DRIVEN: WIESMANN MF5 ROADSTER
BMW's high-revving V10 unleashed in Germany's classic 'Brit' roadster
But there's a classic English sportscar built today that could be the answer to all your problems. All you have to do is overlook the fact that the Wiesmann MF5 Roadster is, well, German.
In spite of its garish red and white colour scheme, our test car's muscular bodywork comes imbued with old-school character. That front end is a step back in time to a simpler world, with that deep front grille looking like nothing on the road today, and the side profile could have come from an old black and white film. Those swooping wings are made from fibreglass, rather than hand-beaten aluminium or even exotic carbon fibre, but the olde-world charm of the Wiesmann renders such things irrelevant. If we're being picky, then the vents and rear lip spoiler don't quite sit right with the antiquated look, but they're there for a reason.
Under the skin of this charming, tweed-clad gent is the thoroughly modern, steroid-fuelled madness of BMW's five-litre V10 that now sits in a package some 400kg lighter than the donor car. The Wiesmann weighs in at 1,395kg, so it's a serious sports car and we have an airfield to get to. Tough times...
Of course the auto mode on the original SMG was woeful and, though the lighter package of the Wiesmann improves matters thanks to reduced inertia, it does not stop it feeling as comfortable as falling down the stairs. This gearbox works best in full, hard manual mode - even out on the public road. For those that want a 'true' manual option, Wiesmann offers the MF4 with the V8 and BMW's much-improved DCT dual clutch transmission.
The figures state 3.9 seconds to 60mph, a massive 0.6 seconds faster than the M5 that gave its guts for the cause. And with the wind in the hair, that almighty F1-sounding motor breathing free through a sports exhaust and the neck twanging effect of those tyres digging in and sending the car snarling at the horizon like a rabid wolf, it feels even faster.
But then the intoxicating exhaust note ensures that's rarely an issue. With the V10 screaming at the top end, the acceleration is just unbelievable and in a straight line this car will match almost anything. The top end of 192mph is more than enough for the airstrip, too, never mind the road!
As I fast approach the 90-degree left hander with a photographer optimistically lying in the road just ahead, I thank the skies above that I can just stand on the brake and bang down the requisite three gears to haul off the speed and throw it into the corner. And here's where it gets really interesting. A supremely stiff chassis, thanks to a Lotus-style aluminium monocoque, allowed Wiesmann to soften the suspension enough to soak up bumps without sacrificing its cornering capabilities. As I throw it into a bend with way too much speed on the clock it just sticks when it should spin off the road.
But today is not a normal day and, though Wiesmann drivers regularly gather on track for a few laps, that represents a tiny portion of the car's life. Which is why the lap time compared to a Lamborghini Gallardo or Ferrari 458 is an absolute irrelevance. For the record, it would be a whisker behind both on a hard charge, but on the road it's such a unique proposition, such a charming machine, that the hair's breadth on the stopwatch pales into insignificance.
It's for those that have already done the Ferrari and Lamborghini and didn't like the kind of attention they got. It's for those that remember the old films with nostalgia and want to relive the '60s in the very best classic English sportscar they can find. Even if it's German.