QUANTUM 2 PLUS 2
Graham Bell tests a sports car made from an old shopping trolley
If you're in the market for a low cost sports car that's both economical to run and practical enough to use everyday but can't afford new, think that MGFs and MX5s are too common and don't fancy left-hooking it in a Barchetta, then take a look at the Quantum 2+2.
This has been in production for about 10 years now, but the fact that it's a kit car guarantees it will always be a rare machine. And if you have any of those 'kit cars are crap' prejudices then pay attention because you obviously need educating.
Days of Old
The days of ropy kits with asymmetrical chassis and undulating wafer-thin glassfibre are now gone thanks to the demands of both the market and the SVA test, with the standards of many modern kit cars being on par with those of Lotus and TVR. And when you learn that the three Wooldridge brothers who conceived and originally produced the Quantum are all honours graduates in engineering and technology, hopefully you'll begin to appreciate the thought and design expertise that's gone into the car featured here.
Of course the SVA test has only eradicated dodgy kit car construction, not dodgy kit car styling, but again that's no problem with the Quantum. Personally I've always liked the Quantum's looks, and while it might not have the jaw-dropping impact of a Nova, Phantom or Ultima, it's a stylish machine that looks more production car than most people's idea of a kit car and certainly isn't something a Pistonheads reader would be embarrassed to be seen in. Unlike the car it's based on.
You see, underneath that sporty body you'll find the grubby bits from that boy racer's favourite, the XR2. Actually, any Ford Fiesta from 1983-89 will do, including both turbo models (RS and diesel) but most 2+2s - including the one tested here - are based on the XR2 because that provides the best combination of availability, performance and economy.
The Quantum 2+2 has been designed to take as many parts as possible from the donor Fiesta, which means not only the major mechanical components but also much of the interior and the plethora of necessary little bits such as door handles, locks, catches etc. This helps to make constructing a Quantum a virtual re-bodying exercise that largely consists of simply unbolting the bits from their old home in the Fiesta and then bolting them straight into their new home in the Quantum.
As with most kit cars, the Quantum's body is made from GRP, but there's no steel chassis underneath it, the 2+2 utilising a GRP monocoque with integral steel sill members, though the engine, transmission and front suspension are mounted to a steel subframe bolted to the bulkhead. And if you think that a car with no metal chassis has to be suspect in the strength department think again. With GRP bodies, doubling the thickness of a panel leads to an eight times increase in strength, and in critical areas such as the front bulkhead the Quantum's monocoque is up to 10mm thick - which is enough to make your average bit of pressed sheet steel look like a wimp.
Continuing Quantum's 'keep it simple to build' ethos, the 2+2's body is available with coloured gel coat (choice of six colours) to save builders the hassle and expense of a paint job. The staid dark blue gel of the car tested hardly adds any visual excitement to the 2+2's body, but it does help to show the high quality ripple free finish of the GRP panels, the alignment of which is virtually up to production car standards. Not surprisingly, red and yellow are the most popular choices of gel coat colour, though plenty of owners have opted for the wider choice offered by paint.
Moving to the inside now, and considering the Quantum's hatchback base, it's perhaps not surprising that its driving position is more saloon like than sports car like, with the seats being higher than in a 'pure' sports car, but from the comfort point of view that's no disadvantage.
Utilising the Fiesta's dashboard means you get all the benefit of Ford's work on ergonomics, along with a decent glove box and heating/ventilation system, and while its hard plastic finish might feel rather downmarket compared to that on new cars it is at least solid and helps maintain the production car look.
As you've doubtless twigged from the 2+2 tag, there's sufficient room in the back for a seat big enough to take two small children, though many owners simply use it as handy luggage space. Not that there's any shortage of that in the boot, which at a whopping 450 litres is larger than in most saloons and will easily take several good size suitcases.
On the Road
OK, so it's practical - but what's it like to drive? In short, very easy. Some specialist cars take a bit of getting used to, but the Fiesta base makes the 2+2 as user-friendly as a mass production saloon, which might detract slightly from the feeling of driving something special but does enable you to immediately feel at home.
In terms of performance, the Quantum is both lighter and more aerodynamic than the Fiesta, meaning any 2+2 will be both faster and more economical than its donor car, while an even greater performance differential is easily achievable thanks to the wide range of go-faster parts available.
As usual with tiny manufacturers, time with the 2+2 was very limited, but the twisty country roads around Quantum's Devon HQ provided an ideal test route for showing what it can do. Or would have done if the 30mph club hadn't been having their Bank Holiday outing…
Annoying at the best of times, but made even more so because of the test car's tuned CVH engine, firstly because it made it difficult to utilise the available performance, and secondly because of the engine's dislike for running at low revs - which is of course all the 30mph club ever use.
Opening it up
Whenever it was given the chance to get above 2,000rpm the 130bhp engine immediately perked up and propelled the Quantum's 800kg down the road quite smartly. Although there are no proper performance figures, improper ones say it should be good for 0-60 in around 7 seconds and 130mph, which along with the 40+mpg that goes with it ain't bad for a daily driver. Along the all too rare sections clear of the 30mph club the Quantum proved it could be hustled through the twisty bits fairly quickly without drama, and even first time out in the car and along unfamiliar roads it was totally confidence inspiring from the off.
Fitted with Quantum's special springs to compensate for the reduced weight, the 2+2 gave a comfortable ride without excessive roll and the whole car felt very solid with no discernible scuttle shake (and only a few rattles) over bad surfaces, confirming the strength of the monocoque.
With the 195/45x15 tyres fitted to the test car the unassisted steering did require a bit of muscle when stationary but was hardly heavy and soon lightened up once on the move, with the only real problem being that old front wheel drive bugbear of torque steer, especially when making fast exits from T-junctions.
Regarding stopping power, the Fiesta rear drums might look pathetically small (especially with 15" wheels fitted) but with the bulk of the Quantum's weight up front the discs do most of the work anyway, and with the Tarox discs fitted to this car the 2+2 slowed rapidly when called on to do so.
I can't vouch for how watertight the Quantum's hood is, but it's a doddle to use and there were no draughts or flapping noises even at motorway speeds with it raised, while driving with it lowered (but with the door glass up) revealed little wind buffeting.
In fact apart from the loud exhaust - which was distinctly unpleasant at low revs (much like the comments I was making about the 30mph club) but sounded better the faster you got - the Quantum felt very civilised and gave the impression it could easily be driven long distances in comfort.
If you use all the standard parts (wheels, tyres etc.) from a donor XR2 it's possible to build a Quantum 2+2 for £6,000, though £7,000 is probably a more realistic figure. And if you fancy the car but not the thought of building it, then Quantum will build you a turnkey XR2 based 2+2 using all reconditioned parts for around £14,500. Of course if that's too much you could always buy a pre-owned example, either from Quantum's showroom or from a member of the owners club, either of which should enable you to get a road ready car for less than it would cost to build your own.
So if you thought kit cars were just impractical weekend toys think again. The Quantum 2+2 provides the performance of a hot hatch and the practicality of a cabriolet but without the boy racer/hairdresser connotations of either. And you'll never have to worry about it going rusty…