Mosler Photon in Automobile Magazine

First Drive: Mosler Photon

By Jason Cammisa
Photography by Andrew Yeadon

From the June, 2011 issue of Automobile Magazine

…When you hear the name Mosler, you should instead immediately think of the MT900S, the supercar that the company began selling here at the end of 2006. The MT900S is indeed quite nice to look at, but this car’s ace in the hole lies hidden on a spreadsheet. Buried in the specifications for the track-focused but street-legal variant of the MT900S, the Photon, is one astonishing measurement: its curb weight is a scant 2394 pounds. This is a car as long as a Toyota Camry and as wide as a 4Runner, but it weighs about 50 pounds less than a Mazda Miata — and that’s despite having a 7.0-liter V-8 engine.

…While mainstream exoticar makers (now there’s an oxymoron!) like Lamborghini are just now starting to get serious about lightweight construction methods, Mosler has been quietly building featherweight monsters crafted from carbon fiber and Kevlar for years. This kind of cutting-edge engineering isn’t what you’d normally expect from a tiny, low-volume manufacturer from Florida, but it’s the result of founder Warren Mosler’s clear mission: to build amazing cars,

…J. Todd Wagner surprised us by showing up and handing over the keys to a $394,500 Photon. At the time, we knew basically nothing about the car. As we were strapping ourselves in, every eye in the paddock was on the orange thing with the exhaust note so violent it could set off air-raid alarms. Wagner yelled over the exhaust, rattling off a ludicrous horsepower number (550), that ridiculous curb weight, and explaining that the Photon — which has a custom Hewland sequential-manual racing gearbox — uses a flywheel with about as much rotational inertia as a spinning, dying housefly.

…Having never once been around PBIR’s track, and not even knowing if the Photon had antilock brakes (it doesn’t, we would learn), we begged for a pace car. When a volunteer stepped forward, he hopped into his track-prepped Porsche 911 GT3 on slicks. When we were told that he was the local Porsche club’s fastest instructor, we asked him to take it easy.

He didn’t bother — and we’re glad he didn’t. The Mosler’s vast, curved windshield provided a first-class, front-row view of the rear-engine Porsche scrambling its way around corners, oversteering, understeering, and countersteering. The Photon followed along happily, nowhere near its limits, with a big-block scream from the General Motors LS7 easily drowning out the 911’s flat-six wail — but only for a second at a time. Any longer wide-open-throttle blasts and the Porsche would have had a whole car shoved up its engine-filled arse. In steady-state corners, the Photon might understeer and its steering might not transmit much information about what the front tires are doing, but at the g-forces it generates, your author’s spinal cord wasn’t transmitting much useful information, either.

We had time for only a few laps, but the Photon’s speed, cornering, and composure is dramatic. The Photon is clearly more than a big engine strapped into a light car — indeed, a decade-long relationship with Siemens has given Mosler access to supercomputers for seriously advanced engineering.

The lightning-quick carbon-fiber MT900R qualified on the class pole for the 24 Hours of Daytona three consecutive years and scored a GTS win in 2003. The reward for this achievement? The car was essentially banned by Grand-Am, and it no longer races in the United States. But the MT900R and the MT900GT3 continue to win GT races and championships in Europe, Asia, and Australia. Ironically, the chassis of these all-American cars are assembled at Rollcentre Racing in England. At last report, no fewer than twenty-five cars were being campaigned worldwide.