Although the Ascari KZ1 first saw the light of day at the Birmingham Motor Show in 2000, it still looks bang-up-to-date a decade later. More classic Ferrari than contemporary Lamborghini, this early 21st Century supercar looks dainty, almost feminine from some angles, yet harbors a masculine aggression that gives it great presence.
Jointly penned by Ascari boss Klaas Zwart and Omni Design in Coventry, the KZ1 was inspired by the same design ethos you see on all the great Italian sports cars. Compact and elegant, the KZ1 is also dynamic and purposeful, with exquisite proportions that look right from every angle.
Particularly when the soft golden rays of a sunset highlight its surfaces, it becomes very clear that the KZ1 is very well finished too. Three coats of hand-rubbed paint over the carbon-fiber panels deliver an immaculate mirror finish.
Where the original KZ1 was a very pure shape, this latest version has unashamed trackday leanings, with a front splitter and large rear wing providing significant downforce over the front and rear axles. Its coefficient of drag is 0.32, still impressive for any supercar, where aggressive styling usually takes precedence over aerodynamic drag.
A car's interior should reflect its exterior. Simple and modern with no retro clichés or carryover switchgear from mass-production cars, the KZ1 interior does just that, and is supported by top quality materials like fine leather and carbon fiber that are so crucial to both the eyes and the fingertips.
The reason the Ascari KZ1 looks and feels so professionally crafted is down to the fact that former specialist oil drilling equipment king Zwart made up his mind to do things properly, and has deep enough pockets to put serious money where his mouth is.
Hiring the best people in the industry, he has well known ex-Lotus engineer David Minter on his payroll, along with a team of world-class people who cut their teeth in Britain's race industry. And as with so many carmakers big and small, Ascari employed the services of Lotus to finesse the KZ1's ride and handling.
The KZ1R LM is the fourth variation on the basic KZ1. The second was the KZ1R trackday version, while the third was the wide-bodied A10 that took the lap record at BBC Top Gear test track in 2007.
Although it is superficially similar to the original KZ1 and KZ1R, the KZ1R LM has many upgrades developed for the Ascari A10, plus the wheel arch extensions and spoilers from the GT3 race version. Because of this, its genes are more from motorsport than the original road car, and Ascari promotes it as a street legal club racer.
"It is a typical car for our club members," says Zwart. "Of course, you don't have to use it on-track, and some customers will simply drive it on the road as they would a Ferrari or Lamborghini."
The KZ1 is constructed from carbon panels around a carbon tub. While this flat-bottomed supercar was originally built at the Ascari factory in Banbury, a stone's throw from Prodrive, assembly has been moved to Spain and now occupies a floor of a building at the Ascari Race Resort.
Even though the original KZ1 from 2004 weighed just 2,900 pounds, Klaas wanted the power-to-weight ratio to be comparable to big league supercars. So 520 hp became the target figure for the 2,976-pound KZ1R LM, which is lighter than the Ferrari F430 and Lamborghini Gallardo.
The BMW M-Power V8 is mounted amidships for a 46/54 weight distribution. Tuned by a British race engine specialist, the KZ1's V8 has high-lift cams, gas-flowed cylinder-heads, bespoke intake and exhaust systems, and a remapped ECU. Thus modified, the E39 M5 engine pumps out its 520 hp at 7500rpm, with 398 lb-ft of torque at 6500 rpm.