"For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise."
--Samuel Taylor Coleridge
At the Woodward Dream Cruise, 1G Racing had set up a small area where they were displaying the Noble M12, which they are the importer of, as well as a collection of AC Cobra replicas which they sell.
I stopped and admired the Noble, and spoke to one of the 1G guys about the car. He told me that if I came back Sunday, between 10:00 and 2:00, I may be able to snag a ride in the M12. Of course, I was there the next day, and was actually offered a ride. The driver was an affable Brit who was very happy to talk about the car and its capabilities.
Noble M12 photo from Dream Cruise
Noble M12 Open Bonnet.
Here you see the AC unit, radiator, and a pair of induction fans to feed the radiator. Note the tubing running from the ports to the radiator. The skin of the car is fiberglass, with some carbon fiber pieces. The frame is welded square tubing.
Noble M12 Engine View.
One of the engine choices for the Noble cars is a Ford Duratech based 3.0L V6, which has been upgraded with forged pistons, retuned cam lift, and a pair of turbos, fed through a massive intercooler. The air intakes are cone type units, visible in the box with the intercooler. This particular setup is rated at 352HP. This is not necessarily supercar territory, until you consider that the M12 weights in at about 2400lbs, yeilding a 6.82 lbs/HP ratio. For reference, the Ford GT's ratio is 6.36 (3500lbs, 550HP); the Ferrari F430's is 6.5 lbs/HP. The M400 model pushes 425HP, for a HP/weight ratio of 5.7 lbs/HP.
Noble M12 cockpit
The interior of the M12 is spartan and functional, with a few styling touches. The AC vents appear to have been stolen from a Ford product somewhere. The windows are manually cranked, to save weight and complexity. No airbags are installed*. The instruments are spare analog dials, with a few industrial looking red and green lamps aligned vertically on the matte aluminum finish center console. The carpet is a firm synthetic material, with square ridges where the frame crossmembers must be. The seats are non-adjustable racing type seats, firm but supportive, with both street belts and racing belts attached. The seats do slide, of course, and there is more than enough room for a 6' tall driver or passenger. A few red padded panels add some decoration to the interior, but the overall effect is very business-like--this thing was meant to go, not to look like fine Italian leather furniture.
A shot from the passenger seat
My driver started the M12 by pushing the aluminum start button on the console, and wheeled us onto Woodward Ave, northbound. He squeezed the throttle, and the engine spooled up quickly, going from a smooth baritone to an urgent tenor. The engine was loud, but not so loud that I couldn't talk to the driver comfortably without having to shout.
The thrust was amazing--imagine being on a roller coaster, but on level ground. I found myself laughing out loud, giggling like a little kid.
The M12's chassis was solid, with no squeeks, rattles, or other NVH problems that I heard. Road noise was apparent, mostly as vibration through the frame and body panels. The ride was quite firm, but not abusive, considering we were driving on less than smooth Michigan roads. The M12 could be driven as a grocery getter, I suppose, but I wouldn't use it as a commuter car, it is a little too tight for that.
Coming to a red light, my driver applied the brakes firmly, to show off the M12's stopping power. It was obvious, as he tipped out, that the body design and engine tuning was providing plenty of inherent braking. When he applied the brakes, I was shoved into the belt, the braking force was huge.
After an all too short ride, I climbed out of the low slung car with a light head, a real horsepower buzz. "If only I was rich..." The Noble is probably the best street-legal* deal in the super-car realm--about $67,000 for the top of the line M400, fitted with a 425HP powertrain. That's half the price of a Ford GT, and a little less than a Dodge Viper. And, to boot, they are rare--I overheard that currently only 6 cars a month are being imported into the U.S., making them fairly exotic.
There is a (large) downloadable movie of a few laps around a racetrack in a Noble car, with a lovely natural soundtrack, here.
*It is "street legal", but it is technically a kit-car. You are buying a rolling chassis from 1G Racing, only, and then paying for a recommended vendor to install a recommended powertrain; or you could install it yourself. This is because Noble does not have the resources to do a full crash design and testing program, as well as meet the complex California OBD-II software and certification requirements. In this sense, Noble does have an unfair advantage over the manufacturers of complete super-cars.