When the top sports car manufacturers in the world came together in 2007 for a showdown between the world’s fastest supercars, the list of participants read like a who’s who of European automotive royalty: McLaren, Lamborghini, Bugatti. But it was an upstart American company that ultimately dominated the competition.
Since launching Hennessey Performance Engineering in 1991, John Hennessey has crafted some of the planet’s most exclusive performance vehicles. The model he brought to the 2007 competition, the Hennessey Viper, was based on a Dodge Viper platform, only he’d more than doubled the original output to around 1 100 horsepower. Even as the Hennessey Viper killed the competition, the former racecar driver knew he’d barely tapped the potential of his Texas-based facility.
Hennessey realised that adding more horsepower would be futile if he couldn’t effectively transfer that power to the ground. Instead, he focused on cutting weight. “We simply wanted to build the fastest car in the world by combining maximum usable power with the lightest vehicle”, he says. The Viper platform was limited in how much weight could be shed, so he based the next model, the Hennessey Venom GT, on one of the world’s lightest sports cars, the Lotus Exige.
Hennessey and his team managed to squeeze a 7.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 into the Lotus platform, but only kept roughly 10 percent of the Lotus, completely rebuilding everything in front of the dashboard and behind the seats. The monster they created could produce 1 244 horsepower while keeping its weight at a feather-light 1 244 kilograms. The Venom GT’s combination of power and lightweight design offers drivers the ability to go from zero to 100 km/h in 2.7 seconds, eventually reaching a verified top speed of more than 430 km/h—a record for a production car.
Compared with more resource-rich competitors, Hennessey manages to do more with less. “We are very proud of our accomplishments given the size of the company”, he says. “Like somebody once said, ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’ I’d much rather be David than Goliath”.