I'm already a fan of the limited-run Renault Sport Spider, one of those cars that was tricky enough to turn even Tiff Needell into a slithering mess on track. It's one of those projects that touched several interesting items: it was made by Renault Sport in the old Alpine factory, had an aluminum chassis, plastic bodywork, and a mid-mounted 150 horsepower 4-cylinder engine.
At a not-lightweight 930 kg (2030 lbs)—come on, it doesn't even have a roof!—it's quick but not earth-shattering. The racing versions topped out at around 180 horsepower. Given its status at the top of the Renault range, with its own one-make series, the not-a-supercar Spider was only really designed to grab eyeballs…a long-term sports car project this was not.
Now, like how the Hennessey Venom GT had been built around Lotus Elise scaffolding, the Helem V6 GTR was based on the Renault Sport Spider. And like the Venom, the Helem is like a phoenix that had substantially upgraded specs.
It wasn't, however, really built to be a road car. The Helem was destined for FIA GT2 competition, with a limited number of road cars to be built as a matter of course. Developed by RJ Racing, the Helem fixed three features of the production Spider: its roof, its lack of butterfly doors (they didn't make it to production), and its engine. Gone was the weedy 4-cylinder, instead replaced by a twin-turbocharged Peugeot-Renault-Volvo (PRV) V6, like what you'd find behind the firewall in an Alpine A610.
Horsepower? 550. Oh yes. Made it to Le Mans, too!
Less expensive than its rival from Venturi, the Alantique 300, the road-going Helem had 281 horsepower, which would have placed its performance around something like a V6-powered Lotus Exige…given modern tires, of course.
The project didn't really get off the ground, despite quite a bit of funding. And far from its failure being the end of the story, the concern was pieced off, with a few different companies (notably Nogaro and Technical Studio) trying to get the subtly modified car back into production.
If you'd like to see the Helem in action, you're in luck: below you'll find a video embed of the car (hopefully something that is at least visible in email…) Sadly, the Helem is another one of those vehicles that looks good, performs well, but wasn't able to survive.