Caparo Vehicle Technologies has achieved the monumental task of completing the first of two prototypes of its T1 supercar less than a year after the company was formed. We'll remind you that the T1 is a street-legal, ultralight F1-inspired racer designed by ex-McLaren engineers Ben Scott-Geddes and Graham Halstead. Powered by a 2.4-liter supercharged V8 rated at 500 horsepower, the T1 can reach 60 mph in just 2.5 seconds thanks to its low 1,100 lb. curb weight. The XP1 prototype car started under its own power, which is always a good sign, and will now begin comprehensive testing and tweaking before a second prototype, the XP2, begins additional testing in December. Customers will likely begin receiving their cars in early 2007, and Caparo claims it has half of its available production for next year already sold. The T1 will be not be a mass produced exotic, however, with Caparo capable of building only two units per month at its Basingstoke facility in the U.K.

The T1 is really a rolling showcase for lightweight vehicle technology that Caparo hopes will attract the business of aerospace and automotive companies seeking weight reductions through the use of composite materials, a Caparo specialty. Thus, Caparo's Chief Executive Richard Butler calls the T1, "but one-tenth of the business plan". Caparo has long been a supplier of aluminum and steel, but with the T1 it has demonstrated its capacity as an automotive component supplier that can design, develop and produce lightweight components for both the aero and auto industries.

(Additional pic and press release can be found after the jump.)

[Source: Caparo]

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Press Release:

Caparo completes build of first T1 prototype ... and fills half its order book for 2007

· First prototype starts its engine and commences performance trials

· Second prototype scheduled for completion before Christmas

· First customer should take delivery before Easter

· Order book half completed for 2007

Caparo Vehicle Technologies, a brand new company formed earlier this year, has completed the build of the first of two Caparo T1 prototypes. The car's creators – design director Ben Scott-Geddes and engineering director Graham Halstead – climbed into the high performance two-seater last week to start the engine and complete the first trial run.

"It's been a fantastic achievement to get this far so quickly," said Scott-Geddes. "I'm very proud for everyone involved who has helped us so much on a project like this. It takes a very special team to deliver this kind of result in a short time."

"I guess it'll be one of those moments we'll remember forever," added Halstead. "We've both been involved in new car developments before, but this project is more personal and the technical achievement is a tribute to the team's hard work. The car's first test has gone extremely well; better than anticipated."

Commercial director Sean Butcher added: "This is a great achievement for Caparo Vehicle Technologies and my fellow directors, Graham Halstead and Ben Scott-Geddes and all the engineers on the team. I believe this defines a moment in supercar performance not only from a technical ability, but also sends a very strong message that lightweight materials and power-to-weight performance is clearly where mainstream vehicle engineering needs to progress. The initial results of this test will create excitement with our clients and generate further orders and interest from other international customers."

Having successfully started the 'XP1' under its own power, the first T1 prototype now commences a rigorous test programme before production cars can be built and delivered to customers early next spring. The shake-down will include engine mapping and other specific tests as well as long-term durability and high speed trials. A second prototype – the XP2 – is expected to be completed before Christmas and will similarly be tested for durability and performance. The highly experienced professional race driver Chris Goodwin will help to evaluate both vehicles for their all-important handling characteristics and dynamic performance on the track.

On hearing about the preliminary run, Caparo group chief executive Angad Paul, immediately authorised the procurement of long lead items required for the first production cars, which are destined for customers next year.

"I'm delighted the first prototype is up and running and at the progress we're making, especially given that we only started the business earlier this year," said Angad Paul. "It shows what you can achieve with a small team underpinned by high levels of expertise. And it's the same experienced team that's also delivering lightweight vehicle design solutions and a carbon composite production capability to aerospace and automotive manufacturers."

Angad Paul, who took the decision to invest in the high technology company, has also approved additional manufacturing investments for the new factory located on the M3 corridor. Despite occupying brand new premises at Farnham when the company was formed earlier this year, it has already proved necessary to move into larger premises at Basingstoke to accommodate more design staff and more production facilities to help produce lightweight structural parts for the aerospace and automotive industries. A new autoclave for carbon composites production was delivered in September.

Meanwhile, the new Caparo T1 is being assembled at the same facility, with the company on target to build approximately 24 cars a year, with the first car scheduled for March 2007. Thereafter the highly exclusive T1 will be built at a rate of just two cars a month possibly redefining the aerospace and automotive industry definition of 'ultra low volume production'.

"The Caparo T1 represents but one-tenth of the business plan." said Richard Butler chief executive of Caparo Vehicle Products and director of Caparo Vehicle Technologies, which sits alongside seven sister companies within the Caparo Vehicle Products group.

"The Caparo T1 is a real demonstration of our lightweight vehicle design and materials production capability. But it's also more than a concept inasmuch as there's a real – albeit exclusive – market for the car and real customers who not only demand the highest possible performance from a track car, but also need it to be driveable on the road and street legal.

"Our long term objective is to help the aerospace and automotive industries to reduce the weight of their vehicles and hence carbon emissions with affordable and practical composite solutions. In essence, we're applying highly technical lessons learnt from the motorsport industry."

Angad Paul added: "As well as supplying composite materials alongside the aluminium and steel we've always supplied, we can now assist in the design of individual components and complete vehicle systems. And while two-thirds of the group's overall manufacturing capability for steel and aluminium is based in the UK, for low cost production of modern composite parts we can turn increasingly to new production facilities in India, underpinned by our high level engineering design capability established in the UK."

Caparo founder and chairman Lord Paul commented: "The Caparo T1 is a high profile flagship project for the entire Caparo group and I'm immensely proud of what has been achieved in such a short space of time."