Vemac is a subsidiary of Tokyo R&D, a Japanese consulting firm that builds concept cars for major Japanese car manufacturers and carbon fibre composite parts for rockets. Chairman Masao Ono has a CV remarkably similar to that of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, as he's a former F1 and Le Mans racecar designer who started his own company to help cutting-edge technologies get into everyday road cars.
Styled to look like the Ferrari 250 LM, the Vemac RD200 features the naturally-aspirated Honda K20A two-litre four-cylinder engine used in the Integra Type-R (DC2) producing 217bhp, a tad more than the ZZ/Garaiya, but then it also weighs a tad more at a still-anorexic 890kg. The original RD180 had a B18C1 from a lesser Integra. The extra weight and power over the ZZ mean this is more easily comparable to the Lotus Elise/Exige, and it's not often you can say that. In fact, the Exige S (pre-V6) had the same weight and power, give or take 40kg and 2bhp, so with capable air conditioning as standard and composite body panels wrapped around a spaceframe chassis, on paper it's a rival to the class benchmark. Sure enough, evo magazine tested the two together on Japanese mountain roads and found that in most cases the Vemac made the supercharged Exige S feel tame. Crikey. The extra little bit of height means that people who are 6' 4" can fit comfortably inside, although no matter what height you are, you will probably find the right-handed gear stick in this RHD-only car to be a little confusing at first. Less confusing is a neutral balance provided by the mid-mounted K20A (mated to a quick and slick 6-speed manual 'box from a Civic Type-R), which can be enjoyed thanks to light but very communicative steering and fine-tuned to suit you thanks to fully adjustable Showa dampers. 0-60 happens in 6.3 seconds - notably slower than the Exige S, although once it's up to speed it keep up with the Lotus), and the RD200 can go all the way to 136mph.
So with all these pros, where's the con? Well, some aren't that keen on the 250LM-cum-Lotus-Europa flat rear deck (well, almost flat), but the really prohibitive bit is the price. The ¥8,673,000 domestic price tag converts directly to £37,300 or so - well, it did in 2007 - but once in the UK it becomes over £40,000, which is roughly £5000 more than the Exige S for a car nobody's ever heard of with the gear stick on the wrong side. As a result, the Vemac RD200 remains in obscurity outside of Japan. Inside Japan, however...
Of course, being an R&D company, they've designed a hybrid racing car, except that, unlike Audi and Toyota, they did it six years ago. The RD408-H features a 4.0-litre Mugen [Honda] V8 and two liquid-cooled DC electric motors. Amazingly, the result is a combined output of 800bhp and 686lb/ft. The 1175kg kerbweight gave it a staggering power-to-weight ratio of 681bhp/tonne, making it so fast that it couldn't be entered for anything. Still, as a technology demonstrator it's pretty impressive.
|Tokyo R&D VEMAC RD408-H|
And so, you now know about the Vemac sports car. Use this knowledge wisely, less ye become the destroyer of worlds. Or something. The Spanish GP report will appear this weekend.
Sources: This Page, evo, Supercars.net, Supercarworld, Luxury4Play.com (two RD200 reviews), also Ketchup is a good one, although I had it on pizza once and it was weird.