The Fighter was Bristol’s 21st Century supercar. Nigel Boothman assesses what is thought to be the only one currently for sale
One of the Fighter’s claims at launch was to be both shorter and narrower than the contemporary Porsche 911. But the first impression of this car is one of serious presence. No stonechips, scrapes or parking dings are evident in the aluminium skin that forms most panels of this deep Baltic Blue example or on the carbonfibre doors and tailgate. The wheels, re-shod recently in Bridgestone Potenza RE050 285/40 R18s, are all immaculate.
This is the second Fighter built, the first being the prototype, and this car was the showroom demonstrator until its sale in 2008. Believed to be the only one currently for sale, it retains its Dutch registration and in 13 years has covered 17,900 miles.
The interior is a mixture of tan leather and a darker suede or Alcantara. Leather pieces behind the driver’s shoulder are scuffed, as is the wide sill cover and the leather footpad beneath the pedals. We are assured that all will be treated and improved before sale. The seats are soft and nicely worn in. The hand-stitching on the dash has frayed in places and the panels in the sides of the luggage area are ill-fitting. Here we get into the quirks of low-volume, hand-made cars – the fit and finish achieved didn’t match Porsche or Mercedes-benz when new, and this car is nearly 14 years old.
It takes two or three attempts to get the tailgate to latch shut. Happily the gullwing doors work perfectly, though the driver’s side electric window is playing up and there is evidence of black sealant on the passenger door. The tailgate release button in the aeroplane-style overhead console fails to produce a result and the oil temperature gauge reads zero. There is an Alpine Cd/radio head unit with an extending sat-nav screen that wakes up when the key is turned.
The engine bay is in excellent condition and all fluids are up to the correct levels.
Driving the Fighter is thrilling – the immense power and torque seem capable of breaking traction in any of the first four gears and you’re grateful for muscular brakes that pull the car up quickly and in a straight line. Effortless highspeed use (70mph in sixth is 1550rpm) is compromised by high noise levels. Cornering on wet or bumpy surfaces does not inspire confidence, but whether this is merely a matter of adjustment or rather of worn or incorrect damping or spring rates (remember it’s only the second one built) is hard to assess. The clutch is heavy but the gearchange short in throw and precise, the lever angled toward the driver. There is room for the tallest pilots though only the seat is adjustable, not pedals or wheel.
This is a vanishingly rare car with monstrous performance and a surprisingly raw, old-fashioned driving experience delivered in a cockpit akin to a luxury business jet. Hand-made foibles are in evidence and as such, rather a special car probably demands rather a special owner. At least it’s a little cheaper than the £229,000 asked for it in 2004.
Gullwing doors work and panels chip-free, but issues with electrics
Seats soft and nicely worn, dash stitching frayed in places
Driving experience is thrilling, thanks largely to Viper V10 engine