Resurrection stories are surfacing quite frequently in the watch industry. Over the years we’ve seen Czapek, Airain, Vertex, and in a sense A. Lange & Söhne come back to life. The car industry is comparable, so every now and then, ambitious plans are announced to bring an illustrious manufacturer back from the dead. Today’s episode of Petrolhead Corner is about one of those projects, which starts with a DriveTribe article covering a long lost prototype car carrying a unique engine! That initial story leads to a very long search for that very car, and with success! The car in question? A Connaught Type D Syracuse GT.
Mike Fernie is Head of Video for DriveTribe and one of their most prolific contributors sharing a wide range of stories and videos on the website and YouTube channel. Perhaps you remember our recent coverage of the GMA T.50, the spiritual successor to the legendary McLaren F1, in where he interviewed Gordon Murray? For this Petrolhead Corner episode, once again we’ll be looking at something unusual.
I think for most of us, Connaught is not a very well-known name, but perhaps some seasoned Formula 1 fans and historians might recognise it. Connaught was a British race car manufacturer which was very active in the 1950s, mainly in open-wheel racing. They ran in Formula 2 and Formula 1 throughout the decade and it was one of those typical British manufacturers trying to make an impact in racing. With a total of 52 starts in both Formula 1 and 2, they achieved 1 podium finish, so it’s fair to say the impact was rather limited. There isn’t all that much information on them, but this article on Grand Prix History has quite a nice summary of their endeavours.
Not to dwell in the past for too long, the Connaught Type D Syracuse GT was introduced in 2004 in an attempt to breathe life into a former British racing team. In sports cars and supercars, V8’s are omnipresent and in comparison to a V10, even a 12-cylinder engine seems quite common. The V10 powered sports and supercars that probably come to mind are the Dodge/Chrysler Viper, Audi R8 V10, Porsche Carrera GT and maybe a few others, but the list is rather short. The big difference between those cars and this Connaught Type D Syracuse GT’s engine is its displacement. Where most of the ten-cylinder engines are usually much larger in size, up to 8.3 litres for the Dodge/Chrysler Viper, the idea was to build a V10 with only 2.0 litres of capacity, but make it supercharged!
Not only was the size of the engine unusual, but also the format for the engine as the banks of cylinders are positioned at a rarely seen narrow angle of 22.5 degrees. The more common construction of a V-shaped engine is with two banks of cylinders placed at an angle of about 70 degrees. Why that matters is explained later on in the videos included in this article. The performance of the car was quite promising, especially considering it was built 15 years ago. The car weighed less than 1,000 kilos, and with 300 horsepower on tap from that supercharged V10, it would take just over 4 seconds to hit 100kph (62mph) and top out close to 275kph (170mph). It featured a distinct looking, hand-built aluminium body, bespoke interior (very typical style for that time) and there were even plans for a hybrid powertrain. Sadly, as funds ran dry, it wasn’t meant to be.
Back in 2017, Mike Fernie wrote an article on DriveTribe about this forgotten British sports car in the making, which wasn’t meant to be. A few more years down the road, the car is once again featured on their channel, this time through YouTube:
The video from May this year had fans and followers rooting to get the car ‘rediscovered’. A month’s long search for the long-lost Connaught Type D Syracuse GT ensued, with a proverbial happy end as they managed to locate the car. As it turned out, ownership is now with someone else and besides the initial show car, a number of engines and chassis are still in good enough nick to be used in a finished car.
Six months after that first video on the Connaught, a follow-up video was released where they actually rediscovered the car. The Connaught name is now owned by an experimental vehicle design company, and even though nothing is being done with the brand and cars, the prototype is still complete! One of the men behind the resurrection project is interviewed about his involvement and the plans with the Type D Syracuse GT and one of those tiny V10’s is fired up too, albeit it on a testbed without proper exhausts or cooling equipment, so the sound is nowhere near perfect.
All in all, this makes for a fascinating story and some very interesting footage on an extremely rare car and engine. Who knows what would have happened if they had managed to put this thing on the road! In the end, as Tim Bishop mentions in the video, they ran out of money. It tends to happen to projects like this and it takes a lot of dedication, hard work and very deep pockets to pull something like this off in the first place! Only a handful of brands ever make it past the design stage, and even fewer move on from prototype to actual driveable road car. So, essentially, most of these projects never surpass the vapour-ware status, as it is comically known in the Petrolhead community. Allegedly some new money is being poured into the Connaught Type D Syracuse GT and it is headed to a second life on the road after all.
For more information on this rather special Connaught, I suggest heading to DriveTribe and check out the videos in the article.