Al’s Wildcat’s a purring beast
Reporter: Richard Hooton
Date published: 15 September 2008
FLASHBACK . . . Al Melling in the 1990s with the Formula 1 engine he developed for the Lola team
A ROYTON-BORN engine designer is aiming to bow out with a bang with a British sports car that will take on Le Mans.
Al Melling — dubbed Britain’s secret Mr Horsepower — has created two cars that he describes as the climax to his career.
After designing hi-tech engines for nearly 40 cars and for winners of the Formula 1 Championship and the Le Mans 24-hour race, he says his latest designs are the cars he has been working towards all his life.
The Melling Wildcat, designed as a no-frills, road-going sports car, is now in production and will be followed next spring by the ultra-powerful Melling Hellcat, which will be entered into the world’s most exciting road race.
In a career that stretches back more than 40 years, Mr Melling has developed and designed cars for Japanese firms, General Motors, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Rolls Royce and for Formula One.
He has also acted as a consultant to F1 teams and designed the engine that helped Jaguar win Le Mans for four years on the run.
The former Royton Secondary Modern School pupil first fuelled his fascination with engines by buying parts from scrapyards with earnings from his Chronicle paper round.
He went on to become Britain’s most prolific engine designer.
Now 64, he is hoping to achieve lifetime ambitions with the latest designs at his Melling Consultancy Design (MCD) firm at Mellor Street, Rochdale, after spending seven years developing the motors.
The Wildcat, a 460hp, 5.7 litre, V8 with a top speed of 160mph, combines the latest technology with traditional style.
Like classic 1950s sports cars it will not be produced in volume. Up to four cars a month will be made in Rochdale and up to 20 will roll off the production line in America.
It can be made to the buyer’s specifications, with extras like choosing any engine you want or a leather interior, with the price ranging from £45,000 up to £56,000.
Mr Melling said: “All the traditional car manufacturers in England have gone so I thought the market was wide open. Let’s do a typically cheaper British sports car.
“Now there’s an attractive British sports car on the market. Because it’s cheaper it appeals to the masses.
“It’s a beautiful car to look at. It’s not got wings or slots. It’s a beautiful sports car like an E-type Jaguar. It’s rounded with very nice curves.”
Mr Melling will also donate £2,000 to charity for every purchase.
The Melling Hellcat, a 1,000hp, 8 litre, V10, is more of a super car, like a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, with a top speed of 250mph and a £95,000 price tag.
Mr Melling said: “It’s a very different car. To do the Hellcat takes a long time and a lot of money.
“It’s a different thing altogether but for that kind of car it’s still very cheap. We are trying to keep the price down so that not only rich people will be able to afford them.
“The Hellcat is designed so that it can be entered into Le Mans without spending hundreds of thousands on it. That’s always been my ambition, my own car to race Le Mans.
“It’s been a long job but in something like two years from now we should have the Hellcat at Le Mans.
“The Hellcat and Wildcat are the climax of my career. I have designed engines for everyone in the world but now it’s time to do what we want to do and then I will retire and sit back and watch my cars go round.”
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