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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Smyth, Factory Five, Local Motors and the invention of the "Smyth 49% rule"

by Smyth Performance on Tuesday, March 8, 2011 at 2:41pm
In the home built aircraft world the 51% rule is the law of the land.  If you build more than 50% of a plane(51%) you can show the FAA and they will say aok to experimental home built status.  If people help you in your build from the problem...just don't let them help more than 50%.  The picture at the bottom is of one of a young Timmy in my stewart p51 mustang....amazing machine that is a classic high performance airplane design.

Smyth Performance, Factory Five Racing and Local Motors don't officially use this FAA framework since there is no federal statute covering home built cars, but we follow it in spirit whether we know it or not.  It just makes sense that if you build most of a machine yourself you should be able to call it a home built.  In the United States and many parts of the world it is still considered a basic freedom to build a car/plane/boat and then be able to use it.  In the case of our Smyth G3F though we are breaking from this philosophy a bit and going the other way.

I have often called the Smyth G3F the "ultimate tuner car".  I do this to emphasize a big difference between the Smyth business model and that of LM and FFR.  The Smyth car starts as a VW jetta and in most states will end as a VW jetta...even in those states where the title will be changed to reflect the new look and configuration...the car is still mostly Jetta under the skin so it usually insured and titled as such.

The smyth invention is the "49% rule".    By adding LESS than 50% of the content of the car project and build Smyth Performance creates a new category of kit car.  It has been done before with dune buggies and re-bodies of fieros and trucks, but never with such purpose and clear goals.  We took a four door sedan and turned it into a mid engine sports car using way more than half of the vw impossible task if you think about the fact that the white car you see on these pages here(though far from an ideal sports car design) was and remains a Jetta 4 door sedan.  I am amazed even now that the transformation came out so well.

For you the builder it translates into an easier build since the dash/wiring/steering/doors and complete front suspension  is largely where it was on the jetta...the fact that the engine/transmission assembly is moved to the rear in the G3F makes for an interesting "mid engine jetta" ,  too cool.

All of the Smyth cars in the future will follow this design path.  Future cars beyond the jetta could be based on any interesting platform...I can't take my eyes off the spec drawings for the new ecoboost f150...can you imagine a large 4 seater sports car based on the frame of an f150 or other ecoboost powered car with all that economical horsepower....remember Bob Lutz's cunningham concept...I am thinking something like that with the high horsepower ecoboost under it...titled as whatever car/truck it came from.  This philosophy will become even more apparent in the next Smyth product which will turn the jetta 4 door into a pick up truck.  Even more of the jetta will be retained and we will even keep the engine and front wheel drive.  We showed the drastic changes you can make with the G3F sports car and we will demonstrate the real value that remains in these end of life  jettas with the pick up kit.  A 40+ mpg tdi deiesel powered mini pickup to use around town hauling your active life stuff was just too cool to pass up.

4/22/11 update. Since this story was published I have been informed  that it is Dave's opinion that the f150 idea originated at we at Smyth Performance will let them follow through with wherever that takes them after the subie kit is done in the future and probably NOT do an f150  based product...just good sense for the three companies  FFR LM and Smyth to stay in nice defined product categories and keep the small overlap to a minimum.  I think the F150 based rally truck has already been executed to perfection in the LM rally fighter but I respect the option of FFR to persue this if they so choose...  mark

Well you get the idea I hope...FFR owns the full framed kit car market, LM is alone with their microfactory based "u build it here" model,  And Smyth will bring you some really unusual designs based on the "smyth 49% rule".  Remember as always that these company and product positionings are how I personally define the optimum relationships that I see in the kit businesses that i have a stake in.  Can Jay and Local Motors free to do a car based fully on the f150...sure he can.  Is brother dave at FFR free to do a diesel high mileage car or a rally car....of course.  Can Smyth Performance do a single donor mid engine vette kit using the vette chassis and transaxle...of course....but it would be a complete waste of resources and a bit too much overlap when there are so many new car designs to chase.  All words aside we each are defining our positions in the marketplace with the products we are investing in.  For Smyth I am now doing two cars that are focused mainly on the availability of the tdi engine from vw.  For FFR they are doing a full framed track car based on the subaru wrx.  LM continues to invest in the full production of the rally fighter and the crowd sourcing of new car designs.  These investments are a perfect reflection of our strategies.

Until Dave can afford to buy my half of FFR it will be a bit of a balancing act for the three companies to be sure...but one that from my vantage point continues to work really well.  Upon the completion of the sale of some or all of FFR we will have a chance to continue a nice three way synergy and customers will benefit buy having a great group of companies that serve the home built car market worldwide. Any noses that get bent out of shape or egos that start bumping into each other will quickly be straightened out with results in the marketplace.

Local Motors is structured and capitalized to potentially be the biggest of the three with some pretty impressive creative resources combined with plans for factories around the country.  FFR is poised to grow again  if Dave and I can streamline the closely held web of FFR related entities that complicates any capital raise or sale.  Smyth performance will take the jetta diesel kit to whatever volume the market will bear and continue on with the 49% rule as a far it looks good...we have sold 50 cars and we just now are finishing the first is already a 100 car a year operation and we haven't really started...not bad.

 Local Motors has lead all three companies in the digital design process as they have been the only company of the three to manufacture a fully digital set of molds and production amazing accomplishment that I hope you will see smyth performance and FFR follow later this year.  I will be bragging about my "3d design" with cool little videos of a solidworks jetta transforming into a g3f as will FFR eventually with their subaru car....but eventually we both want to be able to learn how to cut molds from the digital drawings like Local Motors did with the rally fighter.

The next note will be my thoughts on the digital design process and some early "wow" solidworks drawings to show what a modern car designer and builder I am(those who have followed my process over the last year and a half will know the messy truth about how cars are really made in concept).   It should be a good note.

What a great time to be in the car business.  Launching a 60 mpg sports car just as fuel heads toward 5 bucks a gallon....I am one lucky guy sometimes.

mark smith
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