Looking over the list of exhibitors for the New York International Auto Show, the basic cast of characters is very predictable — all are names we’ve all seen a billion times before. Except one: Lyons Motor Cars. Like any reporter trained in asking just the right, penetrating questions, I immediately thought “Who the hell is Lyons?” and “Did that say 1700 HP?”
Of course, I’m not the only one wondering. And many outlets are now showing a series of sleek renders of the proposed Lyons supercar, the LM 2 Streamliner. Along with the pictures are the specs on the car, dutifully pasted from Lyons Motor Cars’ website: it has a mid-mounted 8.2L V8 making 1700HP, will go from 0-60 in 2.2 seconds, and has a top speed of around 290 MPH.
It also has no wiring harness, with all electrical work inside the car being done wirelessly. Seriously. More on that in a little bit.
These numbers are bullshit. Well, that’s a little harsh — those numbers, and pretty much everything else about this car, are just details of a dream of one guy, Kevin Lyons.
Now, unlike many some shady startup supercar companies, I don’t think Lyons is trying to scam anyone or anything like that. Based on what I can tell about the man, I believe creating this car is a lifelong dream, and I believe his intention to accomplish this project is earnest. I just don’t yet believe this company is actually ready to produce this car as it is specified here, nor do I think the design is anywhere close to being really fleshed out.
Lyons seems like one of us, fundamentally — a guy who really loves cars. He was a designer with a strong background in home-building custom kit-type cars — he even built his own Lamborghini Diablo replica back in the early 2000s, and did a very credible job. Thanks to the long memory of the Internet, we can even see Lyons’ posts from that era in kit car forums, where he’s seeking the help of other skilled fabricators.
It’s clear that Lyons loves cars, and has a very long history of modifying and building them, from an olds 440 Cutlass to his DIY Lambo. And while all that is great and impressive, it doesn’t mean he’s actually ready to build a supercar that’s going to strike fear into the ECUs of Paganis and McLarens.
In fact, the more I learn about Lyons’ proposed supercar, the less ready or real it seems to be. There’s a lot of revolutionary ideas in the car, and a striking sleek design, but at this point these designs seem like little more than car designer idea mockups and the technical details are laden with issues that need some serious scrutiny.
Here, watch this video to get an idea of what Lyons wants to build:
Now, that video is a couple years old, so the car has 50 HP less. Because an idea sitting around just increases in power. The video’s description is interesting as well:
The technologically superior , the beautiful and luxurious 2014 The LM2 Streamliner Completely hand built one at a time by Lyons Motor. Short documentary about New York City start up. Lyons Motor Car’s Streamliner super car a 1700 horsepower billet 32v 4 cam V8 mid engine AWD supercar with a 7 speed Graziano sequential gearbox, carbon fiber body chassis and brakes, and all bespoked billet components. and all bespoked billet components. NO ONE PAYS US MUCH ATTENTION TO US, WE ARE SNEAKING IN UNDER THE RADAR This car will be at the top of the super car ladder next 1-2 years. This car will be at the top of the super car ladder next 1-2 years with a spectacular debut and unveiling at Pebble Beach Concour d”Elegance 2014.
Small grammatical errors aside, you can see from this his goals have been the same for a while. Pricing is hinted at in one of his responses to a YouTube commenter — an act that, in itself, shows some bravery. The commenter asked about price:
$1,300.000 plus options and we guarantee it will out accelerate any car from any car builder. This is not a joke tell john hennessey Lyons Motor Car we’ll fight the european super car war together with them
Let’s talk about the design itself. Lyons cites Raymond Loewy as a designer that has influenced him, and I think I can see a hint of Loewy (well, Loewy’s team) influence in the nose, which sort of resembles an Avanti, with its prominent side panes and crisp, divided nose. The profile fits the standard mid-engined supercar ideal, and is quite sleek and dramatic, with large, flowing surfaces and elegant curves.
But the design is also notable in what it lacks: none of the lighting is anywhere near US spec-ready, and while that’s a minor consideration it does reflect on the seriousness of this car’s design for actual, real-world use. But more important is the fact that this design has almost no provisions to get anywhere near enough cooling air into that massive 1700 HP engine.
There’s really no vents of any kind on the car at all, except perhaps for a pair of slits running down the rear spine of the car. There’s no apparent intakes for the engine, for cooling, for brake cooling, for anything — and an engine of that size would certainly have a prodigious appetite for atmosphere — look at the lengths, say, Chevy had to go through with the Camaro Z/28, making the 'bowtie' hollow just to get more air in. I’m not saying this design can’t accommodate adequate air intake, I’m just saying that as it’s shown now, it doesn’t.
And of the revolutionary features mentioned, the wireless design is both the most interesting and the most problematic. Lyons describes a car with no wiring harness at all, where all the electrical and electronic components both communicate via radio-frequency waves (RF) and are powered wirelessly. Lyons is correct that this has never really been tried before, but he doesn’t really go into why.
I’m sure doing what he described is technically possible, but I think any weight savings or other benefits gained by having such a wireless system would be completely overshadowed by the disadvantages. I’m also not aware of any major automakers trying such a setup, even for concepts or prototypes.
First, wireless charging is really inefficient, usually only getting about 70% of the power to the device to be charged. A 30 percent loss of power is a pretty big deal. Does it really make sense to wirelessly power headlights?
There’s also huge security issues. If all crucial systems are controlled wirelessly, significant security measures would need to be implemented to prevent any sort of outside hacking or tampering with the car’s signals for throttle, brakes, and more.
And finally, RF broadcasting is extremely heavily regulated by the FCC. Any device that puts out any RF, intentional or not, must be shielded from ‘leaking’ RF, and often that means heavy metal shields. Have you ever looked inside a computer or video game system from the 80s? Or hell, even modern ones? They’re full of metal cages designed to hold all the RF signals inside them. Computers like the Atari 800 were basically built around a metal cage to control RF emissions — and those things weren’t even mobile. Having a car that’s broadcasting a ton of RF signals all around itself would give the FCC massive erections of legislative desire.
Again, I’m not saying that anything about this car is strictly impossible — I’m just not seeing or reading anything that suggests that these very real, boring problems have been addressed in any way, and that makes me think the LM 2 Streamliner is still mostly just a car designer’s dream, with a lot of pie-in-the-sky ideas and numbers applied to it.
So, I’m skeptical. Lyons Motor Cars triggers all my Supercar Company warning signs — wildly hyperbolic technical claims, promises of market domination and radical new technologies, poorly-legible, overly elaborate script typography, and no actual proof of any of these claims or even an actual car.
It’s all sort of a shame, really. Lyons clearly has passion and some interesting ideas, so why not start out as a kit car or car modification company instead of leaping into the $1.5 million plus supercar arena? Why crow about absurd numbers like top speeds approaching 300 MPH, and position against established supercar makers with their massive piles of cash and resources?
Does Lyons have the money and resources needed to pull off something like this? To get smog and crash certified, to test and engineer and build these cars? Maybe, but as of now I have no idea. What we do know is that they have a bunch of renders of a car, and enough money for a booth at the New York Auto Show.
I just don’t get it. I love the idea of the little guy, the entrepreneur that comes up from obscurity to make something remarkable, but this kind of ludicrous delusion doesn’t help anyone, really. I’m having trouble seeing how they can actually succeed, mostly because I don’t think they’re really capable of delivering the car they’re describing. Very few are, really.
I’m very curious to see exactly what shows up in New York for the auto show. My guess is that it, at best, will be some sort of dramatic-looking body over a conventional chassis and that’ll be pretty much it.
Perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, and they’ll show up with a Veyron-killer that’s unburdened with a wiring harness and is capable of getting to 60 in 2.2 seconds and it can do all this without cooling the engine. I actually hope I am wrong, since it’d be fun to see a small startup get out there and shake things up.
But I’m not holding my breath.