Steve Nichols, a past designer for McLaren Formula One MP4/4 from 1988, struck out on his own, forming a new company in 2017. No longer in Formula One, he turned his attention to road cars. In this, his first car, the Nicholas N1A, he brings the thrill of a late 60’s Can-Am car to the street, using the McLaren M1A as his inspiration.
There has been a rush to return a bit of retro to everyday driving through the return of manual transmissions. From plain Jane sporty cars, to ultra-exotics like the Pagani V12 now with an optional six-speed, driving enthusiasts claim that everything paddle shift is less engaging. I disagree, but that’s for a different time.
And from Peter Windsor: Video
Take a sunlit autumn day; add twisting country lanes; mix in Steve Nichols’ rendition of a McLaren CanAm car…and blend with an English country pub: these were the ingredients for a recent day in the life of the young Australian F3 driver, Bart Horsten. Quite a meeting.
And this is a different type of car, for a different kind of owner. The Nicholas N1A offers a racing machine for the street, a trend that’s just now gathering speed. The experience is analog, old school, unique, exclusive, expensive. Other small artisans are also designing ground up machines that are clean sheet designs, such as Gordon Murray’s T33 and T50, marvelous machines that evoke the past, but with a much higher performance.
When I was looking for a project to keep me amused in my old age, the idea of taking a fresh look at the very first McLaren, the “M1A”, had great appeal. Initially intended as a prototype but time and registered interest has meant pursuing it with the aim to turn it into a beautifully finished vehicle worthy of its, and my, McLaren roots.”
The Nicholas N1A’s build run is scheduled for 17 cars, all initially featuring a dry-sump 7.0-litre V8 General Motors LS3, a small block engine, though the block has been bored out here to a 427-cubic inch capacity, which makes it, uhm…a large block motor. The engine work is being performed by Langford Performance Engineering in Wellingborough, England, the shop that produced the Jordan 191, the car in which Michael Schumacher made his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix. From a stock 425 HP, Langford Performance Engineering has massaged the output to 650 HP.
An aluminum and carbon fiber chassis with an all carbon fiber body, the Nicholas N1A tips the scales at less than 2,000 pounds.Traction control is standard but ABS and power steering are options, (both of which I would want in any street car, with or without this much horsepower), all hooking up via Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, 19 inches at the front, 20 at the rear.
There was a time you could drive your car to the track, race it, then drive back. Who says you can’t go home again?