bac mono

How small our ferry felt in that moment, the thrum and buzz of its little engine already filling our whole cabin. As the bigger boat passed, the two engines overdoubled. We shook and our ferry gently swayed in the wake. I knew this sensation. I’d felt it before.



I sat low in the car, nearly lying down against its carbon tub, looking over the carbon fiber steering wheel. Blue was the sky and white the concrete highway. A semi buzzed past, tall as a cruise ship. The BAC Mono was a bug on the road. Its four-cylinder naturally-aspirated Mountune engine buzzed behind me. The engine’s vibration buzzed in the bucket seat, through my racing gloves and into the heels of my palms. My head buzzed from the noise of the intake next to my ear, straight through my helmet.

I thought I’d left these harrowing experiences behind. I’d already driven the BAC Mono on Thunderhill’s west course, our track for this Performance Car of the Year test. I’d felt the Mono’s shove out of tight sweepers, its darting lightness into the track’s quick little kinks. On the front straight you look up at low pit wall from the Mono’s cockpit. A quick lap dares you so close to the wall, you could reach out and touch it. How bizarre to drive a race track in something so exposed.

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This was, as it turned out, nothing compared to driving the BAC on the road.

We turned right off the highway, quickly winding up. Up into the mountains. Up into skinny roads with trees tight to the shoulder. No shoulder. My shoulders sat as high as the guardrails. I watched my coworker Brian Silvestro ahead of me, a fast driver in a fast car, the Nissan Z Nismo. He took the upcoming curve and I felt my own steering wheel wriggle. The pavement was so uneven. So much information coming back to me through the car. I knew each wheel as it rose and fell over the ruts, inboard suspension cantilevered in the tight bodywork. Each tire spoke to me. I heard them all talking about the pavement to each other, discussing its grain, faltering grip at its surface. How happy I was to feel that first moment of understeer. The car was advising me how to lift for just a moment, to let the nose settle before I could get back on the gas.

How terrified I was, too. How abruptly my vision changed. The road blurred, and the tall manzanita bushes past its edges, too. In the fuzz I saw my whole life ahead of me. My wife. Children we did not yet have, glinting like sun in my eye. Maybe this is what lifted my right foot off the gas for that brief instant. Maybe it wasn’t the car at all. The guardrail seemed so close I could taste it, stamped metal hard as my teeth.

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And then the car settled. And then I pressed back onto the gas. And then the car pressed me back, pressed itself back, rear suspension dug a hundred feet down, a slot car, a rocket, every cliche and lie we impress upon bigger and heavier and duller vehicles.

Four individual throttle bodies barked, and I coughed. Sitting hard-mounted into the BAC, and the engine partially tied into the chassis, the vibration of the car as it passes up through the rev range is so intense that it tickles your throat into an involuntary response. Other staffers said their vision blurred, too. It’s only a particular resonance point, though. Press through it and it evens out, just like how the car stutters if you give too much throttle at too low speed.

I don’t know how many corners we had like that. Too many to count. Silvestro was flying and every local car was pulling off out of our way. I couldn’t lift my hands from the steering wheel to wave thank you. My whole life poured into those controls. My frail body was subsumed in the carbon chassis, banging up and down through the Hewland’s six sequential gears. Alone it is 1,257 pounds, the engine good for 315 horsepower, yelping through a carbon airbox. It is all-encompassing.



Could this be why people buy a car like this? To bring their past and future to the front of their mind and then push them both aside, living in the moment, turn by turn? to cloud one’s own vision of what is to come, rolling down over the eyes like the night in Venice. On that mountain road, I connected with something intangible, like a dot of light over that inky black lagoon.

When we finally found our gravel pull-out for a driver change, I didn’t want to get out. Even with the car shut off, I was vibrating, struck like a tuning fork. Out of me rung a perfect note. Out of that BAC I stepped from a perfect car.



It doesn’t make sense, in so many ways, the BAC Mono. On a track day, a retired formula car will run similar times, with similar adjustability, at a fraction of the BAC’s $383,570 price tag, and it’s no great pain to trailer something like it a few times a year.

On the road, driving the Mono is an experience you can’t share. The belts must be pulled so tight you can hardly keep a wallet in your pocket, and the front trunk, tucked under a small removable panel, doesn’t hold much more than that and your phone. How silly it feels to put your phone in that little box, and to think of needing to make a 911 call out here, in the wilderness, so exposed. What would a crash in this thing even look like? To strike a tree at an angle? How close the hand of death feels, its hand mirroring yours, tightening your Willians five-point harness.

But it’s life that feels so rich and full stepping out from this car, onto the California dirt. I walk away and a breeze comes up from the valley. The smell of eucalyptus is overwhelming. In the warm sun, I am surrounded by it entirely.