Canada is not exactly a mecca for exotic car creation. We're known more for our Corollas than Europe's Paganis, Bugattis and Koenigseggs. That is, until recently: First came Quebec's Pléthore LC-750 and now, almost out of the blue, the De Macross GT1, the first super sports car from upstart, Vancouver-based automaker De Macross Motors Corporation (DMMC).
Unveiled to the world early this year at the Multimatic headquarters outside of Toronto, the GT1 is no fly-by-night prototype, but a production-ready machine that hits all of the high notes expected of a hand-built, rear-drive super car: aluminum and carbon-fibre construction, an 800-plus horsepower supercharged V8 engine, a top-speed near 350 km/h and of course, a million-dollar price tag.
According to Hao Wang, Multimatic’s engineering project manager for the De Macross GT1 program, the Canadian company was approached just over a year ago by Korean businessman Jahong Hur about developing DMMC’s premiere super car. As part of South Korea's massive GS Group conglomerate, Hur has ties with everything from sports franchises and resort hotels to his Coquitlam, B.C. Power Air Corp., an alternative energy company with the global rights to develop zinc-air fuel cells.
"Mr. Hur has a huge passion for automobiles," said Wang, "but his businesses are obviously not automotive-related. He and an Alias designer in South Korea actually came up with the styling and all the intricate details of the GT1 about a year and half ago and then he searched for the best company to bring his dream to reality. He went around to places like Lotus and Porsche Engineering, but through some due diligence, chose us."
Why select this Canuck company over those household names? While it's true that Multimatic is largely off Canadian's car radars, the Ontario outfit has 25 years of experience engineering and manufacturing everything from parts for the major OEMs, to complete cars and purpose-built racing machines. It has a global footprint from Europe to Asia, with manufacturing partners in South America and Australia.
Multimatic has helped build the Shelby Series 1 and RUF CTR3 sport cars, plus handled the Canadian homologation of the famed Ford GT. On the motorsport front, it builds the Mustang Boss 302R for Ford Racing and won its class at the 2003 Rolex 24 at Daytona with a purpose-built prototype. Today, the company is partnered with none other than England's Aston Martin to build the carbon-fibre monocoque passenger cell for its million-dollar One-77 super car.
Hur asked Multimatic to build a complete, running prototype of his two-seater GT1 in a little over a year's time. A tight deadline by industry standards, but Wang said, "because it was all contained within Multimatic, we didn’t need to draw on outside organizations which traditionally slow the development process… part of the work was done in our UK office. It was a world effort. That's how we were quick and efficient.
"We had roughly 8-10 people working full-time on the project and about 30 people the night before I had to show the car to Mr. Hur," joked Wang.
Keeping the R&D internal also helped keep the De Macross GT1 largely off the public radar until it was ready for the street and racetrack. "Mr. Hur wanted his car to come out and be ready to go," said Wang. "People are doing a lot of specialty and show cars these days, but largely, they're styling bucks with nothing underneath… there's no substance behind it. Today the lifecycle of consumer products is so short, if you don't have something people can touch and drive right away, they loose interest. Buyers can drive this car within the next couple of months."
Like Lamborghini starting his own car company because he was unsatisfied with Ferrari's creations, the story goes that Jahong Hur launched the now-fledging De Macross Motors because he was disappointed with today's super car crop. An owner of "several" sport cars from the Testarossa and Countach era, he wanted a car, "usable both on the street and track, with maybe just a fraction more bias toward the track," that paid tribute to '60-era Le Mans racers with modern underpinnings (He also plans to add three more sports cars and an armoured vehicle to DMMC's lineup going forward).
Tasked with developing the aluminum-skinned De Macross "to dominate the world’s elite sports cars market," Multimatic designed the car's basic structure for low weight and with global crash certification in mind. The front and rear sub-frames, suspension and steering components are largely made of billet-machined aluminum, while the passenger compartment is a mix of alloy extrusions and carbon-fibre panels. Wang says the GT1 is an all-new design, but does admit that "a fraction," of the machinery to make the One-77's monocoque tub is used here, mostly because it makes sense to leverage the Aston's "millions of dollars in tooling, when we're talking about thousands in tooling for the De Macross."
Roush Yates Racing, which bolts up engines for top-level NASCAR cup cars - is providing the GT1's engine. The 5.4-litre supercharged V8 engine is mid-mounted and mated to a six-speed manual gearbox. It's expected to produce the aforementioned 800-plus horsepower, 700-plus pound-feet of torque, a 7,000 rpm redline and a 0-100 km/h run in the 3.5 second range. Wang says the aluminum engine is indeed based loosely on the powerplant from the Ford GT, but with unique components including the heads, crank and supercharger.
The GT1's suspension is actually a derivative of the system the Canadian company is supplying to the champion Red Bull Formula 1 team. The so-named ‘Multimatic Dynamic Suspensions Spool Valve dampers’ are mounted in-board and are four-way independently adjustable. The De Macross also wears active ride height control to drop the vehicle 28 mm (about an inch) at highway speeds to dial up downforce and stability. The car will even introduce an industry-first: a hydraulic anti-roll device to keep the car cornering flat and fast.
Wang says Multimatic currently has the space, equipment and manpower in place to build the production GT1, but is tightlipped on specifics for now. " Were not talking thousands of cars," he said. "It will be a small team of people hand-crafting and assembling the vehicles. Not more than 10 or 15 people. They will be built like our Daytona Prototype or Mustang Boss 302R racecars."
The Multimatic team is heading to Florida in March to begin fine-tuning the car's dynamics on-track, but will return to the True North, Strong and Free once the snow disappears. The company has a long-term relationship with Calabogie Motorsports Park west of Ottawa as a location for homegrown vehicle development work.
De Macross will likely begin sales of the GT1 towards the middle of this year through what Wang describes as a "one-on-one type of sales and delivery process you'd expect from this caliber of car."
The on-sale date will coincide with a world tour to introduce the globe to Canada's newest super car.