Last seen in these pages shooting .30-caliber bullets into a battery ('Bulletproof,' September issue, Page 9), Exide Corp. Chairman Robert Lutz now is an investor in a new supercar maker, Cunningham Motors Co.
The company's strategy: Sell $200,000 grand touring cars produced largely by suppliers.
Lutz, the 68-year-old retired vice chairman of the former Chrysler Corp., is a partner with Briggs Cunningham III and Credit Suisse First Boston, a Wall Street investment house. The group has raised $1.5 million in seed money to develop a car with a V-12 engine capable of 200 mph.
The vehicle is meant to rival Ferrari and Aston Martin. The company says production could begin in three years and eventually total 500 units annually. But the project needs to raise as much as $100 million on Wall Street. It also needs strong relationships with companies that can supply off-the-shelf components, a chassis and an engine.
Briggs Cunningham III, chairman of the company, is the son of the creator of the Cunningham C-1. The senior Cunningham raced the car at Le Mans during the early 1950s.
Lutz and Cunningham want to avoid the massive cost of replicating a modern automaker, which proved insurmountable for former General Motors executive John DeLorean and such entrepreneurs as Malcolm Bricklin and Preston Tucker Sr., founder of Tucker Corp.
'You don't have do what DeLorean and Bricklin and Tucker did to get into the auto business - raising lots of money and building plants and expensive engineering operations,' Lutz says. 'Now you just call a Visteon or a Delphi and a design house.'