Some say that the rich are spoilt for choice, especially when it comes to cars. There is no shortage of ultra high-end luxury sedans, SUVs and sports cars available in the market—and no shortage of aftermarket companies to help if what rolls off the production line isn’t special enough.
However, some people—when they get stupendously rich—find themselves with the dilemma that no vehicle, stock or modified, sold anywhere in the world meets their taste. To solve this problem, they set about making their own car.
Elon Musk started Tesla this way, Victor Muller revived the Spyker brand for this reason, and plastic surgeon Dr. Youabian Kambiz has created the Youabian Puma for the same reason (although many wish he hadn't bothered.)
One more such person is Klass Zwart, a Dutch entrepreneur who made his fortune in the oil business. By the mid-1990s, he had amassed a sizeable fortune, and set about doing what most rich people do: buy fancy cars. However, he soon got bored with his collection of classic and modern Ferraris—which even includes many ex-Formula 1 race cars—and started thinking about making his own car, which he wanted to play around with on his own, members-only racetrack, the Ascari Race Resort in Spain.
Not knowing much about building cars, Zwart hired Lee Noble, who is perhaps one of Britain's most respected automotive engineers, to start a new car company called Ascari. The name pays a homage to Alberto Ascari, who is highly regarded as the best racing driver of the 1950's.
Zwart and Noble started work on the new project in 1995. A year later, the first prototype, called the Ascari FGT was up and running. Early prototypes used Chevrolet and Ford V8 engines, but Zwart wanted a more sophisticated heart for his production road car. So, a deal was struck with BMW tuner Hartge to supply V8 motors for the car you're looking at here, the Ascari Ecosse.
The Ecosse went into production in 1998 with a 4.4L V8 that produces 300 hp—respectable, but not quite into supercar territory. Later models got a 4.7L V8 that develops 400 hp, and the last three cars got a 5.0L V8 that makes a strong 420 hp. At best, performance figures of 0 to 60 mph in 4.1 seconds, with a top speed reaching 200 mph were quoted by the company.
At the time, those who tested the car praised its performance and handling. However, in the real world, it didn't make much of a dent in the sales numbers of the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Ferrari F355, which it was meant to compete against. All in all, only 17 Ascari Ecosse road cars were made.
I got to sit in one back in 2006. It was in the reception lobby of the Ascari factory in Banbury, England. I was there to test Ascari's next model—the KZ1—but as Banovsky used to say, "that's a story for another day."