French sports car manufacturer Venturi was established in the early 1980s with the modest ambition of becoming a Gallic competitor to the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, by producing GT cars that would prove their worth on the racing circuits of Europe.
The mid-engined Venturi Atlantique 260 (named in unashamed tribute to the iconic French Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantique from the late 1930s) made its first appearance in 1991. This fabulous-looking coupe had a Venturi-tuned development of the turbocharged 2.8 litre PRV V6 engine developed as a joint venture by Citroen, Peugeot and Volvo. When built into the lightweight Atlantique 260 with its fibreglass body the result was performance that justified those ambitious hopes of becoming the French Ferrari.
Soon, however, that would become the Scottish Ferrari — because although it was actually still French in concept and construction, Scotsman Hubert O’Neill purchased Venturi in 1994. He speedily caused a Venturi 400GT to be produced with a view to participating in sports car races, in which sphere the company enjoyed considerable success. The ambitious boss also sanctioned a new Atlantique 300 with a 3 litre engine. But the Scottish regime was brief — sales were lamentable, Venturi went bust and was bought by Thai firm Nakarin Benz, which in turn folded in 2000, taking the Atlantique with it.
Unlike many a specialist constructor of custom sports cars, Venturi has managed to remain in business — though it never did get to topple Ferrari or Porsche from atop the heap. Indeed, the company produced under a thousand cars and now concentrates on eco-friendly electric power, though the leopard hasn’t entirely changed its spots — the futuristic Venturi Fetish concept car is a two-seater roadster that is said to accelerate from standstill to 60 mph (97 km/h) in around five seconds.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1991 (until 2000)
2,849 cc or 2,975 cc V6
Atlantique 300 – top speed of 171 mph (275 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.9 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Straight-talking motoring guru Jeremy Clarkson of the BBC’s Top Gear show was certainly a huge fan of the Venturi Atlantique, describing the experience of driving this exciting sports car as ‘like having your own personal jet fighter …I love it to death’.