Back in 2006, a bonkers new road car was unveiled that looked like a Formula One car and a Caterham had been forcibly merged into one another. The result was the rather spectacular Caparo T1, a machine that accelerated to 100 mph in less than five seconds, had a kerb weight of 470kg, and a power to weight ratio double that of the Bugatti Veyron.
While reviews were rather positive, as you’d expect from a machine dubbed as an F1 car for the road, a number of high profile incidents threatened to derail the project completely. At the press launch there was a suspension failure, the throttle stuck open at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and then British Touring Car driver Jason Plato was injured when the model he was testing at the Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground caught fire while travelling at around 160 mph.
More issues struck the Top Gear review, as Jeremy Clarkson had to stop driving with a broken floor, and then a problem with the petrol injection system. The BBC didn’t hold back on health and safety, with the test overseen by a fleet of emergency vehicles!
While performance was good - the car easily broke the Top Gear circuit record - and designers hyped it up as a successor to the McLaren F1 (engineers Ben Scott-Geddes and Graham Halstead both worked on the McLaren F1 project), sales were hugely disappointing.
Caparo planned to manufacture 25 cars a year, but only 15 vehicles were sold by 2012.
The project started life at a company called Freestream, was purchased by international technology business Caparo in 2006 and brought under the Caparo Vehicle Technologies banner. The car was shown off for the first time in Monaco later that year, and prospects were bright.
But less than 10 years later, the parent company was on the verge of bankruptcy as the UK steel crisis escalated. 450 jobs went in October 2015, and Caparo entered administration. Five sites were closed immediately, and on 8 November, CEO Angad Paul was found dead in a suspected suicide. The youngest son of billionaire entrepreneur Lord Swraj Paul had fallen from his eighth story apartment in London.
On 28 November, Caparo Merchant Bar (one of three solvent parts of the parent business that had continued trading) was purchased by Sanjeev Gupta, head of Liberty House Group, saving over 1,000 jobs mainly in the West Midlands. But Caparo Vehicle Technologies had no future, and by 2019 the company was liquidated and fully dissolved.
Liberty House Group created an offshoot, Liberty Vehicle Technologies, and in 2017 announced a £10 million investment in the creation of a centre of excellence in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. That included plans to open in 2018 and for a refined version of the Caparo, to be named as the T1 Evo by Liberty, to be unveiled.
However little has been heard of the concept since the announcement, and it remains to be seen if the car will ever re-enter production.
Richard Randle is a motorsport PR professional working with the UK’s top racing circuits and the UK’s premier single-seater category, the BRDC British F3 Championship.