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SPECIAL REPORT: DREAM MACHINES

Reinventing the Wheel

Warren Mosler: Built to Please

October 29, 1998|JOHN O'DELL

Nobody would confuse one of Warren Mosler's cars with a classic Rolls. The one-piece (or monocoque) molded-fiberglass missiles owe more to Grand Prix than Grey Poupon.

Mosler, 48, "took apart lawn mowers and motorbikes" when he was a kid, then went off to Wall Street to make a name, and a bundle, as a bond trader. He started building cars in 1985 after he grew disgusted with the sports cars that the big manufacturers were selling.

"The only ones that had any power weighed in at 3,500 pounds or so," he says, "and they really didn't stop well or turn well in races."

The first of the cars Mosler built at his Florida development facility, just up the coast from Palm Beach, was the Consulier (Americanized as "con-sue-leer"). The $52,000 mid-engine sports car came with a turbocharged four-cylinder Chrysler engine and performance figures that matched those of the more expensive production supercars of the day.

Says Mosler: "I thought that if we used composites instead of steel for the primary structure, we could slash the weight, improve performance and have a car that everybody would want. I was right on two of the three things."

Only 60 Consuliers were sold, and in 1993 Mosler went back to development. (He says he spends about 10% of his time on the car business, the rest in the financial world so he can make money to support his car habit.)

His subsequent effort was to take a Consulier body and stuff a 400-plus-horsepower Chevy V-8 into it. He called it the Intruder, built four, sold one and has used the others to continue refining his ideas. The bodies now are smoother and more rigid than the original Consulier, and he has outfitted two of them with sharply pointed, V-shaped, two-piece windshields and renamed them Raptors.

At $159,000, the cars are far from cheap, but Mosler says he always builds something that he wants to drive. That's the first priority.

"I'm very competitive," he says, "and I wanted to build the top street-legal performance car, a car that would win races even with me driving it. If someone else comes along and wants to buy one, then great, we'll build it."

For fun, he recently built the Twinstar, an Eldorado with a 300-horsepower Northstar V-8 up front (where Cadillac puts them in the stock version) and a second 300-horse Northstar in the trunk, driving the rear wheels and giving the stock-looking Caddy a top speed of 200 mph. Mosler will sell a new Twinstar for $61,000 or convert any 1995 or newer Eldorado that a customer brings in for $21,000.

Up next from Mosler's shop is a street-legal road racer, designed by automotive software specialist Rod Trenne of EDS Corp. with input from Mosler. The car, which is expected to sell for $160,000, is being built to compete in the GT1 racing series--where most of the competitors are limited-production $1-million supercars from companies like Mercedes-Benz and Nissan.

"The car will be the poster child for marketing EDS's Unigraphics 14 design software to the automotive industry," Mosler says.

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