1998 Vector M12
Rare doesn’t begin to describe this car
Behold the Vector M12.
Fewer than 20 were made.
A visit to a museum yielded a private tour by its generous Director and a bounty of pictures providing a close look at an automotive equivalent of the proverbial unicorn.
Tough act to follow
The Vector’s story could probably fill a small book; however, I’d like to put the focus of this post on the visual feast more so than a long-winded history overview. So, here’s a summary of what I was able to quickly put together to set the stage.
In 1971 a man named Gerald Wiegert co-founded an automotive design company under the name of Vehicle Design Force. Their masterpiece creation was called the Vector (one source consistently referred to it as “The Vector”). The Vector was only a hollow display piece; however, when it debuted at the 1972 Los Angeles Auto Show, the spectators loved it. The plan was to have either a Porsche- or Mercedes-derived motor in it.
After years of money-raising, by developing various non-automotive products, financing was almost secured to move ahead. Next, in the August 1977 edition of Automotive News, the Vector W2 (“W” for Wiegert and “2” for the number of turbochargers) showed up. The estimated price had skyrocketed from initial estimates of under $10,000 to about $50,000. But the car was engineered to the highest performance standards, using the highest grade materials available.
By 1978 there was a running W2 prototype. Car and Driver featured the W2 as its cover story in December of 1980. Interestingly, of all the space-aged materials and high-performance components used in the design, for the transmission the company used a modified 1978 front-wheel-drive Oldsmobile Toronado’s. Nothing else could apparently fit and handle the power. While the rebuilt, three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic 425 transaxle fit the bill nicely, a dual-drive differential enabled clutchless manual gear changing.
By this point, the cost estimate had again risen, hovering around $125,000, and there was still no guarantee the car would be produced.
By 1987, the company had changed its name twice (to Vector Cars International, then Vector Aeromotive Corporation). But, by early 1990 there would finally be a production Vector available for purchase, the W8, shown below.
The W8 (“8” representing the number of cylinders employed) would set the bar so high that it would handily best its successor, the subject car of my post. Without going into all of the details, the W8 utilized a 6.0-liter Corvette-derived engine (fitted with twin-intercooled Garrett H3 turbochargers) that put out 625 BHP at 5,700 RPM, and 630 pound-feet of torque at 4,900 RPM.
That launched the W8 to a top speed of about 200 MPH (some sources reported top speeds of 220 and even 240 MPH which are in all likelihood not accurate).
In 1991, the W8 cost just over $280,000. For 1992, the price was increased, to just over $450,000. A total of 19 W8s were made, 17 of which were sold to customers.
The experimental WX-3, shown right, and its roadster twin the WX-3R, shown below, were previewed at the 1992 New York Auto Show. They were proposals for the W8’s successor. These cars boasted an astounding 1,000 HP and even more astounding $765,000 price tag.
The WX-3 series didn’t happen; however, visually they were close approximations of the eventual next generation Vector.
That would be the M12. The car that I had the chance to get close to.