Building 75 Moslers
Part ll Of A Day Out In Norfolk

December 16 was a fascinating one for the Ed. As you will probably have already read, that morning was spent watching one of the Rollcentre Dallaras on Multimatic’s suspension rig at Thetford. A quick conversation with Warren Mosler and we were off to Breckland Technology Ltd., to see the construction of the Mosler MT900S road cars.

Warren Mosler himself set the scene: “The ACO requires us to build a minimum of 25 cars, but we’ve already ordered the parts for another 50, making 75 in total.”

These will all be built at East Dereham, west of Norwich in Norfolk – the base for Mike Rawlings and Mark Easton, and their Breckland Technology company. They’ve been based here, on a small trading estate, since September 2000, one significant advantage of this ‘off the beaten track’ location being the availability of a number of small fabrication shops and specialist engineers - which are an off-shoot of the presence of Lotus Cars, not too far up the road in Wymondham.

Mike Rawlings and Mark Easton have both been employed in specialist road and race car work throughout their working lives: Mike’s past includes an involvement in the designing and building of such unique cars as the Costello Can Am and the Rawlson two litre sports car, while recent work at East Dereham has included construction of the Garaiya JGTC GT300 cars, and another Japanese sports car, this one for the road – and perhaps destined for a trip across the USA in the near future.

dailysportscar.comAs Mike showed me around the assembly area, it gradually became apparent why Warren Mosler decided to have the Mosler road cars built in the UK.

Many of the components do come from the USA though - witness crate after crate of GM LS6 engines, from its plant in Ontario.

The V8 engines are almost 'stock' GM items, but with a few subtle modifications. In 2003, the British GT Moslers raced with almost stock GM LS6s - just slight changes to the camshafts - and they were immaculately reliable.

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Construction begins with the monocoque, which is fabricated in Florida, then shipped to Norfolk. The Mosler is rather different from anything else, as Mike Rawlings explains.

“The raw material is a structural board called Teclan, which is made in California, and was created to make such items as aircraft floors and bulkheads, for the likes of the latest Boeings. It’s a carbon-aluminium honeycomb, which is obviously very light, but also very strong: it takes an impact very well. It’s cut and glued to make the tub, and that’s the starting point, the tub, for us here. The roll cage for the road cars is also an epoxy-carbon moulding, although the race cars use a typical steel roll cage.

dailysportscar.com“Our first job is to fit the bobbins into the tub – for the seat belt mountings and the front and rear subframes (a rear subframe, left). These are made at SDW at Banbury, and we’ve had a hand in slightly altering the original design of the subframe for the front and the rear.”

The point Mike Rawlings keeps coming back to is that he and Mark Easton are turning a race car into a production car, and there are all sorts of localised parts of the original Rob Trenne design that would have been done differently, had the road car come first.

“The revised rear subframe gives better access to the starter motor – and the subframes are powder coated (over aviation quality steel) for the road cars, for better durability. That’s just one example of the changes we’ve made.”

Assembly of the road cars was going on before our eyes, and it certainly was a simple procedure – in part because of the revisions made at Breckland.

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“We’ve been developing the system to build the road cars – to make production simpler, compared to the race car. But changes are on-going all the time, as the 900R becomes the 900S. For example, the bodywork arrives from the states, but in due course, we’ll have the buck here, and we’ll be making the bodywork. That will allow us to make slight changes to the panel fit, for example. We’ll also be changing the way the doors open and close, and anyway we’ve had to engineer a seal into each door, something that the race cars just didn’t have, or need.”

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This is Mike Rawlings with the deformable structure that is required in the door sills of each MT900S - another component not needed in the race cars.

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The first five Mosler road cars will all be left hand drive, for US customers, but depending on the time scale, that might grow and become the first ten.

Breckland Technology is “pushing ahead with the right hand drive conversion,” explains Mike Rawlings, “and that should be ready to go by the early summer of 2005.

“Sometimes it seems like three steps forward and two back: for example, the r/hand drive cars need a revised wiper system, and for Europe that needs to both cover a certain percentage of the screen – a very curved screen – as well as work effectively at 200 mph (which it had to do anyway, as a l/hand drive).”

We’ve all heard of a race car that has suffered a lifting wiper at high speed on Mulsanne: not nice at all.

dailysportscar.comSolving problems such as this one – or designing an air conditioning system, or the instrument layout – is where local sub-contractors come in. This is the interim instrument layout of the yellow, 'Nurburgring car' (right), so it's not indicative of the final product.

“We bring the people in, explain the problem, and they go away and solve it.”

Mike Rawlings seems to be a very tough negotiator on price!

The glass that is required behind the driver and passenger is an important component, the angle having to be just right to avoid annoying reflections, while also helping to keep the noise out.

“We’re also looking into incorporating an acoustic membrane into the bulkhead, which would almost be a first in a car like this: it was originally a noisy (race) car, which is fine for a short run of a hundred miles or so, but we’re making it more civilised, and therefore it has to be reasonably quiet. The customer does want to be able to listen to his hi-fi.”

Mike Rawlings makes the point that the buyer of a Mosler probably also owns a Mercedes or a BMW or a Ferrari – or a combination of all three, maybe others too – so he knows what he likes, and knows what standard is expected in a car like this, even though the original was conceived for racing around tracks like Daytona International Speedway.

Seats are a simple choice for the USA – “Americans like the Momo seat” – but for European tastes, “it’s got to be leather or alcantara.”

The upholstery guy was due at Breckland the following day.

Mike Rawlings sums up Breckland’s product as “a fashion statement: we’re a boutique manufacturer, just as someone in the clothing industry is, at the top end of that market.”

The Mosler does incorporate some existing, high quality, components though – the handbrake, for example. Designing one from scratch would be prohibitively expensive, so the Mosler uses a Corvette item, “but we make up the cables”.

A glance at the front suspension reveals Corvette uprights and wishbones – and for the US market, calipers too. The European cars will have specialist brake and suspension components though: Americans are more likely to drop into their local GM dealer for service items.

Wheels were a recurring worry at the time of our visit, delivery not expected until February – so next month seems to be the deadline for the rolling out of the first of the British-built road cars.

You’ve probably already read about Stephane Cottin (at the wheel below) ‘rolling out’ the seven litre ‘special’ – the MT900S that Joao Barbosa will be racing around the Nordschleife again in March, searching for a new road car lap record. Stephane admits to doing “a little bit of everything” at Breckland Technology.

One of his most significant achievements was getting Joao Barbosa involved with Moslers and racing. “Mr. Mosler asked me if I knew of a really good driver who could become the Mosler factory driver. Joao had gone back to Portugal at the time, but he flew over to Florida, and has been employed by Warren Mosler ever since.”

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These are exciting times for everyone connected with the Moslers – both the road and race cars. Once the first 25 have been built, Warren Mosler and Martin Short will be talking to the ACO about homologation – although it’s likely that conversations will be ongoing anyway, during the next few months.

dailysportscar.comThe MT900R is great value as a GT2-Class race car – just as it is for a road car. It's success on the track is already listed in the record books (this is the 2003 Spa 1000 kms winner, left), but before it can be considered for competition under ACO regulations, Mike Rawlings and Mark Easton have got to build the 25 road cars.

Le Mans 2006 perhaps? In the meantime, sales of both road and race cars are heading onwards and upwards. More race car sales to be confirmed shortly, eh Mr. Short?
MC

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