Weeks before its unveiling at the NEC, Hagerty was given an exclusive preview of the new Dowsetts Comet. Sam Skelton reports from this most British of manufacturers.
Walking through the door of an unassuming looking large metal barn on Dowsetts Farm, the initial impression is less that of a manufacturing facility and more that of a small-scale cottage industry. But that’s no bad thing; in Britain, we’ve a long history of small companies turning out fantastic sports cars and the Dowsetts Comet looks like it’s going to continue that proud tradition. Inside the steel shell the workshop had a lovely feel, well kitted with state-of-the art paint booth and ramps. This isn’t a cottage industry, this is a car company that means business. Several restorations were underway including an Aston Martin DB5, Porsche 356 Speedster and a Lotus Esprit.
We arrived before the Comet was entirely finished. “There are some trim items to finish, but the car went through IVA only yesterday and now meets the requirements for road legality”, said Chris Hackett, one of the company’s directors. Colleague Darren Collins adds, “Modern sportscars aren’t made by a group of fellows in a shed with a file and a chisel any more but we’re sticking to the old ways and creating a thing of beauty. There’s no CAD in here!” And that high-end hand-made quality stands out the moment you set your eyes on the car.
Dowsetts Classic Car Company, for those who aren’t aware, is the new trading name of the company formerly known as Evanta. Formed in 2005, the small Hertfordshire-based company has specialised in building replicas of the Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato and the DBR1, as well as its own range of sports cars. The end of Evanta saw the end of building recreations, and now the new company stands proudly on its own design ethos, while still capturing the essence of the 1950s and ‘60s.
Unlike the David Brown Speedback – a car which claims a similarly mixed heritage – the Comet doesn’t end up looking like a pastiche of any one design. It’s very clearly its own thing; hints of DB4 in the nose and MGA Coupe in the side profile resolve into a rear end which bears some slight resemblance to the AC Ace or mighty Ferrari 250 SWB. But, says Darren Collins, there are bound to be certain similarities. “If you’re taking inspiration from a particular era, there are only so many ways in which it can be done. We’ve created something new, but there are clear nods to the era it evokes.” Indeed, the more you look at it the more you find yourself questioning the likenesses you’ve already seen – as the day ticked on, we saw more and more C1 Corvette about it, and hints of the Ashley Sportiva in the rear plate surround. “We’re passionate about what we do, and we’re all passionate about different brands,” says Darren, “The Comet is the culmination of our joint efforts. There are several restoration companies out there, but there are very few companies creating history.”
The Comet is, like other Dowsett models, built around a bespoke steel spaceframe chassis. This is then clothed in GRP reinforced with Kevlar to create a shell which is strong yet light, plus it is suitable for limited production runs where tooling might otherwise be prohibitive. That said, it’s not a simple process: it takes over 50 different mould tools to make the panels for a single Comet.
Inside, there’s lots of leather and a pair of comfortable bucket seat, though headroom in the prototype was somewhat tight for those over 6ft tall. It’s a bespoke creation, though, and such things are inevitably chosen by the customer. There’s space to lower the seats – and they can be positioned wherever the potential purchaser would like.
When we say bespoke, we mean bespoke. We asked both Chris Hackett and Darren Collins about the possibility of various upgrades, from custom paint colours and metal finishes, through to... more extreme modifications which will remain undisclosed. Darren responded jovially; “We’d never compromise safety, but apart from that we can cater to virtually any request, however unorthodox. These cars are built to the customer’s specification, and that means there’s no such thing as a standard specification.”
A typical build would cost in the region of £140,000, and there are already rumours of a Comet factory race car.
This model is fitted with is a General Motors LS3 V8, coupled to a Tremec 5-speed gearbox and a limited slip differential. The wheels are unique to the Comet, and always will be; Dowsetts wouldn’t offer alloy wheels as a standard catalogue option until it had them designed exclusively for the car. While the new car was only just road registered, we were taken for a quick spin around the site and were able to form some initial conclusions. Acceleration is brutal, yet the ride is nowhere near as harsh as you might expect for a car of this type. The gearbox is short-throw and meaty, while the brakes feel sharp. It’s almost the ideal GT – only hampered by a boot best suited for the smallest of soft bags. Apparently, a fitted luggage set is on the cards to make the most of the room available, and the second Comet is already under construction with greater luggage capacity at the client’s request.
The Comet and the earlier Evanta Barchetta share obvious DNA, and Chris Hackett believes that the cars complement each other well. “We like to think of our creations as cars for the connoisseur who wants something to capture the thrill of driving a proper sportscar.” Based on what we’ve seen, it certainly fits that brief, and while other small-scale car manufacturers like Weissman and TVR sit in an uncertain limbo, Dowsetts are here, now, doing it.
For more information on the Dowsetts Comet, visit http://dowsettscars.co.uk.