Hennessey Venom GT: A $600k mid-engine Cobra for the 21st Century

Hennessey Venom GT – Click above for high-res image gallery

It's Embargopalooza tonight at Autoblog, and if there wasn't already enough high-powered hotness to be had, we're throwing one more V8-powered sled into the mix.

We've traveled a long road to get here, but the Hennessey Venom GT has finally arrived after countless reports, spy shots, videos and announcements. If you're suffering from Hennessey fatigue, stop right here. You know most of the story already and have surely weighed-in with your opinion. But if a chopped and lengthened Lotus Elise powered by the Corvette ZR1's supercharged eight piques your interest – and you're looking for a glimpse into the man behind the madness – make the jump for a new take on an age-old equation.

By now, you're well aware of the specs and the stats, but let's lay it out for you one more time.

The Venom GT is Hennessey's latest crack at building a world-beating supercar, combining a British chassis with an all-American powerplant. John Hennessey likens it to the U.S.-built P51 Mustang dogfighter, powered by a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. So it's like that, but – y'know – only in reverse. And minus a wing. And a propeller.

Naturally, when we think American muscle partnered with British handling, our focus immediately turns to the Shelby Cobra. It's obviously a more fitting comparison (on many levels, if you think hard enough), but this new interpretation of a classic formula is reimagined using 21st century tech.

For Hennessey, it's all about bundling maximum power into an incredibly nimble package. "The Venom GT is the supercar that I have always wanted to build for myself. I wanted to combine the best engineering and the best technologies with the best materials." And judging by the results, he's well on his way to creating his dream conveyance.

The foundation is Lotus' lovable Elise, which gets chopped, stretched and reinforced at a production facility in Silverstone, England before prepping for heart surgery. Back in Sealy, Texas, the Hennessey Performance workshop takes the General's supercharged 6.2-liter LS9 V8 and modifies it to one of three tunes.

The "base" 725-horsepower version churns out 741 pound-feet of torque at 3,200 rpm, runs on 91-octane and is the same mill fitted to Hennessey's HPE700 Camaro. Two twin-turbocharged variants are in the works, one running on 93-octane and putting out 1,000 hp and 900 lb-ft of twist, with another 109-octane-tuned version outputting 1,200 hp and 1,100 lb-ft of torque for customers with an overblown bank account and a undeveloped sense of self-preservation.

Hooking up that prodigious power to the rear wheels is a Ricardo six-speed gearbox with a programmable traction control system to allow an estimated sub-three-second sprint to 60 and prevent unfortunate farming expeditions. But Hennessey didn't want to make this a track-only tool. "I wanted to have a road-legal car with air conditioning and satellite radio, that had a power-to-weight ratio that is greater than just about every race car short of a Formula One car. I wanted a car that could be taken to Cars and Coffee and be parked with a Pagani Zonda on one side and a Bugatti Veyron on the other. And the entire crowd of car guys would be looking at my car instead of the other two."

While an Elise front clip might not provide the crowd-stopping presence he's after, the bodywork is plenty slippery, and Hennessey has shelled out a few ducats for computational fluid dynamic (CFD) testing, which combined with the active and adjustable rear wing, road-molesting Michelin PS2 tires and fully-adjustable suspension ensure things stay sticky when topping out somewhere north of 200 mph.

Stopping the 2,400-pound carbon fiber and aluminum party are a set of 15-inch carbon ceramic rotors, with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston units in the rear.

Hennessey is limiting production of the Venom GT to 10 units a year, and according to the company, four orders have already been placed. When asked what kind of owner he envisions for the VGT, Hennessey says, "The Venom GT buyer is the kind of person who has a lot of choices in their daily lives, but in a world with 200+ Veyrons, they want to be one of the few who owns a Venom GT. Some of our clients view cars as they would clubs in their golf bag. When they feel like reaching for a big hitter, the Venom GT will be there ready to deliver as much performance as they could ever ask for."

In addition to taking delivery of this modern-day mid-engined Cobra, each buyer will receive a one-day training program at a track in either the UK or the States, with instruction coming from one of Hennessey's own test drivers.

So what's all this kit going to cost? When we spoke with Hennessey this afternoon, he tells us that the entry-level model (available in either right- or left-hand drive) will start somewhere north of $600,000, with the twin-turbo variants upping the ante both in output and price. An official announcement should come sometime before we finally lay eyes on the Venom GT in person – likely at this year's soiree in Pebble Beach.

The video meant to be presented here is no longer available. Sorry for the inconvenience.

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Introducing the Hennessey Venom GT

SEALY, TEXAS & SILVERSTONE, ENGLAND, March 29, 2010 - Hennessey Performance Engineering (HPE) is pleased to introduce the first official images of its Venom GT supercar. Based upon the Lotus Elise, the Venom GT combines a high-tech, lightweight British chassis with a powerful American V8.

"This is not the first time that Britain and America have joined forces to produce a weapon of mass propulsion", said company founder and president, John Hennessey. "Over fifty years ago the American-built P51 Mustang fighter aircraft was flown into history powered by a British Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Today the Hennessey Venom GT promises to set a new standard of power to weight ratio in the rarified air of today's supercar market."

In the case of the Venom GT, less weight means more performance. The Venom GT will have a production curb weight of less than 2,400 lbs (1,071 kilos) aided by its lightweight carbon fiber bodywork and carbon fiber wheels. Stopping power is delivered via Brembo brakes with 6-piston calipers up front and 4-piston calipers in rear clamping down on 15-inch carbon ceramic rotors.

The Venom GT's base power plant is the supercharged 6.2 liter LS9 V8 (the same as in the Corvette ZR1) tweaked by HPE to 725 bhp. The company will also be offering 1000 bhp and 1200 bhp twin turbo V8 engine variants. The mid-engine V8 will transmit its power to the rear tires via a Ricardo 6-speed gearbox.

Hennessey plans to manage power output by using a programmable traction control system. CFD (computational fluid dynamic) tested bodywork and down force will also help keep the Venom stable at speed. An active aero system with adjustable rear wing will deploy under varying conditions on both the road and racetrack. An adjustable suspension system will allow ride height adjustments according to speed and driving conditions. Finally, power will be put to the ground via massive Michelin PS2 tires at all four corners.

Hennessey will be building the power plants at its Texas facility. The engines will then be air freighted to the company's assembly facility near Silverstone, England where the Venom GT is built and tested. Venom GT buyer will be offered a 1-day driver orientation and instruction program by a Hennessey factory test driver, at a track in the UK or USA prior to delivery.

The company plans to establish a network of Venom GT dealers and distributors in the Middle East, Europe, Russia, Australia and Asia. Production is limited to just 10 vehicles per year and the company already has orders for 4 Venom GT's.

About Hennessey Performance Engineering (HPE)
Hennessey Performance has been making fast cars go faster since 1991. HPE operates at its 30,000 square foot workshop and showroom facility situated on 143 acres near Sealy, Texas (about 45 minutes west of Houston). The company also has a showroom and installation facility located in Lake Forest, California. HPE offers a wide variety of dyno proven, track tested parts and upgrades for a variety of modern performance vehicles. Hennessey Performance is also the only tuner in North America that operates its own test track – Lonestar Motorsports Park.

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