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There Was More To Building The Jehle Super Saphier Than They Thought

Xavier Jehle, of the tiny principality of Lichtenstein, was nothing if not ambitious. He wanted to produce the most powerful supercar in the world; and do it on a relative shoestring, too.

Jehle ran a small engineering workshop where he did engine tuning work for De Tomaso and also built commercial truck bodies. He felt that the logical thing to do was to merge both activities and build a car himself. Like many an engineer before, and since him he sacrificed a successful business for the dream of being a car manufacturer.

He started off building buggies but his nemesis was the Saphier, which was launched in 1990. This was, to say the least, an unusual car in that there were no doors but the whole front and top of the car could be hinged forward to give access to the two seats! There was a bewildering selection of engine choices including, at one extreme, a 75bhp VW Golf engine right up to a V12 which was claimed to be capable of a massive 1000 brake horsepower.

In between there was a double supercharged 5.8 litre De Tomaso V8 engine producing around 600 brake horsepower which was claimed to give a top speed of almost 250 mph and 0-60 in a neck jerking 3.1 seconds!

There was also choice of chassis; the more basic models were based on the Volkswagen Beetle with the engine mounted to the rear, whereas at the more powerful end a monocoque construction (in other words, a system whereby the body itself carries the engine and gearbox) with a mid-mounted engine was available.

Leaving aside the unusual wedge shape of the car, it can't have helped that he had such a variety of engines and chassis choices; it was hardly the most cost-effective way of building a car. Ultimately, and perhaps inevitably, development costs exceeded the available funds and the company folded. The Saphier's final incarnation, the Artemis, with a 6.6 litre twin turbo V12 was one final step too far; three were built but only one was recorded as being sold, to an oil rich Arab prince.

The Super Saphier was certainly a revolutionary and groundbreaking car; had Jehle been a little more focused and less ambitious it may well have succeeded. However he wasn't, and it didn't.

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