A purpose-built vehicle with virtually no restrictions on design, power, or materials is definitely a vehicle for the upper echelon, and for those that have ample amounts of money to spare, a purpose-built track day weapon is one of the ultimate purchases to be made. Some vehicles, such as the Ariel Atom, BAC Mono, and KTM X-Bow range anywhere from $80,000 to over $200,000, but have relatively high maintenance costs due to the complexity of the vehicle.
Shinoo Mapleton, president and CEO of Sector 111, has been working in the automotive industry since 1985. He got his feet wet with engineering in the Pontiac Fiero assembly plant, which immediately ignited his passion for mid-engine vehicles. In 2003, he bought his first Lotus Elise as soon as they were available in the United States. Mapleton was intrigued that nobody was making performance parts for the already light, zippy, nimble little cars, and since he had an engineering degree from GMI, decided to take matters into his own hands by founding Sector 111.
He first produced oil pans designed to reduce oil starvation in high g-force corners, racing-inspired clamshells to cut weight, etc. It wasn’t until 2007 when he bought his first Ariel Atom and was immediately hooked on the petite tubular car. It was significantly different than the Lotus Elise, which had body panels, doors, and minimal creature comforts. As Mapleton was taken by the Atom’s straight-to-the-point performance and its minimalist construction, he became the official California distributor for the highly-desirable tube-chassis road-legal race cars. To this day, Sector 111 sells Atoms, and they have no plans to stop anytime soon.
In 2011, the team over at BAC showed off their vision of what the ideal track day car should be. The BAC Mono is virtually a Formula 1 car for the streets. It has a recumbent seating position, F-22-inspired design influence, inboard cantilever-style suspension, and a 2.3-liter Cosworth-built four-cylinder engine good for 280 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque. With a price tag of $200,000, it’s not the most practical track day weapon, but if the money is there, they are an absolute blast. Sector 111 is an official distributor of the BAC Mono as well, and further demonstrates Mapleton’s determination to bring more lightweight purist cars to the United States.
Being a performance part manufacturer for Lotus vehicles, Sector 111 quickly became the go-to company for lightweight performance vehicle enthusiasts around the world. Still, Mapleton knew there was room in the high-performance lightweight market for a unique American-designed vehicle. Enter the Drakan Spyder, a vehicle that isn’t only American-designed, but it is also powered by an American engine, and built right here in the states.
Mapleton wanted to design and produce a vehicle with influence from the Atom and Mono, but also compete with them, provide drivability, and be more affordable to maintain. Having known Dennis Palatov of Palatov Motorsport for more than 10 years, Mapleton knew he had the same love for lightweight purist cars, and the decision to collaborate was mutual.
In the short span of two years, the Drakan Spyder went from just a rendering to delivery. Weighing in at 2,000 pounds, the chromoly chassis was designed in collaboration with Dennis Palatov, and it was designed specifically to accommodate a 50-state emissions-compliant GM E-Rod LS3 and Getrag G96 manual Porsche transaxle. Unlike the Ariel Atom, the Drakan Spyder has body panels to cover the intricate tube chassis. However, there are still parts of the car that allow gratuitous peeks at its awesome engineering.
“The ethos of this car is creating an elemental, pure driving experience with an engine that meets U.S. emmissions, and it just so happens that we found a V8 that meets those emission standards,” Mapleton explained.
For example, the rear of the car is completely open to the elements. The transaxle and shift linkage can be seen in action (if you are driving behind it), and the triple-bypass Fox shocks can be seen through the panel covering the nose of the car. There’s just something about driving an open-wheeled car and seeing the wheels articulate every time the car hits a bump or takes a turn. And, the fact that the car has no sound system or roof over the cockpit just makes the mental connection with the road that much greater. Indeed, driving around in the Drakan Spyder was complete nirvana.
Speaking of a connection with the road, the Drakan Spyder definitely has one, and a good one at that. The Fox triple-adjustable coilovers have a progressive spring rate, meaning that the spring stiffens the more it compresses. This setup makes for a more than comfortable ride on the street. Although the car has no power steering, it isn’t too grueling to maneuver due to its light weight and size. There will also be a “race” version of the car that will utilize front and rear wings for added downforce, and ultimately more grip at higher speeds. The hopped-up version will also include more weight savings and a much more aggressive exhaust.
We designed this car to be very reliable; and to not cost an arm and a leg to run. – Shinoo Mapleton, Sector 111
Even though we didn’t get to take the Drakan Spyder out on a racetrack, Mapleton hit a few corners with a generous amount of speed to show how stable it is. With virtually no body roll, it took corners without even breaking a sweat. The double-wishbone, inboard suspension setup contributes to the extra stability and the ability to not run sway bars. The specially-designed bellcranks also add to the stability of the vehicle. And, for those wondering, the Drakan’s center of gravity is very low; 13 inches to be exact!
What we like the most would have to be all of the parts used to construct it. Everything can be easily sourced right here in the United States. The brakes are Wilwood forged billet four-piston calipers front and rear with GiroDisc rotors at all four corners, the gauge cluster is an AiM data-logging unit with configurable screens that can have additional sensors programmed into it, and the wheels are a custom design from HRE, which are actually quite interesting. Mapleton didn’t want just any design, so he came up with a mismatched spoke count idea that works really well, and is almost un-noticeable until you catch yourself asking, “do the front wheels match the rears?”
Toyo‘s praised Proxes 888s. On the 17 x 8-inch front wheels, the tires are modest 235/40ZR17, but on the rear 18 x 10.5-inch wheels, 315/30ZR18 claw at the pavement.Sector 111 wraps the custom HRE wheels with
“We designed this car to be very reliable; and to not cost an arm and a leg to run,” Mapleton stated. “You don’t need all these crazy spare parts. We did not design a pure race car; what we designed was a gentlemen’s race car. So, an enthusiast who wants to have fun driving on the street, going through the canyons, driving it to the track, and running a few laps, then drive it home, can do just that.”
Hella LED taillights, LED turn signals front and rear, and bi-xenon projectors. The look really fits the car in this case. Another cool detail is the panel on the dash with all of the switchgear; it illuminates at night, propelling the modern feel.We love little details, and the Drakan Spyder is chocked full of them. When Mapleton was designing the headlight and taillight housings, he wanted them to have an industrial, modern, tactical look. Tactical flashlights were one of his inspirations and it worked out for the better. The housings are machined out of billet and utilize
Don’t be fooled by the bomber-style seats. They look uncomfortable, but really aren’t at all, even strapped down with the Schroth six-point harness. The interior is straight to the point and ergonomic; no air conditioning, radio, power steering, or driver aids such as ABS, stability control, or traction control. A pure, connected driving experience is what you will feel behind the wheel of the Drakan Spyder.
Another idea that really excites Mapleton and his team are different body styles. The Drakan Spyder’s chassis is modular, meaning that it will accept other bodies. As an open-wheeled vehicle, it’s also not the most efficient aerodynamically, and changing up the body panels on the same chassis could drastically improve efficiency. This would also provide the opportunity to market the same car to subjective audiences. Sector 111 reports it is currently looking into different body designs for the car, so keep a look out for those in the future.
“For most people, it’s better to learn the car without downforce, because then you understand the car with mechanical grip. Once you put wings on the car, you get more grip at higher speeds. The problem is that you start going faster and faster, and if you lose any of that aero, you lose grip, which means if you don’t know how to manage a car with mechanical grip, you might lose control of the car completely,” Mapleton explained.
When we saw the car for the first time outside of Sector 111’s shop, we couldn’t figure out a better way to describe it other than “perfectly alien.” Just think about it; there really is no other limited-production vehicle like it on the road. Everywhere we took the car, bystanders broke their necks to see what had just driven by. The burble of the LS3 coming from a car that looks this extreme was probably confusing as well.
We drove it through Old Town Temecula, California, and had an overwhelming response. People were curious, asking: “What is that?” “Does it have a V8?” “Is it yours?” The Drakan Spyder is anything but normal, and in no way does it resemble any other car on the road. We just want to hit the track with it and wring it out to see what it is like at its limit.
Although there are only 10 Drakan Spyders to be produced for the 2015 model year, Sector 111 has plans to produce more, and an even more hardcore version of the car, as well. Definitely stay on the lookout for some really cool stuff coming from Sector 111 in the near future!
To learn more about the Drakan Spyder and its development, you can check out Sector 111’s Tasty Innovations blog.