There’s a nondescript little industrial unit tucked away on a street in San Marcos, California, that hides something wonderful. And although the cars produced here are the kind of fantastic confections that make your ears prick and your nerves jump, the best bit about it is actually a bloke called Luke Richards, who, despSounds like a racing car? Pretty much, yes. It’s certainly intimidating when you first fire it up, because the initial report from the exhaust scares birds from power lines in Arizona and makes dogs bark in San Diego. The front view is a sine wave of bonnet, the steering is heavy, the engine straining, even at idle. And yet, if you slot second and take your time, the Lucra – we’re in the 550bhp version – potters around quite happily. It rides well, even given the degenerate state of this part of Cali’s roads, and has a well of torque so deep it could manage with a two-speed auto. But that isn’t the best bit. The best bit is when you drive it a bit faster. ite his current sun-drenched living arrangements, hails from the slightly more inclement town of Whitby in Yorkshire.
The story is an interesting one, and altogether pertinent. A Lotus-loving father and an American mum, one an advocate of light weight and cornering prowess, the other exposing him to the seductive throb of a V8 engine – two sides of a cultural heritage that seemed poles apart. A childhood surrounded by various dealings with European exotica (later replicated professionally), and teenage years spent fiddling with various lumps of American iron with more engine than ability. You’ve probably guessed the rest, because Richards is one of those people who has an idea, and actually follows through. Without a car that serviced his particular needs, he decided to build one, and a car company to go with it. From scratch.
The result is Lucra Cars. Colin Chapman theory with NASCAR execution. So it’s not exactly a complicated proposition: light weight plus big V8 power equals fun. But getting a big, heavy GM LS V8 to sit – and behave – in an extremely lightweight car is not the work of a minute. And we’re talking peculiarly light here (a Lucra weighs in at just over 900kg) and, with a possible 680bhp, not particularly limp. In fact, some of the stats are properly frightening: the 680bhp car can run a quarter-mile in just over nine seconds, hit 60mph in under three and – depending on gearing – run to more than 195mph. There’s a “lesser” 550bhp state of tune that’s not far behind, and pretty much any of the ubiquitous LS-designation engines will fit, from LS3s to contemporary Corvette 7.0-litre LS7 small blocks. It’s not just the stats that are impressive, either, because the spec list will get any petrolhead itching to drive one. The millimetrically precise, laser-cut chassis is essentially a tubular spaceframe, the independent suspension (both front and rear) nicked from racing-car geometry, the steering system utilising NASCAR Sprint Cup components. The engine is front-mid-mounted, the drive to the rear, and sent to the floor via a Dana 44 rear diff, while the body is carbon, and reminiscent of myriad classic racers. And that carbon shell only weighs about 60kg – about nine stone to you and me, with the chassis only coming in at 127kg – which is probably the average weight of a prop forward. The traction control comes in two parts – your left and right feet – and stability control is via your actual hands rather than via the mind of a programmer in a beige office cubicle.