The Venturi story goes back to the 1984 Paris Motor
Show where nestling in a corner under an unknown 'Godfroy' banner stood a
beautiful coupe. The Ventury (with a 'y') featured a space-frame
chassis with Peugeot 205 McPherson suspension, wrapped with a two-tone
metallic grey glass-fibre body work. At the rear was a humble 120bhp VW Golf GTI engine.
It went down a storm with press
The Ventury was the brainchild of two passionate car designers
Gérard Godfroy and Claude Poiraud. Both had been working with the major
French car manufacturers and had become colleagues at Heuliez, the
Funds were raised by
Hervé Boulan (the future MD) and on 25th September 1985 MVS or Manufacture de Voitures de
Sport was founded. Godfroy
and Poiraud managed to attract some of the best French designers and
technicians and the MVS team settled down in the workshops of 1980 Le
Mans winner Jean Rondeau. Rondeau would play an important role in
developing the first rolling prototype, before being tragically killed
in a road accident in December 1985.
While the body work had been designed from scratch, most other parts
were sourced from the mainstream car manufacturers' parts bin: front and
side screens from the Renault Fuego, Citroën CX rear view mirrors,
Mercedes 190 single arm windscreen wiper, R5 Turbo front blinkers and
rear light clusters from the old BMW 3-series.
Because it was MVS' intention to produce a 100% French product an
alternative had to be found for the VW engine. Given the mid-mounted
architecture and given Boulan's insistance of at least 200 bhp they
ended up with the Peugeot 505 turbo engine. Thanks to a Danielson kit
this 2.2 litre power plant delivered necessary 200 bhp at 5,700 rpm and
delivered 206 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm.
From four to six cylinders
For the development of the preproduction car MVS talked to ex-racing
drivers such as Mauro Bianchi and Jean-Pierre Beltoise. Their advice
resulted in a new suspension lay-out with double wishbones at the front.
Other weak points concerned the brakes and not unimportant, the crude
Along the way in developing a more up-market sports car, the
unrefined Peugeot four cylinder was dropped in favour of the more
refined 2.5 litre V6 from the Renault R25 Turbo. This V6 was itself the
remainder of an obsolete V8 project that was killed off by the 1973 fuel
crisis; hence its rather unusual - for a V6 that is - 90° layout.
While still developing 200 bhp at 5,750 rpm, maximum torque of 214
lb-ft was now available at only 2,500 rpm. The R25 gearbox was mounted
at the very back of the engine, unlike the Alpine with which the MVS
shared the engine. The new V6 turbo engined Venturi (by then with final
'i') made its public debut at the 1986 Paris Motor Show. Other updates
included a leather interior with wooden dashboard insert, new five spoke
alloy wheels and twin tail pipes. At a later stage the single piece
engine cover would be replaced with two separate lids, thus creating an
engine bay and separate (mini) boot. All these modifications meant that
the Venturi had gained weight and its 1,280 kg was 430 kg in excess of
the 1984 prototype.
The Venturi was now ready for production and this necessitated more
space than the corner of the Rondeau workshops. In early 1987 MVS moved
towards new premises in Cholet, some 100 miles from the Le Mans circuit.
By June 1987 the first customer could take delivery of his car and
production reached four cars a week. The French journalists started to
compare the Venturi with the Ferrari 328 and Porsche 911 Carrera, but
with an acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds and a top speed
of 152mph, the Venturi was still a bit off the pace. Road testers still
complained about the harsh ride and the far from perfect road holding.
The car also suffered from sudden turbo impact above 3,500 rpm and major
turbo lag. But Venturi owners just loved their cars and seemed to be
prepared to forgive these 'minor' details. By the end of 1987, 52 cars
had been built.
1988 was another Paris Motor Show year and for its third Motor Show,
Venturi caused quite a stir. In addition to a new non-turbo V6 coupé
with 160 bhp, the real novelty was a brand new convertible, the Transcup.
The unique fabric-less hood consisted of a TVR style three piece
detachable hood. While both central parts could be taken and stowed away
under the front boot lid, the rigid rear panel with glass rear screen
would incline and fold away horizontally. Alternatively, the rear
section could be left in place to create a Targa. The Transcup was
available with both engine options. It was costly to produce though
taking 500 hours to build compared to 350 for the coupe.
Typically of the sports car buying public, Venturi customers called
for more power. Though a Lyon dealer had previously offered a kit
raising power to 250 bhp, the factory remained indifferent to the
We would have to wait until 1989 for the arrival of the first
officially upgraded Venturi: the 2.80 SPC ('sans pot catalytic' -
without catalyst). The Renault turbo engine was enlarged to 2,849 cc by
EIA who also reworked it from the inside to develop 260 bhp. Even more
important, the 2.8 V6 now delivered 296 lb-ft of torque at an incredibly
low 1,750 rpm. Externally the SPC could be recognised by its roof
spoiler and lowered suspension. Total production of the 2.80 SPC
numbered 60 cars, before it was replaced by the 260 APC ('avec pot
catalytic'). Power output was identical though at slightly lower revs
and smidgen higher.
A new name
In 1990 Venturi benefited from a minor face-lift, consisting of new
side sills and a deeper front spoiler. In that year the name MVS was
dropped in favour of Venturi and the cars on the Paris Motor Show
proudly beared the new company logo: a red oval with a silver grey eagle
on a blue background.
In 1991 Venturi moved once again to new premises, this time to
Couëron in the Nantes region and close to the Loire borders. 1991 was
the year Alpine launched their new A610 and Porsche their fabulous
Carrera RS 3.6.
Venturi's response consisted of the limited edition Atlantique 260,
basically a stripped 260 APC. With the air-con, radio and spare wheel
trashed and bucket seats and carbon fibre dashboard added, the
Atlantique's weight was reduced to just 1,110 kg.
Externally it could be recognised by the lowered suspension,
magnesium coloured alloy wheels and distinctive blue body work. Still
powered by the 260 bhp 2.8 litre V6 turbo, the Atlantique would
accelerate from 0 to 60mph in 5.2 seconds and reach a top speed of
167mph. Only 25 Atlantiques were produced.
Another variations included the Venturi 210 powered by a detuned 2.8
litre V6 turbo and some 2.0 litre cars for the Italian market. These
were powered by the Renault 4 cylinder turbo engine of 180 bhp
originating from the R21 Turbo.
|In 1992 Venturi embarked upon a more aggressive
marketing strategy, reflected in an extended motor racing program. This
eventually lead to the establishment of a joint Venturi-Larousse F1 race
team and the creation of a one-make racing series, the Venturi Trophy.
From 1993 Venturi focused on the renewed GT championship formulas and
developed several 500 bhp and 600 bhp GT racers for the Le Mans 24 hours
To celebrate their successful Le Mans debut of 1993, Venturi marketed
a limited edition 260 Le Mans. Technically identical to the 260, the 260
LM featured white 17 inch magnesium OZ wheels, while the body work was
painted in the colors of the seven Le Mans racers.
In the mean time the Venturi Trophy (later Challenge) had taken off
from 1992. The Trophy was a gentlemen drivers arrive and drive
championship, at the heart of which was a new purpose-built race car,
also named Trophy.
The Trophy's carbon-fibre and Kevlar body work was clearly inspired
by the Ferrari F40, though still reminiscent of the original design. The
lengthened space-frame chassis had a long wheel base with an extra 10 cm
and widened track. The Trophy measured 4.12 metres and 1.95 wide, some
25 centimetres wider than the regular road car.
Venturi summoned EIA once again for the development of a full-race
engine. They opted for the new generation 3.0 litre V6 24 valve power
plant from the Peugeot 605/Citroën XM. Heavily reworked and with twin
turbochargers added, EIA's engine produced a whopping 408 bhp at 6,000
rpm and delivered 383 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. All this power
passed through a limited slip differential to meaty 18 inch wheels shod
with 235/40 and 285/35 Michelin MXX road tyres. Exclusive and expensive
carbon 330 mm brake discs all round provided stopping power.
The fastest French production car
The Trophy gave birth to a road-going spin-off, the Venturi 400 GT.
The latter was officially presented in 1994 by Venturi's new owner,
Scotsman Hubert O'Neill who had bought the company in March 1994.
The 400 GT was basically a converted Trophy race car, complete with
407 bhp twin turbo engine, full roll-cage and massive 18 inch wheels. It
even inherited the carbon discs, thus becoming the first production car
equipped with such brakes. Still the GT's cosy cockpit was clad with
25m² of leather.
No wonder it easily gained awards for the most powerful and quickest
French production car ever. In attempt to push the first French road car
over 300 km/h, Echappement magazine stranded at 293 km/h (182mph). The 0
to 60mph sprint took 4.6 seconds. Sold at £90,000 the 400 GT's provided
an interesting alternative to the Italian supercars of the day.
Atlantique 300 and Biturbo
O'Neill would turn out to be an extremely dynamic manager and spurred
Venturi into showing a brands new car at the 1994 Paris Motor Show.
Designed by founding father Godfroy, the new Atlantique 300 had been
developed in a record time of six months. Based on the Trophy's long
wheel base, the new body work provided for a logical evolution of the
ageing original 1984 concept.
The Atlantique 300 stood on new multi-spoke 17 inch alloys, while the
engine and gearbox came from the new 3.0 litre V6 24 valve Peugeot/Citroën
units. Both an atmospheric version (of 210 bhp) and a 281 bhp
turbocharged version were put on sale.
Coincidentally Venturi presented their new GT when Renault withdrew
the Alpine from the market to make way for new Renault Sport products,
such as the future Spider. This should have paved the way for a great
future but Venturi found itself already in a critical situation.
|Too much attention to motor racing, slowing sales figures and
subsequent overstaffing had put Venturi into bankruptcy. In May 1996 the
Thai group Nakarin Benz took over from O'Neill and a founded a new
company: Venturi Paris S.A..
The new owners focused primarly on continuing production of the 400
GT and Atlantique 300.
In 1998 they additionally presented a upgraded version of the
Atlantique 300, the Biturbo. Following the Renault Safrane Biturbo, the
new Venturi would become the pinnacle of the normal road cars.
Atlantique 300 BiTurbo
Thanks to two small Aerodyne Dallas turbochargers, the 3.0 litre V6
now pumped out 310 bhp. When Performance Car put the Biturbo against the
Lotus Esprit V8, they concluded that "it's a more relaxing car
to drive, its tidier dimensions make it easier to place, it rides more
smoothly, generates far less road noise, and has a much slicker
gearchange. It' better built too". Praise indeed.
|Unfortunately the Biturbo came too late as it could not prevent
Venturi from going bankrupt again in January 2000. Once again a willing
new owner was found. In September 2000 Monaco resident Gildo Pallanca
Pastor bought the Venturi Paris S.A. assets and part of the production
Pastor has the intention to turn the Venturi into an even more
exclusive sports car as he foresees an annual production of only fifteen
cars. At this rate it will take quite a while before the 1000th Venturi
will see the light of day, because so far no more than 700 cars have
Though MVS, Venturi and later Venturi Paris S.A. have been producing
Venturis for a mere decade and a half, they have secured their place in
the sports car history. Born from the dream of two men, the modest
Ventury prototype has evolved into the brutal 400 GT and refined
Like many a sports car manufacturer, Venturi's path of life is
characterised by joy and despair, success and drama and above all
frequent changes in management (many of which have not been dealt with
The mad 1992 F1 adventure undoubtedly jeopardised the chances of a
sound future. But the most important reason for Venturi's bad luck have
been the slowing sales figures, explicable by the Couëron's company
history - or rather its lack of history. For anyone challenging
Stuttgart's or Modena's finest needs a thorough pedigree and proven
track record in order to attract more than just the odd individualist
looking for an exclusive sports car.
||Let's hope the Monaco built Venturis will take the brilliant GTs far
into this century.