Auto News

Revealing the Nichols Cars N1A: A road-going supercar inspired by one of the most iconic racing cars of all time

Nichols Cars has revealed the production-ready N1A, the 900 kg Can-Am-inspired British supercar that pays homage to one of the most iconic racing cars of all time: the original McLaren M1A. Led by renowned motorsport engineer, Steve Nichols, Nichols Cars has created the road-going N1A, a lightweight, rear-wheel-drive sports car with minimal driver aids and a naturally-aspirated V8 engine.

Establishing Nichols Cars in 2017, Steve Nichols and CEO of Nichols Cars, John Minett, set out to create a true driver’s car – providing an immersive, intoxicating and highly emotional experience. Featuring precise visual and performance enhancements, the N1A aims to capture the attention of automotive enthusiasts worldwide as its timeless design and impressive engineering specifications celebrate the true meaning of driving: being in control.

Taking the name from its muse and co-founder, Steve Nichols, and inspiration from racing cars of the naturally aspirated golden era, the N1A has entered the last phase in its production journey and is presented today in its production-ready, launch specification. 

Together with incredibly talented individuals they have encountered over the years from all corners of the automotive industry, Nichols and Minett set on a journey to create a car that utilises the latest in today’s automotive technology, inspired by racing cars of the past, but built to be enjoyed on the open road.

A renowned name in the motorsport world, most notably in Formula One, Steve Nichols worked with McLaren in the late 1980s and early 1990s and is credited with introducing the applications of carbon fibre to Formula One, a material that is now commonplace in most racing cars today. Becoming lead designer at McLaren in 1987, the first car Nichols designed for the famed marque, the MP4/3, carried Alain Prost to three victories and led the team to finish second in that year’s Constructors’ Championship behind Williams. 

At the height of the rivalry between legendary drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the second car that Nichols oversaw is often regarded as Formula One’s most iconic car, the mighty McLaren MP4/4. Carrying Senna to his first of three Driver’s Championship wins and winning an impressive 15 out of 16 races in the 1988 season, the MP4/4 became one of the most dominant Formula One cars of all time.

Later joining teams such as Ferrari, Jaguar, Jordan, and Sauber, before eventually coming back to McLaren during the Mika Häkkinen era at the end of the 1990s, Nichols’ magic touch has followed him throughout his career. A firm believer that the racing cars of the 1960s are among some of the best cars ever created, and that the early ‘60s cars had a different kind of appeal as it was the last time a racing car bore any kind of resemblance to something that was seen on the road, Nichols is now transferring his engineering skills and appreciation for automotive heritage to the N1A.

Drawing on the inspirations of the original McLaren M1A, the N1A’s sleek bodywork panels are made from Formula One-grade graphene-infused carbon fibre. The iconic headlights and design cues of the M1A have been carefully implemented into the N1A’s structure, to ensure its swooping body is not only striking to look at but, thanks to carefully considered detailing, aerodynamically efficient, too. 

The N1A’s DNA
Drawing inspiration from the McLaren M1A, often referred to as the first ‘real’ McLaren, the M1A positioned itself as a lightweight, open-top, mid-engined racing car. Weighing in at just 551 kg, the M1A had an impressive power-to-weight ratio, making it a formidable opponent on the track. Later versions of the car, the M1B and M1C, competed in the prestigious North American Can-Am racing series, further strengthening the roots for the Nichols Cars N1A’s Can-Am-inspired looks.

Hints of the McLaren MP4/4 can also be seen throughout the N1A, from its striking visual presence to its visceral driving feedback. It’s the DNA of these cars, alongside Steve Nichols’ vast experience in the automotive scene and the collective involvement of such a knowledgeable team, that the N1A has carried over into the modern age. 

John Minett, CEO of Nichols Cars, said: “The Steve Nichols name is one that needs no introduction in the motorsport world. To be able to work with Steve as well as a number of talented industry professionals is an absolute honour and the N1A is an excellent example of the incredible work from everyone involved. We always strived to make the N1A an unforgettable car – both to experience from afar and from the driver’s seat – and from the N1A’s aerodynamics to its fully-customisable interior, we have now reached that point, and it’s incredible to see.”

For the project, both Steve Nichols and John Minett have had the pleasure of working with a great number of manufacturers and suppliers, ultimately emulating the process that went into creating the M1A, albeit with much more sophisticated technology to hand.  

Exterior design and body
The exterior of the N1A is where Steve Nichols’ work shines through. The bodywork of the N1A celebrates the heritage of the M1A but is a thoroughly modern interpretation. It is produced from Formula One-grade graphene-infused carbon fibre which helps to give the car rigidity as well as contributing to the light weight. With a power-to-weight ratio of nearly 700 bhp per tonne (depending on the engine specification), drivers of the N1A can feel immersed in the true Can-Am racing experience thanks to its featherweight driving feel. The N1A is also available in any number of liveries, each of which can be customised to the customer’s requirements. 

To ensure it’s as aerodynamically efficient as possible, the N1A has been sculpted in the MIRA wind tunnel, allowing for stringent aerodynamic testing. Part of the challenge was to retain the exceptional shape whilst enhancing drag and downforce, both of which have been achieved. 

The execution of the N1A’s exterior is something to behold as it aims to emulate the simplicity of the legendary M1A whilst forging a path for other British sports car brands to follow in the future. 

Inside, the cockpit reflects the stripped-back approach of a racing car, highlighting the dashboard with dials that hark back to the golden era of motor racing. The execution, however, is pure sophistication, with top-grade leathers and fabrics, and aluminium components machined from the solid billet. Featuring an Ayrton Senna-inspired gear knob, the N1A’s fully reclined seating position is like that of the MP4/4, giving drivers a chance to experience exactly what Senna and Prost saw. 

Traction control is standard, with power steering and switchable ABS as options; it’s easy to see that the N1A is for those motorsport purists who enjoy the pleasure of driving, away from the glaring touchscreens that are all too common in today’s cars. 

The ‘beating heart’ of the top-of-the-range N1A is a 7.0-litre all-alloy V8, which has been developed by Nichols Cars. Starting out as an LS3 block from General Motors, it’s been bored out to accommodate new steel liners, whilst custom pistons and conrods have also been added. The impressive engine will be topped with drive-by-wire throttle bodies and will sit on top of a dry sump system, developed in conjunction with leading UK-based engine specialists. The result of these extensive engine upgrades is a total power output of 650 bhp, meaning the N1A in this specification has nearly 700 bhp per tonne.

Each N1A engine will be assembled by hand by specialists at Langford Performance Engineering (LPE), in the same space as the legendary V8 and V10 Formula One engines, which are currently undergoing restoration and race preparation. Headed up by Richard Langford, one of the key people behind the development of the renowned Cosworth DFV engine (an engine seen in the back of many Formula One cars in the 1970s), each Nichols Cars V8 will be supervised under his expert guidance. 

Coupled with a choice of transmissions supplied by Dana Graziano (formerly known as Graziano Transmissioni) the N1A is a proficient racing car for the road, capable of brutal acceleration and comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard.

Decades of experience and know-how are evidently visible when it comes to the N1A’s chassis. With power steering offered as an optional extra, the N1A’s rack-and-pinion steering, along with its motorsport-derived multi-piston front and rear brakes, aims to connect the driver as much to the road as possible, constructing a visceral driving experience.

The N1A’s aggressive stance is a result of a wider body and a longer wheelbase than the original McLaren M1A and the application of modern design influences. Additionally, the N1A will be fitted with low-profile Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, 19 inches at the front and 20 inches at the rear, making the most of the modern innovations available. 

The hand-fabricated independent front and rear suspension of the N1A comes with double wishbones and anti-roll bars as standard, absorbing all the surfaces the N1A will conquer. 

The N1A’s chassis is just as impressive as its exterior. Comprised of next-generation carbon fibre and lightweight yet strong aluminium, the cutting-edge materials used in the creation of the N1A are second-to-none. 

Founder of Nichols Cars, Steve Nichols, said: “Having experienced amazing racing cars over the decades, I’ve never been able to implement those quirky qualities into a road car, until now. Taking into account all the people that have worked on the N1A, I’m incredibly proud that the car is part of the next chapter in sports car history and is the next step for us and Nichols Cars. The process from pencil to production model has been extremely gratifying; this should be a reminder to the entire automotive industry that combining the past, present and looking to the future, is the way forward for this entire community.”

The launch run of vehicles will be top-of-the-range versions with 7.0-litre (427 cubic inches) engines, limited to 15 cars, each commemorating a victory of the MP4/4. The total production of N1A models won’t exceed more than 100 vehicles, adding to its exclusivity. 

Tags: ,