Behind the Wheel with Neill Briggs

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Jun 06, 2019
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I was walking past the supercar corral at the New York International Auto Show when I saw a sleek little car under a banner that read “Briggs Auto Company.” Naturally, I was intrigued. Who made this incredible street legal formula car? How many do the sell? And, more important, is the company founder a long lost relative of mine, which might allow me an opportunity to get behind the wheel? To get my questions answered, I sat down with company co-founder and Director of Product Development, Neill Briggs (no relation as far as I can tell) for a wide ranging discussion about the company, the car, and their customers.

Neill Briggs (right) with his business partner and brother Ian, designer of the BAC Mono.

The BAC Mono is a great story of how a boutique manufacturer with vision, purpose, talent, and grit can create something fantastic. It’s not for everyone. In fact, they only make a handful of cars a year. For those lucky enough to own one, they are promised the purest driving experience possible. But I’ll let Neill explain.

R&D: Tell me about how you came up with this idea.
My brother and I co-founded the business in 2009 and the business is grounded in 25 years of having our own automotive design consultancy where we worked with a number of automotive manufacturers on everything from an A Class car all the way up to race cars, supercars, and hypercars. We’ve worked in pretty much all disciplines of car design, the exterior, the interior, interior, styling, vehicle engineering, testing, and development. 

With the rise in the luxury goods sector and the fact that all the major supercar manufacturers have sub brand derivatives whether it’s the RS brand that Porsche have or Lamborghini SVJ, these cars are for customers for whom performance and lightweight is even more important than their standard cars. So for us we sat down and we looked at these cars that aren’t for getting from A to B, but for maximum enjoyment. We wanted to take that to the next level. 

So for us it’s all about performance. It’s all about the driving experience. There’s nothing else that is involved. There’s no practicality of carrying luggage or even dare I say, a passenger. So from day one, our car was always a single seater. It was never a question that the car would have a tandem, one behind the other, or two or three seats, because if you look at the way formula cars have evolved, they’ve always been single seat, the driver sat in the middle, the engine has always been mid mounted either in front or behind the driver, so for us the architectural layout of the vehicle was very straight forward. The driver was going to sit in the middle. It would use a longitudinally mounted engine, semi-stress bearing in this case, and a fully stress-bearing transmission.

For us the car is aimed at the ultimate driving experience. That is something that is said and a phrase that’s often used by some other manufacturers, but the accolades we have in terms of driving experience and lap times – the proof is in the pudding. This car takes the ultimate driving experience to way beyond anything anyone’s done before. We’re production car lap record holders at 8 of the top international circuits. It would be wrong of me to mention who we’re faster than, but most of them are represented here (as he gestured to the Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, and Porsches that flanked his car on the stand). 

R&D: Will they have those cars and your car in the same garage?Absolutely, absolutely. We’re a discretionary purchase. We don’t have any natural competition to that extent. I would argue our competition is maybe a Richard Mille watch, maybe a race horse, whatever these high net worth guys choose to spend their money on. They don’t buy our car instead of something else, they buy it in addition to.

In the U.S. that leads directly to the rise of the private race resort culture of being able to enjoy your vehicle on a track in a family environment places like Thermal, Monticello, and so on with property around. These places are designed for people to go and have fun and enjoy them in a kind of exclusive lifestyle experience that they’re used to in terms of how they spend their other free time. 

R&D: So who’s buying the BAC Mono?
First of all he’s male, he’s international, everything from kings and princes down to CEOs, entrepreneurs, athletes, entertainers. They’re people who love cars. They’re first attracted to the car by the way it looks, my job is to make sure it drives as well as it looks, that it has all the driving attributes. Of course it has all the numbers 0-60 in 2.7 seconds, top speed of 170 miles per hour. It is the fastest accelerating rear-wheel drive car in the world. The car will pull 2G under braking and so on. But the reality is you put all those attributes together that equates to a lap time no one else can touch. To put it all in perspective EVO magazine in the UK test every car they review at the 1.55 mile Anglesey circuit, and we beat the previous production lap record around that track by over a second. (Neill was too polite to say, but the previous record holder was the McLaren P1 GTR, a 1,000 horsepower, track-only supercar that cost 3.4 million dollars when new.) It’s seven seconds quicker than a Ford GT. We’re five seconds quicker than the Porsche GT2 RS. That’s no to rubbish these cars. It’s just to use them as a benchmark. They are incredible cars. No question, but they’re designed to carry two people, luggage, and serve a purpose. They’re what we would call GT cars. But to beat who we have shows just how great a value for money this car is when your ultimate goal is performance and lap times.

I also think the usage of the car is very interesting based on the customers we’ve got. 20% of our customers are based in the U.S., 25% in southeast Asia, so Japan and Hong Kong, nearly 20% in the UK, and the remaining in Europe and various other areas around the world. 

So you look at how they use their cars, they all use their cars on the road. They also drive them to the track and use them on the track. A lot of people like that it’s the best production supercar to drive on the track but also the service aspect of it. It’s so light on its feet that in terms of things like brakes and tires, so there’s a surprising delight in terms of service cost and maintenance. People also like to drive them around the streets of London, Tokyo, and LA just wearing glasses and being seen in this space ship. 

R&D: So this is a car that people drive to be seen in as well as for the experience?
Yes. But the interesting thing is that customers of certain brands are sort of typecast. People see a Mono and they don’t jump to that conclusion. They think, “Wow, that guy is super serious about his passion, which is driving, so much so that he bought a car that’s only got one seat.” The first thing passers by do when they see a Mono is take out their phone and take a picture and that can be anyone from a grandma down to a child. It’s really nice that there’s no negative aspects to our car in terms of how it’s perceived. And that’s because we see driving as a sport, and certainly in our lifetime with the rise of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles it’s going to push more and more people to use their cars as a lifestyle, hobby, sporting piece of equipment and therefore we talk about having the right tool for the right job, so you know if you like cycling, you have a Pinarello road bike for touring and you have a Cannondale fully suspended mountain bike for doing downhills or cross country. Two completely different cycles that are designed for the sport of cycling, neither of which are transportation. They may cycle to work, but if they do, they have a different bike for that.

So what we’re doing is opening peoples’ eyes, and what’s great is our customers can look at all the cars they on and say, “Okay, well the Mono is streets ahead of anything else in terms of driving experience at the track, so that’s my track, lifestyle hobby car.” They have a Ferrari, they have an SUV, this is something completely different.

One of our customers is in Qatar and he takes the car out at midnight and drives the streets because there’s no one on the streets and it’s cooler at that time of night and he just drives. During the day it’s hot, the streets are crowded so he drives his SUV to the shopping mall. He drives his Porsches, Lamborghinis, McLarens, and Ferraris and he loves them, but when he just wants a driving experience, he drives his Mono.

The other great thing about our car is that we talk about everyone being one of a kind, so every car is individual and bespoke to that particular customer, never to be repeated again. The car you see at the New York Auto Show is a one-off. And in terms of the bespoke work we have on the car it’s not just the aesthetics, but it’s also the made to measure seat and made to measure steering wheel. And I also think it’s the relationship our customers have with the company. A vast majority of them fly over to the UK to meet the design team. They meet the people who are building their car. They have a very personal relationship. It’s not just a transaction where you buy a car and then that’s it. 

R&D: What do you see as the potential for the car here in the US?
It’s certainly our number one market in terms of focus. We’re just at the start of crusade here east to west and south as well. The U.S. is a big place. It has great climates, beautiful roads, everything that makes for great driving. The race resort culture started here in the U.S. and that’s certainly what we’re all about. There’s a love and appreciation for British engineering, quality, and craftsmanship. They love motorsport whether that’s Indy, Formula One, Sports Cars, or Rally. The U.S. is obsessed with motorsports like the UK is. And ultimately it boils down to the number of high net worth individuals whom this car appeals to. We’re saying this is USA 2.0 for us. We first started out here in 2012, very successful, 20 cars delivered to various states, but we’re hoping the U.S. will be a 15 to 20 car market per year and we’re expanding our network to be able to support that.  

R&D: So each is bespoke, but is there a basic pricing structure for the car?
Price in the U.S. starts at $235,000, and from there you can enter into the options package and go up to $350,000 with all the exposed carbon, but the average of a car delivered in the U.S. is about $280,000.

If you look at the rise of the luxury goods sector from 2012 to 2017 it doubled and if you look at world supercar sales during that time period, they also doubled. If you look at supercars, McLaren, Lamborghini, Ferrari, etc, there were 56,000 manufactured globally in 2012. In 2017 that number was 120,000 cars. It’s perfectly aligned to the number of millionaires and billionaires created over the last 5 years. So when you look at what they spend their money on, it starts off with homes, then private yachts and jets, then lifestyle, travel, etc. Then vehicles, then you get down to watches, clothing, guns, and other accessories. 

So in terms of our aspiration, we’re always going to be very rare. We don’t have aspirations to build thousands of cars a year. We’re always going to be low volume which drives desirability, collectability, high residual values so it’s a great ownership proposition for our customers. That means we can maintain a very personal relationship with them, offer them great service, which we do via our flying doctor program. We fly someone to your house to service your car if need be or you can take it to your local dealer. Right now there are only three dealers in the U.S. but we’re looking to open more outlets in the next year. 

R&D: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me and best of luck with your endeavors here in the U.S.
It was my pleasure, come see us next time you’re in the UK.

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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