In spite of its long-ish ancestry, the F400 really is 'new' thanks to Ginetta input
The F400 project -to be renamed with a 'G' when it's launched later this year - has progressed miles since Lawrence Tomlinson bought out the optimistically titled Farbio Supercars Ltd in 2010. And judging from the boss's comments, there's been a bit of frustration along the way.
LT was a gnat's away from completing a buyout of TVR from Peter Wheeler when 'the Russian' hove into view in 2004, and his acquisition of Ginetta shortly afterwards was perhaps an indication that here's a man who needs to scratch when itched. And the way Lawrence tells it, the purchase of Farbio verges on the impetuous: "I spent ten minutes in the car, and I thought the potential was so great that I didn't want it to die."
But you don't get to one-hundred-and-something in the Sunday Times Rich List by acts of wanton carelessness with cash (well I didn't... Ed), and LT isn't the sort of man to let problems stand in the way of his next success story.
Other Ginetta team members describe the project as 'Lawrence's baby', and say he's intimately involved in its development on a daily, if not hourly basis. And all this while a handful of existing Farbio buyers wait eagerly for cars they thought were ready for sale two years ago. Ginetta has promised to honour their orders, but LT won't release anything until he's happy, an approach he reckons will ultimately ensure those critical first owners will be happy too. Hang the cash flow.
So the new Ginetta version has a 3.7 litre Ford Cyclone V6 (as per the Mustang) nestling in its re-engineered metal tube chassis. But Ginetta's investments at HQ mean its got the company's bespoke dry sump, reworked cylinder heads and various other tweaks from the G55 racing car, which in turn means you'll be able to buy any state of tune from an entry-level (and road legal) 300bhp-ish to a thoroughly naughty 470bhp. (Should anyone insist on applying 'track only' options to their road car.)
So what's it like? The well-used development hack we tried is naturally a bit rough around the edges, and there's still some work to be done finessing the ride and handling. But first impressions around a coned circuit on the Elvington airfield were, well, impressive.
For starters, having just been forced to borrow a shoe-horn and a tub of Vaseline to ease my burly 6'4" frame in and out of the G40R (it's all right once you're in, just a bit tricky getting there), the amount of room in the F400 was astonishing. You sit low with your legs comfortably outstretched, and even tall drivers won't find their knees knocking on the steering wheel like Walter Rohrl in an early 911.
Like the G40R this car isn't about ultimate performance numbers, unless weight and not horsepower is your thing. But you can instantly feel the lightness, balance and agility inherent in a chassis which carries several hundred kgs less mass than a Porsche 911. There are no performance figures available yet, but LT reckons something under six seconds for the 0-60 sprint and a 160mph maximum. Like the G40R, the stats belie the pure undiluted pleasure to be derived from a machine like this if it's well set up.
The development mule is nearly that - there's a slightly longer steering arm on the way to reduce effort at the wheel, and a programme to tweak spring and damping rates is underway. When the work is signed-off, and if the target of £68k can be met, it's going to be an intriguing prospect for drivers looking for an alternative to the merry-go-round of ever heavier, and ever more powerful supercars on sale today.
Such low volume suggests the F400 is a stepping stone to greater things, but although LT admits to already thinking about the car's successor three or four years hence, he's sanguine about where Ginetta is headed.
"In 10 years I'll be happy if we're selling 150 road cars and another 150 race cars, if we're successful and financially stable, and if everyone's proud of what we're doing. We're not into world domination," he says. Except on the race track, perhaps, where a Ginetta G55 with the F400's (470bhp) engine will soon be available with a full GT3 aero pack - for roughly 1/3rd of the price of a Ferrari 458 racer. At this rate, Lawrence might even surprise himself.