Nichols N1A unveiled: 650bhp lightweight racer for the road

Weighing just 900kg, the N1A uses a 7-litre naturally aspirated V8 wrapped up in a retro carbonfibre body

As the all-electric era approaches, some manufacturers are looking to the past to inspire their specialised combustion-engined sports cars, the latest of which is Nichols. The UK-based firm has revealed a new lightweight two-seater called the N1A, which draws from the iconic McLaren M1A sports prototype of the ‘60s with a mid-mounted V8, a manual gearbox and shrink-wrapped bodywork that recalls classic Group 7 racers. 

Nichols emerged in 2017 and set out to create a pure, motorsport-inspired road car under the guidance of F1 engineer and co-founder Steve Nichols. Counting the iconic McLaren MP4/4 in his portfolio of work, Nichols took the first-ever McLaren – the M1A – as a reference point for the N1A, using modern materials and engineering techniques to refine the original formula for the road. 

At its core, the N1A uses a carbonfibre and aluminium chassis with double wishbones at each corner, with a wider track and longer wheelbase than the original M1A. Nestled behind the two-seat cockpit is a naturally aspirated 7-litre V8 derived from a Chevrolet LS3 unit, albeit with extensive modifications. The hand-built motor is bored out with new steel cylinder liners and bespoke pistons, with dry-sump lubrication and fly-by-wire throttle bodies; generating a peak of 650bhp, the 900kg N1A has a better power-to-weight ratio than a Ferrari SF90. In-keeping with the analogue brief, power is sent to the rear wheels through an open-gate six-speed manual gearbox. 

As per the original M1A, the V8 breathes through eight exposed intake trumpets behind the passengers, and the rest of the design is faithful to the ‘60s sports car aesthetic. The lean carbon bodywork almost appears to be vacuum formed over the wheels, which measure 19-inches at the front and 20 at the rear, wearing Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. The N1A’s aero has been honed in a wind tunnel to produce downforce at speed, and as with most bespoke low-volume sports cars, extensive customisation options are available to each customer. 

The N1A can be ordered in numerous bespoke paint colours and liveries, with billet aluminium components and leather trim inside the cockpit. For a more accessible driving experience, owners can specify power steering and switchable ABS to go with the standard-fit traction control, while the car’s reclined seating position has been designed to emulate the McLaren MP4/4.

Pricing for the N1A hasn’t been announced yet, but given that no more than 100 will be produced, expect it to sit in the upper echelons of the hand-built sports car space. The first 15 launch-spec cars will be equipped with the 650bhp V8, with less powerful engine configurations becoming available later.

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