It has broken just about every speed record there is. With huge power in a highly refined package, this incredible Chev-powered supercar really has no rival.
Mid-life crisis. It means different things to different people, and each person has their own way of handling it. Let us examine this situation: petrol in the veins; a bunch of Kiwi “Yeah, no worries!” mates; and a bit of spare cash. The best way of handling this mid-life crisis? That’s by doing what Tony Phillips of Nedax Systems did.
Together with his long-time friend, Brent Douglas of Kenepuru Engineers, Tony kicked some ideas around and trawled the internet over a few Heinekens trying to find a new toy. He was no stranger to performance cars, having owned a tweaked BMW M3, and what would fit the bill needed to be, well, absolutely mad.
It’s the fastest-accelerating and decelerating supercar in the world, ahead of the likes of the mega-dollar Bugatti Veyron, Ferrari Enzo and McLaren F1. Dubbed the Ultima GTR, this unassuming monster has evolved through many years of research and development in the United Kingdom. Available as a turnkey supercar or in kit format, it has been designed as the ultimate enthusiast’s toy. Not interested in half measures, Tony decided it was all or nothing. No options were left unchecked. This beast sports a similar specification motor to the Ultima GTR720, the same production model that broke the Top Gear TV show’s lap record for a road-going car by more than 4.5 seconds, whizzing around in one minute, 12.8 seconds. As you may guess from the name, that GTR puts out an absolutely insane 720hp, and it weighs in at under a tonne! That’s enough for most, perhaps, but the one selected here sports an extra 30hp thanks to matched components and a tune for 98-octane fuel.
There’s No ‘I’ In Team
The team Tony chose to help him with the project was paramount to its success, and included the expertise of Warren Leslie from Metal Immersions and Andrew Robertson, an avid car enthusiast who’s no stranger to tools. Bringing precious powder coating and engine building skills respectively, they proved invaluable during the Ultima’s build. The main focus of the project was an excuse for a group of friends to get together and have great fun working on a common interest. This wasn’t a multi-million dollar contract build, and so the team worked to a relaxed timeframe that fitted in with personal schedules. Following this logic, why should the monster’s lair be an uncomfortable cave in which to spend evenings? In went the fridge, a microwave for the pies and a ‘work bench’ that just happened to be the perfect height for leaning on, beer in hand. One has to wonder about the carpet laid down in the workshop, too. You’d think these guys were getting a bit soft in their old age¦
It looks fast. Damn fast. There’s no doubt about that. The recent test run at Paraparaumu Airport, just out of Wellington, sure as hell showed this is no show pony. Tony recounts his experience with vigour, wide-eyed and not without a huge grin.
As he mashed the pedal down, the track became a blur as the torque from the monstrous Dart M-block 406ci Chevy V8 propelled the Ultima towards its top speed. With the pedal to the metal the team soon found the 835Nm of torque was a little too much for the poor clutch, despite claims by the factory that it was sufficient. Slipping in fourth and fifth was unacceptable and it’s since been replaced by a Kennedy Inc clutch system, a stage two with an aluminium billet pressure plate and a six-pad ceramic friction plate rated at 1138Nm of torque. The motor runs at an 11.0:1 compression ratio, with 98-octane fed through the 830cfm Holley carburettor. With the intense lateral g-forces the GTR can pull, it is possible to starve the engine of fuel during cornering. The carburettor was subsequently modified along the same principle as a dry sump. Twin Carter fuel pumps feed the carburettor through a specially modified twin line system to ensure even fuel flow at all times.
Atmosphere is sucked into the engine via a K&N 14 by five-inch flow control filter and down a Dart single-plane manifold into the fire chamber. Spark is provided by none other than a very reputable MSD 6AL ignition system complete with MSD billet distributor, coils and leads. A heavy duty radiator with twin thermo fans keeps things cool, while Earl’s oil coolers ensure engine and transaxle oils remain at a manageable temperature.
Shakedown tests were complete. It was time to play. Tony had no qualms about red-lining every gear and giving the locals a bit of entertainment. The Ultima played its song through 1.875-inch primary equal-length stainless steel headers. Crowds began to build at the airport, eager to behold a car the likes of which New Zealand had never seen before. They were in for a treat.
A wasp-coloured Lotus 2 Eleven was there for comparison. It weighs 745kg, sports 252hp from factory and is designed as a street-capable race car. Even with a zero to 100kmh time of four seconds (and a head start) it was still no match for the Ultima GTR. It was blitzed like it was standing still. It’s easy to see why when you find out the 750hp Ultima GTR weighs in at 997.5kg (dry). It’s also easy to see why Tony smells a speed record.
To break New Zealand land speed records the GTR needs to be the best of the best. Rose-jointed adjustable double A-arms were ordered to replace the factory items that just weren’t up to spec. Intrax coil-overs with adjustable platforms support all four corners, and Nolathane bushes were used all round to provide that tight, responsive feel. The power is transferred to the treads through a Porsche G50 transaxle setup. Traction would be a concern had the team not fitted feet measuring 245/35R18 at the front and a very wide 335/30R18 at the rear. These Pirelli P-Zero Rosso tyres wrap OZ 18×9.5 front and 18×13.5-inch rear wheels, and for track duty a duplicate set of rims is ready to go with Hoosier racing slicks. Equally important as power for track times ” not to mention safety ” is the brake system. Assigned this duty are AP four-pot callipers with 12.5-inch rotors both front and rear.
The chassis is of full space frame construction with integrated anti-roll protection, lined internally with bonded and riveted alloy sheet. Over the top lies an aerodynamically designed body. To minimise weight, the body is constructed with unstressed glass reinforced plastic (GRP). It’s finished in a pretty red because, as we all know, red cars go faster. Additional downforce is provided by a double element carbon fibre rear wing, with aerodynamics further improved thanks to a soon-to-be-fitted front carbon fibre splitter.
No half measures
Despite coming as a ‘kit’ the build was not as straightforward as one might expect. It needed modifications in a number of areas to suit the team’s needs. The internet was a valuable source of information, identifying pitfalls already experienced by other Ultima builders. Quite apart from pitfalls, New Zealand also has some of the strictest regulations in the world and as a result the roll cage design needed modification to comply. Two factory bends in the roll cage were straightened, and while the team was at it the guys solidly mounted the engine and made cockpit roll hoop modifications. All this work took a number of months but paid off with a 300 per cent increase in chassis stiffness over factory. A priming circuit has been installed to lube up the engine prior to action, otherwise friction could damage engine components and longevity would be compromised. Oil starvation can occur during cornering, so a Petersen SCP four-stage dry sump lubrication system was chosen. The fuel system is tied into the oil delivery. Once the required level of oil pressure has been achieved the fuel system automatically clicks into operation, and the opposite is true when pressure drops. This safekeeping mechanism prevents fuel from being continuously pumped through in the event of engine failure, which is especially important in the event of a crash and engine fire. Should an engine fire start, a pretty nifty fire extinguishing system floods the engine bay and cockpit full of foam to douse any flames. An emergency switch starts the foam party, with two nozzles each for the engine bay and cockpit.
There is no doubt about it, this road-going hypercar is built to break records. And when talking about a car built to break land speed records, the last words you expect to hear are “creature comforts”. Yes, that’s right, this sub-tonne 750hp monster machine sports air conditioning. Some might argue that’s surplus weight, but there’s something satisfying about blitzing your sweaty competition while being bathed in a slightly nippy breeze. Four cameras capture the action. There’s your front view, rear view, bumper view and my favourite, the camera facing in towards the two occupants. I like to call it the ‘oh God I think I just shat my pants’ view. Neither Spartan nor plush, the interior is clad in a custom fit of Alcantara. Slot yourself inside and you know it means business. It feels like a race car, meant to go fast and deliver eye-watering performance. Yet underneath there lies a level of civility. Dynamat sound deadening is used extensively throughout, and combined with foam padding it helps settle the Ultima. It’s a bit like putting a business suit on a rabid dog.
‘Human-to-machine interface is vital for keeping the tarmac-bound red rocket stuck to that grey stuff, rather than wrapped around your neighbourhood power pole. All the gauges are there to monitor the car’s vitals, including temperature, oil pressure and a 320kph (200mph) speedometer. Dual wide band air/fuel sensors are added to the master instrumentation cluster for monitoring of air/ fuel ratios. A Racelogic GPS-based system that synchronises with up to 10 satellites at any one time provides you with extremely accurate performance data, including acceleration and lap times.
No shortcuts have been taken and it really shows, though it’s not always easy to spot such subtleties as re-powder-coating a great number of parts to maintain consistency in overall presentation, and installing side conduits to run wiring instead of using factory conduits. However, this build wasn’t without its hitches. One time they set the fridge too cold and froze 48 Heinekens. A serious setback, but the guys battled on and the end result is spectacular.
Wellingtonians, keep your eyes peeled, as by the time you read this the car will be road registered. Once it’s registered Tony will attempt the world record for the zero to 100mph to zero time, already held by another Ultima GTR. The New Zealand land speed record is also in the team’s sights. It currently stands at 346.216kph, but this will require gearing changes and that ‘smooth as a baby’s bum’ road. And, of course, you’ll see this car hit the race tarmac with lap records in sight.
All up, it’s a mad package, and just as we went to print Tony started talking about a twin turbo 427ci small block package good for up to 1500hp. Yes. He’s a madman.
Ultima Sports started from humble beginnings with a man named Lee Noble. The first Ultima was built from a set of borrowed parts from other cars. For example, the front uprights/brakes/steering were from a Ford Cortina and the rear components were Renault. Later incarnations of the Ultima mated with a V8 dominated the track in the late ’80s and were effectively banned in the early ’90s for being too quick. Subsequent development from the early ’90s created what you see here today.
Tony Phillips – Ultima GTR 750
Occupation: Managing director of Nedax Systems (NZ) Limited
Previously owned Cars: BMW 850, BMW E46 M3
Dream car: Ultima GTR
Build time: 18 months
Length of ownership: From new for approximately two years
Tony thanks: Brent Douglas (Kenepuru Engineers, 04 232 8250), Andrew Robertson, Warren Leslie (Metal Immersions Ltd, 04 232 6880), Louise Paino (Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club, 04 384 8700), Brendan Owers (AHI Roofing, 04 232 5184)
Engine: Dart M 406ci (6653cc) small block Chevrolet, 11.0:1 compression ratio, CFE 18-degree heads and Petersen SCP four-stage dry sump, Dart single plane manifold, K&N 14×5 flow control filter, twin Carter fuel pumps, Holley 830cfm carburettor, Earl’s filters and Holley in-line pressure gauge, MSD 6AL ignition system, MSD billet distributor, MSD coils and leads, 1.875-inch primary equal length stainless steel headers, heavy duty radiator, twin thermo fans, Earls oil coolers for transaxle and engine oil
Driveline: Porsche five-speed transaxle, Kennedy clutch
Brakes: AP four-pot callipers, 318mm rotors front and rear
Suspension: Intrax coil-overs with adjustable platforms on all four corners, double A arms front and rear, fully adjustable and rose jointed.
Wheels/Tyres: Front — OZ 18×9-inch with Pirelli P-Zero Rosso 245/35ZR18. Rear — OZ 18×13.5-inch with Pirelli P-Zero Rosso 335/30ZR18. Duplicate set of rims with Hoosier racing rubber for race duty
Exterior: Full space frame chassis with integrated roll protection, unstressed GRP body finished in red, double element carbon fibre wing
Interior: Custom Alcantara, factory Ultima seats, Momo steering wheel, fire extinguisher system, four integrated cameras with hard drive recorder, air conditioning and roll cage integrated into chassis
Performance: 559kW (750hp) at 7400rpm, 835Nm at 5300rpm (98 octane), 0-400m — 9.95 seconds at 230kph (143mph — factory demonstrator of lesser spec)
Words: Victor Yuen Photos: Quinn Hamill