Project 818 wows SEMA crowd

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At only 818kg, you could put a cotton sail in Factory 5’s new Project 818 and it would be quick.

For the American replicar manufacturer which produces a Ford Cobra, ’33 Ford coupe and a unique mid-mounted V8 sportscar, this latest project departs tradition in a few new directions.

Factory 5 sells most of its cars to Americans who are on the high mileage side of mid-life and probably on their second wife. It’s a generational market and the Project 818 appeals to a younger buyer and a more international buyer.

Or, as David Smith president and owner of Factory 5 said: “The two numbers that work for a younger buyer are $9990 and 818kg. And we figure the Project 818 can be assembled complete with Subaru WRX drivetrain for about $15,000.”

Revealed as a concept at last week’s SEMA aftermarket show in the US, Mr Smith claims he’s already taken more than 100 pre-order deposits for the Project 818 with deliveries beginning in June 2013.

The structure is designed to be light and low-cost, using a steel tube chassis and as many Subaru components as possible. The exterior skin in prototype is composite with a coloured gelcoat.

“For $15,000, we don’t expect the buyer/builder to paint the car. Instead we’re looking into producing thermoformed plastic panels in a wide range of colours,” said Mr Smith. “That will keep the build price down.”

Engineer Jim Schenck created a tube chassis that can easily be adapted to left-hand or right-hand drive depending on the country of build. That’s almost expected from a rear-engine chassis; the international approach to the project is in the selection of the Subaru drivetrain.

Subaru sells the WRX in North America, Australia, Asia and Europe, and in all those places its likely you’ll be able to find the remains of a WRX whose owner had a big-bang moment.

And his bang is your buy. From the salvaged remains will come the boxer engine, transaxle and driveshafts, hubs and wheels, front and rear brakes, intercooler, door handles and latches, front seats, side mirrors, steering column and steering wheel, and ECU with sensors.

“We decided on the Subaru WRX boxer engine and transaxle because of its low centre of gravity, standard performance plus the aftermarket is full of high-performance parts.

“And one other reason: we looked at registration legislation in our export markets and know the Project 818 will be easier to register if we chose running gear from a car available in that market,” said Smith. “Export sales are important to the Project 818.”

Let’s face it, the Subaru DOHC boxer as either 2.0-litre EJ20 or 2.5-litre EJ25 is a stout engine. With the right aftermarket parts, it easily and reliably tops 290kW. Criticism points to the fragility of the early five-speed manual transaxle and stubborn shift of the later six-speed transaxle.

Do the maths and basically at 818kg with around 190kW (standard tune), Factory 5’s dollar to weight to kiloWatt ratio looks very attractive. Being rear drive puts the Project 818 at brilliant.

Words & photos - Todd Hallenbeck

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