'Traction control, ABS, airbags, lights, – one press of a button and they're all off. We're better off without them'
The Common Sense Car offers a glimmer of hope for British sports car lovers
If you miss the raw, simple sports cars of the past, good news is on its way. ‘I want to put the “great” back into British cars,’ says Sir Ralph Feasby, speaking to evo from his home in Monte Carlo. ‘I’ve tired of the modern crop of so-called sports cars from foreign-owned concerns like Bentley and Jaguar,’ he continues. ‘They’re getting it wrong in so many ways, not least all that nannying from traction control, ABS, airbags and so on. I want to take back control of the driving experience.’
To achieve this aim, Feasby has drawn up plans for ‘a true Brit bruiser’, the ingredients for which are ‘V8 thump, independent thinking, and two verses of “Rule Britannia”, before it gets bloody well banned no doubt!’ Development is proceeding under the code name ‘CSC’ or ‘Common Sense Car’.
Feasby claims a bespoke engine will sit in a homegrown chassis, clothed in a ‘beautiful British body’. The car’s looks will be designed by Sir Ralph himself at the newly formed RF Motors, based within the Northamptonshire headquarters of RFR, the industrial refrigeration equipment giant founded by Feasby in 1983 and now, thanks to a part-takeover by Freezeeco of Tempe, Arizona, the third largest supplier of industrial-grade freezing, refrigeration and air conditioning systems in the world. Early work on the car will take place inside RFR’s old Kettering plant, empty since compressor manufacturing was moved to India in 2017. However, Feasby reveals that ‘some to most’ of the development engineering will be undertaken by renowned automotive consultancy Ingénierie Complète of Reims.
When asked to define what will make his new sports car unique, Feasby’s answer is immediate: ‘Integrity,’ he says firmly. ‘We have a great passion for engineering in this country and by creating our own car we’re maintaining that passion in a very literal way to make us an independent sports car-making nation again.’
Such is Feasby’s belief in British engineering inventiveness that, while manufacturing for his core business now takes place in Taiwan, Egypt, Belgium, Serbia and at the Indian site, Sir Ralph has been steadfast in his determination to keep R&D in the UK. To that end, RFR’s Corby-based Refrigeration Research Centre now employs over 14 people, plus at least three unpaid apprentices at any one time. ‘The apprenticeship scheme is my way of investing in the future of British engineering,’ Feasby notes. ‘I just wish there had been such schemes available when I was starting out.’
For those unfamiliar with the 62-year-old billionaire’s backstory, Feasby spent much of his early years in a tiny two-up two-down house within the grounds of his father’s 400-acre Bedfordshire estate and attended Stowe boarding school, where he first discovered his love of pure, simple British sports cars. ‘One day at the end of term I heard this fabulous noise coming up the driveway and rushed to the west breakfast room window to see this brand new Austin Healey 3000 pulling to a halt on the gravel,’ he recalls. ‘I remember dreaming that one day I could drive a car like that, though sadly my father sold it before I had a licence.’
Did Feasby consider aping the Healey’s straight-six for Project CSC or was a V8 always on the cards? ‘We considered many options, but realised only a V8 would give us the power and sound this car demands, and that allowed us to get a head start by using certain pre-developed parts from other companies such as the cylinder block, crank, sump, pistons, manifolds, cylinder head and gearbox.’
The body, however, will be absolutely bespoke. ‘You can do amazing things with materials such as carbonfibre and that’s something we’ve looked at for areas like the rear wing,’ he explains. ‘The purity that’s lost in modern, regulation-strangled sports cars will be found in the ability to turn everything off. Traction control, ABS, airbags, lights – one press of a button and they’re all off for good. We’re better off without them.’
Feasby won’t be drawn on performance figures but hints his car will be no slouch. ‘The source engine is pretty meaty out of the crate, but we’ll make several modifications at our engine prep facility in Slovakia, such as to the appearance of the cam covers.’
First cars could be delivered in ‘early to late 2022’, pending approval for the Turkish factory that will make the backbone chassis, final agreement with the Romanian glassfibre firm that will supply the bonnet, doors, bootlid and wings, a deal with ‘a well-known North American concern’ for an unspecified ‘major powertrain component’ and refurbishment of the final assembly plant in Spain. ‘I can’t wait for our Great British sports car to put some pride back into our motor industry,’ Sir Ralph concludes. ‘Great Britain made me and it’s time to put something back.’