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The Top Gear car review:BAC Mono
For:Sublime performance, top engineering
Against:Expensive, somewhat impractical as family transport
What we say:
Superlight sports car for one, sir? We absolutely love it: so should you
What is it?
It’s the world’s only single-seater road car: a no-roof, no-windscreen, trackday special from Cheshire-based Briggs Automotive Company. It’s as practical as a pair of lead water wings, but it’s one of the most entertaining cars ever built.
The Mono is a phenomenally quick machine: thanks to a kerbweight of just 540kg and a 2.3-litre Cosworth engine developing 280bhp, it’ll dispatch the 0–62mph sprint in under three seconds and keep running all the way to 170mph.
But more than the outright acceleration, it’s the monumental, massless way the Mono changes direction that really sets it apart. Lying on your back with the engine behind your head and the six-speed sequential transmission firing through gearchanges like a rifle, it becomes an act of instinct to thread the Mono through corners – albeit one requiring a recalibration of your brain to deal with its physics-warping ability. At the very limit of grip, there’s a hint of understeer, but for the most part, the BAC is deliciously neutral, making it easy to explore the Mono’s limits without fear it’ll deposit you in the Armco. But, despite its incredible performance, the Mono somehow manages to be civilised around town at normal speeds. Far from turning your lower vertebrae into sneezing powder, it rides sublimely, that open-wheel suspension design providing 100mm of vertical wheel travel and allowing the Mono to articulate over the nastiest road bumps.
On the inside
There isn’t much of an interior to the Mono, but what little there is has been immaculately executed. Forget your traditional bolted-together-frombits- of-old-washing-machine British lightweight special: this is a top-grade piece of automotive design, every component, weld and join finished with glorious attention to detail.
The suede-style cabin lining is resistant to urine and human faeces, which is useful to know. Unlike most Brit lightweights, there’s actually room in the footwell for both your feet, and enough space in the front boot for a helmet and, erm, a raincoat. Which you’ll need, because in the event of a rainstorm you’ve got two choices: outrun the clouds, or get wet.
OK, £150,000 is an absurd price for a car that requires you to strap your loved one to the roll hoop if you’re planning a weekend away. But who buys a single-seater open cockpit racer for practical reasons? Though it’s too early to know for sure, we’re optimistic that the Mono should prove a decent ownership prospect, at least in comparison to the supercars it’s capable of embarrassing around a track or on the road: its engine and gearbox are tried and tested, its fuel economy is reasonable. And frankly, once you’ve punted it around a racetrack, you won’t give a damn about its residual values.