The Need For Speed
Is Gerald Wiegert’s Vector WX-8 the next great supercar?
It makes normal sports cars look like slugs. Even other high performance vehicles look like slouches in comparison. It’s the Vector-Avtech WX-8, ultimate player on the global supercar stage. With looks that make it the cynosure of attention throughout the auto show circuit and performance that makes race cars cringe, the Vector, with its sleek, low-slung silhouette and its blistering performance, is not so much a car as a carnivore of the highways, a dominant beast that eats other automobiles for breakfast.
Vector is the brainchild of California designer Gerald Wiegert, a one-time stellar pupil at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and something of a prodigy who developed the first ATV (all-terrain vehicle) while still in school—and couldn’t find anyone to license it! Citing Raymond Loewy as a formative influence, the precocious Wiegert was intrigued with transportation design and modes of mobility from early on, restlessly investigating the latest trends in technology and eventually enrolling in programs at nine different institutions in order to master all the disciplines necessary to his interests. “No single existing school covers all the bases,” he explains of his personal educational crusade.
Always an entrepreneurial spirit and fascinated by both airplanes and automobiles, Wiegert launched his professional career with a plan to build the world’s fastest, most beautiful car, based on the latest aerospace technology and envisioned as a “military fighter jet for the streets.” A crash course in politics, project funding, and investment practices resulted in the successful financing of the first Vector model, the W8, a 750 horsepower supercar that went rapidly into production.
When it rolled out from its Southern California production facility, the Vector, with its intimidatingly predatory profile, starkly suggestive of a ballistic projectile on wheels, was startlingly unique and created a sensation wherever it went. Whenever it was parked while out on a run across town, “It was as if a UFO had landed,” Wiegert recalls. Hollywood glitterati flocked around the car; even the Ferrari Club, which met at the Vector plant for a close-up viewing, was impressed.
Everything about the car was special, from the razor-hinged doors, set-back headlights, stealth-like, aerodynamic styling and carbon fiber, Kevlar-reinforced body, down to the huge, radically raked windshield and aviation rivet-look competition gas cap. Fortunate owners had bragging rights to the most powerful production car ever built, easily twenty years ahead of its time. A dream car realized, the Vector enjoyed a cult following and early models can be found today in several automotive museums.
Stunningly beautiful and furiously fast, it wasn’t only the incomparable performance and prismatic, poly-wedge, armor-clad body that set the car apart from other exotics; it was a whole new approach to automotive design in which Wiegert saw Vector as a unified whole. Unlike such magnificent mongrels of motor history as the Shelby, the Cunningham, the Scarab, and the Abarth, the Vector is envisioned as an integrated, totally original design from axles and floorboards up.
Now Wiegert is preparing to introduce the third version of his “extreme performance road machine.” Named the Vector-Avtech WX-8, the latest model promises 1,200 to 1,400 horsepower and a top speed of 300 miles per hour! Incorporating the most advanced components available, the WX-8 employs modular construction, an all-aluminum frame and engine, a reprogrammable, flat panel data screen with menu-driven electroluminescent display, flight switches, and “sequential shifting” (clutchless gear-changing pioneered by Vector), all built to military specifications, giving the Vector, Wiegert explains, “the logic, look and feel of an advanced tactical fighter aircraft.” Yet, for all this, Wiegert is already “thinking green,” looking to a potential future power source based on hydrogen fuel cell technology.
So why continue to rethink a car that has already more than made its mark on so many overshadowed competitors with its brand of “skunk works”-derived tactical superiority?
Wiegert’s philosophy is simple: the automobile affords people “mobile pleasure” and, ideally, should be considered an art form, cultural totem and object of desire. If faster and brasher is better, what could be preferable to a fire-breathing monster capable of burning up the streets at terminal velocity and turning heads wherever it goes? Disdainfully dismissive of a “design by committee” world, Wiegert asserts, “You should always strive to stand out. You can always make something better than before and, if you take it to the max, you can make it better still!”
“In this day and age,” he says, “It’s all about excess.”
Photos by Karl Larsen