Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Car or supercar?

By Jonathan Blum

What would a luxe, high-performance car that's also fuel-efficient look like? Peter Collorafi and Doug Pelmear think they have the answer; they call it the Verde.

Collorafi, president of Decatur, Ind., custom-car maker Revenge Designs, and Pelmear, founder of Napoleon, Ohio, performance-engine company HP2g, will debut the car at Detroit's North American International Auto Show in January 2010. They plan to ship it by next July.

The pair say the Verde (green in Italian, in honor of Collorafi's parents) will be an American-made supercar that gets 100 mpg from an engine that produces a hefty 400 hp with 500 foot-pounds of torque. Those kinds of numbers would put the Verde in the same category as the Lamborghini Gallardo, which reaches a maximum speed of 201 mph, but with one crucial difference: The gas-hungry Gallardo gets a scant 12 miles per gallon on city streets (and just 20 on the highway).

To accomplish these seemingly incompatible goals, Pelmear created a "big block" V-8 engine (similar to a Ford Mustang's) that runs on ethanol. He also developed a proprietary hybrid function that uses ceramic magnets in and around the cylinders to power the car. When the engine needs the full 400 hp, the control system makes the V-8 run as a traditional all-ethanol motor and fires up all eight cylinders. When torque demands fade, the magnets power the car, drastically lowering fuel consumption.

The Verde won't be cheap -- it'll have a starting price of $180,000 -- but that's far more cost-effective than, say, a Lamborghini, which sells for a minimum of $250,000 and is expensive to maintain.

"That Gallardo's clutch will run $16,800 to repair," says Collorafi. "Ours will be done with domestic vendors and labor and run $3,200. That's the niche we want to fill."

Still, skeptics point out that cars with price tags north of $100,000 make up maybe 0.5% of the global market, with total sales of around $10 billion. And this market is already crowded with some of the best-known brands in the business, including Bugatti, Ferrari and Rolls-Royce.

Also, doubters wonder how Revenge Designs and HP2g can achieve high levels of power and fuel economy in a mass-produced car -- a trick that major automakers have never managed to pull off.

Martin Lydell, founder of Lydell Industries, a Jamestown, N.Y., mechanical research firm, notes that Ford (F, Fortune 500), GM and Toyota have spent billions on attempts to increase fuel efficiency in high-performance engines -- to no avail. "These wonder engines never work out once they come out of a factory and get serviced," Lydell says.

But Pelmear and Collorafi aren't worried. They argue that the auto industry has hardly been a model of innovation. And given the right investment, they believe their cutting-edge concepts can be mass-produced. In fact, the two plan a 2012 launch of a four-door sedan that will cost roughly $60,000, broadening their market reach. Plus, they know there's plenty of room for innovation in the luxury car market.

"Luxe car buyers are not just looking for the wow factor," says Tom DuPont, founder of DuPont Publishing, a St. Petersburg-based luxury marketing firm. "They're looking for the breakthrough factor. If these guys can get this car to work as advertised, they have a real shot."

Questions & Answers

QHow does a florist sell more in this economy? We changed our business to designing weddings and events only, as the everyday flowers are not selling. We had to throw out too much product at the end of the week -- flowers are perishable! More
Get Answer
- The Flower Lady, Suwanee, Ga.
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed3.63%3.67%
15 yr fixed2.77%2.78%
5/1 ARM2.97%3.05%
30 yr refi3.67%3.71%
15 yr refi2.83%2.84%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,773.64 -57.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 4,775.36 -29.93 -0.62%
S&P 500 2,065.30 -10.51 -0.51%
Treasuries 1.82 -0.02 -1.03%
Data as of 4:34am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 14.56 -0.23 -1.56%
Freeport-McMoRan Inc... 14.00 1.34 10.58%
Ford Motor Co 13.56 -0.53 -3.76%
Apple Inc 93.74 -1.09 -1.15%
Microsoft Corp 49.87 -0.03 -0.06%
Data as of Apr 29


The Oracle of Omaha joked that the impact on Corporate America would not be the biggest problem of a Donald Trump presidency. More

The Dow is down 300 points over the past two days, leaving the index on track for its worst week since early February. Blame fumbled earnings reports from the likes of Apple and Google as well as concerns about the Bank of Japan. More

Now you can watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket land on a barge as if you were standing on the deck of the ship. More

Visa says new software will allow consumers to check out with chip cards as fast as swiping a card with magnetic strip. More