Like Monaco, Marbella is a place where the rich and famous live and play, so the sight of a Ferrari, Lamborghini, or Porsche hardly merits a passing glance with the locals. You have to be driving a Veyron or Zonda to really raise eyebrows here.
This car, however, turns heads like no other. If I could collect one euro for every picture snapped, I'd be dining well for a week.
Unlike most of today's semi-anonymous cars, the Veritas RSIII definitely has a face. And while some modern cars do have a "face" of sorts, this limited-production German roadster's visage sends a clear message to anyone who crosses its path.
Just as the shark mouths painted on the noses of the P-40 Kittyhawk fighters struck fear in the hearts of the Axis forces in WWII, the RSIII's angry face says in no uncertain terms that you should get out of the way or something very bad will happen to you. Resistance is futile.
This new face makes the front of 2001's RS3 concept car look tame by comparison. That one had a face, but it was more gaping maw that looked like a cross between a fish and a Cyberman.Things have changed radically with the rest of the bodywork too. Where the concept had more linear flanks, the RSIII morphed into a much more organic design with a significantly greater amount of form and detail.
The compound curves along its flanks suggesting rippling muscles to back the face up front, whose slanted and gold-backed headlamp clusters and chrome-toothed grille give it a look like something out of a comic book.
While it looks like a predator homing in on its hapless prey, maybe even striking terror into the hearts of supervillains as it races along the road, the Veritas RSIII is user friendly to its occupants-even those who keep their underwear hidden beneath their street clothes.
Those same comic-book-hero looks obviously captured the imagination of the car loving public. At the 2009 Salon Privé in London, the Veritas RSIII was voted the People's Choice over spectacular but otherwise predictable new supercars, a clear message that people are getting bored with the designs from established manufacturers.
This perception was further reinforced at Monterey 2009, where the team encountered a strange phenomenon as they stood watching public reaction to their car. While most men were drawn to the Ferraris and other established marques, the Veritas was a huge hit with wives and girlfriends. The ladies were visibly pulling their partners over for a closer look, as if the men were afraid.
The heart of the Veritas pumps with the strong ten-cylinder beat of BMW's M5 engine. While you can have the 600-hp BT Racing-tuned 5.5-liter version, in a car weighing just 2,400 pounds the stock 500 hp is more than adequate, and probably gains a few extra horses from the bespoke titanium exhaust.
This all-alloy V10 and its SMG gearbox are mounted as far back in the chassis as they'll go, making the RSIII effectively a front-mid-engine car. At 51/49 percent, weight distribution is about as good as it gets.
Under its strong and light carbon-fiber body, the Veritas RSIII follows conventional supercar methods of construction with a tubular steel frame chassis. Reinforced sections in the sills and central backbone areas further boost structural rigidity.
The suspension uses race-style double wishbones at each corner with pushrod-operated, horizontally opposed coilovers made by Ohlins. A Drexler mechanical limited-slip differential helps deploy the power.
As Veritas shares its ownership with Brabham Racing, or BT Racing as it is now known, the RSIII fills its big wheel arches with a bespoke, in-house wheel design in 10.0 and 12.0x20-inch sizes wrapped in 275/30 and 325/25 Dunlop Sport Maxx GT rubber. They are also testing 22-inch wheels that will visually fill the arches better, but if those detract from handling, they'll stay with the 20s.
With 380mm vented discs in front and 355mm vented discs at the rear, clamped by huge six and four-pot calipers respectively, the RSIII is over-braked for its weight. But thanks to good pedal feel and progression, it stops quickly without drama.
Standing there looking at this imagineered super sports car, you have no idea what it will be like to drive. Intimidating is the first word that comes to mind. Taking my life in my hands, I boldly reach into the cockpit and pull the lever that opens the front-hinged cover over the drivers' compartment.
Climbing in is exactly like doing so in a 1950s classic sports car: Place one and then both feet on the seat, and slide down into the footwell. The bare carbon cabin is absolutely minimalist, the only concessions to luxury well-padded, leather-clad seats.
The otherwise normal-sized steering wheel is open-topped, like the tiller on a B-17 Flying Fortress. This is surrounded by a huge tach and fuel, water and oil temperature gauges all wearing the Stack label.
The instrument cluster is part of the hinged cockpit cover and swings up with it. "The instrument pack is not final, "explained Veritas CEO, Michael Trick. "We are working on our own unique design for the production cars."There is no roof, no stereo, no air conditioning and only a very short windscreen to deflect bugs from your teeth. Even so, you really need to wear goggles or at least large sunglasses to keep the wind and debris out of your eyes.
With its restricted turning circle, maneuvering out of the showroom requires a five-point turn where even a Ferrari F430 would do it in three. A city car the Veritas RSIII is not. But within a few hundred feet and a couple of corners, I realize that it provides a unique driving experience that has to be judged on its own merits.
Its rack and pinion power steering is light to medium weighted and full of feel. It has a purity of response and feedback hard to find in modern cars. It could easily pass for a good unassisted system were it not so easy to turn the wheel at low speeds.
Many cars with quick racks feel twitchy. Not the Veritas. Its relatively long 106-inch wheelbase, broad track and low center of gravity make it stable and predictable. While firm, the suspension has been set to give a good secondary ride. So even on badly maintained Spanish byways, it never becomes unsettled. In fact, it feels better the faster you go.
The seven-speed SMG gearbox has been transported wholesale into the RSIII, and operates in exactly the same way as in the M5. Alloy paddle shifters give you the familiar manual control, but unless you're used to the way the selection lever works, you have to lift the hand-sewn leather gaiter that covers the aluminum case to peek at the shift diagram. But you have to lift the gaiter anyway if you want to select Power mode or disengage traction control.
While I drove the RSIII one-up, the simple expedient of removing the flush cover on the right hand side of the car and pulling the passenger seat back upright turns the car into a two-seater.
The RSIII is the lightest car I've driven powered by this V10 with a power-to-weight ratio of 4.7 pounds per horsepower unit. In the larger M5, the engine's power and torque delivery characteristics are a disadvantage. But at just over half its weight, the Veritas becomes a flying machine without the traction problems that would result from having too much torque arrive at low crankshaft speeds.
While you can monster the throttle and get the back end to step out at will, the progressive power delivery on normal throttle application makes the RSIII easy to drive at a more leisurely pace on real world roads. The paddles make light work of overseeing gear ratios and you can focus on playing racing hero.
Accelerating hard through the gears is an exercise in restraint if you're to optimize the stopwatch numbers. If you get it right, a 3.2-second zero-to-62 mph time is there for the asking, but you would have to be very brave and wind-proofed to test the 215-mph top speed.
On the one hand, the relentless push in the small of your back and the now even closer-to-home V10 warble makes the driving experience truly intoxicating. On the other, the tremendous rush of wind past your head and the sheer closeness to nature suggests simply enjoying the drive rather than aiming for record lap times. At any speed, it's a pure 100-proof driving experience rarely approached by any of today's over-sophisticated sports cars.
And that's the crux. While it is fast and well sorted enough to deliver supercar levels of straight-line speed, handling and grip, it's not its raison d'etre. What it delivers best are tactile and aural sensations that many sports car makers seem to have left behind in the mists of time.
Its price tag and exclusivity make the RSIII a big boy's toy. Thus it also runs the risk of becoming an object d' art.
However, a unique attraction that no other car can provide is the implied dark side of its nature. In the best tradition of The Twilight Zone, you just have to look at its angry face and imagine what might happen inside your garage after you switch off the lights and close the door...
Longitudinal front engine, rear-wheel drive
5.0-liter V10, dohc, 40-valve
Seven-speed SMG sequential manual, Drexler mechanical LSD
Independent with pushrods and horizontally opposed Ohlins coilovers
Six-piston calipers with 380mm ceramic rotors (f), Four-piston calipers with 355mm ceramic rotors (r)
Length/Width/Height (in.): 191.3/79.5/38.2
Wheelbase: 106.3 in.
Dry Weight: 2,381 lb
Peak Power: 500 hp
Peak Torque: 384 lb-ft
0-60 mph: 3.2 sec.
Top Speed: 215 mph (est.)
The Legend Of Veritas
The company was founded in 1946 by BMW engineers Ernst Loof, Lorenz Dietrich, and Georg Meier. Their aim was to make a race-winning sports car powered by a BMW engine.
Loof was a member of the original BMW race team and then chief stylist after the war. His most famous design was the BMW 328 Mille Miglia car, so it was no surprise that he based his own car on these proven and familiar mechanicals.One of the Veritas performance advantages came about by default as steel was hard to come by in post-war Germany. The team used aluminum instead, and the weight savings gave them a winning edge.Veritas was very successful in motor racing in the hands of some big-name drivers. In fact, its first outright win was down to Karl Kling, who swept the board at the 1948 Nürburging race with an average speed of 161km/h.
The Veritas RS also finished well in the 1948 Hockenheim event, and by 1949, Veritas cars dominated the 2.0-liter sports car class in Germany. Kling was only beaten twice that season.
Despite many competition successes, Veritas eventually ran out of money and Loof closed shop in 1953, returning to BMW. It is thought that around 78 cars were built, including single-seaters, renn-spyders and coupes.
The Veritas name was revived in 2000, when a new company, Vermot AG, was founded to create a 21st century interpretation of the classic Veritas. The original firm had occupied several different factories over the years, ending up at the Nürburging. It is thus fitting that the new HQ should be located on a new industrial estate close to the Ring.
The new car is as radical today as the original was in its time, and continues the ideology of race technology in a road-legal sports car. The first running prototype was completed in 2008 using a 414-hp BMW M3 V8, but the production car will roll out of the factory powered by the M5 V10. Production will be capped at 50 cars.