Cars

Matt Prior: the sad decline of supercar start-ups

It’s an extraordinary-looking car, an extraordinary departure for a company like Aston, whose previous architecture – the adaptable VH aluminium set-up – begat different models that both looked similar and did similar. 

Not this time. The Vanquish will arrive as a new kind of Aston. Whereupon it’ll compete directly against mid-engined cars from Ferrari, McLaren and Lamborghini

The rivals are all companies with, one way or another, billions of backing and decades of experience; each with thousands of people working millions of hours and spending billions of pounds in a race to compete for your affection and your money. 

Even then, two blokes who work in a shed will come along and say they can do it better. 

They won’t. Of course they won’t. Even if they make a car, it won’t be as good as the establishment’s, and as a result you won’t buy one. 

But is it me, or do there seem to be fewer and fewer supercar start-ups these days? There was a time when they’d be dotted around the Geneva motor show or dropping into my inbox every few months but, in the past couple of years, seemingly not so much. 

And while I’ve admired the optimism of such people, I’ve appreciated not having to read with growing disbelief about a new car that can do 300mph, constructed from a composite of crushed unicorn horn and the tears of fallen angels, developed by “engineers with decades of experience” and on sale in three weeks for the price of a Daihatsu Sirion. 

To succeed without the billions, it strikes me you have to do something the establishment cannot do, or is not interested in doing. 

And maybe that message is filtering out. Because it seems now the new start-ups are little companies gently tweaking existing designs, or offering resto-mods – fitting new mechanicals to old cars, with some wonderful bespoke craftsmanship on the way – or retro-fitting classics with electric drivetrains. 

The lovely thing about these is that they show more imagination, they broaden the motoring landscape, give other ways for people to enjoy cars, while the main supercar game gets slugged out in the background.

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