Elfin MS8 Streamliner 50th Anniversary: Classic MOTOR

It’s kiddies’ maths, but I punch the figures into the calculator twice just to make sure.

This article first published in MOTOR Magazine May 2007.

So, 1100kg divided by 340kW equals – whoa! – 3.23 kilograms per kilowatt! That’s a stunning boast for Elfin Sports Cars’ MS8 Streamliner 50th Anniversary ‘Number One’, and is certain to put the fear of God into the supercar competition.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-bonnet.jpgIn context, the mega-road car power-to-weight hierarchy looks something like this: the $1.4million Pagani Zonda C12 S first, Elfin’s ‘Fiddy’ second, and then sheer daylight to any Porsche, Ferrari, Lambo or any other road-going exotic available in local showrooms.

Think globally, and only at motoring’s bleeding edge – Bugatti Veyron, Koenigsegg, Radical, Caterham – will you find a more impressive pound-to-poke ratio.

Y’see, this ‘Number One’ is a bit extra special. Elfin is only building five 50th Anniversary examples, and they’re not created equal. Eighty percent of this very limited production is likely share the same shiny, oily bits with the regular MS8 Streamliner, meaning 245kW/465Nm 5.7-litre Chevy LS1 power.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-engine.jpgWhat separates Number One from Two through Five is the polished, supercharged and intercooled Gen III bent-eight – created by Elfin’s sister company Walkinshaw Performance – that’s shoehorned inside its tubular spaceframe chassis.

Believe it or not, 340kW at 5600rpm is a fairly lazy state of tune for an LS1, an engine which can safely cope with a more serious power tickle. But would you need it when there’s already a whopping 660Nm on tap to help propel little more than a tonne off the mark, complete with fire, brimstone, and a Ride of the Valkyries soundtrack?

“It’ll nail 100km/h in about three seconds flat,” says ESC CEO Chris Payne.

Uh-huh.

“And it’ll do a 400-metre sprint in 10s.”

Uh-huh. So, can I have the keys, then?

“Nope.”

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-rear.jpg I ask if anybody has driven it. The lack of wry smiles suggests “no” isn’t fibbing, and the twinkling eyes suggest a potential scuffle in the Braeside HQ for first stab at Number One once its show car duties are completed mid-year. Until then, it’s all spit, polish and academic theory. So it’s look, touch, but no play.

All five Fiddys will come finished in a special ‘Cooper Gold’ hue – so named after Elfin’s founder, Garrie Cooper – and feature unique bonnet spears, and polished 18-inch wheels loaded with semi-slick Advan rubber.

Inside is awash with bright burgundy, including ‘aircraft grade’ leather trim (whatever that is) on the chunky-bolster seats which in production form are far superior in support and comfort over the early prototype design. Add a smattering of polished metal and there’s a sort of retro 1970s Aussie muscle car vibe going on that, with all respect to the potentially offended, would look right at home on an HQ Monaro.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-interior.jpgAnd, quite obviously, it’s a coupe; an MS8 first. From profile and rear-three quarter viewing, the hard lid transforms Streamliner’s shape, anchoring the cockpit, accentuating the bonnet’s length and adding torpedo-like purpose to the bullet’s shape.

Two hard fabric ‘gurney bubbles’, as Payne calls them, latch to either side of the T-top’s centre spine. No full roof? A virtual impossibility due to Streamliner’s gymnastic requirements for occupant entry and egress.

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The roof can be removed via four bolts, and is interchangeable with the topless roadster’s flat deck-lid.

It’s only a mild departure from GM design maestro Mike Simcoe’s original sketches, altered to include a subtle bobtail and flush rear glass (Simcoe’s had recessed glass), which allows clearance for a full FIA-approved roll cage – a minor feature, you’d reckon, but one that was key to green lighting hard-top production, and to Elfin’s future plans for MS8 Streamliner.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-rears.jpgHere’s why. Cooper began building the original Streamliner in the late ’50s by designing a swoopy, lightweight open-top shell that was built over a tubular space-frame chassis. Just like the current car. But Elfin’s history books reckon that one customer requested a coupe version built, as rules for his preferred GT racing class stipulated the need for a roof.

Five decades on, the new MS8 50th comes standard with – surprise, surprise – a hard lid. And room for a cage. No points for guessing why…

“We always intended to take the Streamliner racing,” says long-time ESC technical director, Nick Kovatch. After all, motorsport is the company’s backbone.

“[Motorsport bodies] CAMS and FIA stipulate that you can’t race convertibles or open-tops in production car-based classes,” adds ESC CEO Chris Payne. “With a coupe, now we can.”

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-build-plate.jpgSo Fiddy is more than a simple paint’n’polish slap-up as homage to a half-century innings. It’s history repeating itself.

Although the $128,500 anniversary model is the only one to get the coupe lid as standard, the top will be offered as a cost option on base Streamliner models. As will an FIA-approved roll cage. That way any Streamliner owner has the option of racing a car that was intended for hard-core circuit work right from the drawing board.

This is evident in MS8’s design and engineering. Each MS8 begins life as a pile of steel tubing in the Elfin factory, and then hand-crafted from the ground up over a period of three months. The space-frame construction is extremely rigid, and the use of waify GRP (glass reinforced plastic) minimises Streamliner’s weight.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-exhaust.jpgIt’s amazingly broad and flat – at 1710mm, Streamliner is almost as wide as half its total length – with its footprint pushed to the chassis’ farthest extremities and equal weight spread among the four tyres. It’s about as motorsport-focused as you’ll find in a road car.

Same goes for the suspension: the chrome-moly aerofoil front and seamless tubular steel rear double A-arms are rose joined to the chassis, with aluminium uprights locating huge six-piston AP Racing calipers at the business end and slightly smaller four-potters in the rear.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-chassis.jpgAll corners feature race-type coil-over Koni 8211 shocks that’ll go from Tontine-soft to bone-crunchingly stiff, and with height adjustment from realy low to beached-on-a-speed-hump low, with a few twists of a spanner. It’s all car porn stuff, and standard issue on every MS8 Streamliner and Clubman model.

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So the core engineering is up to the task of a little blown fettling, and the astonishing performance potential that brings. But… the official line is that Number One, or any supercharged MS8 for that matter, is “for track use only”, and Elfin says that it’s only due to costly ADR approval for such a potentially low volume of road-going versions.

Yes, Elfin will build you one – $140,500 will park Number One in your pit garage – but customers will have to source engineering certification for rego independently.

Elfin-MS8-Streamliner-50th-Anniversary-wheel.jpgHowever, that doesn’t stop Elfin from flogging blown MS8s overseas. The UK and Middle East are two markets where Payne estimates the company will be exporting over 50 percent of its annual production come 2008, and they are two climatic extremes that would mandate offering a Streamliner with – surprise, surprise – a weatherproof lid.

Of course, it’d be a true blue travesty for a foreigner to lay any claims on what looks to be Australia’s most ballistic production car to date. And I, for one, will happily be the first Aussie to confirm or deny Elfin’s performance claims for a blown Streamliner, and on any decent blacktop between Bahrain and Bristol.

That’s a hint, Robbo…

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