Ultima Can Am: PH Carpool

Name: Mark Harries
Car: Ultima Can Am LS3
Owned since: Build started 2011, build complete and road registered 2013
Currently owned: Mk2 Ford Focus RS MR375 (since new in 2010) and Audi TTS (since new in 2016)
Previously owned: Ariel Atom 245, Chesil Porsche 356 Speedster, Mk2 VW Golf G60, Ford Focus ST2, Mk2 Mazda MX-5 (and a few others not worth mentioning!)

Why I bought it:
"The Ultima had been on my list of 'outrageous cars to own before they're outlawed' since the early noughties. The wild Group C inspired looks and stonking American V8 engine had me seduced instantly. At the time, I had only been on the property ladder for a couple of years and funds were going into bricks and mortar rather than wild V8s. The car remained on my must-have list for about eight years before I had the funds and knowledge to undertake such a project."

What I wish I'd known:
"Before starting the project, I'd put about nine months of research into all things Ultima. I'd reviewed some build sites, spoken with the factory, a number of owners and the specialist independents. I knew that this wasn't a project to take on lightly, so research was key. I investigated every factory option and then decided what I would take straight from Ultima against the stuff I could get from specialists or craft myself. My shopping list of parts and suppliers was long and would take the best item for each job to fit my specification, wherever it was sourced from.

95 per cent of my decisions worked out well, but the area which took a lot of development once the car hit the road was the suspension and handling. I'd started with a tyre which didn't suit the chassis or 'fast road' use and generally struggled to get the feel and confidence that a car of this performance needed. The last two or three years has seen a lot of discussion and change in the Ultima world regarding this topic (both in terms of factory and aftermarket updates) and the car is now delivering the confidence and handling characteristics that a 550hp, 1,000kg car should. Next on my list is the brakes; they've never delivered the performance to stop it as quickly as the V8 can fire it down the road!"

Things I love:
"The endurance racer inspired looks. The noise that 6.2 litres of V8 with an uprated camshaft, carbon intake and custom (cat-less) exhaust makes at 7,000rpm, or any rpm for that matter! The maniacal acceleration and the sense of occasion even opening the garage door brings. The very naughty feeling that you get when strapped into it driving down the Queen's highways (especially when shuffling along in the Birmingham rush hour traffic, when I take it to work in the summer). Watching the reaction of those in the passenger seat when the engine barks into life, then again at the first hit of Yank power. A great group of fellow owners around the world."

Things I hate:
"The cost and rate of rear tyre replacements! When I ran the car on standard 335/30/18 rears, decent rubber was hard to find and could cost almost £400 a corner; when they only manage a year's worth of service, replacing them gets tedious. Now that it's running modern, high performance Porsche GT3-spec 19-inch rubber and wheels all-round, the grip and handling is both dramatically improved and that cost is significantly reduced. Getting swirl marks and chips out of the gel-coat bodywork is a pain, so that's going to get a full (paint) respray soon, along with one or two body mods. The exposed spaceframe chassis takes some looking after to keep it clean and tidy, too. It's a car that needs you to be hands-on to keep it looking its best."

"After the initial purchase, maintenance is very affordable. Servicing the V8 is cheap and simple (hell, they run these things on moonshine in the States!), so there are no issues there. Brakes last forever due to the relatively low weight and their size. Switching to 19-inch wheels and tyres both increased rubber choice and slashed costs, meaning that insurance is the only significant annual bill. I maintain the car myself, but do enlist the help of the performance car orientated chaps at Lakeside Service Centre in Redditch from time to time. The biggest cost issue is upgrades. Once you get to experience an Ultima on the road or track it's a safe bet you'll be looking for upgrades, whether they're strictly necessary or not!

There are some fantastic specialists out there who offer some very mouth watering upgrades: Auto Bionics, Mac G Racing and BC Forged have collectively helped lighten my wallet significantly over the last five years!"

Where I've been:
"This is a car that's driven plenty, despite its lack of roof. It's been to Wales, Le Mans, Spa, the Nurburgring (twice) and last year I had the pleasure of driving it to Switzerland with friends. It's very much a road car, but it has dipped the odd tyre onto the occasional race track - the PH Silverstone 'taster sessions' are a great 20-minute buzz, as were the dozen laps of Spa and the tentative few at the 'ring. In its current spec, the Can Am now fulfils my brief of being able to cruise comfortably for 500 miles at a time, while also being able to thump around a track or a mountain road making lots of noise."

What next?
"Next up are a few body mods (open topped wheel arch vents and some other aero touches) plus a full respray. The brakes will come in for some attention this year too. On its new wider track wishbones, Quantum dampers and 19-inch wheels, the handling is pretty much sorted, so the chassis is safe for the moment. I keep looking at Harrop Hurricane ITBs, but that's more for noise and engine-room aesthetics than anything else! I'm not sure what would give me more performance or more dramatic looks without mortgage sized extra investment, which isn't going to happen! Therefore it's unlikely the Can Am is going anywhere soon. I'm hooked on it. So much so, I'm currently working on a joint GTR project with some similarly mad friends!"

Want to share your car with PHers on Carpool? Email us at carpool@pistonheads.com!

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Comments (47) Join the discussion on the forum

  • British Beef 27 Feb 2017

    Superb, very nice job on finishing the car to high standard!! Looks stunning.

    My favorite Carpool car in quite a long time!

  • hoegaardenruls 27 Feb 2017

    Lovely looking car.

    As I read the article, it started to dawn on me I was parked next to it at the Prodrive SS - the photo of the tablet in the centre console (a nice touch) confirmed it.

  • slipstream 1985 27 Feb 2017

    Yes nice to see an actual petrol head on this site for a change.

  • PistonBroker 27 Feb 2017

    Fantastic stuff! I love the fact that you commute in it!

    Mention of property ladder priorities in the early noughties and Lakeside Service Centre later brings nostalgia - my first house was on Beoley Road in 2002. Alas, I haven't managed the mad car part yet!

    On the assumption that you're local to there I hope to see it about when visiting the mother-in-law in Webheath.

  • MrC986 27 Feb 2017

    My first real sight of this was on the way to LM24 (2013) just south of Calais in the rain with Mark sporting his crash helmet & wet weather gear - proper petrolhead commitment yes I'm also fortunate to have seen it out and about as well as following it into Wales for a runout. What a great car biggrin

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