Free Reads

Back to Library >
ti icon

Free Reads

Nichols’ CanAm-inspired road car

1 year ago

not bookmarked


Dan Prosser | Ti co-founder


26 July 2023

What happens when the designer of perhaps the greatest Formula 1 car ever made – the McLaren MP4/4, winner of all but one of the 1988 season’s 16 Grands Prix – turns his attention to a road car? The Nichols N1A is exactly that.

Conceived by Steve Nichols and inspired by the series of sports racing cars that put Bruce McLaren’s fledgling company on the map in the 1960s, it’s a lightweight, open-top supercar with a naturally aspirated V8 and manual gearbox. 

6. Steve Nichols

Traction control is standard – just as well, I suppose, given the N1A has up to 650bhp and weighs only 900kg – but ABS and power steering are optional. Carbon fibre and aluminium construction keep weight down, while power comes from a heavily uprated Chevrolet small-block with a dry sump and bespoke pistons and con-rods, displacing 7.0 litres. Suspension is by double wishbones all round, all of it clothed in elegant yet muscular bodywork. 

7. N1A side profile

If the car looks familiar or its name rings a bell, there’s a reason for that. The N1A is inspired by the M1A, the first true McLaren. That car gradually evolved into the fearsome machines that dominated CanAm, at least until Porsche arrived with its mighty 917 in 1972. Without the M1A and its successors, would McLaren have become the second most successful Formula 1 team of all time, and would the McLaren Automotive division exist today? Maybe not. 

22. Interior open door

Steve Nichols founded Nichols Cars in 2017 to build low-volume supercars, the likes of which you won’t find many other places, if at all. The N1A is his first model and no more than 100 will be built. Fifteen of those will be top-spec cars with the 650bhp engine, each one commemorating one of the MP4/4’s race victories in the hands of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in 1988. There is no word yet on what the N1A will cost. 

29. Engine details outside

It’s far too early for us to know how in-demand these cars will be, but it’s fascinating to see small manufacturers and restomodders building stripped-back, lightweight machines with manual gearboxes and naturally aspirated engines, cars the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and McLaren seem to have no interest in producing at all. Steve joins us on the next episode of The Intercooler podcast to discuss the car itself and his remarkable career in some detail.

Nichols Cars N1A production specification