Legendary race car engineer Steve Nichols has come out of retirement to launch a new supercar under his own name.
Revealed on Wednesday, the Nichols N1A tips the scales at less than 2,000 pounds and packs a V-8 punch.
Anyone who grew up watching Formula 1 during the 1980s and ’90s will immediately recognize the name Steve Nichols. The American engineer was influential in the design of F1 cars for multiple teams, though his greatest success is arguably the McLaren MP4/4 driven by Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna in 1988. The car won 15 out of 16 races that season. Nichols was chief designer for the MP4/4, though Gordon Murray, who was McLaren’s technical director at the time, tends to receive most of the credit.
U.K.-based Nichols chose another McLaren for inspiration for his N1A. The car is the earlier M1A race car that McLaren successfully raced in the 1960s, especially in the Canadian Sports Car Grand Prix, the forerunner to the Canadian-American (Can-Am) Challenge Cup. McLaren itself used the M1A as inspiration for a modern supercar, in this case the Elva speedster launched in 2019.
The Nichols N1A is much closer to the M1A in looks and ethos, with Nichols choosing the early McLaren racer as inspiration due to the car representing a turning point where future race cars would become largely undrivable on the road. According to Nichols, the M1A is among the last race cars that one could drive to the racetrack and then drive home at the end of the day.
The N1A’s chassis is a mix of carbon fiber and aluminum, and features independent suspension with double wishbones and anti-roll bars. Power steering is skipped to maximize feel but buyers can opt for the system should they desire. The wheels measure 19 inches up front and 20 inches at the rear, and are wrapped in Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires as standard.
The body features graphene-infused carbon fiber similar to what’s used on modern F1 cars, while the powertrain consists of a naturally aspirated V-8. Only the range-topping option has been confirmed, in this case a 7.0-liter V-8 that is based on General Motors’ LS3 small block but heavily modified by Langford Performance Engineering, a company that specialises in maintaining and restoring retired F1 engines. The estimated peak output is 650 hp.
The engine is mated to a 6-speed manual as standard but Nichols said alternative options will be available, without providing further details.
Inside, the controls are kept simple to enable the driver to focus on the road ahead. A special touch is the reclined seating position which is the same as in the MP4/4, giving drivers a chance to experience the same view enjoyed by Prost and Senna while out on the track.
Nichols plans to limit production of the N1A to a maximum 100 units. The first 15 will be a special launch model equipped with the 7.0-liter V-8. The number 15 was chosen as it matches the number of wins earned by the MP4/4.
Pricing information hasn’t been announced.
“Having experienced amazing racing cars over the decades, I’ve never been able to implement those quirky qualities into a road car, until now,” Nichols said in a statement. “The process from pencil to production model has been extremely gratifying; this should be a reminder to the entire automotive industry that combining the past, present and looking to the future, is the way forward for this entire community.”