From its best angles, the Tramontana XTR looks like a crazy pod race car from a galaxy far far away, with a see-through canopy and two seats laid out in tandem like a fighter jet. From the side, the proportions are weirdly long, reminiscent of the wacky Youabian Puma, but weird is just what we need in these offensively inoffensive silver-beige times.
When I went to check out the Lane Motor Museum’s Microcar Mania exhibit earlier this year, I was left longing for the era when people used to build truly, wonderfully odd cars.
Thankfully, there’s a few niche automakers out there like Tramontana letting their freak flag fly to the tune of a gigantic Mercedes twin-turbo V12. I spent a little time poking around the XTR at the Circuit of the Americas track day hosted by Scuderia Society and McLaren Houston this weekend, speaking with representatives from the small Spanish marque’s American team about the car.
We first noticed the Spanish-made Tramontana R several years ago—which, of course, we noted was not pretty. The XTR is their latest, more refined bag of peculiarity that’s a bit sleeker than the R and far better looking from the front.
But thank heavens, it’s still hilariously, delightfully bizarre. You can take the easy road, crinkle your nose in a face and call it ugly, but deep-down you know that this is the strangeness that cars need so hard right now.
Each XTR is handbuilt to a customer’s needs and wants at their factory in Barcelona. Tramontana is just starting to make them, though, so what I saw was the first XTR in the United States. They want to bring over a second car by the end of the year, and crank up production to four or five per year eventually. Needless to say, your neighbors probably won’t have the same car if you end up with one of these.
The XTR is a full-carbon-fiber-bodied car that weights only 2,900 lbs despite having a gigantic Mercedes V12 in the middle. But when the V12 pumps out 720 horsepower, 2900 lbs is nothing to get moving. There are three traction control settings (and an “off” mode) to save your bacon (or not) in various degrees.
That twin-turbo V12 power gets funneled through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is very much like a race car’s insofar as you have to use a clutch to get it going, but not after that. From there, you can terrify the passenger behind you to your heart’s content.
Just don’t expect the passenger to have any room back there. When I sat down to try out the back seat, all 5'4" of me found that the room for my knees was around the driver’s seat.
The seat itself—complete with fabulously insane trim made of gold-treated leather shipped in from Bulgaria—was comfortable. Yet the leg room for that rear seat reminded me of itty bitty supercar seats that are more suited for a small purse and some mail than a full-sized human.
The front seat was much more comfortable, with plenty of room between myself and the pedals. There’s an easy step to help you climb over the side of the car to hop inside, but needless to say, this isn’t a car that’s all that hospitable to anyone in a short dress.
Each interior is custom, with regular-car items like air conditioning and a stereo system available to add to the carbon-fiber-topped ledges that stuck out on either side of the driver’s seat.
Even the XTR’s paint job was amusingly weird. Instead of going the conventional route and having gold vinyl overlaid on the matte black car, they wrapped it in gold chrome first, and then painted the matte black over the gold.
No, that didn’t make sense to me, either. I’m convinced that this was done specifically to make people go “wait, what?” when they notice the black paint raised over the layer of shiny gold. If so, mission accomplished!
This XTR was Tramontana’s more roadgoing version. The bubble canopy and tandem seat layout are meant to provide you unparalleled views of what’s around you on track. The racing version has an even more wide-open bubble with fewer support beams interrupting your view.
The XTR is not conventionally pretty under even the most bizarrely skewed definitions of “pretty,” but I’m definitely glad it exists. I’m tired of seeing too many automakers play it safe and churn out annoyingly similar cars year after year, even at the supercar level. The world needs more patently absurd cars like the Tramontana so we can find the next cool thing.
Experiment! Try odd things! Build them and watch as we ooh, aah, or cringe at how lovely or strange they are! After all, how do we know what’s beautiful if someone doesn’t occasionally miss the mark, or go incredibly function-over-form in a good, wacky way like the XTR?