Keith Adams tells the story of 1981’s most amazing motor show car of them all – the six-wheeled Wolfrace Sonic supercar concept. Who would have thought that selling alloy wheels could be so sexy?
The Sonic was the brainchild of the alloy wheel manufacturer, Wolfrace. The company’s boss, Barry Tracey, wanted to create an eye-catching concept car to showcase its new range of Sonic alloys – you might recognise the ‘pepper pot’ style, which was used in the Ford Fiesta XR2, Capri 2.8 Injection, and MG Metro 1300. It approached famed hot-rodder Nick Butler‘s Auto Imagination to come up with the car – and boy, did he create something rather special.
Butler’s background was in engineering, having trained at Hawker Siddeley at Dunsfold and Kingston. He cut his teeth on the incredible Harrier Jump Jets and Hawk aeroplanes, working on stress analysis and flight testing. In 1976, he left to follow his passion for special cars, setting up Auto Imagination.
Nick Butler’s amazing creation.
His closest brush with series production was with the 1980s Gold Cirrus – a sort of latter-day Rover V8-powered AC 3000ME, but with decent handling.
The Wolfrace Sonic was an amazing car. Powered by a pair of Rover V8s, controlled by a clever drive-by-wire system, the two seater was certainly blessed with plenty of potential performance. Underneath the Batmobile-style looks, there was a spaceframe chassis, with rear-wheel drive through a Jaguar rear axle and differential. But for most people, the main talking point was the six-wheel configuration similar to the 1977 Panther 6.
Autocar magazine featured the car in 1981, and it made regular appearances on the motor show circuit for a couple of years before disappearing out of view.
It was seen again in 2010, when the original car (two were eventually built) went up for sale for a cool £1 million…
Sold in 2015 for rather less money
In March 2015, Sonic was sold on eBay for a rather less astonishing £18,100. According to Wolfrace, the car was a no-holds-barred big budget project made for around £100,000. It was sold to a private collector by Wolfrace in the 1990s and went on to feature in the opening of the British Grand Prix. It was even sprayed red for a feature in Playboy magazine.
When it was sold in 2015, it was because the then-owner could not keep up with the inevitable maintenance of such a complex vehicle. Sadly, the car had been in storage since around 2005, and had declined into a state of disrepair, needing a full restoration to get it back to its former glory.
We’re still waiting to see if the Sonic will make a return to public life…