The obscure Ascari Ecosse is a rare, cosmopolitan gem from the ’90s
Based in England, named after an Italian, powered by the Germans, and managed by a Dutchman, Ascari Cars was almost like an automotive version of the (pre-Brexit) EU. Unfortunately, it was also short-lived, and aside from some video games or an old episode of Top Gear, few people have actually seen one of these multinational supercars. They almost never come up for sale, and that’s why the one that recently crossed the virtual auction block at the RM Sotheby’s Paris sale caught our attention.
Ascari first started in Britain during the mid-1990s. With racy ambitions, the company named itself after 1952–53 double Formula One World Champion Alberto Ascari, then hired Lee Noble (who later founded Noble Automotive) to design a low-slung coupe with a spaceframe chassis, fiberglass/Kevlar body, and mid-mounted Chevrolet V-8. While Ascari was showing off its project—called the FGT—at the 1995 British Motor Show, a Dutch racing driver named Klaas Zwart strolled by and expressed interest. Rather than simply buying the car, Zwart bought the whole company.
Ascari’s first production car, the Ecosse, was a development of the FGT and debuted in 1997 with a Hartge-tuned 4.4-liter BMW V-8 in place of the old Chevy. Not just a track-day toy—despite its looks, 2800-pound weight, and 200-mph top speed—the Ecosse came with oodles of leather, a good stereo, power windows, and air conditioning.
After building somewhere between 17 and 19 Ecosses, Ascari introduced its second production car. Called the KZ1 (using Klaas Zwart’s initials), it featured the S62 V-8 from the BMW E39 M5, cost £235,000, and enjoyed a production run of 50 cars. Meanwhile, the company also got into the luxury lifestyle business with the “Ascari Race Resort,” a posh private race track in the southwestern Spanish province of Málaga.
Ascari’s third car, the A10, briefly held the Top Gear track record after being featured on the show in 2007. Sadly, third time wasn’t the charm, at least when it came to turning a profit, and by 2010 Ascari had stopped building cars. The company does still operate that fancy-schmancy resort, however.
The Ecosse that RM Sotheby’s offered through its Paris auction this year was represented as a very early production car, one of just two left-hand-drive examples built. It spent most of its life pampered at the Ascari Race Resort in Spain but has also been driven regularly and shows 12,686 miles on its odometer. In addition to a repaint in metallic green (which looks almost black in the photos), it also had its original five-speed manual swapped out for a six-speed.
Unfortunately, despite being one of the only Ascaris we’ve ever seen for sale anywhere, it didn’t go to a new home. The €130,000 ($158,080) high bid was short of reserve and its €155,000 low estimate. That doesn’t seem like much money for something with such speed and exclusivity, but the market for obscure, short-lived supercars just isn’t a big one. Another Ecosse popped up for sale last year with only a slightly higher asking-price of £135,000 (about $200,000 at the time). Has the ’90s collector-car craze overlooked the eclectic Ecosse? For now, it appears so.
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