The 2020s is shaping up to be an interesting decade for supercars. On the one hand, you have electric-powered machines like the Rimac Nevera and McMurtry Spierling re-writing paradigms by offering greater performance than we ever thought possible. On the other, we have a small but devoted group of marques dedicated to celebrating the joy of internal combustion and mechanical connection. Firmly in the latter group sits the Nichols Cars N1A, and if that name rings a bell, that’s likely because you know a thing or two about motorsport history. Yes, the man behind Nichols Cars is none other than Steve Nichols, an absolute legend when it comes to race car construction.
See, Steve Nichols’ first race car was the McLaren MP4/3, which would be a bit like if your first shot at fingerpainting ended up in the MoMA. This carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque Formula 1 car carried Alain Prost to three wins during the 1987 season, and set the stage for greatness in 1988. For that year, Nichols was the chief designer and lead engineer for the Honda-powered McLaren MP4/4, one of the most dominant cars Formula 1 has ever seen. That season, it won every race aside from the Italian Grand Prix, walking away with the constructor’s championship and helping Ayrton Senna win his first driver’s championship.
Given Nichols’ history with McLaren, it shouldn’t be surprising that the N1A is a reinterpretation of McLaren’s Group Seven M1A race car, the predecessor of the legendary Can-Am M1B and M1C cars. Light, lithe, and incredibly low, it tips the scale at just 1,984 pounds, 357 pounds less than a new Mazda MX-5. That’s an impressive feat, but it’s almost to be expected from just looking at the thing.
The N1A’s aluminum and carbon fiber body is positively shrink-wrapped over its suspension, engine, and wheels. Roll bar aside, the tallest parts of the body are just high enough to cover its powertrain, tires, and suspension. That suspension, by the way, is double-wishbone at all four corners, and those tires are ultra-grippy Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2s, trackday-ready meats that happen to be road-legal. In fact, the whole car is less than 39 inches tall, a staggering figure for something built in 2023.
Power comes from a naturally-aspirated GM-based V8 in three states of hotness. You can have a bog-standard LT1 making the same 460 horsepower you’d expect from a C7 Corvette, a modified LT1 with individual throttle bodies cranking out 520 horsepower, or the top-dog motor, a seven-liter naturally-aspirated V8 pumping out an astonishing 650 horsepower. No matter what engine you choose, it’ll come connected to a gated six-speed manual gearbox, a formula for faithful, old-fashioned speed if ever I’ve seen one. If that’s not enough of a clue that not everyone can hop in this thing and go fast, here’s another — traction control and power steering are optional. Sure, the Nichols Cars N1A comes standard with fuel injection, but it’s about as analog as a new supercar can get.
Pricing for the Nichols Cars N1A hasn’t been announced yet, but I suspect it will be both eye-wateringly expensive and worth it. Road cars like this just don’t get made anymore, so something this pure, this extreme, this marvelous is truly a sight for sore eyes. Really, what else comes close aside from an Ultima Evolution Convertible? The N1A isn’t for everyone, and it’s all the better for it. When the streets are abuzz with the unanimous hum of electric motors, it’s cars like these that’ll feel truly special.
(Photo credits: Nichols Cars)
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