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Thursday 5th September 2013

Zenos Project E10 - exclusive

Heard the one about the new British sports car company? Not this one...



If Zenos Cars is a name you haven’t heard before those of the people behind it may sound a little more familiar. Ansar Ali, ex-Caterham boss, is the best known of a team combining expertise from across the British sports car industry and now looking to strike out on its own with an all-new product, revealed exclusively here on PistonHeads.  

Chassis components arrived just the night before
Chassis components arrived just the night before
Now, at this point your ‘seen it all before’ meter is probably starting to twitch. But having had a peek at the basis for the Zenos’s first test mule it’d seem there’s more to this project than most. Especially with today’s confirmation the firm has won funding from the Niche Vehicle Network, backed by the Technology Strategy Board, Office for Low Emission Vehicles and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Starting with the Project E10, the Zenos business plan has been thoroughly costed and thought out before leaving the drawing board. The basic recipe looks familiar; it’s an Elise-proportioned, back to basics and roofless sports car with clear track pretensions, a c. 200hp mid-mounted, transverse 2.0-litre engine driving the rear wheels and a target kerb weight of 650kg for a power to weight ratio of over 300hp per tonne.

The Ford-supplied engine is a direct-injection, normally-aspirated unit that’s effectively an Ecoboost without the turbo and badged in some markets as a Duratec HE Ti-VCT. A generation on from the familiar HE420 Duratec used by Caterham and others, it has the same oversquare dimensions and revvy nature but also features variable valve timing. More powerful supercharged variants will follow but for now Zenos is keeping it simple. Think something along the lines of a Lotus 2-Eleven, Vuhl 05, KTM X-Bow, a modernist Seven or Ariel Atom and you’re on the right path.

Basic ergonomics decided with wooden buck
Basic ergonomics decided with wooden buck
Thing is, those cars already have their niches and the Zenos is going to need a USP to stand out. That comes from a neat and cost-conscious design based around an extruded aluminium spine with a tub and bodywork made from recycled carbon sheet sandwiching a honeycomb of … chopped down McDonalds drinking straws. Sounds bonkers until you learn it costs a tenth of ‘regular’ carbon and can be manipulated, joined and shaped as required. It might not have the bling of beautifully aligned weaves and sumptuous resins but there’s a pleasing unpretentiousness and cleverness about the Zenos approach that entirely suits the car’s role.

Hence the name, a combination of ‘zen’ and ‘os’, the latter derived from the latin for bone. Every day’s a school day and all that.  

Everything is designed to be easily replaceable too so although the wheels are fully enclosed they’re in effect covered by individual mudguards rather than large clamshells that won’t cost a fortune if you have an off at a trackday. Likewise the chassis’ simplicity means even a really heavy shunt won’t break the bank and write the car off.

Recycled carbon saves weight and costs
Recycled carbon saves weight and costs
At the time of our visit the Zenos existed in two forms – the freshly assembled mule chassis based around a fabricated prototype for the extruded ‘spine’ and a wooden buck for checking seat and control positions, shimmed up to represent the ride height of the mule once on its wheels. Pinned on the walls around both were print outs of detailed CAD drawings while boxes of tyres, wheels, springs and two crated engines awaited installation into the first prototypes. The sense of anticipation was palpable, all three of the team red-eyed but buzzing from an all-nighter to assemble the mule chassis for our visit.

Zenos has the backing of some serious industry suppliers too, nearby Multimatic providing much of the development and parts supply muscle primarily from Ford. And today’s announcement of a government funded grant from the Niche Vehicle Network to support the R&D work on the innovative chassis design gives the project real momentum and technical credibility.

And PH will be there every step of the way too. More on this in due course but Zenos is keen to involve the target audience in the development of the car. And that’s where you’ll come in. Watch this space.

Dan Trent
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NDT

Original Poster:

1,521 posts

148 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Interesting.
I would guess that their target niche is "lighter than the Elise, less rabid (and cheaper) than the X-bow and Atom)"
Would like to know the target price as this will be critical...

V8 FOU

1,362 posts

32 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
For the right sort of price, could be a winner. Sounds like it could be good with a non turbo engine plus simple construction, light weight etc.
Still needs to be very different to the 7's of various guises...

Chicane-UK

3,477 posts

70 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Let me know when they want an average punter to give it some driver feedback! wink

4a4

211 posts

20 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Ahh, Mr Zenos and Mr&Mr Vuhl both likey the look of the Elise chassis - non?

Like the central spine idea. I wonder how this affects rigidity and side impact implications. Does your spine get crushed against the car's spine?

renaultgeek

428 posts

33 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
I hope its got some regular car useability, that you can leave it parked somewhere or take it on a weekend away (packing lightly of course)
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Miura Anjin

48 posts

46 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
No THAT is a modern day Elan.
Take heed Lotus, take heed.

PhilJames

232 posts

78 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
The Lotus backbone chassis and Ally tub combined. Both types of chassis used by Lotus during Mr Ali's time there.
Seems like a good idea in principle and well proven with steel and glass composite as used in the Esprit and Elan throughout their production history. This car design is like a celebration of Lotus engineering achievements.

Not sure any significant cost will be saved with recycled carbon, it's not the carbon cloth that is expensive it's the tooling and laminating process that's expensive. Using an inferior cloth (non engineering cloth) would require more carbon material and resin to achieve the same strength; therefore increasing weight and cost.

Edmundo2

547 posts

95 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Sounds great. Make it really good looking with a good noise and basic practicality and it could fill a gap nicely - if it's sub £30k

mybrainhurts

77,523 posts

140 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Zenos Big Mac, eh..?

Greg_D

5,029 posts

131 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
That's the 'relatively' easy bit done, it will be in the detail that the devil lies

I wish them luck though. It will be very interesting to see what they plan to put on these reasonably promising bones

loudlashadjuster

1,151 posts

69 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Refreshing to see a startup effectively launch themselves with something other than an aspirational rendering.

Start with the basics, aim low and keep quality and purpose forefront whilst targeting a sub-Elise price smile

Then admit near first sales that the price will have to be >50% more than initially envisaged, decimating the potential market and relegating the product to a niche player frown

Hope my pessimism is unfounded.

BoRED S2upid

10,620 posts

125 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Edmundo2 said:
Sounds great. Make it really good looking with a good noise and basic practicality and it could fill a gap nicely - if it's sub £30k
Needs to be very sub £30k in my book more like £20k.

Be interesting to see what it looks like in the flesh.

annodomini2

5,079 posts

136 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
It will all boil down to price and how many they can make.

Tartan Pixie

735 posts

32 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
PhilJames said:
Not sure any significant cost will be saved with recycled carbon, it's not the carbon cloth that is expensive it's the tooling and laminating process that's expensive. Using an inferior cloth (non engineering cloth) would require more carbon material and resin to achieve the same strength; therefore increasing weight and cost.
I don't think this is a case of simply using different cloth with the standard process for carbon fibre, it looks like a different process altogether that happens to have carbon in it.

Would be really interesting to hear more about what they are actually doing with those cut up drinking straws to turn them in to a car, because that shot of the cutaway piece looks like something you'd insulate a house with, not build a car from.

sunsurfer

250 posts

66 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Sounds great. However it is starting to look like all minute scale car manufacturers are going down the same route of light, two seat performance convertibles. I've no objection to that - I have/had many of them.

This market is already filled with Lotus, Ginetta, Ariel, Caterham etc. and most look like they're just scratching a living. Perhaps Ansar Ali and company can sit down with a blank sheet of paper and ask "what would the public want in a small scale car that is not provided by the big companies?"

I don't know what the answer would be but perhaps...
A real modern interpretation of the mini - small, seating for four and less than 600kg
A simple rugged 4x4 that is not a Range Rover wannabe

nckr55

135 posts

100 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
sunsurfer said:
Sounds great. However it is starting to look like all minute scale car manufacturers are going down the same route of light, two seat performance convertibles. I've no objection to that - I have/had many of them.

This market is already filled with Lotus, Ginetta, Ariel, Caterham etc. and most look like they're just scratching a living. Perhaps Ansar Ali and company can sit down with a blank sheet of paper and ask "what would the public want in a small scale car that is not provided by the big companies?"

I don't know what the answer would be but perhaps...
A real modern interpretation of the mini - small, seating for four and less than 600kg
A simple rugged 4x4 that is not a Range Rover wannabe
This. I often wonder what a modern mid/rear engined light, compact 2+2 would be like. It would for one thing have a genuine niche to differentiate from the ultra-impractical track days only crowd.

Think Posrsche 901, reimagined. Then your market sector is people currently buying second hand 911s (and maybe Evoras) or new hot hatches as a daily / track day car. Under £30k and as usable as a TT (in terms of size, space, pace) - but lighter & simpler.

Hellbound

2,238 posts

61 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
nckr55 said:
This. I often wonder what a modern mid/rear engined light, compact 2+2 would be like. It would for one thing have a genuine niche to differentiate from the ultra-impractical track days only crowd.
You've just described the next gen Renault Twingo (and next gen Smart ForFour iirc)

Hellbound

2,238 posts

61 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Just give it a dash and interior made from recycled wood pulp and hemp and sell them at Ikea for £5k.

bigmouth

Edited by Hellbound on Thursday 5th September 13:47

sunsurfer

250 posts

66 months

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Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
nckr55 said:
This. I often wonder what a modern mid/rear engined light, compact 2+2 would be like. It would for one thing have a genuine niche to differentiate from the ultra-impractical track days only crowd.

Think Posrsche 901, reimagined. Then your market sector is people currently buying second hand 911s (and maybe Evoras) or new hot hatches as a daily / track day car. Under £30k and as usable as a TT (in terms of size, space, pace) - but lighter & simpler.
Nice, I like that. Maybe there is a market for something semi-unique and special that has all the usability of a TT.

framerateuk

1,437 posts

69 months

[news] 
Thursday 5th September 2013 quote quote all
Looks great to me!
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