Marques of Distinction - Noble

noble onroad noble onroad

Extraordinary as it may seem, a country brimming with aristocracy had never, in 100 years of automobile manufacturing, seen a car with the brand name of Noble. That changed in 1999 when British engineer Lee Noble devised an ‘affordable supercar’ carrying his own surname.

From the archives: Unique Cars #310, April/May 2010

The first product of Noble Automotive was the M10; a 2.5-litre V6 roadster with dashes of MGF and Toyota MR in its shape and a mid-engined layout. A year later, Noble announced a new design that delivered on the ‘supercar’ aspect of his mission statement.

Noble’s M12 came with a twin-turbo, 263kW, 3.0-litre version of the Ford Mondeo V6 and a six-speed gearbox. Top speed was better than 270km/h and 0-100km/h took just four seconds.

Best of all, the compact M12 was slated to leave Noble’s Leicestershire factory at the equivalent of A$120,000.

Road test: Noble M12 GTO 3R

In reality, only final assembly was done in Britain. The fibreglass body and steel chassis with integrated roll-cage were produced in South Africa by Hi-Tech Automotive.

Noble -profile

An M400 version intended for track use was quick and with 317kW was timed from 0-100km/h in 3.3 seconds by Road & Track magazine.

Reacting perhaps to comments that likened the M12 to a steroidal MR2, Noble’s 2004 redesign featured a more angular and aggressive nose, reshaped cabin profile and extended wheel arches.

While maintaining its budget conscious pricing, the M14 did offer Italian leather seat trim, air-conditioning and electric windows.

In 2006, Lee Noble sold the company to Peter Boutwood but remained with the business until 2008 when he left to begin work on a new design to be marketed as the Fenix.

Boutwood, meanwhile, sold rights for the M12 and M400 designs to US-based 1G Racing and displayed a new M15 model, which was intended for production by 2007.

Instead, Noble left the M15 at prototype stage and moved straight to development of the more sophisticated and expensive M600.

Noble -badge

Displayed late in 2009, with pricing above A$300,000, the M600 is the first Noble not to use Ford V6 power. While still mid-mounted, the engine is a 4.4-litre Volvo V8 with twin turbochargers delivering up to 450kW.

A feature of the design is its absence of electronic driver aids. There is no ABS or stability control, with traction control selectable for extreme driving conditions. While turbulent economic conditions still wrack the UK, there has, as yet, been no sign from Noble of when this 360km/h supercar will enter production.


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