A car that costs US $800,000 should really be a small slice of heaven, one of the world‘s very best.
Especially when that curvaceous beauty is the Maserati MC12, good for 330kph, infinitely more attractive than the Ferrari Enzo and more exclusive than a mafia wedding.
But really this is an overpriced homologation special, a legal requirement and partial funding for the racing programme. This was not the best road car in the world, simply one of the most expensive. It doesn‘t even have a rear window, but more importantly it loses out to the Ferrari Enzo in terms of pace, revs, handling, everything.
Despite costing more, the MC12 was handicapped at every stage and there seems to be an unwritten rule that, although the Enzo donated its chassis and drivetrain, this car was not allowed to compete in any way and the Ferrari had to remain the dominant road car. Driven in isolation it was still a five star car, but the MC12 was no match for its sibling in a back-to-back test. This one is. The Edo Competition Maserati MC12 R is a sharper, more refined animal, that could take the fight to the Enzo and win.
Edo Karabegovic started out as a road car engineer before taking to the track as an engineer and winning domestic Porsche Championships. The 34-year-old started Edo Competition and soon won the Tuner Grand Prix and set a 7m 15.63s lap record at the Nordschleife with a Porsche GT2. Now he takes on special projects including the MC12 R, a Lamborghini Murcielago and lots of Ferraris. You can ship your car to him and it will come back leaner, keener and faster.
The owner of this car gave him an open brief, a blank cheque and four weeks to transform the car he didn‘t even want to drive it once in standard form. Now some stuffed old shirt somewhere will now be suffering palpitations at the thought of modifying an MC12 — an automotive work of art. But this man has a fleet of cars and doesn‘t care about heritage, he wants them to work and the MC12 patently didn‘t.
“Only the doors and the windows were right, everything else was terrible,“ said Edo. “It has steel brakes because the race car required them for the rules, but for a road car like this they are ridiculous and the fixed Suspension just did not work at all.
When I drove more than 300kph the car was very nervous, it skipped all over the road,“ he said. “And of course the handling wasn‘t nearly as sharp as the Enzo.“
It has good points, like a character filled Italian cockpit, including an ornate clock that doesn‘t quite fit and stunning, leather-clad carbon-fibre race seats that are as comfortable as they are supportive. But it‘s five metres long, cumbersome round town and suffered from its racing legacy.
First to go were the brakes, replaced by an epic set of ceramic discs, 396mm on the front and 360mm on the rears. The standard callipers now sit just 3mm from the rims, but the increased stopping power was worth the tight conditions. Once on, the new brakes revealed another fatal flaw — the tyres.
The MC12 had to wear Pirellis, again due to the sponsorship deal in GT racing, but the P Zeros struggled under braking and took the car into understeer. Ferrari and Bridgestone spent millions honing that chassis to the specially created Potenza RE050 Scuderias. And once Edo had smeared a set on the MC12 R‘s 19“ wheels, the performance went through the roof.
“This was the biggest change I made to the car,“ said Edo. “Most owners would never notice it, but when you pushed the car it locked up too easily and when I changed the brakes the tyres just couldn‘t cope. The tyres changed the whole attitude of the car.
I was granted 100km of running in the MC12R, more than many of the road cars that went straight into private museums around the world have covered in their lives. In damp conditions we couldn‘t trouble the MC12 R‘s 380kph top speed, courtesy of a new speed limit and revised electronics.
The MC12 revved to just 7500rpm and boasted just 630bhp, when the Enzo powerplant clearly gives more. So the German tuning company hacked into the electronics, raised the rev counter to 8500 for a trip to Hockenheim the following day, where it decimated a Porsche Carrera GT in a Sport Auto group test. The MC12 R has the potential to go for 8900rpm for a short run that could yield 400kph — Bugatti Veyron worrying speed — but for longevity Edo normally keeps the revs to a healthier 8200. This is enough to give the MC12 R 700bhp and a significant boost on the open road.
It hits 60mph in less than 3.7secs and the acceleration on offer is near ridiculous. The needle flies round to the rev limiter and the mid-range conviction of this car now leaves other 200mph contenders trailing in its wake. Now the real battle is keeping up with the lightning-fast paddle-shift gearchanges and drinking in the intense acceleration and noise from the Maserati-badged Ferrari V12.
“The car sounded like a Nissan Primera when I picked it up from the factory,“ explained the German. “The original exhaust weighed 28kg, so I ripped it straight off and replaced it my own design, that one weighs seven kilos!“
And there‘s another neat trick on the MC12 R, too. Two buttons on the keyfob control flaps within the silencer. In town, or when the police are around, quiet mode keeps the soundtrack turned down. On the open road, though, a switch to loud made unleashes every rev and the cockpit becomes a concert hall for the V12. “The decibels might be slightly over the legal limit,“ he concedes. “But it‘s a lot of fun!“
It sure is. Blasting down the German Autobahn with the full-bore exhaust revealing every rich nuance, each layer of the engine note‘s texture, it‘s easy to see why the owner, the largest dealer of solar panels in Europe, has put 5000km on his car in the last three months. Much of it at speed.
This is one of the fastest cars on Earth, and when it closes in on its terminal velocity, the aerodynamics of the elongated MC12 body comes into effect and aerodynamic grip adds to the massive mechanical hold on the floor and all sense of the MC12‘s 1350kg disappear.
There is no inertia in corners, no movement off the prescribed line. Where the MC12 was inspiring, but ever so slightly woolly, Edo Competition‘s version cuts into corners like a white hot scalpel and the speed it will carry on even the roughest road means it can take the fight to any car on Earth. On Suzuka‘s 130R, or other high speed bends, this machine could now rip an Enzo to shreds.
It‘s no longer nervous at high, low or medium speeds, thanks to Edo‘s suspension work. As with the brakes he cannot reveal the company that supplied the fully adjustable shock absorbers, but he is convinced they have righted a dreadful wrong that was done with the original car.
Now the car handles like a dream after weeks of testing at dangerous speeds on the local roads. Comfortable and confidence inspiring this is the car Maserati would have made had it not had other agendas and after weeks of handling tests at psychotic speeds round the backroads of Germany, Edo declares himself satisfied with the handling.
Other changes include the fared-in headlights. That might sound an easy job, but Edo moulded the hot plastic directly to the bodywork and one slip or one burn would have cost him $34,000 for a replacement front section. “I had some sleepless nights before this job,“ he laughs, slightly nervously. “But it was worth it to get rid of those aerodynamic brick walls."
He wants to fit a racing rear wing, too, although he’ll have to make it as the race team supplier will not risk incurring the wrath of Maserati.
And the final touch was the livery, designed by a friend to accentuate the vents and add a touch more personality to the MC12‘s classic good looks. That‘s a matter of taste, though, it‘s what‘s under the skin that counts and the MC12 R, on every level, is a supermodel.
Michael Schumacher signed the door on this particular model as the owner is a good customer who recently confirmed his deal on an Enzo FXX, but he would have noticed how much better the Enzo was. If he comes back for another go in the MC12 R, he might just find the tables have turned.
Story by Nick Hall.