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It is called the FR1 and is being shown for the first time in public at the Melbourne Motor Show.
But the FR1 is not just a car. It is also a dream machine, a window on the future of motoring in Australia, and the first step in the creation of a major motoring foundation to educate the next generation of industry professionals.
The FR1 is a 21st-century hotrod which has been hand-crafted from advanced materials after a research program led by some of the sharpest brains in the motor industry, including design gurus at GM Holden.
It shows what can be done today but is also intended as a teaching tool for the Auto Horizon Foundation, which was created to nurture the FR1 and future projects.
The project has been under way for almost seven years and will reach its peak, after a likely European show tour, when it is auctioned.
The auction is expected to take place next year with proceeds to be divided between four already-selected local and national charities.
And that’s how the project got its name — FR1 stands for fundraiser No.1.
Insiders joke that it is really the Tanti Coupe, named after its creator Brian Tanti. He has been the driving force from day one, tapping his own deep well of creative talent and the high-profile contacts he has developed as curator for the world-class Fox Collection museum of classic cars at Docklands.
“The creation of the FR1 came about because
I felt we needed to make a statement about
the work that can be done in Australia,” Tanti says.
“I was responsible for the draft architecture but it’s the end result of some very skilled people who have contributed to it. So far we’ve had more than $2 million worth of time donated to the project.”
The FR1 looks a little like a Chrysler Prowler, but Tanti says that is just because of its roots.
“I was influenced more by the generic hotrod architecture which goes right back to the 1932 Ford roadster,” he says.
But there is nothing historic about the mechanical package.
The engine is a 6-litre Chevrolet V8 designed to run on E85 ethanol fuel and with the same active fuel management just fitted by Holden to its V8 Commodores.
It has a six-speed manual gearbox from a Ferrari 355 tucked under the tail, with a lightweight transaxle, fully-independent suspension and anti-skid brakes.
“It’s a mid-engined car with two seats. It has a very low centre of gravity,” Tanti says.
The chassis combines carbon fibre with aluminium. Tanti says it is a fusion which creates one of the world’s first examples of a carbon-fibre spaceframe chassis.
The display at the motor show will be built around the FR1 and will include the steps through its creation, from the original mathematical modelling to sketch renderings, a buck used to create the body skin, a full-size clay model of the cabin and a one-third exterior model.
The plan is to highlight the work, and the various skills, needed to create a car in the 21st century. The aim is also to show how the work of the Auto Horizon Foundation and the Automotive Centre of Excellence can be integrated with the motor industry.
“We’ve had lots of support and input,” says Tanti, who names more than two dozen people, including Jeff Edwards, Rob Walker, Jesse Diephuis and Harsha Ravi from GM Holden’s design team, Russ Gallagher and Brad Dunstan from the Victorian Centre of Advanced Materials and Manufacturing, and Rob Veitch from computer graphics company Delineate.
Tanti is not making any special claims for the FR1, although he expects it will have a 0-100km/h sprint time in the three-second range with race-style grip on a track. It will be finished later this year but not certified for road registration.
“We built the FR1 as a concept car. You could put it on a track and drive in anger, but it won’t be road registered,” Tanti says.
The timing of the project is still not finalised, as more money is needed to complete the car
and there are likely plans to display it at future Frankfurt and Detroit motor shows.
But Tanti is solid on the role of the FR1 and the Auto Horizon Foundation.
“It’s a snapshot of where the industry could be and what the Automotive Centre of Excellence can be delivering in the future,” he says.
“ACE is about industry and technology partnerships. We’re working with automotive suppliers and manufactures and tradespeople in the industry to deliver this project.”
And there is more to come from Tanti and the Foundation.
“We’ve got a few irons in the fire. We’d eventually like to build a full-on electric sports car.”