This year marks the tenth anniversary of the BAC Mono, a car that was the culmination of a dream for brothers and founding partners Ian and Neil Briggs. Back then, they set out to build the sort of car they wanted, but no one else sold. Fast forward a decade, and the Motul-lubricated Mono continues to define the recipe for lightweight supercars. Ian, design director of the Liverpool-based car company, takes us on a tour of the new Mono and BAC’s aspirations for the future.
Ian, last year you unveiled a new Mono: lighter, faster and with turbo power. Can you talk us through the changes?
We were looking to expand the markets into which the car could be sold. So, aside from the way the car looks, the biggest technical change is the introduction of the turbo engine. It meets the current European regulation, EU6D, which tends to be about the strictest in the world. If you can meet those, you can more or less sell the car anywhere in the world.
You also managed to reduce weight and drag. How did you achieve this?
The good thing with Mono, or what makes it easier from a development point of view, is we know exactly what we’re trying to achieve: reduce weight and drag, and any weight we can reduce we’re trying to lower it in the car and move it closer to the driver. It’s a really clear brief. One of the challenges of lightweight sportscars is fighting the wind when driving fast. Reducing drag, therefore, was a big requirement. One of the main things we did was bring all the elements, such as headlamps front and rear, within the outline of the car and that meant we could really clean up the car aerodynamically and aesthetically. And that gave the car its famous shark-nose look. Mono has always been about the contrast between the upper body and the technical lower body, and we tried to make that a bit more organic.
Is it challenging trying to evolve the design of a car that is so focused?
One of the first places to save weight is the tyre, then the wheel, then the brake disc. Inevitably, we started off with the lightest aluminium OZ road-legal wheel we could find. Then we try to make it lighter through carbon-fibre and other innovations, and it naturally leads you to some of these solutions. When you get to the point where you can’t go any further, you start to look for better materials. The innovation isn’t for the sake of it.
Does that give you a lot more design freedom because you’ve got a single purpose?
Absolutely. It makes the design and engineering task easier, because we’ve got a really clear goal, and don’t have to worry about things like access to the rear, how a convertible roof might work, and how different people might use it. The biggest question we have is whether someone uses it on the road or the track. It’s a tough thing to get a car to work well on both. When you’re down to 500kg, you can have soft springs, supple suspension, so it works well on the road and is also really fast on the track.
Where do you go next with a car like the Mono? Will there ever be a two-seater?
[Laughs] I think it’s possible, but Mono will remain a single-seater for the foreseeable future. In the medium term, we would like to try and broaden its appeal by understanding how different people use that focused product and make it even more focused for that particular use. I often tell people “look at the Yamaha logo, it’s a tuning fork”. Yet today it’s more synonymous with motorcycles rather than music. So, who knows what will happen in the future? Some people like to take the car on long weekends in the Alps, for instance, so having things like navigation in the steering wheel will help. People in hot climates would like a closed one where they could keep cool, or in cold climates where they could keep warm and dry. Then there are other people who want downforce. People use them in different ways, and we want to try and cater for that.
With electrification and then automation, the future of cars is changing dramatically. How will BAC adapt to this new future?
There was a time when the horse was transport. It did everything. Then the car came along and replaced it. The horse didn’t stop existing. It just became a luxury product for people who liked riding. And they didn’t have to think of all the practical uses for a horse anymore. When we’re all getting around using driverless, electric transport, there will still always be people who enjoy driving. Driving as a sport will always exist, whether that’s on the road or the track. In that environment, a car like Mono will be an easier product to understand than it is today. The car will become like a ski, a canoe, a parachute, or a mountain bike. It'll just be seen as a piece of equipment for your hobby, which is the extreme sport of driving.