The Maserati MC12 is one of the rare cars I think almost everyone agrees is gorgeous. It’s certainly one of the loveliest of all the modern race cars. Based on the Ferrari Enzo, the MC12 was designed to compete in the FIA World Championship and return Maserati to its winning ways on the race track. Only 12 track versions were built for private customers. Now, one of those 12 cars has been turned into a street car, and it wasn’t easy. Here’s how they did it.
Previously, I showed you all around the GMC RV restomod project that is one of the best vintage RV projects I’ve ever seen. The RV was completely redone by Ai Design in Tuckahoe, New York, and the level of detail was appropriately insane. That was kind of a strange project for Ai, which is better known for making discreet street cars. Something a little bit more normal for the shop is this MC12 street car, although that’s the only thing that’s normal about this project — and it’s basically the opposite of discreet.
This particular MC12 participated in this year’s Gold Rush Rally on the West Coast with Team Loan Sharks. If you’re not familiar, the Gold Rush Rally is an annual event for people with supercars who want to actually drive them.
Though speeding definitely happens, it’s technically discouraged by the organizers and there are no trophies for people who get anywhere the fastest. Instead, the winner of the event, at least informally, is the person who can bring the craziest vehicle and/or have the most fun.
It’s why this streetable MC12 exists. It only caught on fire one time!
The Birth of the MC12
Maserati jumped around from owner-to-owner for decades as the once great Italian carmaker struggled to find its place in the world. Eventually, the carmaker ended up as part of Fiat in the early 1990s and was able to, barely, produce a new generation Quattroporte. It was a sad time for a brand once known for making world-beating cars for drivers like Juan Manuel Fangio.
Thankfully, Fiat was smart enough to merge Maserati with Ferrari — once its main rival — and begin to turn the brand around. Key to this plan was not only new product, but a racing program that would be the company’s first major global motorsports endeavor in decades. Even better, Ferrari had the Enzo supercar as a perfect base for a new race car, using the Ferrari’s V12 as the basis for the new machine’s powerplant.
To make the car happen, Maserati turned to a trio of huge names in the industry. First up was Giampaolo Dallara, the famous racing engineer (his name is on many, many race car chassis) who helped make the car technically competitive. Maserati would need a design, and the equally famous Giorgetto Giugiaro was tapped to pen the car’s sleek wind tunnel-inspired silhouette. Finally, the great Frank Stephenson was brought in to make the final tweaks to finish the car. [Editor’s Note: This is about as Ace of a team as anyone could possibly have assembled. Wow! -DT].
Here’s Stephenson talking about what he did to the MC12.
In the video you can see Stephenson talking about how a sudden rule change was required to make the nose of the MC12 shorter as well as a bunch of other details. The race car debuted in 2004 and competed well enough to score some podiums.
In 2005 the car won the 2005 FIA GT Manufacturers Cup. After the FIA GT Championship went away, the cars went on to race around the world, with at least one racing in the American Le Mans Series with privateers. Here’s another one:
Of course, to make a GT race car, you generally need to have a street version of the car, and Maserati dutifully produced 50 of them over the years.
This is not one of those homologated cars. This is actually an MC12 Versione Corse, which is one of 12 gentleman track day cars built from the most extreme GT1 version. It has a 745 horsepower derivative of the Enzo V12 with a higher, 8,000 RPM redline than the street cars. It’s track-only, of course, which is why someone had to make it streetable.
The Streetable Versione Corse
It’s hard to call this a “street legal” car because, frankly, if you don’t daily drive something and are, ahem, clever, you can get just about anything registered for short periods of time. What’s more impressive about this vehicle is not that it legally drove on the street, it’s that it was functionally able to drive at all. I’m not sure I’d trust a street version of the MC12 to cover thousands of miles in early summer, let alone a car that was absolutely not designed for road use.
Team Loan Sharks–a tongue-in-cheek name for a team led by someone who does seemingly boring commercial real estate work–went to Ai Design and not only asked for something that would make the trip, they also recognized that the car is a rare vehicle of historical significance and so they also required that everything Ai did be reversible! That means no holes could be drilled in anything to make the car work and all the parts had to go back on they way they did originally.
Here’s what Ai Design did to make the car capable of finishing across from the bottom of America to the top.
EDO Competition Brake Upgrade
Fun fact: Race car brakes kinda suck. They’re great on the track, but they’re designed for extreme conditions and don’t have the same level of forgiveness you get from street brakes. Race car brakes are not ideal for, say, stop-and-go traffic. They also require things like heat-cycling, which isn’t something you want to do in a McDonald’s parking lot. So the thick carbon ceramic brakes were removed and an EDO Competition system with steel rotors and street pads were added. Ai Design also had to fit an emergency brake system since the race car has no e-brake.
Ferrari Enzo A/C Unit
Here’s a fun thought exercise: Think of all the pieces you need to make an A/C unit work in a car (compressor, evaporator, condenser, belts, fans, et cetera). Now think of how you install all that without drilling into any part of your car. Ai Design took a Ferrari Enzo compressor, hooked that to custom hoses/lines and specialized aftermarket condensers, evaporator, receiver-dryer, controls, routing, belt, and fan sub-systems, and fit it to the MC12. The team even made custom carbon-kevlar shrouds for the condensers.
What you’re seeing is the stock intake for the radiator mated to a custom piece at the bottom that holds the condensers for the A/C unit. Honestly, if you didn’t know what you were looking at you’d assume all of it was stock. The controls also fit into an overhead pod, which I’ll talk more about later. All of this has to be essentially bolt-on so that it can be removed later without causing any damage.
[Editor’s Note: One of the technicians pointed out that many of the cooling system parts were held to the vehicle, from the factory, via zipties:
Zipties as factory on a car this expensive? Surprising. But at least I can now say most of my cars are built like race cars. -DT].
Upgraded Electric System/Lights/Fuel System
Most race cars are surprisingly finicky and not designed to constantly start-and-stop like street cars are. The MC12 had to have a new electrical charging system installed, including a dual-battery bank that fits into the cabin, and a much stronger alternator to handle all the load from the electronics/air-conditioner/et cetera.
While the race cars did come with lights, they weren’t designed for street use, and so a set of Bi-Xenon headlights were also installed. Similarly, you don’t drive your race car to Shell for fuel, so Ai Design CNC milled custom adapters to allow a regular fuel pump nozzle to work.
As amusing as it would be to drive around on racing slicks, the first wet day would likely end in tears. HRE worked with AiDesign to make custom HRE S209H wheels (19×10.50″ front/20×13.0″ Rear) to stick a set of super wide Michelin Pilot Super Sports on the MC12. In fact, the car was shipped to HRE for the install to make sure it all worked.
As with all the upgrades to the car, the suspension had to be tweaked to fit street use. The biggest upgrade here was a KW hydraulic lift system, which uses a hydraulic cylinder that sits between the spring perch and springs to allow for up to 45 mm of additional height when needed. Ai Design took the system and custom fit it to the MC12 to help the drivers avoid some scrapey-scrapey moments on the trip.
Overhead Systems Pod
This is going to sound strange, but the most impressive portion of the whole build to me is not the custom suspension or removable A/C system, as I’ve seen cars with similar systems.
What’s wild is that Ai Design custom built a stock-looking overhead “Systems Pod” that fits over the roll cage and manages to control all the various systems that a street car requires. Remember, the race car only came with the basic controls necessary to make the car function. David, Jason and I went to Ai to see them building it and marveled at how clean it looked.
[Editor’s Note: We had a chance to look at this “pod” as it was being built, and my god was the build quality incredible. Look at how well these parts fit!:
And here are the guts:
The care with which the Ai Design technician was building this bordered on obsessive. -DT].
Here’s what the pod it controls:
- Rearview camera system (you can’t see pas the mid-engine cowl)
- Radar/laser detectors
- Custom HVAC Controls
- Fresh air intake
- Suspension height control
- Dome lamp and light switches
While the overhead pod is bigger than a traditional rear-view mirror, it’s surprisingly compact for all it does and somehow manages to work unattached.
How The Car Performed
The Gold Rush Rally is complete and so now we can write about the car knowing if it worked. The MC12 Versione Corse finished the rally, driving all the way from San Diego, California to Coeur d’Alene in Idaho.
While the trip was not without issues, it wasn’t all the custom fabrication work that Ai Design did that caused the biggest issue. To protect the MC12, the technicians added mesh to exposed air/water/oil coolers. They also laid on a super thick layer of paint protection film to protect the livery and body from any road debris.
Then this happened:
That’s right, the PPF heated up and, according to Ai Design, that’s what caught on fire. Team Loan Sharks didn’t consider that a fail, however, saying “this mother fucker don’t fail” after driving it away from the race track and continuing the journey.