While I'm insanely jealous of those who got to drive the new Mazda Miata (MX-5) this past week, all their talk of light weight and razor-sharp handling made me think: "The Miata is light, but I seem to recall seeing a really light car the other day…"
That car is this, the Hudson Component Cars Free Spirit, a kit assembled in the late-1980s to turn a Renault 5 / Le Car hatchback into something with a bit more punch.
To start, there's nothing much left from the donor car, but you can guess where the Renault parts were used under the Free Spirit's bobsleigh-like fuselage. Unlike the Morgan Motor Company 3 Wheeler, the Free Spirit is front-wheel-drive, utilizing the stock Renault 5 drivetrain. Conceived by Roger Webb, the design is incredibly simple and, more importantly, allows just about anyone to assemble a near-supercar in their garage.
At just 510 kg (1125 lbs), the Free Spirit is about half the weight of a new Miata. You're obviously getting 1/2 of a car, and relying on its tiny size to protect you from wayward motorists—not airbags, ABS, and all that jazz.
Being based on the Renault 5 also means a range of engine options are possible with the Free Spirit, so in the U.S. you're looking at about 55 horsepower. Some owners boast hopped-up engines with near 100 horsepower, which would put its power-to-weight ratio at about 11 lb/horsepower, on par with a Honda S2000, Subaru WRX STI, or several flavours of Porsche 911.
Its low weight tells only part of the story, because with such a small frontal area, its top speed is—depending on thoughts of oh-my-god-did-I-tighten-that-bolt?—more than 200 km/h (~130 mph). In other words, a lightly tuned version would leave the Morgan Motor Company 3 Wheeler in the weeds.
Those of you who have been following #bcotd for a while know my affection for vehicles that can do a lot with very little, and, well, I'll take mine with Gordini wheels and an unadorned fuselage. As far as I'm concerned, the Free Spirit—not to mention the two-seat Kindred Spirit and four-wheeled prototype Mystic Spirit—are pretty innovative and impressive kit cars.
Note: Photos in this article were sourced from the active and amazing Hudson Free Spirit Facebook page.