John Morrison’s HARDDRIVERS….


WELCOME to this, my extreme auto-enthusiast’s blog site …

Prelim memory – as a young aspiring racer I had no particular target as far as racing was concerned. I’d go as far as my talent would take me. Everyone naturally wanted to get into Formula One Grand Prix, that’s where the fame & fortune lay & the F1 cars about as good as they got …

But as time went by though, particularly after witnessing those 917 Porsche in the wet, 1970 Brands BOAC, I realised there could be targets outside of F1 where powerful light racecars looked such enormous … FUN!

The popularity of Can-Am grew in front of our eyes. So in answer as to what I wanted to progress to, what would I enjoy racing more – a purpose built fastest ever precision device, or something with more power than the chassis and aeros could handle, I came to the conclusion …

N1A UPDATE 31.01.23 John J

It’s taken much longer than expected, partly because the standards we set ourselves have been so high, but I’m pleased to announce that we are now just a few weeks away from the first shake down runs of the new car.

I’m delighted to confirm that we have hit all our targets for weight and stiffness, so the production N1A will be under 900 kilos with fluids.  The car in-build has a 7 litre Chevrolet-based engine, developed by Nichols, producing over 600 bhp., so performance will be spectacular.

When Steve and I first discussed this project, we wanted to make full use of the contacts we had made over the years.

Steve himself needs little introduction:

Chief Designer on the McLaren MP4/4, the most successful F1 car of all time.  Race Engineer to Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.  A key player in the introduction of carbon fibre to the racing and automotive world.  Originator of torque vectoring with the “brake-steer” system for McLaren, a concept which has been developed for every high-performance car on sale today.

However, the N1A is not the product of just one man, but a group of highly talented individuals, each of them a leading global figure in their respective speciality.

Similarly, we have made use of the most advanced materials, teaming up with a world leading developer and supplier of high grade “graphene”, for example, to take full advantage of the properties of this amazing material.

With the suspension, we have been fortunate to have had access to the knowledge of Richard Hurdwell who, until his retirement was Lotus’ top suspension guru.  Since then, Richard has kept himself “amused” contributing to a few exceptional projects which have taken his interest, the best known of which is probably the Ariel Atom 4 which won the accolade of being Autocar’s finest-handling driver’s car 2 years on the trot.  There have been some fascinating conversations between Richard and Steve, including their shared experience of working with Ayrton Senna: Richard was a key player in Lotus’ active ride programme when Ayrton drove for Lotus in F1 prior to his move to McLaren.

Turning Richard and Steve’s thinking into the metal has been undertaken by the same team who made the suspension on the McLaren F1 cars raced by Prost and Senna.  It is beautifully handcrafted, light weight and efficient.

The website has already highlighted the contribution of Bob Mustard and his colleagues at Stalcom.  Bob was a pioneer in the development of lightweight bonded aluminium structures, becoming one of the main instigators of the Lotus Elise project.  As perhaps the leading player in the field, Bob was also the main consultant when Jaguar and Aston Martin decided to embrace this form of construction.  In the N1A this technology has been developed further with the inclusion of structural carbon fibre and the deletion of the conventional use of a steel sub frame in the engine bay, as is the case with the Elise.

Integration of the powertrain has been undertaken by David Wood, a former senior designer at Cosworth.  David was responsible for the V6 engine in the Group B Metro 6R4 and oversaw the design and development which resulted in the 3.5 litre turbo racing engine which was used in various racing Group C Jaguars and on the road in the fabled Jaguar XJ220.

We have made a number of changes to the body as a result of the desire to improve the packaging, taking into consideration work done in the wind tunnel, and have been extremely anxious that in the process we didn’t lose the magic of the “black” car which was universally admired to an almost embarrassing degree. Those who have seen the new car are unanimous in saying that, if anything, it looks even better. But from these exclusive “preview” photographs of the car nearing the end of the build process, you can judge for yourself …

Steve Nichols & John J might have the answer, in fact I’ve driven the prototype, I’ve heard about the updates, and … I’ve told them I want one. !!!!! Finished in John Coombes Grey, I’d enjoy this …

This is the perfect gig for HARDDRIVERS!

460-740 bhp – 750 kg open road-legal two seater sports racer …

Performance car types may well wonder where superstars from the fascinating past may disappear to. Great example here that in the Woking vicinity of the M25 is very much McLaren land. Lot of latent race car building talent past & very much present, lie in the soft environs of overcrowded Surrey. So it’s not really surprising to find a real cute little workshop hidden away but giving birth to a project that right up my HARDDRIVER’S street.

Met up today with the instigator of a grand plan. Back in the 60s, the American racing scene was awash with V8 big litre engines in all sorts of sports cars like Corvettes, Mustangs & Cobras. Thanks to the antipodean influence on the UK scene, these punchy motors found their way into European style both single & two seater race cars (Formula 5000 & Can Am). They were great; the ground shook every time one of these brutes were fired up. A whole grid unleashed a proper eruption when the starter’s flag dropped and race promoters liked it big time.

The UK had long got off to a good start where small specialist racing folk applied hard won skills born of their war efforts (and vacant old airport spaces & perimeter tracks). Commercial opportunity arose when the American market in particular needed servicing so these specialist formulae grew rapidly & drew in the good work by just a few applied individuals testing their efforts outside of Formula One. This gave us two stunning series for Formula 5000 and Can Am two seaters which also attracted the very top in driver talent to master the monsters.

Now the Grand Instigator, John J was wooed back then & Steve Nichols, the American who did so much for F1 World Champions Prost, Senna & Porsche while at McLaren, also clocked that sports cars at that time were relatively simple devises. And remaking one today needn’t be atmospheric money. So long as they could lay their hands on a Can-Am like V8 motor, then brutal performance would available quite inexpensively …

Download your own copy of the N1a brochure …

UPDATE Jan 23the following extracts taken from Nichol’s first brochure

For fullest information today, connect with …


John Morrison 07767277775

Prototype 003

Tripping the Light fantastic …

Feb 15, 2023 |HARDDRIVERS

Regulars will know that above all, I am a big fan of open air sports cars, of lightweights and big bikes.

One simple reason. Responsiveness – preferably with a surfeit of power but RESPONSIVENESS to all your driver/rider inputs, reactions & controls.

I thought it quite fun to examine this closely & try to write it down in simple terms (I’m not an academic or qualified engineer, nor a pro-writer); but to describe a car/bike as a ‘lightweight’ or ‘RS’, ‘Clubsport’, ‘GT3/2’ or ‘sport machine’ using a nomenclature being one of those glib highbrow clichés that ‘goes without saying’. Of course, ‘lightweight’ is good. Colin, Gordon & many top top world auto designers say so …
And because & despite a single word description, the effects on driving lines, effort & speed are considerable. Oh … and enjoyment for those of us who are keen on such things.
But exactly why? Why not just dial in more power for example?

There are a number of contributory factors that a make a car ‘responsive’ & more fun of course. So let’s look at some of these. The first thing we are tackling then is lightweight. It’s not difficult to understand why this is a vital component. If your car is half the weight of that of an opponent, in every avenue of it’s real life performance, it will be faster – acceleration, getting that mass moving; braking, stopping it again and cornering, getting it around corners in all their variations, will be better, faster in a lighter weight car. The ‘smarter’ it’s behaviour.

So given that we are to produce an averagely ‘good’ car, where do we look first at this weight business? An early qualification is understanding in the overall design concept, is the size of tyres and of course the arrangements for the cars suspension. All this comes under the heading of Chassis and how it needs to work to be ‘good’. Tyres obviously, as they have done from year bonk, play a super-large part of any vehicle’s essential grip & therefore the rate at which you can belt through any change of direction. As very very few of us are starting this process from very first principles, let’s jump forward to assume we are playing with a respectable four wheeled average ‘good’ motor car, whatever it’s vintage.

A tyre and it’s interaction with any road surface, is such an essential & interesting instrument. One of the easiest ways of describing it’s importance is to look for a moment of the sole of your foot & shoe. Not big is it if you are thinking of it carrying weight rotating at say, 100 mph? Yet, no matter how fast or how hard you want this car to run, they don’t come in a huge variety of sizes. This is because so many other factors rear their ugly boring heads – like cost, noise, rolling resistance, fuel efficiencies, wearing capabilities, all weather considerations etc. all bring quite a heavy bearing …

But stay with this and our average ‘good’ automobile and it’s performance, and for a moment, think of the sole of you foot & boot as a circle whereby the car sits on just four of these. Four simple circles which transmit all aspects of making transport happen, beit power that moves it along, brake size that again brings it to a safe halt and at the same time in the twisties, puts up with changes of direction. You can appreciate that for four simple contact patches not much larger than your shoe, they are set quite a task. How they do it of course adds or detracts from the personality of the car. But why?

Now then, what them there scientists (physicists) deduced many years ago from the idea of the circle of grip is that the load questions you ask to lever much the required force into our little contact patch, matter very much. So for example, ask a tyre patch to take maximum power to accelerate of fast as possible, puts the grip available heavily towards the back of our circle. Too much power of course the contact patch can’t manage it and wheel spin ensues. Ok, visa versa; now lever our little patch into taking maximum braking effort and yes, easy to anticipate that the grip can only take so much before contact patch cries ‘enough’ and the wheel locks up and we slide forward. at a seemingly, at a increasingly disastrous rate of knots!

Ho ho, so now then let’s take a car and it’s four contact patches through a corner and we can appreciate that the lateral loading tasks will also ask serious questions of our contact patch as it moves to the left or right of it’s performance circle. There are a few very vital aspects now taking place that our simplistic view get’s to be rapidly more complex. Just for starters our contact patch performance circle can’t expand beyond it’s designed grip level. Not difficult to deduce that if we dial in for maximum acceleration and ask also for a little lateral performance, it can’t take it to it’s max as it’s got two jobs on now. Same when we ask questions of the contact patch under braking. If you dial in a little lateral request at this stage, you’ll get a fairly rudimentary refusal.

So all this is quite easy to understand I know. So what happens to our first big deal prerequisite which is lightweight. Yes our contact patch can be considered ‘bigger’ (better, faster) as there’s less weight for it to carry. A solid fundamental that one. Perhaps we can understand where the fun factor is beginning to take shape too, as we ‘adjust’ the amount of power, beit engine or braking demands, with those of our lateral requirement and capacity. Yep, you can feel this is where the juggling starts. So in this area of chassis behaviour, we can already appreciate the fine degree of behaviours expected of steering, braking and engine response systems in blending with tyre & suspension reaction.

So for the keen Drivers & Riders …

And we haven’t yet addressed suspension movements, geometry changes, chassis rigidity, weight transfers nor road conditions, the rise & fall of cambers, again all on the effect of chassis & how a car is ‘set up’ statically, to start with. But we do know that today, there has been sufficient experience by most of the major players that they can give you a chassis well sorted that responds well to heavy power outputs, big braking capacity and some extremely sophisticated foot wear. That all spells fun with a capital F ….

The driver/rider to has to play his part in juggling the controls accurately enough that go towards the goals he is setting himself. Tyres too have three important aspects if more subtle aspects to their performance and where does that leave our suspension systems. Slip angles – the distortion in the tyre before it let’s go it’s grip; what happens when locked tyres slide across whatever surface they are extracting best grip from. What happens under extreme cornering when the fronts can take no more (we go through the wall forwards); when the rears give up the unequal battle (we go off backwards)? Weight transfers are meat & drink to hard motorcyclists with dramatic effects when limits are reached. then again, more than a car driver, they have their own body weight to effect a more pronounced fundamental and balance to the shape of their progress down the road.

You can never underestimate the fun in taking your fine machine hard down you favorite route, when all you controls ask questions of your equipment – and the answers are instantaneous ! Even on the road, in traffic, using up grip from your contact patches is involving. Weight transfers, front to back & side to side and a mixture of all 4 is the key here as you go through the motions of opening/closing throttles, applying & releasing brakes and of course, the loads you put through the tyres as you steer through your favourite bends. Plus paying regard as we said to cambers, vertical curves, and threats to grip from the road surface itself so playing an overture which has rhythms of high hard notes, and soft finessing moves securing best balance maybe speed and more …

Shall we dissect aerodynamic effects, four wheel drive differentiations, adjustable brake balances here … or even what needs to happen in close track circuit combat competition circumstances – or leave all that for a later date?

So RESPONSIVENESS boils down to how the car/bike systems are designed to cope with all the limits we can set it to; and how it behaves when we change our minds. (In a competition car, this has to be REALLY QUICK) Or shift the required strength from one aspect to another. Lightweight together with all the systems that work best at this weight is vital. It also changes from one discipline to another; we don’t take Limousines on circuits looking for a result; neither does 10 hour car journey work for a hot lap special ( though sometimes we test ourselves!)