These days, who would have the gall to announce they’re planning to build a new and very limited-edition sedan which will sell for $2 million?
Alfred DiMora, that’s who.
He’s the founder of DiMora Motorcar (www.DiMoraMotorcar.com), based in Palm Springs, and is known for designing 1970’s high-end, high-concept “neoclassic” cars with a 1930’s-style design theme including the Clenet and Sceptre. Some automotive purists considered both cars sacrilege, with a DiMora-styled retro-looking body placed on an existing Detroit-built large car platform. DiMora says they sold almost 500 Clenets and Sceptres combined, which were highly-priced for their times (up to $65,000).
He’s also the founder of Starbridge Systems, Inc., where, according to DiMora, the world’s fastest FPGA supercomputer was developed.
With his electronics and automotive backgrounds, DiMora thinks he has the right blend of experience to create the $2 million Natalia SLS 2, which is planned to be a hand-built-to-order super-exotic auto with a powerful V16 engine and the latest in technology.
DiMora also knows that even as the world economy continues to tank, there are segments of society which can ride out almost any financial storm and continue their profligate ways. At least he hopes so.
In the supercar production arena, the Bugatti Veyron is currently the priciest of the lot at about $1.6 million. Who buys these kinds of cars? A local Veyron owner is Simon Cowell of American Idol fame.
Palm Springs is an important footnote in the history of American automotive design.
The original Studebaker Avanti, hoped by management to save the company from its demise in 1962, originated in an intense five-week session led by designer Raymond Loewy. It was the Official (honorary) Pace Car of the 1962 Indianapolis 500; Studebaker died anyway.
Though almost every major car maker now has a design studio in Southern California, Palm Springs was the first So Cal city which gave the world a look at some of the automotive future. So DiMora believes in the good karma of the place for his project.
DiMora is building what is essentially a virtual car company (and some say Natalia might well remain a virtual car); instead of large, well-known parts developers and suppliers going through the traditional process of their building production facilities near a plant where Natalia will be assembled, DiMora is challenging private industry and universities across America to come up with all-new materials and parts for the car at their existing research and development labs.
“Because of the cost of each car,” DiMora, 52, told us, “we really have no hard and fast budget to hold to when it comes to parts for the car. It’s sort of ‘anything goes.’”
The Rochester, N.Y. native says the following companies are among those involved in Natalia’s parts process:
• A Palm Springs company, Champion Bearing, will supply high-tech silicon nitrate ball bearings for many of the car’s critical parts;
• Brembo, the Italian brake-maker, is working on a system which can capture the heat from braking and transfer it into energy for Natalia’s electronics;
• Prometal is creating the all-aluminum 855-cubic inch V16 1,200-horsepower “Volcano” engine (I can already hear Jay Leno’s jokes about that name);
• Epner Technologies will produce 24 carat gold leaf for the engine compartment both to provide a cool appearance and possibly be used as heat-protection on a future 1,600-horsepower turbocharged Natalia;
• American Glass Products will supply their Vario-Plus product for the car’s windows and its glass roof, which can be adjusted to allow in only as much light as Natalia’s driver and passengers desire;
• Varotex will incorporate a new production method for the car’s unibody chassis called D-tack which uses volcanic rock, which DiMora claims is similar to carbon fiber in its weight and strength, and,
• Clemson University’s CUI-CAR, their International Center of Automotive Research, is working to supply Natalia’s light and strong titanium suspension bits.
Will DIMora actually build his $2 million car? He says he has orders for 37 cars and hopes to deliver the first ones in 2011.
It’s easy to doubt DiMora; he’s also a great PR man and marketer. He knows how to sell himself and his ideas. The fact remains, though, that he has been involved in building small runs of very expensive specialty cars before, and one day soon we may see a Natalia SLS 2 motoring on Ocean Avenue.
In the world of cars, stranger things have happened.
Steve Parker has covered the world’s auto industry for over 35 years. He’s a two-time Emmy Award-winner who reported on cars for almost a decade at both KTLA/TV5 and KCBS/TV2. He is a consultant to the NBC-TV show Whipnotic and the show’s companion website, www.Whipnotic.com. He created, writes and moderates the only all-automotive blog on The Huffington Post at www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-parker. Contact Steve through his own automotive issues Web site at www.SteveParker.com.