The Light Car Rocket: Spotted

Today, puritans of the ultra-light, ultra-focused school of sports cars are spoiled for choice. Back in 1991, no-one even knew the genre existed. Before the Ariel Atom, before track day specials, before the era of bike-engined cars, and years before Caterham even coined the term Superlight, there was the Light Car Rocket. Now, a unique, race-spec Rocket in the classifieds has got us salivating, and recalling just what a pioneering gem of genius it was: a rocket that truly set a course for the heart of the PistonHeads sun.

The Murray-Craft show

The Light Car Company Rocket was the brainchild of racing driver Chris Craft and Gordon Murray, who just happened to be developing a certain other car at the time - the McLaren F1.

The Rocket certainly lived up to its 'Light Car' billing, tipping the scales at just 370kg. Even today, I don't think any four-wheeled road car has gone below that. The Vanwallesque 1+1-seater shape was uber-cool, too.

Then there was the Yamaha FZR1000 superbike engine, mounted amidships and forming part of the chassis. Bike engines in cars were a total novelty in 1991, and the 12,000rpm rev limit seemed insane. And the sequential gearshift, using a tiny lever on your right, was another revelation for car folk. Was any car ever so coolly named as the Rocket? And has any ever had such a cool badge? The owners' club ('The Rocketeers') even had a Beatle as its chairman - the late George Harrison.

This was an awfully expensive toy in 1991, costing all of £38,800, so very few were sold, even after a 2007 relaunch (when the price had risen to £46,412).

Are you a Rocketman?

Up for sale - with a 'POA' sticker that suggests this is still no cheap option - is car #18 of just 47 Rockets built. Made in 1994, it was the first (and, we surmise, the only) race-spec Rocket, and even featured in the brochure for the abortive Rocket Euroseries championship.

Originally painted yellow with a yellow chassis, 'RO18' was resprayed blue with a white chassis when it was converted to road-legal spec in 1995. Chris Craft bought the car back in early 2006, after which it went to his nephew, Charles Craft, and it's since been overhauled by two other Craft family members, Luke and Andrew.

It's had a few upgrades, the most significant of which (in 2014) was a six-speed close-ratio gearbox to replace the original five-speeder. RO18 also has a unique Gordon Murray-designed race dash, plus additional roll-over protection at the front and chopped bodywork to house a battery isolator switch and fire extinguisher pull (unique to this car).

The engine in RO18 is also slightly bigger than standard (1,049cc versus 1,002cc), and has uprated internals featuring Carrillo rods, so it's good for 145hp, 0-62mph in 4.0 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. Celeb Rocket owner, Jay Leno, reputedly said his Rocket is quicker point-to-point on narrow twisty roads than his McLaren F1.

Manic mood

"To say it's manic is a bit of understatement, the noise is epic," says the vendor. "As with a motorbike, the sequential gearbox is fast and each cog only drops about 1,500 revs straight back into the power band and this is when the car really flies. There is little torque but because it's so light it doesn't need it."

With its Avon CR28 tarmac-spec rally tyres, grip is reportedly "huge" while the early 1990s F3 Brembo brakes "ensure that this car will still ou- brake just about anything on the road."

Want level: 11+.

: Yamaha 1,049cc 4-cyl
Transmission: 6-speed sequential manual
Power (hp): 145@10,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 77@8,500rpm
MPG: 25 (est)
CO2: Quite possibly lighter than air
First registered: 1994
Recorded mileage: 20,000
Price new: c. £45,000
Yours for: POA

See the original ad here.

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Comments (50) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Richie200 13 Aug 2015

    Sounds fantastic. As it raced in the Euroseries championship, would that have any bearing on it being legible for registration on German roads? Also any indication on what these normally go for?

  • sideways man 13 Aug 2015

    Have lusted after these since they were first announced. Obviously they are superb at what they do, going both by the pedigree of the designers and the fact they seldom come up for sale.
    This one is out of my price range, but given a lottery win it would be in my garage.

  • suffolk009 13 Aug 2015

    Duncan Hamilton appear to have one in stock at the moment. They had another car about a year ago. Rare like hens teeth.

    Definitely an early purchase in my fantasy garage. Speaking of which here is Jay Leno with half my list.

  • bertie 13 Aug 2015

    I so love these, I wonder how much?

  • seawise 13 Aug 2015

    six figures and worth every penny - mere peanuts for an F1 owner to add to his or her stable.

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