High-tech low-cost Mexican Sportscar

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August 5, 2008 One of the most interesting debuts at the British Motor Show was the Mastretta MXT, the first car to be designed and built in Mexico, and it promises to make it’s home country very proud indeed. The mid-engined, two-seater coupe uses aircraft construction techniques to create an ultra-lightweight 900kg car with bonded aluminum semi-monocoque chassis, a balanced 56-44 weight distribution with a turbocharged 240 bhp Cosworth engine supplying the herbs. The end result is a 150mph car with a power-to-weight ratio of 267bhp/tonne. The best bit though, is the price - UKP33,000 (US$64,500).

With an ideal weight bias and just 900 kilograms to push, stop and turn, we’re expecting great acceleration, great braking and great handling as standard. Though the first model will run on gasoline, a CNG-burning variant is currently in development.

Named after its designer Daniel Mastretta, the car is purposefully reminiscent of classic Can-Am racing cars. Its muscular shape - a wide body with narrow but roomy cockpit, high front wings and low nose - are integrated into a fun, user-friendly package. “Unlike some MXT competitors, it’s easy to get in and out of this car,” Mastretta says.

“Initial drawings of the car were like slashes on the page and these lines are integrated into the design of the car you see here today,” Mastretta says. “I was trying to evoke emotion with the MXT. It has a dynamic tension that I believe drivers will love.

“We have a passion for design in transportation which goes back for 20 years and that is fundamental to this car. It looks fantastic, but there is function there too. Great aerodynamics and low weight combine to maximise performance and handling and the low nose and high wings which enclose the wheels allow the driver to place the car very precisely on the road or track.”

Functional scoops and vents front and rear are either air intakes or to cool the engine bay, while effective aerodynamics provide great stability on road or track.

The MXT interior provides a direct sports car feel but is warm, modern and surprisingly spacious. It offers good visibility and well thought out ergonomics, which are essential for comfort and performance.

The level of the care and consideration shown to the environment in this car’s design is ably demonstrated by looking at how the MXT is constructed -- in modules. This not only cuts the time and money involved in the construction process, but will reduce the cost of repairs and of waste materials in the garage.

This unique, rear wheel drive two-seater’s 2.0litre turbocharged Duratec engine is a collaboration with Cosworth and develops nearly 240bhp pushing the MXT to 60 mph from rest in less than 5.0secs. Direct racecar feel comes through rack and pinion steering – just 2.8 turns lock to lock. And 293mm ventilated brake discs with ABS as standard, slow the car with eye-popping power, when necessary. The MXT has double wishbone suspension all-round with an anti-roll bar at the front.

Constructed from bonded aluminium, the semi-monocoque chassis features aircraft style technology. Closed mould techniques sculpt the distinctive body from high quality fibreglass. Low weight, structural integrity, safety and design flexibility were the main design parameters for the MXT chassis development. The main chassis elements are built from aluminium extrusions and box section and the floor is a carbon-fibre/aluminium sheet sandwich. All these elements use epoxy structural adhesives to bond them.

Supporting the engine, transaxle and rear suspension is a chromoly square tube subframe and an energy-absorbing crash box is mounted just ahead of the front axle. (Chromoly is a steel alloy -- Chromium Molybdenum – this type of tubing is light weight and very strong, and is ideal for constructing race car chassis and roll cages.) Completing the safety picture is the rear substructure and roll bar of Chromoly 4130 tubing. The composite centre section of the body is bonded to the chassis with polyurethane adhesive and bumpers, doors, hood and engine lid are moulded composites.

The air-conditioned interior is leather-trimmed with supportive bucket seats and three-point seatbelts. Electronic driver instruments can be switched between road and race modes and there is an MP3 sound system.

The Mastretta MXT was designed around the Vehicle Certification Agency type approval certification process and all production cars will meet VCA guidelines.

Lifestyle Automotive is the company licensed to distribute the cars in Europe and company boss Tom Martin is confident of success with Mastretta MXT.

“Customers who place orders at the show will be able to register their cars in May next year,” he says. “The Mastretta MXT on display at Excel 22 July - 3 August is the penultimate prototype,” Martin says. “We should complete VCA testing by October and RHD production, which is limited to 80 cars in the first full year, will start by January.” “We needed to create a great car because Mexico has no tradition of sophisticated sports car manufacturing,” says company boss Carlos Mastretta. “It is most important that our customers are delighted by the new MXT. That’s what we aimed to do from the first drawing of the car, but we also want to make our country proud of the MXT and to show the world what we can do.”

Daniel and Carlos Mastretta designed and developed the MXT at Tecnoidea SA de CV, a transportation design company with 20 years experience in the field of specialized vehicle design, based in Mexico City.

Technoidea takes vehicles from the pre-design concept stage through development to construction and to date the company’s mainstream work has involved commercial vehicles. However, the MXT is its latest small-volume automotive project. Mastretta has developed and built component cars for clients in the US and Japan, as well as a small volume production of its first sports car, the Mastretta MXA.

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