RE: Deronda F400

Thursday 12th August 2004

Deronda F400

Andrew Rixon sampled the new car at Bruntingthorpe


Like many a petrolhead, I travelled up to the Motorshow at the NEC a few months back. Whilst meandering around checking out the latest offerings, a friend mentioned that the small sportscar we were admiring was in fact made in Buckingham. As I grew up just a few miles outside Buckingham, I enquired further about the car’s history and the company.

The car was Deronda’s prototype F400. A small, two-seater in a similar, yet distinctively different guise, to the Ariel Atom. After spending a good 30 minutes chatting to the company’s owner, Andy Round, I left my details and carried on looking around.

A week or so later, after the hype of the Motorshow had died down, I received a phone call one evening from Andy. We talked about all sorts of petrol related topics for over an hour. That time flew past and it was obvious to me that this man wasn’t just a car manufacturer, but a true enthusiast. A perfect pub companion to down a few pints with.

Part of the conversation was about how he was running a few trackdays to show potential owners the car. I took him up on this offer and the ensuing article is an account of the day spent in sunny Bruntingthorpe in July of 2004.

Bruntingthorpe

Many PHers will know about Bruntingthorpe due to it being the location of many trackdays and photo shoots. It’s also the track where the infamous Vmax is held. The 2 mile straight gives it the potential to test out a car’s top speed, whilst the differing surfaces and corners allow handling to be tested as well. We were using the bottom part of the circuit, which uses part of the main runway, but more importantly the small chicanes which make up the central part of the circuit. This would give us a chance to get near to the car’s top speed, whilst also examining the handling; both at high and low speeds.

F400

Andy Round took a year out from his full time job as an airplane company manager to relax and enjoy driving. He looked around for a suitable car, from Caterhams to Westfields to Ultimas but couldn’t find the car he desired. Instead of settling for a lesser car, he designed and subsequently made his ideal car. The F400 is his creation.

He found Mark Taylor and Steve Bones from Fabrication Techniques, the same company that made the major components for the Foggy Petronas race bike. Mark did the artistic and engineering designs from Andy’s original one page plans over the next year. Fabrication Techniques have also made the 24 race cars that are used for corporate entertainment at Rockingham.

Deronda and Fab Tech spent 2002 designing the car, bringing in their favourite influences from other cars. 2003 saw the prototype being developed and the car was unveiled at the 2004 Autosport Show.

A mid-mounted engine normally found in the Audi A4 is attached to a lightweight chassis with double wishbone Formula-1 style suspension from Ohlins. 4 pot calliper brakes from AP Racing provide incredible deceleration.

The engine is an Audi 1.8litre DOHC turbo, generating 210bhp but more importantly 225lb ft of torque. This gives the F400 a distinct advantage over bike engined cars, as low down in the rev range the Deronda pulls strongly all the way to its 6,600rpm limiter.

The F400 uses a standard 5 speed manual box, which was just beautiful to use. Slick gear changes are easily made. It is also an Audi unit, which means reliability of both the engine and gearbox will be top notch. So much so that Deronda recommends a 12,000 mile service interval. On a car of this performance that is incredible.

Andy chose to use the best parts he could, so Ohlins supplies the suspension units with adjustable everything. The advantage of a car like the Deronda is that the owner can adjust the suspension at the racetrack however he or she desires. The F400 uses a pushrod design and all the wishbones are aerodynamically shaped.

Styling

Although comparisons with the Ariel Atom will always be made, the Deronda has its own unique look. The build quality really has to be seen; the workmanship is first class. Designing a car that takes a narrow front and rear, with enough space in the middle for two passengers is not an easy task, however, on a personal level I think Andy has done a fine job. I especially like the wing mirrors, which look like those from the Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale.

The front nosecone is influenced by Ferrari’s F1 cars from the 1960s, albeit with the addition of a modern splitter. The rear of the car is fantastic, with the light pods looking especially unique. The car got the thumbs up from all who had a close-up look, and this is still just a prototype. The production car will benefit from luggage pods in the sides.

Cockpit

The interior styling is functional but also pleasing to the eye. The pedal box is fully adjustable to take drivers from 5ft 2 right up to those who should be on a basketball court. A conversion to LHD is also easily achievable; in fact it can be done by the owner of the car in less than three hours with standard tools.

Safety

It is all well and good bolting a powerful engine to a lightweight chassis, but I wouldn’t like to be in the wreck after a crash. Deronda have made sure that the car is as safe as it is fast. In addition to the main chassis, the F400 benefits from double side impact protection and double rollover bars. Full harnesses and race seats mean the driver and passenger are safely held in. Additionally, being a 6ft 3 man of not slight build, I was amazed about how much space I had inside. Much more than an Elise or Caterham. In fact, the interior dimensions are modelled on the Porsche 996.

Out onto the circuit

Now we know all about the actual car, the important part of the day was in the driving. A few laps by my excellent instructor, Adrian Timms, showed me the lines and then it was time to climb in and get ready. Getting into the Deronda is actually a lot easier than it looks. A bit of a sill to clamber over and you’re in.

Pulling out of the pit area onto the track and the first impression is positive. A long throttle movement made a relative trackday novice such as myself gain confidence easily. The braking was firm without any movement in the car's direction under heavy braking. The brake pedal feel didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the pads were both new and race spec so they needed warming. Once up to temperature they were sensational. The steering was especially impressive, being very direct and the amount of feedback it gave you was substantial.

Having around 400bhp/tonne one would expect the car to be a real handful. In reality, the car is very easy to live with. It feels absolutely planted in corners. EVO recently tested the car and said on one occasion it understeered, during the other it oversteered. This was due to the car being a prototype under development. Subsequent refinement of the suspension settings has resulted in a car, which is very neutral in handling.

None of the drivers on the day complained about under steer, and if you want to have some over steer fun then just add a few more revs than normal and the rear end will controllably step out of line. A very capable car that even impressed the instructor Adrian; although he was a regular on the circuit, he hadn’t even seen the car before. Most notable is the fact that none of the original parts have been changed; only thing that has been adjusted are the settings of the components.

The car will accelerate from 0-60 in sub 4 seconds. The top speed is in excess of 140mph, with 130 easily achievable even on the short straight at Bruntingthorpe, with 100 coming up in well under 10 seconds. The really impressive attribute of the F400 is its ability low down in the rev range. It pulls strongly out of corners. The low down torque coupled with the higher rev range of the turbo means the car has a wide power range, a nice change from the narrow bands of the motorbike engined track day cars. The turbo spools up to a good pressure from just 2000 revs, right up to the 6,600 rev line. Impressive stuff indeed.

On Road

Due to the car being just a prototype, we weren’t able to go out onto her majesty’s highways. However, it is important to note that this isn’t just an all out trackday weapon. Although it will keep up with all the trackday cars around (we were abolishing the Caterhams and single seaters that were also on track at Bruntingthorpe), the design is such that a few tweeks will make it as easy to drive on road as an Elise or touring Caterham.

Deronda is quoting £26,995 for the F400, with the first customer car being delivered in November. Extras in the pipeline include full windscreen and weather kit. This has yet to be unveiled, but Deronda is promising something special. The rest of the car is a true masterpiece, so the options are bound to be equally impressive. The real beauty of this company is when you ring the company, you speak to the designer, owner, manager, accountant and tea-boy all at the same time. Andy is an enthusiast like us all, he has made the car he would buy, and that car just happens to be rather fantastic.

Andrew Rixon

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Author
Discussion

Muncher

Original Poster:

11,385 posts

184 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
It's hideous

shnozz

19,958 posts

206 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Muncher said:
It's hideous


I think the majority of these dedicated track cars are hideous. Buts thats not really the point is it?

TimW

3,848 posts

182 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Lets let rico decide he wrote that articule

but yea they are pretty ugly now days.

Cotty

33,048 posts

219 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
TimW said:
d

but yea they are pretty ugly now days.



I think the Arial Atom looks very nice

bilko

1,693 posts

167 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
I never really warmed to these trackday/street weapons. I like my cars a little more substantial.
However, i don't know whether it was your enthusiasm for this car or your honest style of motoring journalism that made me like it.

The styling is quite raw and if it wasn't for the air intakes along the spine and that fantastic splitter i would dismiss it.

To my mind 30.000 ( with extras ) is a lot of money for this sort of dual use car but the article opened the sales door. If however the video is meant as a sales tool then i would have to be very keen indeed to put my foot in the sales office.

Just a thought but the use of a set of bullet cams with a satelite handycam would produce much more effective and exciting results.
Not trying to be picky, it's just that i felt let down by the video
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domster

8,418 posts

205 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Well done rico, great article.

There seems to be a new trackday car launched every day, so nice to have a bit of background on one of the better looking ones.

PS All praise will be edited out if you ever mention my trousers again

DustyC

12,786 posts

189 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
I always think all the track day machines look amazing. I thinks its the built for purpose image that they have. No unneccessary parts at all.

Fantastic.
Can't wait till I can get a pure track toy.

johnny senna

3,913 posts

207 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Great article Rico. Truly you are one of the world's biggest petrol heads.

I think it looks OK. I think the Atom looks prettier, but this looks more aggressive. I would probably prefer the Atom with that mad Honda Vtec engine. Why? Because the splitter on the Deronda is too low. You couldn't drive the thing on the road. And this is where Caterhams and Westfields score. They have reasonable ground clearance, but Derondas, XTR2s, Radicals etc do not. So the latter cars are only of any use on the track, but a second hand race car is much cheaper, if you can find one with a closed wheel design. Then you have to trailor them. I think people really buy the Radical (instead of any other race car) because it has 2 seats and this is useful for scaring your mates. But you would need to be very wealthy to justify a new Radical and trailor it to track days.


Edited for spelling.

>> Edited by johnny senna on Thursday 12th August 16:19

andytk

1,542 posts

201 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
26k for something like this??

Does that include the engine? or is it the kit price only.

You've got to admit that for a complete car that is pretty good value for money. Especially with the ohlins suspension etc..

Andy

rico

7,916 posts

190 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
I'm the author of that piece, so just to reply to a few points

bilko said:

Just a thought but the use of a set of bullet cams with a satelite handycam would produce much more effective and exciting results.
Not trying to be picky, it's just that i felt let down by the video


I completely agree with you. The video was a bit of an after-thought. I went out again with Adrian Timms, an instructor at Brunters, and as he was content with my driving style he took my camcorder out. I'd like to buy some bullet cams and camera mounts... but i'm a tad skint at the moment

Re. on road use... Deronda can set the suspension up how you wish... the standard 'road' settings will give the same ground as a Lotus Elise (120mm i believe).

A few of you have commented that the piece was very enthusiastic about the Deronda. I'm glad that came across. I had an absolutely fantastic day. The hospitality by Andy Round (Deronda's owner) and his son was top notch, i ended up staying on for part of the afternoon session just to carry on chatting about cars.

The car was a lot of fun to drive. I'm afriad i haven't driven the Atom, i'd like to (anyone out there ) so i can't comment on the differences. Another of the drivers there had recently had an Atom, he liked the Deronda better i believe. He posts on here i think so maybe he'll join this thread

Thanks again for the kind comments... i'll try to sort out a better camera for any future videos... The video has nothing to do with Deronda... it was just an addition to the article

Cheers,

rico

7,916 posts

190 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
andytk said:
26k for something like this??

Does that include the engine? or is it the kit price only.

You've got to admit that for a complete car that is pretty good value for money. Especially with the ohlins suspension etc..



26k is for the car fully built, with Ohlins shocks, engine, the lot.

Full spec sheet on Derondas website... www.deronda.co.uk

(i hope i get some commission for this...)

>> Edited by rico on Thursday 12th August 17:37

rico

7,916 posts

190 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Muncher said:
It's hideous


Fair viewpoint.

But as others have said... thats not the point.

The point is it looks different to Caterhams, Westfields etc.

No-one (well, other than Domster ) would pick a girl up for a date in a Caterham. You'd be laughed at. But take a big saloon on track and you'll struggle.

gemini

11,351 posts

199 months

Thursday 12th August 2004
quotequote all
Pity about the publicity side to this car

Saw it at the Motorshow and really enjoyed my chat with the sales / owner

Invited him to BNG event which was accepted by email later.

Was then invited in return to pay good money to come to Brunters and track it - when I did not take the offer up it appears Deronda said bye bye to the BNG -

A no show on the day and no mention to me that they were not coming
nor to this day and appology!

Free publicity from me then bugger all from Deronda

Looks like an Atom will grace my garage then !

bruce fielding

2,244 posts

217 months

Friday 13th August 2004
quotequote all
gemini said:
Looks like an Atom will grace my garage then !

Good choice!

The MkII Atom is a stunning machine - to be fair I haven't test driven a (help) Deronda (help, help Deronda) but I imagine that since it's taken three years of constant development to get Ariel to the point at which seasoned muttering rotters think its a great car, the Deronda has to be a very 'brave' choice.

Oh, and no, I don't own a MkII, but I do own a MkI and have driven a MkII and they're both quite brilliant.

kentviking

568 posts

175 months

Friday 13th August 2004
quotequote all
would luuuuv to see what it looks like with the winter pack attached...a practical ariel atom-like vehicle, now that might just do the job for the 1/2 hour country lane blast to the station and back every day.

bounder

58 posts

173 months

Saturday 14th August 2004
quotequote all
OK - so we are in "Thunderbirds are Go" territory with the Deronda.

Wouldn't it be nice if there had been an attempt at originality of styling instead of putting together a Lego mish mash with bits of Ariel Atom, Ferrari F1 racer, garbage disposal unit and whatever else was lying around on the desktop cut and paste?

"I know," he thought, "I can't come up with a sleek and aero efficient body - I'll do a techno look. That way we don't have to have a designed shell."

Thunderbirds are Go.....but real men drive sexy cars!

PetrolTed

34,324 posts

238 months

Saturday 14th August 2004
quotequote all
wot?

fuoriserie

4,554 posts

204 months

Tuesday 17th August 2004
quotequote all
Bounder

I don't understand some of your comments, but thats my limited knowledge of the language.

Yes I agree, the car is a take on the Ariel Atom and the price is too high, but you can still distinguish it from other track day cars....apart the ATOM !.

I quite like the front, in fact its the most interesting part of the car in my honest opinion, the rear lights are strange.........

Would I buy such a car? I would have to say no, to expensive for my budget and idea of what a Specialist/kit car should be.

Its too close to mainstream manufacturing or a Caterham, that has more pedigree and a fine tuned chassis...........

They will need time, but if they reduced the price, changed the engine to a lower spec I could consider it.

4/7 000 Pounds would be my price range as a kit. Are they going to sell it as a kit ?

johnfelstead

11,539 posts

171 months

Wednesday 18th August 2004
quotequote all
rico said:

The car was a lot of fun to drive. I'm afriad i haven't driven the Atom, i'd like to (anyone out there ) so i can't comment on the differences. Another of the drivers there had recently had an Atom, he liked the Deronda better i believe. He posts on here i think so maybe he'll join this thread



Hi Andy, that was me doing the other test drive. I havnt driven an Atom yet but have been building from the bare chassis up the Atom owned by ATOM290 for the last 9 weeks or so, so know the cars engineering intimately now. We are almost finished with jon's Atom so should be able to give a direct comparison soon, although Jon's Atom is quite unique in some critical areas.

My experience of this kind of car is quite good though, having developed a 330BHP Cosworth Turbo Westfield i used for a couple of years on track/road putting about 25K miles on it plus building lots of race/rally cars in the past.

The thing to remember right now is the Deronda is in its final stages of prototyping, so there are a few areas that will be refined.

The most impresive thing about the Deronda is the quality of the engineering of the chassis, it's very well designed and put together with lots of touches you would expect on a good spec race car, there are small areas where it makes living with the deronda much easier than the Atom and the feel is more race engineered than kit car engineered to me, for example on the Atom the rear wishbones have an integral rear toe rod which is rosejointed at the upright end only. This makes altering the rear toe a pain of a job as you have to unbolt it from the upright to turn it to make adjustments. The Deronda has race quality wishbones that have the rear toe rod rosejointed at both ends, making adjustment a piece of cake, they also have braces between the pickup points to improve rigidity. The uprights are specially designed for the car cast alloy items that are strong and light, they are much nicer than the alloy uprights used on my Westfield, the Atom uses fabricated steel uprights. The pedal box has a much nicer feel to it, being floor mounted, you can adjust this whole assembly fore and aft to acomodate any size of driver too. Everywhere you look the quality is there, the rocker assemblies are better IMHO with a formula style rollbar system taken from the rockers.

The chasis is far more substantial, especially with respect to side impact, under floor protection where the chassis goes to bottom tub height rather than relying on a fibreglass tub, the rear rollover hoop strength is far better with full rearward bracing as standard.

The layout of the engine/box is far more sensible from a handling perspective too IMHO, with the engine in a true mid engined position with the transmision to the rear rather than transverse.

I found the steering on the Deronda too direct (0.9 turn), it would be a nightmare on the road in particular, so it was good to find that this was one area the production car is changing, with a slightly slower rack being used to give more feel and practicality. It's also worth noting the tyres used for the test sesions were normal Toyo T1S road tyres, which arent going to allow the best out of the chassis compared to a set of R type tyres or ACB10's, but even with these tyres the car was very quick and progresive, i was able to hold a 5th gear slide easily after only 5 laps in the car, the balance is very good. My gut feeling is the Atom will be harder work to drive quickly to the limit, but i'll soon know that based on experience.

The Atom is a great car, so hopefully you dont see this as negative towards that car, but to me, the Deronda is a step up in terms of its engineering and basic dynamics. With regards to ashthetics, i personally love both cars for what they are, different and in your face performance drivers cars.

The really nice thing about the Deronda is the use of a lightly stressed Turbo engine. This has a couple of major advantages over a NA base engine, firstly if 220BHP isnt enough (it isnt!) its quite straight forward to increase the power to over 300BHP without it costing much money. Secondly a car with this weight and this type of turbo engine is a dream to drive off cam, i used to love driving my westfield to the ring as you could cruise at 90MPH+ without any stress, cross country you can be lazy and just use the torque rather than have to be stiring the box every few seconds if your tired after a long day on track.

I really enjoyed the Deronda, it should be a great choice if your in the market for this type of track/road toy.

Bananaman

201 posts

178 months

Thursday 26th August 2004
quotequote all
From first impressions I'd say that it's over styled & over priced. Not sure about the engineering quality as i've never seen one in the metal.
Personally I would not go with the turbo engine, the Atoms Honda V-tec would be my choice, after all screeming redlines make these cars IMHO.

Having said all that it's something different & i wish the guy all the luck (which he will undoubtbly need in this limmited market).