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Nichols Cars creates Can-Am tribute with new N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.

Nichols Cars creates Can-Am tribute with new N1A
Inspired by McLaren's Can-Am cars, The open-top sports car is designed to be at home on the road or track.


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What's all this about?

This is a new small-volume sports car from Nichols Cars, a small company founded by Steve Nichols, who used to work in F1. Inspired by the McLaren M1A that preceded the famous Can-Am racers of the 1960s, it’s an open-top, limited-edition, lightweight two-seater, and top-of-the-range early models will come with a massive 7.0-litre V8 engine.

Steve Nichols? Have I heard that name before?

Sure you aren’t thinking of former Scotland and Liverpool defender Steve Nicol? Or Steve Nichols, the engineer who pioneered the use of carbon fibre in Formula 1 and became McLaren’s lead designer in the late 1980s? Because if you had the former in mind, it’s not him, but if the latter was the first to pop into your head, you’re exactly right. He was partly responsible for the McLaren-Honda MP4/4 driven so successfully by Ayrton Senna, and he’s put his formidable know-how into the N1A.

“We want the N1A to be a leader in promoting the idea of lightweight, powerful, and overall fun-to-drive sports cars that you can drive and use for all activities,” he said. “We’re very happy to see that the reaction to the N1A has been immensely positive so far, much like the reaction to Bruce McLaren’s original M1A when it debuted in 1963. I’m excited to see where the N1A will take its drivers, whether it’s on the track or on the way to the pub!”

Taking a 7.0-litre V8 supercar to the pub? Bold…

It will be. Especially as Nichols Cars is only making 15 of those top-of-the-range 7.0-litre cars. And that isn’t the only limited version. In total, production of the N1A won’t exceed more than 100 vehicles.

Each of those first 15 cars will get an all-alloy, Nichols Cars-developed V8 that started out life as an LS3 block from General Motors, before being bored out to accommodate new steel liners, custom pistons and conrods. Drive-by-wire throttle bodies will also be added, upping the total power output to more than 650hp. And with a kerb weight of 900kg, the car offers a power-to-weight ratio of around 700hp per tonne.

So it'll be quick, but how will it drive?

The N1A uses aluminium and “next-generation” carbon fibre to offer strength and lightness, while the suspension was honed by former Lotus F1 Team engineer Richard Hurdwell, who also worked on the Ariel Atom 4. As a result, the N1A gets independent front and rear suspension as standard, with double wishbones and anti-roll bars. All of which are hand-fabricated for the car.

What’s more the N1A will also feature “motorsport-derived” multi-piston front and rear brakes and rack-and-pinion steering, which is intended to make the car feel like a race car for road or track use.

It certainly looks like a track car...

Indeed. Nichols used the M1A bodywork as a baseline, then tweaked it to make it wider and longer, before fabricating the whole thing from graphene-infused carbon fibre. Although the design was largely done by eye, the bodywork still serves an aerodynamic purpose, having been fine-tuned in a wind tunnel. That means it produces “significant” downforce at speed, without compromising drag.

Where's the roof?

What roof? This is a proper open-top sports car. Where this is going, it doesn’t need a roof.

Fair enough. At least it means we can see inside…

Exactly. The N1A’s cabin is a bit of an artwork, but it’s designed to give drivers a taste of what F1 and GT racers experience. There’s a fully reclined driving position, and each customer can have the car tailored around them, right down to the pedal position and seat angle. You can even have a custom seat fitting.

Aside from that, the N1A’s interior is intended to be stripped back yet exquisitely designed, with top-grade leathers and fabrics, as well as aluminium components machined from the solid billet. There’s no touchscreen or menus – just a six-speed manual gearbox with an Ayrton Senna-inspired gear knob, although a paddle-shift version will be available as a cost option.

Speaking of cost, how much are we talking?

Nichols Cars hasn’t really said how much the N1A will be, but we don’t expect it to be cheap. Given the craftsmanship and exclusivity, we expect it to cost six figures at the very least.

James Fossdyke - 26 Jul 2023

2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.

2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.2023 Nichols Cars N1A. Image by Nichols Cars.

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