car_photo_343408If you were building a super-fast sports car what name would you give your newest creation? It must be one of the biggest challenges facing a car-producer.

Get it wrong and your new baby will be an also-ran, side-lined in favour of those with far more glamorous and therefore appealing monikers.

Lamborghini has the magic touch. Think of Countach, Diablo, Aventador, Sesto Elemento. It doesn’t matter what they mean they just sound epic.

But how many manufacturers come up with a name that perfectly describes the car itself? The ‘Mini’ was a no-brainer and is probably the best automotive example of ‘it does what it says on the tin’.

How about ‘Rocket’ then? You would need rather large testicles to stick that label on anything other than something that actually resembles a rocket and indeed goes like one. Enter the Light Car Company.

Formed by racing driver Chris Craft and a certain Gordon Murray of McLaren F1 fame and a lot of other stuff too, the Light Car Company presented the Rocket to the world in 1991.

So what makes a Rocket a rocket?

Well, the tiny Yamaha straight-four bike engine could scream its head off right up to 10,500 rpm in order to propel the missile-shaped object to 60 mph in around 4 seconds and onwards to 140 mph. So what? you say – by today’s standards that is pretty good but not earth-moving. But that was back in 1991, nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Gordon Murray set out to design the automotive equivalent of the most efficient interpretation of form and function for the road. It would be the closest thing anybody could get to driving a Formula One car without the necessary backing of Agip or Marlboro.

Only 47 of these extraordinary cars have been built to-date and the Rocket must surely go down in the history books as the car that presented a living demonstration of brilliant driving dynamics and the physics behind it all. In other words, if you want to have a go at making the perfect car use a Rocket as your template.

So rare are these cars it is not very often that one will come up for sale. However, we are fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to find a new owner for build number 18 of the 47 that comes with a rather interesting history.

We’ll let the current owner, Charles Craft, take over at this point……

“I briefly worked for my uncle, Chris Craft, and the Light Car Company in 1991 prior to the launch of the original car and even then, aged 19, I knew I had to have one.

In 2006 I was lucky enough to purchase RO18 from Chris, but as it turned out I’ve actually known the car far longer. The first time I dove it was in 1995. Back then it was the first race spec car built and I drove it at a Rocket Reunion in Surrey.

Soon after it was sold to Valentine Lindsay, repainted blue and white and road registered. The car also featured in the Rocket Euro Series brochure and was the launch car for the still-born race series. Chris purchased the car back again in 2006.

Chassis RO18 has a unique dash which Gordon designed for the race cars, it also has added roll over protection to the front of the car over the standard road going Rockets, and the body also features a small recess on the nearside for the battery isolator switch and fire extinguisher pull, which I think again are unique.

The engine in RO18 has an increased capacity 1049cc engine, with uprated internals featuring Carrillo rods and a 6 speed closer ratio gearbox fitted in 2014. This is a rare but worthwhile upgrade over the standard 5 speed unit. The bespoke chain-driven rear transaxle incorporates both high, low ratio, reverse and a limited slip differential – low ratio is used most of its time, high ratio used more when cruising.

Like so many things with this game-changing little car the engine is another marvel, previously the preserve of only racing cars and superbike riders. The Yamaha 1049cc 4 cylinder redlines at 12,000 and produces approx. 145bhp, propelling 380 kilos means approximately 400 hp per tonne. The engine will happily potter around at low revs but with good mid-range power making rapid progress from 5-7,000 but after then it really comes alive and to my mind gives this little car so much of its character. To say it’s manic is a bit of understatement, the noise is epic. As with a motorbike, the sequential gearbox is fast and each cog really only drops about 1,500 revs straight back into the power band and this is when the car really flies. There is little torque but because it’s so light it doesn’t need it.

Brembo brakes are from an early 90’s F3 car and ensure that this car will still out brake just about anything on the road and are completely free from fade. Bilstein dampers and new bushes back in 2008 ensure handling is as expected from one of the greatest chassis designers ever, and Avon CR28 tarmac spec rally tyres have proven to be the best tyre suited to the car. Grip is huge and more than you could really ever want for the road. The ride is comfortable but firm, never jarring as the lack of anti-roll bars really allows the suspension to do its job. Steering is quick and direct, which is what you want when pushing on, it will wander a little at higher speeds if you let it, but a firm hand keeps it in check. You can even take a passenger in tandem if they are up for the ride! Point to point, on smaller twisty roads Jay Leno has been quoted as saying he thinks his Rocket is quicker than his F1.

Apart from the all-consuming driving experience, one of the greatest things about the Rocket is the effect it has on other road users and passers-by, it really makes people smile. Lots of people ask if it’s road legal and it doesn’t invite the envious looks some ‘in your face’ supercars can create. I think it’s because you are effectively driving a road-biased racing car and that’s part of the thrill of driving it, as it almost feels like you shouldn’t be doing it. Gordon Murray lets young designers drive his Rocket to really understand the benefit of minimal mass in a vehicle.

Without wishing to sound smug, owning and driving this car is a little bit like knowing a secret that you want to share with other car enthusiasts, the purity and integrity of its design is unlikely to be repeated, its minimalism and perfect form almost impossible to replicate with current day legislation. Sure not everyone will get it, but that almost adds to its appeal. The fact that a number of McLaren F1 owners also have a Rocket is all you need to know. A landmark car ahead of its time if ever there was.”

The following is a summary timeline of car No. 18:-

  • Built by the Light Car Company in 1994 painted yellow with yellow chassis, the first race spec car.
  • Chassis number 18 out of a run of 47 cars.
  • Original matching numbers for engine and chassis.
  • Car featured in Rocket Euro Series brochure.
  • Converted to road legal in 1995 painted blue with white chassis.
  • Chris Craft buys car back in early 2006.
  • Bought by Charles Craft from Chris Craft after an overhaul and refresh of all mechanicals by Luke Craft and body work by Andrew Craft!
  • 2008 new steering rack, suspension incl. bushes, transaxle repair/rebuild, larger capacity radiator and fan to aid cooling.
  • 2010 Engine rebuild including 5 speed gearbox, new hoses, sprocket and chain.
  • 2014 Engine refresh including 6 speed gearbox fitted and carbs cleaned and rebuilt.
  • Road trips to Le Mans, Nurburgring and Spa from 2008 to present day, the car has done 3 track days in 9 years.
  • Used regularly and serviced, including oil change, plugs other consumables and by Charles Craft with assistance from Chris and Luke.

Above all, this is a well-known car which has been maintained and cared for car and of course, very much enjoyed.

Maybe the best way to summarise this car is the following quote from Car Magazine in May 1992 – “Unless you’ve driven a single-seater racing car, and a fast one at that, nothing can prepare you for the thrill of driving a Rocket.”

Oh yes, there is also a book coming out soon about LCC Rocket called ‘Two Men’s Singular Vision’. RO18 will have copy number 18 signed by both Chris Craft and Gordon Murray to go with the car and new owner.

For further details about this remarkable car with amazing provenance give The Car Spy a call on 01892 506970 or email sales@thecarspy.net.

This car is now SOLD!

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