Boutique Supercars: Noble M600

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If you want a rare, expensive and all-out performance machine, then look no further - this is it.

Nobel is one of the newer boutique manufacturers out there, yet new models and redesigns are introduced at a pace which most large manufacturers struggle to keep up with. This is because Noble is trying to keep up with the likes of Porsche and Ferrari, and models which are left to stagnate won't stay competitive. The company has ambitious aims, but they don't have a problem selling cars, so it must be working. Noble was founded by designer Lee Noble in 1999, after he had sold his previous venture, Ascari Cars.

The company still bears his name, even though he sold it in 2006 and stopped working with them altogether in 2008, leaving to create Fenix Automotive. The first car built by Noble's eponymous company was the M10, which lasted only from 1999 to 2000. It was a small, mid-engine convertible, occupying the same niche as the Lotus Elise and the Toyota MR2 Spyder. Power came from a 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated engine, and performance wasn't terrible, but didn't exactly justify the large price tag. In the end, very few were built. Part of the reason for the low volume of the M10 production was the introduction of the M12 in 2000.

It boasted a twin-turbo V6 and was a far more appealing car. Hardly surprising that the M10 was dropped after the better option came along. The M12 is probably the best-known Noble model, being produced from 2000 until 2008, and using increasingly more and more powerful tuning states for the engine. This was a 3.0-liter Ford Duratec, which produced between 330 and 500 horsepower. A track version of the M12 was built as well, and was known as the M400. This had a 425-horsepower version of the V6 engine, and was lightened considerably.

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The "400" in the name was chosen to signify the car's power-to-weight ratio, as expressed in horsepower per ton. This is an impressive figure, and it is therefore unsurprising that the M400 could hit 60mph in just 3.2 seconds, as well as run the quarter mile in 11.4 seconds. Following up the success of the M12 would prove to be difficult. A prototype was built using an updated version of the same Ford Daratec-based V6. It was known as the M14, and it received a debut at the 2004 British Motor Show, but shortly after that the whole project was scrapped.

Lee Noble simply felt that it was distinct enough from the M12 to warrant the price increase, even though the company had already received some deposits from the new model. But after the false start of the M14, Noble came out with the M15, a car priced to compete with the Porsche 911. That is never an easy car to compete with, due to its ability to combine supercar performance with ease of use and an ability to be used as a daily driver. So Noble knew that this would have to be a more refined car than their previous models. It still used the same engine as the M12/M400/M14 but a new platform was developed, as well as a bespoke transmission from Graziano.

The interior was more comfortable, features like air conditioning and a navigation system were included, and the handling was less harsh and unforgiving. Production on the M15 never really got fully underway in any serious way, and the car was ultimately replaced by the M600 in 2010. As the name implies, this is again a more track-focused car, although the name is also a bit ambitious, since the power-to-weight ratio is actually 520 horsepower per ton. But that's still higher than the ratio for the Bugatti Veyron, and the M600 is incredibly fast.

Noble went with a different engine for the M600 as well, finally abandoning the Duratec for a twin-turbo version of a V8 made by Volvo, although the engine is actually derived from a Yamaha design, and the transmission used by Noble is built by Yamaha. The boost is adjustable, and you can dial in horsepower from 450 to 650. The M600 is quite expensive, coming in at £200,000. That's going to make it pretty exclusive already, but with the Noble factory really only able to produce 50 cars per year, you'll be lucky if you ever see one in person. Needless to say, the waitlist to buy one will also take some time.

Noble's cars have come a long way though, and although they were never bad, it is only in the last couple of years that they have started to be mentioned in the same breath as the big contenders in the field of making supercars. This is really due to the M600, and its big increase in power over previous models. In an age when $30K will get a car with 400+ plus horsepower, a little automaker needs to bring at least 600 for anyone to take notice, especially when it's so expensive. But Nobel has pulled this off, and we can expect to see some even better things from them in the future.

Handout, Noble

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