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September 16, 2009 - Autos

Robert Eckaus
Tramontana: The street-legal Formula 1 car from Spain!

I've never been to Spain, but they tell me it's nice there, and so is a very special car. I've always liked the song, but I had no idea a supercar hails from Spain until a few days ago. I didn't make it to Pebble Beach where it happened to be during the Monterey Weekend so when I got a call from Mr. Tom Connors to take a look at the Tramontana at Club Auto Sport, I jumped at the opportunity.

This street-legal Formula One styled car is a very interesting concept that at first reminded me of part McLaren F1 and part Ariel Atom. The pictures hardly do it justice. It's an open wheel car with fighter plane cockpit style tandem seating for two. The "R" edition makes 720hp from the Mercedes sourced twin turbo V-12. This isn't a stretch considering the SL65 Black Series makes 670hp from it's twin-turbo V12. But what is astonishing is this is in a vehicle that weighs less than 2800lbs. Check out the specifications here.

a.d. Tramontana is a European company located in Spain. According to Tom who is representing Tramontana here in the states from a sales and marketing perspective, the engineering pedigrees includes Mercedes and Lamborghini and company principals are both enthusiasts and engineers. The idea is to offer an exclusive and unique boutique vehicle with extraordiary performance and the purest driving experience. Priced at $700,000, it offers a better power-to-weight ratio than a Bugatti Veyron. It isn't about top speed though. It's about a perfectly balanced driving machine with no shortcuts, customization, and a central driving position a la pure race cars. It is also a two passenger race car with air conditioning, protection from the elements and a 6 speed sequential shifter.

Some questions remain such as weight distribution and how much downforce the bodywork and aerodynamics create. Once can guess the mid-engine layout and tandem seating makes it nearly optimal. Of course, how fast is it? Of course with 720hp it can exceed 200mph, 202mph is the offical number for the R model, and that is with a limiter. That isn't what it's about though. How fast can it turn a lap is the bigger question. And of course, for drag racing fans, what kind of ET and trap speed? Or the increasingly popular 60-130mph time. The company says the 0-60mph time is 3.5 seconds. That is average among supercars and this one is particularly light. The Saleen S7 might be the best comparison, running 10.9 @ 140mph. Think sportbike or race car, not passenger car.

Walking up to the car you realize the higher-than-expected height is to simply allow the passenger headroom under the canopy. The lines really are sleek when you realize this car has a 120" wheelbase, the same as the big two-ton Chrysler 300. A longer wheelbase means greater stability since isn't as prone to rotating, which translates to spinning and losing control. The cooling ducts are huge on each side which is why it looks bulbous in photographs and yet in person, looks proportionate. Also, this allows for side impact protection between the axles. The cockpit canopy is another unique feature. With a push of the remote, the canopy releases from the rear and with a swoosh of pneumatic shocks and rotates forward allowing entry. It looks every bit like a fighter jet design but this one has support pillars lined in leather with contrasting stitching. Getting in and awkward step up and over the sill since there is no door. Remember, this is just like a Formula 1 car scaled up for creature comforts. Once settled into the comfortable and contoured seat, you notice the F1 style steering wheel with a flat bottom and no top bar. The speedometer and tachometer are computer graphics while the others are actual gauges.

The first concern of how tight it would be was alieviated once sitting. Plenty of leg and shoulder room, with A/C controls on the right side and audio controls on the left. The sequential shifter rod was within easy reach with nicely machined buttons. Although it isn't meant for running to the grocery store or a road trip, the creature comforts are important. Lowering the canopy took both hands in and felt a little awkward on the wrists due to the angle. It requires force to latch shut and the inherent desire not to harm it by slamming it shut meant it took me three attempts. Hey, I didn't want to break it! Again, it isn't about hopping in and picking up some milk. Speaking of which, there is a storage area on each side of the cockpit behind the driver's seat. It looks like a gallon of milk can fit there. So your backpack for the gym might fit, but your kid's bag better not have too much homework and text books in it. And the rear seat, like many small coupes, is useless for a human if the front seat is all the way back. But if the buyer brings his intended passenger to the factory, this would be considered, I assume.

Once the canopy is closed, you notice how high sides are and the view outward has the distraction of the forward supports. Keep in mind this car is supposed to be tailored to each owner. The way this one was set up, I could still see the top edges of the front wheel fenders but thought I was too low. The view dictated looking far ahead. I had to keep in mind that fighter pilots make due, don't they? There is also windscreen option instead of the canopy to really give that open wheel, open cockpit experience. I can only imagine how fun, or scary, that must be. I'm told the sequential shifter only requires the clutch to be used for 1st gear. And doesn't require full-throttle to select the next gear, unlike a Porsche GT3 Cup Car. After that it's strictly the lever activation for shifting gears. For an in-depth explanation how this works, click here.

Tom demonstrated how the suspension lowers the car to 3.34" for track duty and raises to 5.31" for getting to said track. Plenty in my book! The engine sounds performance oriented; definitely street legal to my ears vs. an all-out race car. I also noticed the exhaust pipes exit at out of the top bodywork near the back of the car. Again, very unique and rather cool.

The traction control has 4 positions. Taking an educated guess from having experience with a 3 position system, it would probably be "full-on" for wet and safety issues, "full-off" for the least intervention, "sport" for a little tire-smoking fun and "race" for the least intrusive possible.

There is so much more to this car to learn about and how it all integrates. Click here for more company background and Q&A. It's fascinating to learn about it and to see how it evolved from the photographs. The Tramontana could easily be cast as a car for Batman, or even the villain's car in a Batman movie. With a goal of only 20 cars per year, I wish them success. And beyond that, some significant accomplishments on the tracks in Europe and the US. A sighting on a public road wouldn't hurt either.

Got a question about cars you would like answered? Performance, racing, modifying, shopping, makes, models, events, etc? Ask me here: AskRobAboutCars@gmail.com and I'll do my best to answer your question and publish it here on soakonline.com!

Keywords: Tramontana, McLaren, F1, Ariel, Atom, R, Edition, SL65, Black, Series, Bugatti, Veyron, Saleen, S7, Monterey
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