Cars prepared by Prodrive scored more World Rally Championship victories than I care to count, not to mention the British firm's involvement with the Ferrari 550 Maranello GTS, the fastest Subaru Impreza around the Nürburgring and this similarly boxer-powered stunt of controlled madness. As it turns out, Prodrive also employs an engineer called Rob, who used to race motorcycles and has been working on an even better idea in his spare time for the last five years. Enter the Darkside, a wild three-wheeler with as much as 275 horsepower from a Suzuki Hayabusa superbike engine.
It's expected to start under $16,000 in kit form without the engine, though the range-topping Darkside is a $35,000 affair if built by the factory, for which customers will get a 275-horsepower Hayabusa lump in a machine weighing just 530 pounds. They're also quick to point out that's over 1,000 hp per ton. While the engineering is mostly complete, if you have a good idea on how to wrap this rigid tubular frame in a lightweight yet stylish body for production, Darkside's design competition is open to your suggestions until September 27.
Why make a three-wheeler over a regular track special that ultimately provides more grip? Rob says its all about engagement, the thrill of driving and affordability:
"Resisting the urge to go off on any number of potentially challenging tangents, the overly simplistic answer to 'why' is a deeply personal drive to find a recreational vehicle that enthralls, excites and engages in equal measure, and yet which totally smashes the conventional 'cookie-cutter' kit car mould. Something which is accessible, engaging, appealing and totally immersive not just to drive, but to own. Something which blends the lunacy of a superbike with the purity of a purpose-built racing car, yet can be enjoyed at a price point that Ariel Atoms and BAC Monos can only dream of."
With two build methods and three levels of tune, these are the Darkside SS, RS and RR models in numbers:
Suzuki's four-cylinder Hayabusa engines are widely used in classic Minis, the smallest of Fiats and Honda N600s to turn them into zippy pocket rockets. You can also find them under the hoods of track-happy kit cars such as Westfield Megabusas and Radical SR1s, dune racers, hotted-up Smart cars and even in one of Suzuki's coolest concept cars, the 181-mph GSX-R/4.
Compact and reliable enough to be doubled up for a V8, Darkside's four-cylinder Hayabusas will act as a semi-stressed member of the chassis with dry-sump lubrication, sending power through a six-speed sequential gearbox and back-torque-limiting clutch. For suspension, Darkside went for a double-wishbone front system with adjustable roll stiffness and a twin-arm rear suspension with linkage-actuated coilover dampers. While that's compliant, note that the three-wheeler footprint with the wide tires still ensures hitting most potholes on the road, classic Morgan style.
When it comes to three-wheelers in America, the most powerful Polaris Slingshot is a 203-horsepower affair starting at $30,999. If it makes it into production during these challenging times, there's no doubt the Darkside will be faster.
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