech,” says Neill. “Of course range anxiety is an issue for a battery powered road car, but if you’re taking a car to a track day it’s easy to imagine doing a few laps then stopping to analyse your race speed or rehydrate for half an hour while the car is on charge. It’s an area that’s definitely of interest to us.”
Again it’s early days, but on the back of the BAC Mono’s giant-killing success, who would bet against the Briggs Brothers putting more cats amongst the establishment pigeons? This is no McLaren-style assault on the supercar scene though, with production volumes in the 1,000s to scare Ferrari or Porsche. “We’ll always intend to be at the very exclusive end of the market,” says Neill. “A total of 120 cars a year is probably our limit.”