Articles: RML Adds Corsa Option to Short Wheelbase Line Up

RML Adds Corsa Option to Short Wheelbase Line Up

By Paul Horrell
June 16, 2024

Michael Mallock explains why his company stopped work on the hypercar design it was well on the way to finishing. He wanted something less fast, less extreme.

“Even the good hypercars aren’t something that you can enjoy and use really,’ he says.”So we pivoted and came up with the idea of the Short Wheelbase. It’s inspired by what is, for me, the greatest era of car design. And it has the wonderful V12 engine that just pulls and pulls. It’s all about tactility and feel and driver engagement.”

Mallock’s company, RML Group, has been responsible for very many championship-winning race cars under works labels. It also does white-label customer cars, including the McLaren Senna GTR and Saleen S7, and continuation cars, too: Aston Martin Zagato and DB5, and the Bizzarrini 5300 GT Corsa.

But Mallock decided it was time for the company to do its own cars. The Short Wheelbase is the way. The Short Wheelbase is not a continuation car or a recreation or a restomod. RML’s car starts life as a Ferrari 550 Maranello.

The 5.5-litre 485bhp V12 and six-speed manual transaxle are rescued and immaculately rejuvenated. It also re-uses enough structure and suspension that its identity doesn’t have to be changed for re-registration and legal compliance. So, the RML SWB is a modified car not a new one. Its structure is a large bespoke two-part tub. That, and the crash structures and body panels, are all carbon fibre.

The shape was designed, with a backward glance over the decades, by Jonathan Bowen. He first worked with RML when they did the Nio EP9 electric hypercar which broke the Nürburgring Nordschleife lap record. (RML has broad EV expertise too – it’s also doing the high-performance hybrid batteries for the Czinger.)

If Michael Mallock wanted on a car with classic mid-century looks and late-century driver involvement – “To create a car I really wanted to drive,” – he soon discovered it wasn’t an obvious formula in his team. “I had quite a few battles with my chassis engineers who kept saying, ‘Oh, it’s far too soft.’ I said ‘No, that’s the point of it.'”

The cabin takes inspiration from the same source car in materials and instrument layout. But it’s beautifully trimmed and embodies a/c plus a hidden satnav touchscreen which pops up from the centre tunnel. It’s a car meant to be used often and at length.

And yet… despite Mallock’s personal vision of a relatively compliant roadgoing car, it didn’t take long for potential buyers to petition him for something slightly more hardcore. Those buyers take their classics and their retro cars on tracks, too. For them, RML has the Corsa version.

“We spoke with one of our good friends at the Thermal Club in California about how he would want his car to work, how he would use it.” Which meant changes. “For a standard road car being thrown on track, particularly in California, brakes are the big scary one.”

So they’ve been swapped out for larger ones, better cooled, wrapped in specific wheels and track tyres. Carbon discs are an option. The whole thing is slightly lowered, with widened track. The suspension and dampers are stiffened too.

“It’s the usual stuff where you have a load of motorsport engineers who have the task of making a lightweight version.” Overall the mass is down 10 percent to 1325kg dry. The luxury interior is stripped and much replaced with carbon fibre trim. Windows are polycarbonate.

Even though it’s not a racer, for everyone’s reassurance it has an FIA cage, race seats and harnesses and fire extinguisher.Thanks to a de-catalysed titanium track exhaust system and re-mapped ECU, power rises by 15 percent to nearly 560bhp, with noise to match.

Mallock doesn’t think more than a handful will be built with that full Corsa menu. (Not even with the optional milled carbon gear knob, saving 90 grammes – small mass difference, big bragging rights.) “We’re talking with people about, rather than ‘a Corsa’ per se, more about personalization. The journey of buying a car tends to be as much fun as the car for a lot of people.

“We’re just working on an outline spec for a customer and it’ll be used on the road. It will have comfortable seats, it will have HVAC and Apple CarPlay. But it’ll have carbon brakes and it’ll have the carbon exterior metal work for weight saving and that kind of thing. Yet with glass instead of Plexi. So a bit of a sort of mix and match.

“It will still have the compliance and the float and all that nice stuff that I enjoy that doesn’t exist in cars anymore. But just taking a bit of weight out. So developing the Corsa has been a nice way to give the customers more bespoke options.”

Indeed, through the Corsa’s development, he kept resisting a fire-breather with wings and maximised lap speeds. “That’s not what this car is about. Even in Corsa spec this is still very much about engagement.”

Join the Conversation
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Petrolicious Newsletter