Twisted, 3,000-horsepower Chaos Ultracar offers a glimpse of the future

2022-04-26 02:54:21 By : Ms. Aurola Wang

Strap in, petrolheads. The spec sheet and bizarrely organic-looking design of this 3-D printed Greek widowmaker are almost as wild a ride as the 3,000-horsepower car itself. Spyros Panopoulos Automotive has unveiled its Chaos "Ultracar," and if you've ever seen a wilder piece of functional art that can nail a quarter mile in 7.5 seconds, we'd love to hear about it.

Panopoulos, as we discussed when we first learned of this ludicrous project back in 2020, is one of very few people on this planet that can make claims like you're about to hear with a straight face. An accomplished drag racing engine builder, he once famously pulled 2,880 horsepower out of what started as a 1.8-liter Mitubishi Evo, revving it to an insane 14,100 rpm and sending it down a quarter mile in less than 8 seconds.

He claims that's a world record for horsepower per liter, and we're not going to argue. He's worked with top-level race teams from nearly every corner of the rev-head world, from Formula One to MotoGP and WRC. "This," I wrote last April, "is the CV of a man that gets things done on an absolutely epic level," and I have to say, I thoroughly agree with myself.

So we don't doubt Spyros one bit when he says he's building his own 90-degree, 3.96-liter, twin-turbo V10 for this car, or that the cheap "Earth Version," milled out of billet aluminum, will be more powerful than any other car you can buy shy of the "in development for fifteen years and counting" Devel Sixteen, making 2,048 horsepower and 1,389 Nm (1,025 lb-ft) and revving as high as 11,000 rpm.

And we know he's totally serious when he says the somewhat less-affordable "Zero Gravity" version will use a similar engine block 3D-printed in magnesium alloy, which will pip Gordon Murray's T.50 to take the title of the fastest-revving production car engine the world has ever seen. It'll ping off the rev limiter at 12,200 rpm, developing a hideous 3,065 horsepower and 1,984 Nm (1,463 lb-ft) along the way.

If these numbers are starting to lose any anchor in reality, just remember: this year's Subaru WRX is a fast and fun street car. It makes 268 horsepower, and weighs about 1,485 kg (3273.9 lb) dry. Supercars start at about 500 horsepower, Le Mans hypercars are limited to 750. The Bugatti Veyron was the first car ever to sell with a thousand ponies, and while there's been an absolute explosion of cars making more than 1,000 hp in recent years – particularly thanks to electric powertrains, nobody's ever dared to roll something out making more than 2,000 horsepower.

The Zero-Gee Chaos makes 50 percent more power than any of them, and it'll weigh considerably less than the WRX at just 1,272 kg (2,804 lb). Every kilogram of car will have the personal attention of 2.4 horsepower, dedicated to the task of making the far near and the near far in spectacularly violent fashion.

That said, being an old-school combustion donk, it will not beat the upcoming rocket-enhanced Tesla Roadster to highway speed. Taking off from a standstill with pedal to the metal, it'll make a lot of very scary noises, but you won't see the needle swing past 100 km/h (62 mph) for a positively lugubrious 1.55 seconds. By this point, though, the combustion giant will have well and truly got out of bed. You'll see 300 km/h (186 mph) in a total of 7.1 seconds, and the quarter mile will flash by in 7.5.

As for top speed, well, Panopoulos says it'll do better than 500 km/h (310 mph). Indeed, he says the cheap version will do that, so the Zero Gravity version can probably do it in third gear. Nobody else has managed to break that speed officially yet (well, apart from the SSC Tuatara, but we all know how that ended up going). So this might also end up being the fastest production car in history, too. Why not, eh?

I know, I know, "rich man car have big number" isn't the exciting story it used to be. All rich man car now have number so big nobody can use. But the Chaos would be an absolutely extraordinary machine even if it never turned a wheel, because it pushes 3D printing – and advanced design – to levels we have never seen before.

Panopoulos calls the technique "Anadiaplasi," and says each component "forms its own form according to the forces exerted on it." It sounds very much like a technique known as generative design, or evolutionary design, in which CAD designers are able to specify which portions and surfaces of a part need to be exactly which shapes, then nominate which forces it needs to withstand from which directions, and let a computer go away and tinker randomly with the shape for a few million generations.

With lightweighting set as a goal, this process will gradually hone a shape down, removing all excess material that doesn't help the part meet its targets, and adding extra thickness where it finds reinforcement is useful. The results of this hyper-accelerated evolutionary simulation tend to take on a shockingly alien – but very organic – appearance.

It would be completely impossible to manufacture these curving, skeletal, 3-dimensional forms if it wasn't for the modern marvel of 3D printing; these are often insanely complex shapes that no human would design, and no mill could manufacture. One wonders if an unfortunately-placed stone chip at a point not programmed for that kind of stress might see the whole thing shatter like a Prince Rupert's drop.

Still, Spyros Panopoulos is rather a fan of this stuff, and he's using it all over the damn place on the Chaos car, starting at the very heart of the matter. Inside that 3D-printed magnesium engine block, you can specify your choice of six different piston designs, the top of the range being a 3D nano-printed Anadiaplasi design in silicon carbide.

There are six conrod choices too, including Anadiaplasi designs 3D printed in titanium, carbon fiber, Zylon fiber or a ceramic "zero friction" material. Then there's the crankshaft. Imagine what it might look like if you pulled the spinal column out of a Terminator, and then check out this picture of the Chaos crank, which can be printed in H13 tool steel or titanium alloy.

If you think that's about enough of this Anadiaplasi business, then I'm tipping you're not Spyros Panopoulos. The serpentine wheels. The tangled brake calipers. The exhaust tips. The suspension wishbones. The frickin' steering wheel. The pedals. Hell, even the rear view mirror, with its two built-in cameras, attaches to the cabin roof with an Anadiaplasi bracket printed in titanium.

The bits that aren't 3D printed are still plenty exotic. The monocoque chassis and doors are made in Zylon, which Panopoulos calls "the utimate material, the world's strongest man made fiber," and "the first organic fiber whose cross-sectional strength outperforms both steel and carbon fiber." Indeed, 78 percent of the whole body is either 3D-printed titanium, magnesium, carbon, or fancy fibers.

We know of nobody on this green Earth who is pushing harder into exotic materials and bleeding-edge design techniques. The Chaos stands alone, far above an ocean of outliers, somewhere on the knifepoint between genius and madness.

There's more; 5G connectivity, voice commands, fingerprint and facial recognition, some kind of unspecified augmented reality... Apparently it comes with its own VR glasses, possibly so your passenger can put them on and pretend they're not hurtling toward a meeting with the sausage creature on the other side of a mirror. Then again, there will be no sausage creature following a top-speed Chaos crash; you'll very quickly evolve into an aerosol vapor and ascend on the wind.

Finally, there's a bullet-point on the spec sheet saying "Invisible to Visible technology," which I'd hoped might be something to do with avoiding police radars. Panopoulos doesn't elaborate, but I dug up this video on the topic from Nissan's CES presentation from 2019, in which the driver wears VR goggles connected both to the car and to the metaverse, such that, for example, you can call forth a virtual anime waifu as a "driving companion" and look through floating photos together, or something. You doubtless think I'm kidding, but skip to the 2-minute mark and behold.

Weirdly enough, this is really the only part of this profoundly outrageous car that doesn't have me utterly convinced. I fail to see the point. Ain't nobody buying 3,000-horsepower cars for the free VR goggles.

Panopoulos says he's opened the order books on Chaos and taken his first sale, which he says will be delivered in early 2022. Lordy, he's not here to stuff about, this fella. If you want one, be prepared to pony up around €5.5 million ($6.4 million) for the base 2,000 hp "Earth Variant", or up to €12.4 million ($14.4 million) for the full-spec "Zero Gravity" version. Now listen, you lot, I don't want to see any of this watered-down Earthbound rubbish. If you're buying a Panopoulos, you go hard or you go home.

It's fair to say that the Chaos is a hyper-advanced and flagrantly wasteful ode to a dying technology that the world can't be rid of soon enough. Indeed, I'm very aware that a sizeable percentage of readers never made it this far down the page, and started crackin' their commentin' knuckles the second they realized there was a combustion engine involved.

Fair enough, you lot, do your worst. Let Spyros have both barrels. I can picture him leaning over an engine bay, tweaking a throttle cable and shouting "what? Sorry, speak up mate, I can't hear you over this three thousand horsepower V10!"

Personally, I want to see just how far a man who's spent his whole life at the apex of extreme performance can push a street-legal car. And I love this thing as a preview of a theoretical future where 3D printing of generatively designed shapes becomes the norm and everything from chairs to helicopters starts looking like this. I'll take one in black, but I might have to wait until it's second hand with a few miles on the clock and a weird smell in the glovebox.