Nichols Cars N1A follows the Can-Am formula of low weight, high power

Steve Nichols, born and educated in Utah, made his mark a long way from the Salt Lake and Bryce Canyon state. After a time with chemicals, plastics, and propulsion company Hercules Aerospace, he joined the McLaren Formula 1 team in the early 1980s. As head of the design department, he shepherded the MP4/3 to life, following that with the MP4/4 that won 15 of 16 races in 1988 and that still earns oohs and aahs from F1 enthusiasts. He left F1 in 2002, then waited 15 years to found Nichols Cars in 2017. The first product out of the company gates is this, the Nichols Cars N1A. It’s an homage to flyweight Can-Am cars with gargantuan V8s, especially the McLaren M1A, the first car considered a true McLaren. The N1A will be road-legal in Europe, but we’re not sure our authorities would approve it for residential U.S. streets.

Bruce McLaren chose the 3.5-liter, aluminum block Oldsmobile V8 for his M1A in 1964, then had outside engine developer Traco bore it out to 4.5 liters to make 310 horsepower. It’s gratifying to note the powertrain symmetries between the M1A and N1A. Nichols stuck with the GM family for motivation, offering three choices. There’s an entry-level LT1 GM V8 making 460 horsepower, a second option being the same engine bumped up to 520 hp. The one that wears the crown is a 6.2-liter aluminum block LS3 V8 probably most known for powering the C6 Chevrolet Corvette among other products. Nichols outsourced the build to Langford Performance Engineering, famous for being founded by an engineer who worked on and tuned the Cosworth DFV, called “The greatest racing engine ever made.” Langford duly bored the LS3 to 7.0 liters and installed new bits like custom pistons inside steel liners, and dry-sump lubrication. Output comes to 650 hp. As a nod to simpler times, the only transmission available is a Graziano six-speed manual. Traction control is standard, power steering and ABS are optional. 

Graphene-infused carbon bodywork shaped by the wind tunnel slips over a carbon and aluminum tub. There are double wishbones at four corners, AP Racing brakes, and Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires on 19-inch wheels in front, 20-inch wheels in back. The N1A’s footprint is 9.8 inches wider on a wheelbase 11.8 inches longer than the M1A’s, but the N1A still only weighs 1,984 pounds — nothing of consequence for 650 hp to shove around. 

Occupants will be pleased with the additional room over the M1A as well as the leather, Alcantara, and billet aluminum furnishings. The analogue gauges and zero screens are a treat, too.  

Production’s slated to start later this year. Nichols says the first 15 hand-built cars will carry the 7.0-liter motor and special commemorative details in dedication to the 15 wins the McLaren MP4/4 scored in 1988. After that, production will be capped at 100 units at a price said to be around £450,000 ($582,000 U.S.). If you want to find out more before putting down a deposit, check out a series on the N1A’s development by Petrol Ped.

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