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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Drakan Spyder is the Ultimate American Track Toy: First Drive


Copyright © 2015 Bold Ride LLC.

Hopping into the cockpit of the open-wheel, open-top Drakan Spider isn’t exactly what you would call “graceful.” You step right onto the seats and slide your behind slowly down into the tub of the car. Then it’s time to buckle the 5-point harness, lock the racing wheel into the steering rack, and settle your stomach for what’s about to happen. Flick up the toggle, engaging the fuel pump and starter so that you feel like a real racing driver. Then, with the push of a button, 400 plus horsepower emerges from the Chevy-sourced LS3 V8.
I pushed the clutch in, and rolled out of the parking lot nice and easy. The engine was still cold, so it cracked and popped like a Jaguar F-Type on steroids. Then, I found a straight, dropped it in gear, and unleashed holy hellfire upon the roads of Southern California. I rocketed up to the point where scenery was blasting past me in a blur.

You’ve probably never heard of it the Drakan Spider. It’s essentially four wheels and a cockpit, strapped onto a V8, and thrown out into the world. It came out just this year, and it’s already proving a worthy adversary for similarly street-legal track cars like the Ariel Atom and BAC Mono. It’s fast. Really fast. It’s almost as if engineers from the Camaro Z/28 went to work on a Ariel Atom—and that’s exactly what builders Sector 111 intended.


2,000 Pounds of Pure Performance

In a normal car, you have doors, a trunk, body panels, and a ton of sound and heat insulation to quiet the road and the engine. But for a real enthusiast, that sort of takes all the fun out of it. Hearing the engine right in your ear and seeing the suspension loading up in the corner induces a truly visceral reaction. The Drakan Spyder plays on that emotion.

Soaking wet, this racecar for the road weighs only 2,000 pounds, which is staggeringly low compared to what the rest of the world call “small and lightweight.” For reference, the Scion FR-S weighs in at a whopping 2,800-lbs and only makes a fourth of the power. So you can imagine the acceleration that this thing delivers.

At 4.7 pounds-per-horsepower, the Spyder is just a tad less powerful (by that metric) than the Bugatti Veyron (4.25 lb/hp). It results in a 0-60 mph time of 3.2 seconds. Pair that to a 40/60 front-rear weight distribution. And you have a car that is well sorted for a straight line, and playful in turns.

The Drakan has no doors, no 27-way adjustable seats, no radio, no HVAC controls, no real body panels to speak of. It’s just a raw, visceral car that wants you to forget everything you know of about driving normal cars. It’s just you, the Spyder, and the road; and in aiming for that, this car is a true achievement.


Will It Shatter My Spine?

You’d think that a car like this would have super stiff springs, or that the thinly padded seats would result in a visit to the chiropractor. But between the progressive springs and the suspension setup that Sector 111 designed for this car, if feels sort of like you’re in a modern day muscle car. It really only becomes super stiff when hammering the car through the corners, which is exactly where you want it.

That being said, the suspension itself has been designed to allow for loads of droop that additionally soak up rough bits of the road. Add the memory foam seat inserts, and you’d be ready to either lay waste to all those track-prepped Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, or just head to the market to pick up some milk (but not much else).


A Friendly ICBM

With the Ariel Atom’s small-displacement inline inline-4, or the BAC Mono’s similarly designed engine, it would be easy to believe that these would be some of the cleanest, lowest emitting emissions vehicles you could buy. But that’s actually not the case. For Sector 111, who imports both the Ariel and BAC to the U.S., it became readily apparent that with new regulations regarding fuel economy, these cars would actually fail emissions tests. Meaning you wouldn’t be able to register them in many states. That’s why Sector 111 began looking for a solution.

The Chevy E-Rod LS3 is CARB compliant, which means it passes one of the toughest regulations in the country, and makes 430 horsepower right out of the box. It’s small, adaptable, and relatively cheap to maintain. All of these factors made the E-Rod the perfect choice for the Drakan. Like I said before, the engine makes this car. Without it, it just wouldn’t offer the same experience. And I’m not just talking about emissions either.


Plant your foot down deep into the Drakan’s pedal box, and unleash the lurking missile that resides directly behind your head. The sound this car makes can only be described as something akin to an all-out racecar. It’s throaty when you’re on the gas, and rumbles, pops, and crackles when you take your foot off. You’ll want to get on the gas, just to let off and hear those engine sounds again and again.

The E-Rod pushes this car to insane levels of speed in unbelievably short stretches of time and road. It’s not Bugatti Veryon-fast, but it is much more engaged. You’re sitting so low, and without a top, the engine is ridiculously loud. You’d be forgiven if you thought you were a behind the wheel of a 1990s Formula 1 car. It gets even better when you find a few twisty corners to bomb.


Stuck Like Glue

This car is all mechanical grip. It has 235/40ZR17 tires in the front, and 315/30ZR18 in the rear. To say you have some grip is the understatement for the ages. Throughout the drive, I encountered low-speed corners, high-speed corners, decreasing radiuses, and a couple switchbacks. All of which were supposed to be taken at a “brisk” 35-40 miles per hour. The Drakan and I took them, let’s just say, much, much faster than that.

And because of the manual steering, manual brakes, and huge tire limits, you’re confident enough to push this car to the limit every single time you take a turn. Being a mid-engine car with a muscle car motor, though, I expected it to be a bit snappier when getting onto the gas mid corner. It’s just not. The car is a pussy cat, and rotates predictably every time you want to pretend you’re Ken Block. It is amazing that this car was only just a concept two years ago.


The Verdict

Get one…if you can. This car feels as if engineers stripped away everything but the frame on a Camaro Z/28. It feels properly sorted, and with a team smaller than what Chevy used to design the audio control knob on the Corvette’s infotainment center, this car is just a staggering piece of engineering.

Of course, there are still some tiny things that need to be worked out, one of which is that the seat being up against the firewall can become a bit warm. And there’s not enough snap coming out of the corners. Otherwise, I can’t get away from how brilliant this car is otherwise. It takes everything you love about the Ariel Atom, and combines it with American muscle—and that’s just a fantastic place to be.
Sector 111 is sort of becoming like the American Lotus. Or at least what Lotus should be. While Lotus continues to bring out heavier and more complex cars, Sector 111 is keeping with Lotus-founder Collin Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify and add lightness.” And seriously, what’s simpler than a GM V8 engine on a tube frame? Nothing. Now go plead with Sector 111 to make some more, because all 10 of the company’s first set of cars have already been sold; and I want one.


Engine: Chevrolet E-Rod LS3 V8
Horsepower: 420 (at the wheels)
0-60: 3.2 Seconds
Price (base): $100,000


A V8 that is 50-state emission-compliant
Engine pops and crackles like a maniac
Sticks to the pavement like chewing gum


Seat can get really warm after a few hours running
They’re all sold out

Photo Credit: Jonathon Klein for BoldRide