Wolfrace Sonic

The internet has made things easier for everyone, and social media in particular has made a big difference for people like me, who have a varied but unique skill set and perspective on the world.

Social media has also been a boost for savvy brands who learn how to talk about their latest products like tweens would, lest tweens end up thinking that a tweet about, say, a car, is uncool. So companies hire professional marketing agencies to tweet for them, do Facebook posts, and snap Instagram photos—at, of course, great cost that in some way must make it down to the MSRP. 

Maybe all that social attention aimed at tweens and millennials adds $500 to the cost of a car. Maybe just $5. I don't know. Would you rather that money in your pocket—the person who actually bought it—or to agencies who think up this sort of thing?

In the early '80s, to get attention for your product—assuming that you sell Wolfrace alloy wheels—instead of turning to Twitter (not invented yet) or the Internet (no .gifs yet)—you phone Nick Butler, a former aerospace engineer who can say, "I worked on the Harrier jump jet" and have him design you a promotional vehicle.

Custom promotional vehicles are increasingly uncommon (the Canadian Tire ice truck is the last I remember), and ones that are both exciting and functional are few and far between. The Sonic, though, is at the top of that list:

  • 6 'pepper pot' Wolfrace alloy wheels (to entice owners of cars like the Ford Fiesta XR2, Ford Capri 2.8 Injection, and MG Metro 1300 to ditch their standard alloy wheels for some 'pepper pots'); fronts are 13-inch, rears are a massive 15-inches!
  • 2 Rover 3.5-litre V8 engines connected by a very early drive-by-wire system, utilizing computerized 3-speed automatic transmissions to harmonize drive (sync output) to the rear wheels
  • Output of about 320 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque
  • Weight of just 1500kg (3306 lbs)
  • Coefficient of drag at 0.30 (apparently!)
  • Chrome chassis
  • Pop-up 'doors' that also raised the dashboard on either side
  • Pop-up headlights, tail lights from (I think) the Lotus Esprit!

In addition to posting some of the best photos of the Sonic, a website specializing in 6-wheeled vehicles, oto6.fr, has the best description of how the Sonic works—even if it was chewed up a bit in the translation process:

"The Wolfrace Sonic is equipped with 2 independent differential on rear axle. To start, a computer assists the driver with information input and 80 output 90. The engine start is performed separately. The computer coordinates the number of revolutions per minute of each motor. 

"If the synchronization of the motors will shift more than 8 seconds while the engine is to idle. If the computer crashes, the motors stop! In the test for Chrome & Flames, the engines did not start because of a computer ... Both engines must operate both, in fact, the left engine control e.g. brake servo and the dynamo, the right, among others, the pump power steering ... 

"The computer is with the battery and the two reservoirs symmetrical aluminum, the back of the Wolfrace Sonic."

So there you go.

Even though the Sonic cost Wolfrace more than a few tweets, it also allowed dreamer and hardcore engineer Nick Butler to design and build a truly unique vehicle that is well-remembered among enthusiasts to this day. Two were built and only one remains.

Imagine if Butler worked on a production car! Funny story: I already wrote about the Gold Motor Company Cirrus