The new Elfin MS8 Streamliner shook a few Australian harts when it was showcased on the Holden stand at the 2004 Melbourne Motor Show. Powered by a 333 bhp all alloy Holden V8 and featuring a six speed gearbox, race-bred suspension and huge brakes, all of this totaling just 1100 kilograms. Combination which is guaranteed to offer a five seconds sprint from 0 to 60 mph, a quarter mile covered in 12.9 seconds and a top speed exceeding 180 mph.
Elfin Sports Car Company was founded by Garrie Cooper (1935-1982), successful championship driver, designer and builder of racing and sports/racing. Under his command Elfin has won no less than 29 championships and major titles including two Australian Driver’s Championships, five Australian Sports Car Championships, four Australian Tourist Trophies and three Formula Ford titles. World Formula One Champion James Hunt raced an Elfin, as did the brilliant French Formula One driver, Didier Pironi. Elfin also took out the Singapore Grand Prix and twice won the Malaysian Grand Prix.
In 1998 the ailing company was purchased by businessmen and historic racing enthusiasts Bill Hemming and Nick Kovatch who moved the premises from Adelaide to Melbourne intent on regeneration.
BIll Hemming & Nick Kovatch
The Elfin MS8 sports cars were intended as the worthy successors to the famous Elfin MS7, the Chevrolet V8 powered Elfin which won the 1975 and 1976 Australian Tourist Trophy Sports Car Championships
"A lot of people have said that we would never get into production," stated Kovatch. "But the challenge is something that spurs you on. We just think it’s got to be done, so we go and do it." Adds Hemming: "A lot of it is because we are pig-headed." Hemming is the businessman, the talker, the marketer and the seller. Kovatch is the engineer and designer who had made a career out of motorsport.
The MS8 models have been designed by Elfin Sports Cars and styled by the Holden Design team. This collaboration between two proud Australian manufacturing icons has been an enthusiastic exercise, by car enthusiasts, for car enthusiasts.
Elfin joint Managing Director, Bill Hemming states that “The Streamliner has its roots firmly in the Elfin tradition of race-winning sports cars and open wheelers. It requires commitment to a driving experience that truly involves the physical senses, yet at the same time it delivers everyday comforts and features such as ABS, traction control, cruise control, keyless entry and air conditioning. There’s even a ‘gull wing’ roof panel option.(…) This is not a car for the average driver. It’s a dedicated performance vehicle wrapped in a sensationally styled body. Being powered by a Holden V8 drive-train, albeit with an awesome power to weight ratio, the Streamliner challenges the traditional image of a super-car as a temperamental, highly stressed, expensive to campaign unit. It has plenty of appeal for buyers who could afford a stable of exotic cars, but see the sense in choosing the locally produced Elfin when it is faster and more economical to run, maintain and customize.”
Elfin’s MS8 Streamliner’s conceptual rivals are considered to be the those following the same recipe and using lightweight as the main ingredient for performance. The concept invented by famous Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus, who brought it to life in the shape of the Super Seven, is nowadays widely spread. Especially in Europe the Super Seven’s cheap high-performance solution has inspired many exotic car manufacturers like Caterham, Donkervoort, Hauser, Rush or Westfield. Even Elfin’s base model, the Type 3 is in many ways a close Super Seven replica. The main addition of the MS8 Streamliner is the full-cover body inspired by today’s Le Mans racing prototypes. Another difference to the rivals would be the engine chosen. While competition tried to keep the weight as low as possible using a small engine (R4 or V6, 1800-3500 cc, often supercharged, delivering 160-350 bhp) Elfin has chosen a full-size 5.7 L V8, borrowed from Holden. Not to be considered a high-performance engine (only 58 bhp/liter) it is easy to maintain & service in Holden’s dealer network, but it loads the Elfin up to 1100 kg, while the competion can deliver 600 kg or even incredibly light 450 kg vehicles. The ultra-lightweight opponents give their best at low speeds, but at over 150 mph the Streamliner’s V8 shows it’s benefits.
Humorously the Managing Director, Bill Hemming considers the Elfin’s rival to be "Same as usual. Divorce."
Conceptually the MS8 Streamliner is the work of a Holden design team directed by Mike Simcoe, now based in Detroit as GM North America Director of Design, Body Frame Integral Architectures. The project was leveraged by Holden’s design know-how and resources with Elfin’s specialist skill in hand-built racing chassis production.
Body design inspiration was drawn from Elfin’s past vehicles, that image being upgraded to nowadays racing cars tendencies. The overall look gives clear flash-backs to Panoz Le Mans prototype. While the finesse and general harmony are questionable, the aggressiveness of the lines leaves no doubt about performance potential. Sleek contours and fluid shapes are proof of meticulous aerodynamic analysis and racing pedigree. The “WOW” factor is furtherly enhanced by the gull-wing Lambo-like doors.
Under the aggressive GRP (Glass Reinforced Plastic) body panels is a chassis designed and developed by Elfin’s Joint Managing Director, Nick Kovatch, and Chief Engineer Arthur Neill. They have more than 40 years of experience in developing race-winning
cars – from historic racing Elfins, Jaguars and Aston Martins to Porsches at Le Mans and Australian Sports Car Championships.
The chassis is a jig assembled, hand crafted multi-tubular steel space-frame
with fully-adjustable, fully rose-jointed (to eradicate the flex of traditional rubber bushes) double-wishbone plus toe link adjustment suspension at either end, alloy uprights (front and rear), fully adjustable for camber, caster & toe, coil over Koni shock absorbers, adjustable for bump, rebound and ride height.
Suspension components including chrome-moly front A-arms are done in-house. Milled aluminum uprights and brake calipers come from APS, hubs are Holden, fully-adjustable oil dampers from Koni, springs from Eibach.
The interior combines shattering performance with amenities such as a roomy (for a small sports car), quality-look-and-feel interior, air conditioning and keyless operation of the scissor doors, which open outwards and upwards from the wide sills.
The cockpit is typical for this kind of a vehicle, practical and sporty, but lacks the impact and the innovative style of the exterior. On the bright side there’s none of the thigh-bruising transmission tunnel, wildly offset pedals and shoulder-crushing narrowness of a traditional Lotus Super Seven replica. Also equipment as, keyless entry, air conditioning, hi-fi sound system justify the weight difference over the competition that offers no more than steering-wheel, gear change handle & pedals.
The styling doesn’t have the handicap of wind-up side windows, because it doesn’t have any side windows at all. The doors make you forgive everything as they stand up at the touch of the key-fob (or a recessed, stainless-steel button on the inner door post). The arched hinge is a delight to look at, as is the embossed kick-panel on what’s either the doorsill or the armrest.
To put is simple it’s a smart, modular-style interior, that provides the necessary basic comforts in minimalist fashion. Exposed interior surfaces are body-colored throughout, highlighting the naked silver frame and accentuating the cars’ open-top nature.
The customary low-backed bucket racing seats, trimmed in black leather, are fitted with four-point racing harnesses. The seat’s backrest angle is fixed, but with conventional fore-aft slide and the surprise/delight inclusion of steering column height-adjust, the driving position can fit almost any driver. The park brake and grab handle are also leather-trimmed; while the back panel is finished in quilted suede.
Tachometer and speedometer are prominent on the instrument cluster, which includes a programmable shift light. Gauges are silver-faced and surrounded by satin silver bezels. Fuel, oil pressure and water gauges on the centre panel are flanked by heater vents with aircraft-style sliding levers, the console houses the ignition button and traction control switch, and the gearshift knob is machined alloy with an Elfin logo.
The engine is a front longitudinally mounted Holden’s 5.7L full-alloy V8, regularly installed on Monaro and Commodore. Derived from Chevrolet’s “Small Block” family (also used with slight changes on Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette and Pontiac GTO) it is rather old in conception, using and OHV architecture with 16 valves (2 valves per cylinder). The 58 bhp/liter won’t set any performance record, but the 465 Nm @ 4000 rpm of torque guarantee a vivid response through all the rev output. Also it should be considered that the simple conception of a stock engine mean simple, cheap and easy available maintenance.
The power is delivered to the rear wheels via a 6 speed manual gear-box and a limited slip differential also borrowed from Holden’s Monaro, but with tweaked gear ratios in order to fully exploit Streamliner’s lightweight benefit.
The Streamliner has undergone full Australian Design Rules compliance testing for chassis and component torsion rigidity, drive-by noise levels, braking performance, crash testing to Euro simulation standards, lighting, screen and wiper area and interior safety.
Elfin expects to deliver 50 MS8 models in 2006 and to build up to 100 vehicles annually thereafter. Manufacturing licenses are being negotiated to cater for export market demand from the Middle East and the USA in particular
Radio/CD/MP3 and ipod interface/remote control 1,330 USD
3 part Mica paintwork 2,585 USD
Elfin’s MS8 Streamliner is a value-for-money alternative the exotic and highly expensive super-cars. It has a unique racing pedigree and the ability to match – or outperform – cars costing twice as much or more on the road or at the track.