British manufacturer Ultima is something of a real oddity. In today’s world of ever more technologically advanced supercars and hypercars that are moving into the realms of electrification, Ultima has steadfastly stuck to the old-school formula of a very lightweight car with no driver aids and old-school, fully analogue powertrains. Further emphasising the old-school, Ultima offers these cars in kit form!
I’m fairly familiar with Ultima. In fact, I’ve sometimes seen an old Ultima GTR driving around on the roads in my adopted home of the Gower! You definitely know when it’s there – its racing car styling is unmistakable and it looks positively tiny even compare to other smaller, low-slung sports cars. It definitely gives me that wow factor that many other cars don’t have, in a way that only a true unicorn of the road can do.
The Ultima RS is the company’s most recent model. It’s a result of three decades’ worth of development of the same simple philosophy and simple platform. With a design language that not only is inspired by the Group C Le Mans cars of times gone by but has also barely changed since the days of the old GTR I’ve sometimes seen around, it’s very clear what this car is about. This is a thoroughbred performance machine. It’s the kind of thing that could only be constructed through good old-fashioned British engineering, at the back of an industrial estate in some quiet and nondescript town.
Quiet and nondescript is indeed what would fit the location of Ultima’s headquarters – the small market town of Hinckley in Leicestershire. Perched up in the north of Britain’s motorsport valley not too far south from Donnington Park and just a little bit west of the legendary failed experiment at bringing a US-style speedway complex to the UK that was Rockingham, you really wouldn’t expect it to be a place where some of the world’s coolest sports cars are made. But that is exactly what goes on in a small warehouse around the back of the town’s branch of Morrisons (for the unfamiliar – Morrisons is a British supermarket chain. Kinda like Wal-Mart or Costco. Probably more like Costco than Wal-Mart, though.).
Whilst it may be a tad more luxurious than previous Ultimas (Satnav and a heated windscreen are optional extras and it has some very fancy tinted glass and a heated windscreen as standard), it’s still a hardcore driving machine. ABS? Nope. Traction control? Nope. Dual-clutch gearbox? Nah. It’s three pedals or bust. The Ultima RS is for absolute track mayhem and it’s not even slightly subtle about it.
Ultima definitely hasn’t skimped out when it comes to the aerodynamics, either. There are prominent Ferrari F40-style NACA ducts on both sides of the RS, as well as an almost obligatory silly rear wing made out of carbon fibre. You’ll find splitters, vents and vortex generators absolutely everywhere on this car too. Even standing still it looks like the track weapon it’s supposed to be. You just know that it’ll corner absolutely flat and shoot up to that claimed 250 mph top speed (limited by gearing, obviously) with the greatest of ease.
Speaking of that top speed, that’s only a small glimpse of the kind of mental performance
the Ultima RS is capable of. Even the base-level 480hp LT1 engined version has a really impressive power to weight ratio, but the real crazy performance comes if you opt for the more powerful options. There’s a slightly spicier 650hp LT4 powertrain, a bonkers 800hp LT5 and an absolutely insane 1200hp upgraded LT5 that can be fitted into the Ultima RS. 1200hp with no AWD and no driver aids? That’s definitely reserved for only the bravest among us.
So, how do you go about getting an Ultima RS and how much does it cost? Well, as I’ve already mentioned, Ultima primarily sells their cars in kit form. Whilst this is a bit of a pain for the vast majority of car customers who would rather have their cars well, you know, built for them, this does mean it’s not as expensive as you might think. Ultima claims that doing a self-build of an RS could cost “around the same ballpark price as a mundane new BMW M3”. Whilst that is incredible value for money in terms of what you’re getting, it does involve a lot of legwork on the customer end.
So why even buy something like the Ultima RS in the first place? Well, it’s something very different. There are barely any cars around that offer a similar kind of experience that the Ultima RS does and the number of cars like that will diminish even more in number due to the march towards electrification. The Ultima RS is a massive anachronism. Nobody is going to argue about that. But it’s an absolutely awesome anachronism.
Such awesome anachronisms are genuinely captivating pieces of machinery. Just as I’ve been wowed by seeing the Ultima GTR flying around the roads near where I live, I’m sure many other petrolheads will see an Ultima RS fly past on a British country lane and think two things. The first of those things will be “what the hell was that?” and the second will be “I’d absolutely love one of those!”
Perhaps more importantly though, the Ultima RS looks timeless. Its old-school racing car style styling hasn’t really aged. It still looks monstrous and imposing on the road today. That’s something you can’t say about a lot of cars, regardless of what era they’ve come from or what era they were inspired by. It’s one of those designs that, even when electrification is fully upon us and Ultima will likely have to play ball and adapt, will still look effortlessly cool.