First RML Short Wheelbase takes shape

Construction of the British-built special combines a bespoke retro body and 550 Maranello underpinnings

RML has released new images of its first Short Wheelbase project in construction, revealing some of the artisanal craftsmanship that each of the 30 units will undergo during their manufacture. As a refresh, the Short Wheelbase is a combination of (relatively) modern Ferrari underpinnings and a retro-styled body, first examples of which are due for completion before the end of this year.

Fitment of the powertrain, drivetrain, glazing and interior are still on their way, but first comes its carbonfibre body which will be draped over a steel chassis beneath. The decision to utilise carbon for these sorts of projects today is obvious, with advantages in stiffness, weight and manufacturing flexibility at this low-volume level – something exemplified in the rear clam, which weighs just 40kg, 30kg less than the same part from an original 250 SWB.

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Ben Amos, Manufacturing Engineer for the Short Wheelbase programme, said: ‘We’re very pleased with this result. To see the first production car’s bodywork in this complete state, fixed to the chassis, with sound deadening and heat insulation in place, is quite special after only viewing it virtually up until now. We even have the door seals fitted and ready for bonding.’

The RML Short Wheelbase is not to be confused with the similar GTO Engineering Squalo, which pairs its own take on a 250 SWB carbonfibre body with an in-house recreation of Ferrari’s classic ‘Colombo’ V12 engine. Instead, the Short Wheelbase places its own carbonfibre body atop the powertrain and structure of a Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Despite the 40 years between the original 250 SWB and the 550, the two actually share remarkably similar proportions in wheelbase and height, with only the overall width proving to be substantially different. This made it somewhat easier for RML’s chief designer, Jonathan Bowen, to transfer the SWB’s iconic design to this all-new car. 

The 550’s F133 5.5-litre naturally aspirated V12 engine, six-speed gated manual transmission and rear-wheel drive ensure modern levels of performance and some good old-fashioned driver involvement. Peak power and torque figures are accurate to the 550 at 478bhp and 419lb ft, but performance is projected to be slightly ahead of the donor car, with a 0-60mph time of 4.1sec and a top speed of 185mph. This extra performance is derived from the slight reduction in weight, RML projecting a final figure of 1470kg dry.

To keep the Short Wheelbase on the ground at the distinctly un-classic speeds it will be able to achieve, the design team has had to install a selection of subtle aero devices on the body to reduce high-speed lift without too obviously punctuating the overall design. Some of these have been inspired by aero elements found on the original, including the vents behind the wheelarches to reduce pressure within.

The interior will take a similar approach to the exterior, with a bespoke design that references the 250 SWB but uses the 550’s dashboard architecture and structure to form a more usable and spacious environment. RML has designed the Short Wheelbase to be functional in everyday driving, so modern creature comforts will also be included as part of the package.

A total of 30 units are planned, with production already underway ahead of first customer deliveries in spring 2022. Unsurprisingly for a project like this, RML has not given any indication of price, but considering the sheer amount of custom fabrication that will go into each example, not to mention the rising values of the 550 Maranellos that RML will need to chop to pieces in order to create each one, we suspect it won’t be cheap.

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