Hennessey Venom GT: The 725bhp Lotus Elise

John Hennessey is the modern-day Carroll Shelby. And while Shelby may have one foot in the grave, it's obvious that the Texas-based tuner is stepping up to take over where ol' Shel left off

By James Mackintosh, 29 March 2010

For one thing, HPE is perhaps the most reputable tuner when it comes to extracting huge, reliable horsepower out of domestic cars (along with a few foreigners, like HPE's Nissan GT-R "Godzilla".)

Read about the new and improved 1500bhp Venom GT2 for 2014

They'll sell you a Camaro with a 725bhp tweaked LS9 supercharged V8 engine out of the ZR-1, and it's such a clean conversion that an OBD scanner will have no problem pulling codes.  Oh, and it's got a warranty.  How about a Cadillac CTS-V that will do 186mph in the standing mile?  Or maybe a 1000+bhp twin-turbocharged Dodge Viper?  A Grand Cherokee SRT-8 that runs high ten's in the quarter mile with a twin-turbo 426cid Hemi?  No problem!

Check out the video of the Hennessey Venom GT in action

But all of these tweaked production cars pale in comparison to John's latest brainchild, which has been in the works for almost as long as I can remember.  Introducing the Hennessey Venom GT, a (mostly) bespoke mid-engine carbon-fibre supercar powered by an obscenely powerful GM LS9 motor.  The basic ingredients are this: take  one flyweight mid-engine Lotus Elise, which normally has a 190bhp Toyota engine, mix with equal parts tuned LS9; stretch, poke, and slam, and what do you have?  A 2,400lb mid-engined carbon-fibre rocketship with a 725bhp V8 as the base engine. Let me reiterate: a Lotus Elise with 725bhp.

Now, as far as the Hennessey - Shelby comparison goes, it makes a lot of sense.  Shelby spent a lot of time in the 80's making Turbo Mopars go really fast, and these days Hennessey spends a lot of time making boring domestics like the Lincoln MKS go really fast.  (How fast?  Hennessey's MKS MaxB00st runs 13.08s in the 1/4 mile with minimal bolt-ons and ECU tweaking.)  But going back even further, to the start of Shelby: the Cobra was, at it's core, a lightweight British chassis stuffed full of a gigantic American V8 (Ford 260's, 289's, and later 427's.)  The Venom GT is the exact same thing, only brought up to modern times: a tiny British chassis mated to an epic American V8.

The regular Venom GT (which is expected to clock in around $600k) uses the same engine as HPE's versions of the Camaro, CTS-V, and ZR-1: an LS9 (6.2L supercharged V8) gets a larger intercooler, bigger injectors, a smaller supercharged drive pulley and larger crank pulley for more boost, and intake and exhaust modifications. The changes are good for a whoppping 725bhp and 741lb-ft of torque (at 2,500rpm!) on 91 octane pump gas.

Read about the new and improved 1500bhp Venom GT2 for 2014

If that much power in a 2,400lb car isn't insane enough for you, Hennessey has two other engine choices to wet your whistle.  There's a twin-turbocharged LS9 designed to run on 93 octane that makes 1,000bhp and 900lb-ft, and if you really aren't concerned with your lifespan there's a 109-octane race-gas version of that motor with 1,200bhp and 1,100lb-ft.  I'd imagine that much power is largely academic in an Elise, but who knows?

At this point the question is, what's been done to keep this thing pointed in a straight line?  Well, the basic Elise body/chassis is lengthened, widened, and stiffened at the Lotus factory in England before being shipped to Texas.

The carbon-fibre widebody was developed using CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamic) testing to provide maximum downforce at speed along with the adjustable front and rear spoilers. The suspension is fully adjustable, and 15" carbon-ceramic brakes with 6 piston front/4 piston rear rotors bring things to a halt, hopefully in time.

The Ricardo 6-speed manual transmission has a driver-adjustable traction control system with integrated launch control so you don't spin around backwards when you punch the gas.  And finally, each Venom GT will come with free admission to a driver training course so that you're not totally in over your head.

Check out the video of the Hennessey Venom GT in action

Hennessey expects to build approximately 10 Venom GT's a year, and there are already four orders. While it's certainly unusual (and certainly the world's meanest-looking Lotus), the prospect of a 1,000+bhp V8 in a Lotus Elise is hard to ignore. I have no doubt the man will sell every one his company wants to assemble, even at a half-million plus price tag.

Look for the official debut of the Venom GT later this year, possibly at Pebble Beach.

Read about the new and improved 1500bhp Venom GT2 for 2014

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