“IT’S THE MONO’S SHEER QUALITY THAT SETS IT APART. THIS IS A POCKET-SIZED MASTERPIECE OF ENGINEERING"
SAM PHILIP, TOP GEAR
the Mono is a design of true automotive beauty
Variously described as the ‘ultimate luxury gadget’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘absolutely epic’, BAC’s Mono is the world’s only single seated road legal, track friendly supercar. Fast (0-60 in 2.8 seconds, 170mph top speed), exclusive (just 50 are built each year) and aesthetically stunning (with futuristic styling said to have been influenced by the Bjork video All Is Full Of Love) the Mono is a design of true automotive beauty.
Built in Liverpool in the UK, this single seat racer is powered by a 305hp normally aspirated engine and F-3 spec Hewland sequential gearbox with paddle shift, AP Racing brakes, Sachs racing suspension, Dymag carbon Hybrid wheels and Kumho bespoke tires. This super performance, bespoke car is designed for punters used to the luxuries of million pound hypercars and super yachts, it’s built purely for their driving pleasures. Unsurprisingly, there’ people queuing up to buy one of them.
The Mono is the brainchild of brothers Ian Briggs and Neill Briggs (having previously worked with major OEMs, primarily Porsche, Mercedes, Bentley and Ford) who co-founded BAC (Briggs Automotive Company) in order to realise a life-long ambition: to develop innovative vehicles that show what’s possible if automotive conventions are challenged and questioned.
With no windows or roof, or the usual distraction of a windscreen, possibly the one thing that the Mono could be accused of, is leaving the owner a tad exposed to the elements when driving. But as you would expect, they’ve got that covered too.
Manufaktur catches up with Ian Briggs, BAC’s design director, to get to low down on a made-to-measure jacket BAC’s engineered with KTC to reflect the quality, attitude and the precision engineering of the Mono, one of the most talked about cars in the industry.
If someone has spent $200-300K on an exclusive car, he’s not going to mind spending money on a best of the best bespoke jacket. KTC got it immediately.
Tell us about how BAC started?
Neill originally studied automotive engineering and I studied automotive design. BAC grew out of a design and engineering consultancy we ran called Adaptive Space. Back in the late 90s we both ended up working in Germany. He was at Ford and I was at Mercedes. We then set up the design consultancy primarily working with companies such as Porsche, Mercedes, Bentley and Ford. There was always talk about a car we would both love to design and own, which didn’t exist on the market. We were both racing at the time (Neill in the UK, me here in Germany) and we were both disappointed about the lack of a road car that you could use on a track and that worked in both environments well. In the bike world there were race bikes you could use on the road, but oddly not racing cars for the road. We started doing some research, but with nothing out there we launched the company out of the desire to own that car. It also came out of the desire to have an acquisition project for our design consultancy that said: ‘Look what we can do if we write the brief and decide where the priorities are’.
When did you launch the first Mono to the market?
The first sketches were completed at the end of 2007; the clay model by the end of 2008; we then showed the car at the beginning of 2011. It was really, really well received, there was a massive hoo-har around the launch. We immediately had loads of interest, loads of tests and loads of sales. So we immediately went from being a design consultancy to a car manufacturer.
It must have been a steep learning curve?
The car manufacturing part of it is only really there to allow – certainly in my case – me to design the things I want to design. In a way the car manufacturing is to give me the platform to create interesting and exciting new products.
How did you get involved with KTC?
Before we launched the Mono, we went to see WL Gore. I was interested in creating some jackets using Windstopper fabrics. They were interested in principle, but because of minimum order requirements (ours would be tiny) and other factors, we couldn’t work directly with them. Around the same time, I discovered that Red Bull were looking to use Gore-Tex to create jackets for some of their athletes and had run into the same problems as us. WL Gore actually recommended KTC to them, explaining that KTC already had the license to use their products and that they already had everything set up and approved in their factory. They suggested that if KTC decided to make something for Red Bull, then that’s fine. That’s what Red Bull ended up doing and because that worked out, their head of design got in touch with me saying they thought they had found a solution for us. They put me in touch with KTC.
What were you looking for from a factory like KTC for your Mono jackets?
Our cars are made to measure: we mould the seats to the shape of the driver; we mould the steering wheel to the shape of the driver; we create a race suit for the driver, which is also made to measure. Obviously we couldn’t create any old jacket, bought off the shelf in small, medium and large, to accompany the car. It just wouldn’t be appropriate for our customers. We wanted to work with a company where we could come up with a design and they would be the engineers. Each jacket would be a one off, made-to-measure for each individual Mono customer. If someone has spent $200-300K on an exclusive car, he’s not going to mind spending money on a best of the best bespoke jacket. KTC got it immediately.
Their knowledge of fabrics, fit and the engineering meant they could create something that could perform exactly how we wanted it to
Did you say to KTC, this is a problem, now how are you going to solve it?
The first thing we did was put a regular jacket on one of our drivers, put the seat belt on marked tape areas of all the places that were still accessible. We then asked the drivers what they could reach or not reach, what were the no go zones. Then we said we wanted some pockets, so we created a location for pockets. We got some non-slip material for the back so that once you are in the car you can’t slip from left to right, for a little bit of extra support. We looked at seating position, what might make the arms wider, the curvature of the back - we left no stone unturned.
There must have been particular fit requirements, given the nature of the jacket?
This is why we had to work with experts like KTC, who knew how to engineer the jacket exactly how we needed it to fit. In the Mono you are laying down at 45° in a Formula One style seating position. If you have a regular jacket in the car, you get to much fabric gathering up around the stomach and the chest as there’s far too much fabric at the front. Because of this position, a regular jacket can pull so tight that the collar pulls into your throat. This had to be addressed, so initially we came up with something that was much nearer to the shape of cycling jacket because of the body position. Also, the car is very tight to the driver so we couldn’t have anything with any bulk when it came to the fabric.
Does the fact that it’s open top make a difference?
When you’re travelling at 150mph in an open top car the fabric can start flapping, which is uncomfortable and distracting. So we needed the jacket to fit really well, so KTC agreed to engineer a made to measure garment to alleviate that issue. Their knowledge of fabrics, fit and the engineering meant they could create something that could perform exactly how we wanted it to, minimizing any issues we might have.
The people who come to us, come in their own jets
You mentioned the positioning of the pockets. Are they different from a conventional jacket too?
You can’t do anything on the outside of your arm, because it you do it is going to touch the inside of the car. Every time you move you arm it’ s going to interfere, so we worked with KTC to create a very small pocket on the bicep instead. With the pockets you normally get by your abdomen, these now face backwards because when you are in the car you can’t get your hand far enough back to put your hand in the pocket to take something out, but what you can do is take the arm from the opposite side and put it in the pocket facing backwards. We have tried to think about absolutely everything you might face with a normal jacket when you get into the car.
How does the jacket reflect the spirit of the car?
We designed it very much with the aesthetic of the car in mind. We didn’t want to be as naff as to copy any elements of the car, it just need to function in the right way. A lot of rally cars in the 1970s used to paint the bonnets matt black (to stop reflections into the drivers eyes) – it was a symbol that something was very much purpose designed. We have tried to keep the whole cockpit dark and as un-distracting as possible, so the forearms of the jacket are also dark with dark gloves, so when you are driving you don’t have white arms flailing around in front of you. That straightaway gives it a certain kind of design aesthetic.
How important are the levels of craftsmanship KTC offers you?
At each stage of the process the detailed solutions and the workmanship has been top class. The people who come to us, come in their own jets. They’re wearing $50k watches, so everything has to represent the pinnacle quality. You only ever see that Gore label on really high quality products from all the top companies. Knowing that we work with KTC - who works with Gore-Tex fabrics - speaks for itself and made the project really exciting for us.
For many years ‘Made in China’ has had a negative perception in the west? We believe that activity specific apparel made in China is the best in the world? What are your thoughts on this in relation to KTC?
Back in the 1970s, made in Japan probably had the same stigma attached. Today, made in Japan does not, in any way, give a negative vibe. Companies like KTC who are making high-end products are changing perceptions. China has an aerospace industry; it has an aircraft industry; China makes super high quality telephones and clothes. But for me the fact that KTC was recommended by Gore - and from the work I have seen from them so far - it could be made on the moon as far as I am concerned. If it’s top quality, and it is, then I am happy wherever it’s made.