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Carrera GT-killing M600 ready?

2009-06-23 08:21
Despite Lee Noble’s acrimonious departure last year, the Noble M600 is still on track for 2009 delivery, besting Porsche's Carrera GT along the way.

The last few months have not been a happy time for Noble, probably the world’s most esteemed independent performance car manufacturer.

Lee Noble, the iconic founder and engineering genius behind the company’s lightweight, yet curiously refined and terrifyingly accomplished cars, has been sent packing, allegedly due to fraud.

Noble apologists say he was unhappy with the direction new management was taking the company in.

Whatever the reasons for Noble’s departure, his impeccable engineering pedigree has survived in principle with the company’s new M600, currently running through final validation testing.

As with its predecessors, the Noble M600 combines supercar styling with deft chassis design and is powered by a curiously sourced turbocharged engine – from Volvo of all people.

Current Noble boss Peter Boutwood has promised the market a strikingly pure performance car when it goes on sale later this year.

Driver aids will be conspicuous by their absence, with only traction control perhaps getting a look in. Brakes are modulated by the driver’s left foot, instead of ABS pulse hydraulics, for example.

Porsche Carrera GT tagged along for M600's recent American testing. Was left trailing most of the time by the detuned Noble M600 though.

Compact Volvo V8

Boutwood has made it clear his concern is targeting the industry supercar darlings (Ferrari’s F430 and Lamborghini’s Gallardo) with regards to performance. Factoring in the M600 is powered by a Volvo XC90 sourced V8 engine, one can only marvel at Boutwood’s optimism.

If one considers the XC90 V8’s architecture, you can see why Noble was so keen to use it though.

Despite a Volvo heritage this engine features radically oversquare dimensions (94mm bore versus 79.5mm stroke), which ensures uncanny revability.

The cylinder banks are also set at a 60-degree angle, instead of the regulation 90-degrees for most V8 engines, which ensures the XC90 V8 is rather compact, something which was a key packaging directive for Noble engineers.

Yamaha were consulted significantly with regards to boosting engine output. After adding twin turbochargers and applying their uncanny cylinder head and gas-exchange technology to the 4.4l V8, Yamaha managed to raise power output appreciably, from 232kW to 470kW.

Considering the M600’s bodywork is essentially carbon-fibre, power to weight numbers should compare favourably to most Italian exotics.

Driving through a six-speed Graziano gearbox (Noble doesn’t believe in paddle shifters or dual clutches) a prototype M600 has just completed an extensive testing schedule in America – which included a run trough Death Valley California, altitude testing at Pikes Peak in Colorado and five days of high speed track testing at Arizona’s Firebird Raceway outside Phoenix.

Eating Carrera GTs with in detuned form…

Running a detuned 367kW version of the twin-turbo V8 engine, M600 achieved a 325km/h top speed and out-gunned Porsche’s GT during a 0-160km/h acceleration run.

A British low volume supercar prototype (in right-hand drive no less) charging across America’s road network is hardly the best tonic for transatlantic relations.

Despite M600 being right-hand drive the state trooper still enquired at the left side window. Only in America...

Subsequently Noble says, in an epic example of British understatement, it would, “would like to thank the Colorado State Police, Colorado Park Rangers, Wyoming State Police, Wisconsin State Police, California Highway Patrol, California Park Rangers, Minnesota State Police and the Arizona State Police for their courteous restraint and kind forbearance.”

Dynamic handling assessments at Firebird Raceway were shored up by the presence of Ford’s GT, Ferrari’s F50 and the aforementioned Carrera GT. According to Noble the M600’s performance was a revelation in such esteemed company – but then, of course they would say so...

M600 will be built in Leicester and production limited to around 50 cars a year. Practically everything on the car, besides the Volvo/Yamaha engine and Italian gearbox, has been designed in-house - the way Lee Noble always wanted it.

It remains such a shame then, that the supercar Lee Noble was always destined to build, and carries his name, will not be unveiled to the world by his hand striking off the cloth covers at a key motorshow or media event later this year…

Currently it appears M600 will stay true to its British roots and only be configured in right-hand drive, which should leave Noble without a marketing presence in the world's largest performance car market - America.

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