The Covini six-wheel supercar follows the model of other Italian supercars (big V8, sleek body, custom style) with one key difference captivating car and gadget geeks alike: it's got six wheels. And I'm the first person to drive it.
What is it like to drive the six-wheeled Covini supercar? Awesome, but also surprisingly normal. The steering wheel doesn't feel any heavier than a normal car. But you know you're driving something special because jaws drop everywhere as you roll by.
And not a Ferrari or Lamborghini jaw drop, but something more special. Like when you watch the space shuttle take off. When was the last time you saw a six-wheeled car drive by with four front steering wheels turning in unison?
The stares are awesome — and totally expected. The last time Jalopnik ran a story on this car it brought in over half a million views — and that was in 2008!
Looking back at the incredulous stares I can almost see their lips forming the world Tyrell. But this is no Tyrell. This is no 40 year old Formula One car. This is the birth of a strange new supercar.
It's got six wheels, an Audi V8 engine, carbon fiber body, scissor doors, and an interior that is custom designed to each buyer's specification as if it were another hand made Italian suit. This car is cool and truly one of a kind, but that's going to change. I hope.
Apparently I am the first person outside of the family or its would-be producers at Genius Car to drive the Covini. I tried to get video of the run but my cheap camera failed 20 seconds in. Sadly, all I have to show you is the quick little clip we have here.
And to be fair I really only drove the car around the Goodwood Festival (not up the hill) but it was enough to understand how this is going to work. I got it moving, put the clutch in so any rolling resistance would be immediately felt and turned hard expecting the two wheels to scrub a ton of speed. But they didn't, the car turned silky smooth. The geometry of the steering works. This car drives. It's not a show car but a running, functioning, driving car.
Brembo just finished developing a six-wheel, six-channel ABS system for the car. And now we come to the reason for building this car: Safety. Excuse me, safety at ridiculous speeds. You get six contact patches to brake with, six rotors to absorb heat, six tires to dissipate water and prevent hydroplaning, and if one of your front tires blows out at warp speed? Well you'll probably be alright because you still have three more tires in the front to keep you from spinning.
Does it corner faster? I don't know. I wasn't able to drive it fast enough. But it feels like it should. When I drove it into the corner it felt like I dropped my entire forearm through the wheel down to the road to support the weight of the cornering. It's hard to describe because I have never felt anything like it in any car I have ever driven.
If the Covini uses your whole forearm to turn, most cars would be turning on a finger or at best, the palm of your hand. It just feels hooked up – I assume it will feel the same way at real speed. I hope they race it. I tried to convince them to find a way into the 24hrs of the Nurburgring. But they are focused on building a factory to produce more of these six-wheeled beauties. Which makes sense. I still want to see it race, though.
Racing the Covini is not out of the question as the son of the family races GT cars in Italy and helped design some of front steering and suspension pieces, which are super cool. Each wheel has its own shock and spring, all mounted internally and driven by pushrods like a Formula One car to reduce its weight. I'm still going over the sway bar arrangement in my head but it seems to work. The steering mechanism is super cool yet surprisingly simple. I love it.
I spent some time with Gianluca Covini at the Goodwood Festival of Speed to understand the origins of the project. We sat outside in the sun, drinking coffee, discussing how the car came about. I loved it. Every so often we would pause as another car shattered the silence with its accent up the hill only a stones throw from where we were sitting. It was the perfect sitting to hear the story of how Gianluca's father had this dream 20 years ago to build the Covini C3A 3 Axis (the car's official name).
They didn't build it because it made financial sense (there are much easier ways to make money in the world) or because there was some underserved target market, they built it because they knew in their hearts that the design was good, that it would be safer to drive at speed, and hopefully faster too.
Here is Gianluca's father, shortly after the chassis was completed almost 9 years ago. If you have ever built up your own car you know this feeling very well. It's the moment that you know it's going to work. That soon you will drive your car for the first time. It's a special moment and you can see it in his eyes.
Around the same time that photo was taken, I had a chance to sit in the car that inspired the design. I was working at Ford at the time and they brought out the Tyrell F1 car as a part of Ford's 100 year anniversary. I was on the grounds just after the event and snuck into the tent and slipped into the cockpit. I know, but I couldn't help myself.
I want to touch on the Tyrell because many think of the design as not being successful. But it wasn't the design that let it down, it was the tires. Back in the 1970's no one had F1 spec rubber for that size and Goodyear never properly developed the tires they were using. Fast forward 30 years. Avon builds special racing tires for the Tyrell and it dominates the historic grand prix season validating the design after all these years.
The only thing I wasn't super fired up about was the shifting of the transmission. But Covini is already on it and I can't wait. Full on sequential paddle shifting. Most people harp on anything non-manual. But I think it's a step in the right direction. This car is about corning and braking. Shifting gears? That's just something that happens in between the corners. What was Steve McQueen's quote about racing?
"Anything else is just waiting. "
That's how I felt. I just wanted to corner in the thing over and over and over again. It's that cool.
If you're a fan of the design or just want to follow along as a supercar is developed, check out the Covini Facebook page.
Photos: William Caswell, Jochen Van Cauwenberge, Genius Car