Remember the Hennessey Venom GT – the mutant Lotus Exige that managed to record a speed of over 270 MPH in 2014? Well, the team at Hennessy have gone back to the drawing board and created a new car, from the ground up. Could this be the first proper American Hypercar?
The Americans have never been much good at the hypercar game, or at least they haven’t been much good at crafting the myth and legend required to make their target audience want to buy them in any number. Europe has the Veyron, the Chiron, Pagani, Koenigsegg, the McLaren P1, the Aston Martin Vulcan and the Porsche 918 Spyder – can you name an American hypercar? If you can’t, try Googling the Vector W8, Saleen S7, the SSC Ultimate Aero or the Hennessy Venom GT.
The problem with American hypercars is that they have lacked finesse. While Europen hypercars appear to be the fruit of Latin passion, Teutonic efficiency and billions of Euros of development, the American versions typically appear to have been knocked up in a shed by a man wearing a Stetson – and in many cases, this was pretty much the case.
Vector W8 (image credit RM Sothebys)
It is safe to say that in recent years American manufacturers have never really got into the hypercar game. Yes, they do have a penchant for giving everyday American cars hypercar levels of power and performance, but creating a tool specifically for the job just doesn’t seem to concern them. That leaves it up to the men and women of the US aftermarket performance industry to take up the batten. One such man is John Hennessey.
Hennessey founded the eponymous Hennessey Performance in 1991 – it’s what the Yanks would call a tuning shop. You give Mr Hennessey your car and he will give it more horsepower – simple. He has made quite a name for himself over the years tuning everything from Dodge Vipers to the Cadillac CTS and the Ford Raptor SVT pickup (the gloriously named Hennessey VelociRaptor SUV).
‘We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, just make it turn a little faster.’ John Hennessy
Hennessey Venom GT
In 2010, Hennessey Performance revealed the Venom GT to the world. On the face of it, the car was a modified Lotus Exige with a turbo-charged V8 from the Corvette ZR1. Costing around $1,000,000 and with 1244 hp and weighing just 1244 kg, “fast in a straight line but no good in the corners” was the general consensus from those who hadn’t driven the car, but the reality was a little different. EVO magazine’s Richard Meaden drove it and liked it for its crazy performance, compliance and usability. The car was certainly a lot more than the sum of its Lotus tub, Ford GT gearbox and Chevy LS7 engine. Stephen Tyler from Aerosmith liked it so much he bought a roadster.
“To my mind the Venom GT is in the mould of the Porsche Carrera GT and, in some respects, the McLaren F1.” Richard Meaden
The Venom GT recorded a top speed of 270.49 mph in 2014 but with just one high-speed run rather than the required two, it wasn’t made official by Guinness. This unofficial record stood until 4th November 2017, when Koenigsegg achieved an officially verified 277.87 mph in an Agera RS.
Hennessey Venom F5
On November 1st 2017, Hennessey Special Vehicles unveiled the Venom F5 at the SEMA show in Las Vegas and it looks like the real deal.
Hennessy are keen to point out that this is an all-new car.The newly designed chassis and bodywork houses a 1600 hp twin-turbo V8 which Hennessy believe will power the car to over 300 mph and the design brief is clearly focused on top speed. The car has active aero and a 7-speed paddle-shift transmission rather than the manual box from the Venom GT. Just 24 examples will be built with a price of around $1.6 million.
“I’m not worried about it [Koenigsegg’s speed], I’m excited and motivated. I’ve been waiting almost four years for somebody to better the record. And once you have more players that are playing in the top speed game, then you have more relevance.” John Hennessey
There’s more to the F5 than just top speed – it looks sensational and may just have the star quality to challenge its European rivals. Koenigsegg always had the vision and the ability to create incredible cars, but it took many years to build a brand that was desired by and sold to billionaires across the globe.
Can Hennessey achieve the same with the Venom F5 and truly create America’s Hypercar? Time and top speed will tell….