Vector M12

Vector occupies a strange place between truth and fiction, a car company so enigmatic that in comparison General Motors could practically be called "open source". Because it's so difficult to separate fact and fiction about the cars themselves from the company's narrative, I'll try to weave both together as a sort of cautionary tale to get you ready for Halloween.

That's right: I was trying to come up with the biggest horror show of a car for Halloween, and think this is it…

…but then the whole thing was cooked by a man who learned everything there is to know about quality control in a Bulgarian power station.
— Jeremy Clarkson, Top Gear

On paper, the ingredients were impressive to 11-year-old me: a rebodied, stretched Lamborghini Diablo chassis—a chassis largely developed while the Italian maker was owned by Chrysler—complete with a Lamborghini V12 engine and advanced carbon-reinforced fibreglass bodywork.

At the time, I thought its wings, flares, and louvers seemed to be in all the right places, sort of like how Yasmine Bleeth running in slow motion on Baywatch was confusingly captivating to my younger self.

Back in 1995, supercars just weren't all that super. The Diablo was slab-sided, the Ferrari F50 looked like a melted F40, and Porsche's fastest car was the 993 Turbo—an exquisite car but without the scoops and louvres of the most exotic. The McLaren F1 sat atop the food chain, absolutely, but it has always been the most rational take on a hypercar and as such never looked all that great on posters: where's the rear wing?

I know know that the world itself was going through lots of change. Investment banks, stock portfolios, globalization, multinational corporations—car phones, fax machines, Windows '95—the rich were starting to get a leg up and began to express their newfound wealth by making supercars. And both Lamborghini and Vector found themselves under Indonesian ownership.

Megatech was formed by Tommy Suharto, a son of the former Indonesian president. I can give you an idea of his character by saying that he's been connected to illegal land grabs, fraud, coercion, 'fleeing justice', and convicted of ordering an assassination—and seems to have spent most of his adult life in court as a defendant.

I don't want to say much more because after an in-flight magazine published an article entitled, "A new destination to enjoy in Bali," which mentioned in a footnote that he was a convicted murderer, he sued the magazine for defamation and won approximately $1.46 million in damages.

Most importantly: he's from a powerful family—and he likes fast cars.

In 1993, Megatech had completed a hostile takeover of Vector—kicking founder Jerry Wiegert to the curb in the process. Chrysler sold Lamborghini to one of Megatech's investors, Mycom Setdco, in 1994, and all of a sudden Vector had moved into a Lamborghini-owned building in Florida and the two were passing notes.

That the resulting supercar was just a Lambo-fied version of the earlier Chevrolet V8-powered Avtech WX-3 and Avtech WX-3R prototypes didn't help sales, nor did the common misconception that, like the DeTomaso Pantera, the M12 was simply an American car with an Italian heart.

It was more like a 5 year old alone in his bedroom, banging action figures together in support of a hopeless narrative.

The car's performance was strong, if optimistic: thanks to its 5.7-litre Lamborghini V12 and 5-speed gearbox identical to the one fitted to the Ford GT40, it could do 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in 4.6 seconds and had a top speed of 304 km/h (189 mph).

To drum up interest in the car, they even modified one for racing—but I think you wouldn't be surprised if I told you that the M12 ASR was both completely hopeless on-track and unreliable.

By 1998, only 14 production cars had been made and the company had received so much negative feedback…and press—AutoWeek said it was the worst car they'd ever tested—that orders dried up completely. Ironically, production ended because the company could no longer pay for its supply of engines, by which time Lamborghini had been sold to the Volkswagen Group for a song.

The M12 is a sad chapter in a sad book, with the build quality of a Halloween pumpkin, looks from a flattened Guy Fawkes mask—all arranged by a benefactor with more mug shots than Bobby Brown.