Despite being short-lived in production, the Vector W8 was the product of nearly two decades of design and development, beginning in 1972. The driving force was Gerald Weigert, who founded a design firm called Vehicle Design Force. Working with designer Lee Brown, the fledgling company’s first design was the Vector, imagined as an American alternative to the radical, mid-engine Italian “supercars” of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
A non-running prototype debuted at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 1972, but almost immediately, the effort was beset by the departure of Brown. Series production was planned, with a $10,000 purchase price quoted for the Vector. Despite earning a Motor Trend cover, the original Vector was shelved in favor of a new car in 1978, dubbed the W2. A running W2 prototype was ready in 1979 and accumulated 100,000 miles at the hands of motor journalists, most notably testers from Motor Trend and Britain’s Top Gear television program.
Company personnel claimed a 230-mph top speed for the W2, yet they prohibited Top Gear from making any top-speed runs with the prototype. A stock issue, followed by successful lawsuits against Goodyear and the maker of Vantage Cigarettes for trademark infringement, funded development of the W8, Vector’s definitive model of the 1980s and early 1990s.
More closely akin to a contemporary endurance-racing machine than a road car, the W8 featured aggressively wedge-shaped aluminum bodywork with upward-tilting doors and an overall design theme reminiscent of the Marcello Gandini-designed Bertone Carabo show car of 1968. A mid-mounted, Chevrolet-derived 6.0-liter V8 engine supplied power, rated at 625 hp with fuel injection and twin turbochargers, while a three-speed automatic transmission provided reliable shifts.
Boardroom power struggles, inadequate capitalization and a deep recession conspired to halt production in 1992, with estimates of 22 units ultimately built. With extremely low mileage from new, this Midnight Blue/black example comes from the Hooper Corporate Collection and has been on display since new as one of the prized exhibits in the Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany.
Chassis 007, the car offered here, is the last W8 of the first body design with the sharp nose. It is in superb, virtually brand-new condition, just the way it left the factory – a wonderful example of the vehicle described by Motor Trend as “America’s Forgotten Supercar.” It is remarkably easy to drive and handles superbly well. It is very well equipped with multi-functional Recaro seats and a very advanced stereo system. From its radical semi-monocoque aluminum chassis to its sinister bodywork and cockpit reminiscent of contemporary fighter aircraft and bar graph instrumentation, the W8 will doubtless continue to provoke discussion wherever it is displayed.
|Vehicle:||1992 Vector W8 Twin Turbo|
|Number Produced:||An estimated 19 to 22 cars (including prototypes)|
|Original List Price:||$455,000|
|SCM Valuation:||$200,000 - $300,000|
|Tune Up Cost:||$250|
|Engine Number Location:||On block below alternator|
|Alternatives:||1992 Bugatti EB110, 1992 Ferrari F40, 1992 McLaren F1|
This car sold for $283,602 (£179,200), including premium, at the RM Auctions “Automobiles of London” London, U.K. sale on October 27, 2010.
The Vector W8 tells a tale of audacious performance claims, press adoration, jet- fighter looks and impressive specifications—as well as flagrant obfuscation, lock-outs and lawsuits.
No one would think that it would be easy for an independent manufacturer to produce a world-class supercar in the U.S., despite its status as the world’s largest market for sports cars.
Gerald Weigert’s experience helps prove that point. A designer of the Aquajet and the Rocket Belt, he certainly knew something about traveling fast in an imaginative way. While he is not quite Preston Tucker, the disparity between promises and realities helped to sink his vision.
Today, there are a number of ultra-high-performance cars, basically street-legal sports racers from independents available for sale, such as the Konigsegg, Saleen S7, Pagani Zonda and SSC Ultimate Aero TT.
In the recent past, the Cizeta Moroder was among their ranks. While not the product of a small independent, the Bugatti Veyron probably epitomizes this type of ultimate performance car. Built to achieve blinding 0-60 mph times and 200-plus mph top speeds, most are useful only on track days or by the truly optimistic on public roads.
Back when Weigert conceived the Vector W8, he had as his target surpassing cars, such as the Lamborghini Countach, with an all-American solution.
Not surprisingly, the Vector cars created by Weigert’s company garnered reams of coverage from 1972 through the late 1990s. Magazines across the world told of the promise of its first appearance in 1972. By the late 1990s, the articles were tales of ruined dreams.
The W8 was the first production vehicle of the company. It was launched in 1989 and featured an alloy main tub assembled in aircraft fashion with a carbon fiber, Kevlar and Fiberglass body. By the time the W8 reached production, its competitors were the Ferrari F40 and Bugatti EB110, both of which were more fully developed and less expensive.
Shortly to follow was the ultimate modern GT, the McLaren F1. While twice the price of the Vector, it was a demonstration of what could be achieved with a proper budget and production planning.
Following the W8, the replacement M12 saw a dozen made from 1995 through 1999. The company apparently exists still today, with a vehicle in long-term development called the WX8. On their website, (www.vectormotor.com) they describe the WX8 as an “HPRV” or “High Performance Road Vehicle.” The website goes on to say that the company is “…incorporating marine, aviation and aerospace technology into its design and construction.”
It is to have a 10-liter V8 “capable of over 2,000 horsepower.” A prototype of this car was shown at the 2008 Los Angeles Auto Show, but nothing has been heard of it since.
Highway fighter plane
In appearance, the W8 certainly looks the part of a fighter plane for the highway, with a sharply creased and multi-scooped body, and the requisite supercar scissors doors and massive rear tray wing. The car at RM’s London auction appeared to be in very good condition, and considering its artisanal production, seemed to be well-screwed together. It is well-equipped inside as a GT, with Sony stereo, electrically adjustable seats and cruise control.
Coming from museum display, it would probably be wise to carry out a major service prior to attempting to access the potential performance of the W8. It should be capable of providing a truly hair-raising ride, especially given what appears to be really limited visibility from the cockpit.
However, given the rarity of these Vector sports cars, it’s entirely likely that it will only lead a life of silent display for the rest of its time.
The Vector will most likely be a curious footnote to the story of late 20th Century high performance cars, but an interesting one nonetheless. The price realized seems quite reasonable for a car which certainly will, as the RM catalog states with delightful English understatement, “…provoke discussion wherever it is displayed.”