Driver's Seat: Mosler

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Ever wish you had the means to build the bespoke car of your dreams?

What if you could pick the engine, shape the body any way you want and have the interior custom-fit to your dimensions?

For successful bond trader and hedge-fund manager Warren Mosler, this dream has become reality.
In the early 1980s, dissatisfied with the offerings from such high-end performance car makers as Ferrari and Porsche, Mosler realized he had only two options: buy and modify an extreme-performance auto to suit his needs, or set about building a unique, personal super car that would satisfy his desires. He chose the latter.

After about 15 years of assembling, racing and further refining them, Mosler has released his dream car to the public -- and what a sweet dream it is.

(See it for yourself: The MT900S will be on view at the New York International Auto Show April 6 to 15.)

George Lucas, director of the Star Wars films and no stranger to improbable machines, took delivery of the first production Mosler MT900S in December at his ranch in California.

Lucas' black-on-black Mosler came with an interior custom-fit to his dimensions, just one of the highly personal options available on this super car. But even a look at what comes standard is enough to get Darth Vader's blood pumping.

The Nuts and Bolts
The Mosler MT900S is a midengine, high-performance two-seater designed using UGS three-dimensional modeling software.

It is one of the first cars completely modeled on this system, which offers a more realistic picture of how light will reflect on the final product as opposed to the traditional clay-form method.

The name derives from the desired final weight (900 kilograms) of the car, although it actually ended up a bit heavier.

Interested in keeping the car light, Mosler used carbon-fiber composites and Kevlar for the body and supporting structures, and, keeping true to the auto's racing heritage, he emphasized body aerodynamics over gratuitous vents or lurid swoops.

Power comes from General Motors' (GM) all-aluminum LS6 5.7-liter V8 engine, delivering 435 horsepower coupled to a Getrag six-speed manual transaxle transmission.

According to Car and Driver, an MT900S with optional supercharger can complete the 0-60 mph test in an astounding 3.1 seconds and finish a quarter-mile from a standstill in 11 seconds.

 A Terror on the Track  

For the uninitiated, what do all these numbers mean? Jill Wagner, vice president of operations for Mosler Automotive, says she has a hard time comparing driving one to anything she's ever experienced. "I imagine it's like flying a jet fighter with a stereo and AC," she says.

But the MT900S is not just a reverie for engineers and aspiring top guns.

There are countless ways to customize the car to your specs: A personalized carbon-fiber dash with any kind of gauge you could want, a full leather cockpit, an Alpine 12-disc CD changer/stereo with a lightweight subwoofer enclosure and an interior fitted to your dimensions are just some of the available options.

As Wagner puts it, "Within reason, we accommodate just about any customer request."

Need for Speed
Every dream has a beginning, and the MT900S is no different.

This super car has its roots in Mosler's early experiments with building high-performance racers to suit his craving for speed, as Wagner revealed to me in a discussion about this dream car's pedigree.

After forming Consulier Industries in Riviera Beach, Fla., just outside of West Palm Beach, Mosler began tackling the peculiar problems of building a new high-performance car from scratch.

Starting with the Consulier GTP in 1985, Mosler leapt the first hurdles on his way to assembling, racing and refining his dream car. The GTP competed successfully in a number of International Motor Sports Association super-car races, speeding ahead of such distinguished names as the Porsche 911 Turbo, Saleen Mustang and Corvette ZR1.

Unfortunately for Mosler's racing ambitions, however, the Consulier GTP was a little too successful. After winning numerous races, the IMSA banned the GTP from competition.

Despite this setback, a crucial point was taken from Mosler's success: weight is the enemy of speed.

Although the GTP's engine didn't equal those of many of its rivals, its 2.2-liter turbo with about 195 hp was matched to a light body weight. This combination handily bested its powerful, and heavy, rivals -- see Newton's law of acceleration: Momentum is the product of mass and velocity. This was a lesson carried through to the new MT900S.

Todd Wagner, director of engineering at Mosler, clarifies the design philosophy: "We really emphasize light weight. Other manufacturers may not watch their weight as much, so they have to add bigger engines to compensate. And the bigger the engines, the heavier the cars, so it becomes somewhat of a vicious cycle."

Obvious competitors to Mosler in the super-car market are Koenigsegg, Pagani, the Porsche Carrera GT and the Enzo Ferrari -- renowned cars crafted from composite materials. But there are three distinct advantages to owning the Mosler, as Jill Wagner points out: its lower initial price, light weight and cost of ownership.

A Koenigsegg CCX will set you back $750,000 and weighs in at 2,800 pounds. And that Porsche Carrera GT? It may seem a bargain at $450,000, but it's hefty at 3,043 pounds.

Conversely, Mosler's MT900S starts at $189,900 and has a fighting weight of just 2,500 pounds.

Cheap to Keep
Beyond weight issues, another benefit to the Mosler is the reasonable maintenance cost.

What happens when George Lucas needs to take his brand-new MT900S in for a tuneup?

Mosler purposely couples its exotic suspension and composite monocoque body with easy-to-maintain, proven mechanicals such as the LS6 engine -- the same one used in General Motors Corvettes since 1997. That means fewer trips to the shop -- and when you do have to take it in, any GM-certified technician can handle it.

Compare that with the costs of maintaining other exotics, such as the Enzo Ferrari ($72 per quart of oil, anyone?), and Mosler's MT900S begins to look positively cheap.

With specs like these, you can't afford not to buy one.

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