Elfin looks to the UK with its new T5http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/MiniSite/MiniSiteArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=59509&vf=28&MiniSiteID=132
Steve Colquhoun, drive.com.au, December 8, 2008
The Australian Elfin brand has big ambitions with its new T5 sports car, which could be headed to the UK .
Sports car manufacturer Elfin has unveiled an ambitious plan to establish a lucrative export market for its newest model, the Type 5 Clubman, in Britain.
In a plan akin to selling ice to the Eskimos, or cars to Detroit - which its close ally GM Holden is already doing - the Melbourne-based niche manufacturer wants to sell the distinctive open-wheeler back into the country from which the road-track special originated, where the variant still
attracts a passionate following.
Elfin this week rolled out the T5 to the media, explaining it was designed as a 21st century evolution of the open-wheel Clubman-style sports cars produced by Lotus, and by Elfin themselves, from the late 1950s onwards.
The T5 is a departure from the two V8-powered Elfin models the company has sold since 2004. It features a cutting-edge design while returning to Elfin founder Garrie Cooper's ideal of bolting a small but potent powerplant into a lightweight, agile chassis, suited for enthusiastic driving on
both track and road.
Elfin general manager John Clark said he envisaged up to 65 of the 100 T5s Elfin planned to build next year could make their way to British owners. Elfin has secured an ultra low volume compliance certificate, which allows it to register 25 T5 Clubmans per year in Australia and sell up to 500 to overseas markets. Another 10 Clubmans are expected to remain in Australia as non-road registered track cars.
"Export is the huge potential for this car, we're looking at 65 per cent of the cars per year will go to the UK, and 35 per cent will stay in Australia," Mr Clark said.
Elfin, owned by Scotsman Tom Walkinshaw, will look to leverage off the English base of sister company Walkinshaw Performance, which has a strong presence in the performance tuning and aftermarket sector. A third Walkinshaw company, Holden Special Vehicles, exports one of its
vehicles to the UK where it is sold as a Vauxhall VXR8.
"We've already got some interest from Germany and US as well. In the initial phase we're concentrating on the UK because this car is right down their alley," Mr Clark said. "It's definitely got the potential to get into that market and then we'll work out where it goes from there."
Elfin also chose the media launch to roll out its pricing strategy, with the entry-level T5 at $64,950 undercutting its main rival in Australia, the Clubman-based Caterham Seven SVR 200, by more than $40,000.
The T5 Clubman is fitted with a 2.0-litre turbo engine with direct injection and variable cam timing. It produces 194kW at 5300rpm and a hefty 351Nm from 2500-5300rpm, which flings the lightweight 760kg body from standstill to 100km/h in a Porsche 911 Turbo-matching 3.9 seconds.
The engine is the same one fitted to GM models including the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky, and reinforcing Elfin's strong Holden links are several components pilfered from the VE Commodore parts bin including the steering rack and column, differential and brakes. Mr Clark
explained this ensured good accessibility for parts, as well as Commodore-like levels of reliability and durability.
While the base model gets fabric seats, 16-inch wheels and black gauges in an abridged dashboard, the $72,950 alternative gets leather trim, 17-inch wheels, a performance limited-slip differential, a full dashboard including yellow gauges, projector headlamps and black body highlights.
However, Elfin said any combination of options was possible and it would work with the customer to include - or strip out - whatever the customer wanted.
Since photos of the car were released last month, Elfin has taken deposits on three cars, with a further seven customers in advanced negotiations and 250 expressions of interest lodged at the recent Sydney Motor Show.
"In Australia it's got quite a good response," Mr Clark said. "We had owners of old PRBs and Westfields talking to us, even some motorbike owners, and a lot of women have showed interest in it."
Elfin will next year further investigate a plan to produce "component cars" - providing the car to customers in kit form which they can assemble themselves to save money.
"We are looking in the future at a style of component car that people could build themselves if they wanted to,'' he said. ``We're also looking at a 2.4-litre naturally aspirated version of this engine that would better suit a build-at-home scenario, driven by the complexity that comes with fitting turbos and intercoolers.''
Mr Clark said Elfin would supply full technical support and guide customers through the process of gaining ADR approvals should they wish to road-register their vehicle.