As you might already know from the story we ran a couple of months ago, the students of ESPERA Sbarro Montbéliard school of design undertake two different automotive projects each year – one for the Mondial de l’Automobile (the Paris Auto Show), and one for the Geneva Auto Salon. For many, the latter is the serious one.
The EIGHT concept began with telecommunications giant Orange Group contacting Sbarro and asking them to show off their automotive technologies. The request came just in time for Paris Auto Salon 2012 and the project would be the then third collaboration between Orange and ESPERA Sbarro.
This is the second car that was built in the 2012 academic year in time for Paris, and prior to the EIGHT, the students worked on an all-electric concept machine called the Intencity. Naturally, for the engine-savvy students in the team, this was quite frustrating.
So when the time came to pick a direction for the second car of the year, the decision was made to create an extravagant and crazy car – essentially the complete opposite of the cute and cuddly Intencity.
Combining one of the most outlawed styles in car culture – hot rodding – and Stealth Bomber like design, the Sbarro EIGHT Concept was born.
If a ’32 Ford 3-Window Coupe mated with a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, this would be their offspring. In creating the EIGHT, the students took a break from convention, trading the curvy metal body of traditional hot rods for a very facetted and jagged design.
Built from ground up in just 40 days, the Sbarro EIGHT is the culmination of the student’s teutonic energy, and it oozes menace.
When the opportunity to power the creation with a 3.2L twin turbo Maserati V8, they jumped at it. It suited the craziness of the design concept well, putting 368 angry Italian horses to work at the rear wheels.
Seeing that Maserati trident through the bonnet vent on a hot rod does take some getting used to. A French hot rod with an Italian heart? Why not?
The engine was a present to the students from the school’s founder, Franco Sbarro, who sourced it from a wrecked Maserati 3200 GT. The car was totaled, but Sbarro decided that the engine deserved a new lease of life. When I spoke to Anthony, a teacher at ESPERA Sbarro, he told me how almost all the powertrains used in the student projects come from wrecked cars which would otherwise be disposed of. For the relatively low budget of these builds, it makes perfect sense. But to give a new purpose to these engines, that’s impossibly cool.
With the nose-end of the EIGHT concept stuffed with the intercooler, the V8 takes in fresh air through aluminum scoops underneath, of which the air filters sit on either side of the car.
It breathes out via a custom side-exit exhausts attached directly to the turbos so the sound is just pure undiluted violence, spitting copious amounts of unburnt fuel and producing flames on the overrun. With no roof or sealed windows on the EIGHT, you can hear the screaming V8 and hissing turbos clearer than ever when you gun it, rear tyres ablaze.
Fitting to the bulky shoulders of hot rods of the past, the EIGHT runs bigger OZ Racing Ultraleggera wheels at the back than at the front. They’re shod with Michelin Pilot Sports measuring 245/40ZR19 up front and Bridgestone Potenza RE050As in 305/35ZR20 sizing at the rear.
When the car was built for the Paris Auto Salon, it was running Bridgestones all around. The founder of the design school and legendary auto designer Franco Sbarro really wanted Michelins on the car as the following Geneva Auto Salon was approaching, but Michelin was unable to provide the tires that’d fit the rear wheels on such short notice, so the car retained the Bridgestone rears. These are the same tires that’d normally go on a Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano.
Like all other Sbarro concepts, underneath the EIGHT lies a tube-frame chassis to which a fibreglass skin is attached, both the chassis and the skin being made in-house.
There are then additional steel sections attached to the tube frame like this brace at the front where the suspension components are mounted, which acts like an armor to the chassis and also lends to the aggressive look of the car.Detail Work
Concept cars usually don’t need to run, but the students wanted this to be a working prototype. During the development phase, they sent their plans for the car to AVO Performance – a company specializing in custom suspension units – which made a custom unit for the EIGHT. The design school has been working with AVO for nearly a decade so they are well aware of the turnaround times for these crazy projects.
The interior though is a different story. The door panels, for instance, are made out of real wood with leather pull straps instead of conventional handles.
Like the Sbarro Grand Prix, the seats of the EIGHT are fibreglass bases covered with asymmetric hand-stitched leather padding that take the place of seat cushions.
There isn’t much isolation from the elements in the cabin, which is a concoction of fibreglass, leather and wood. The fixed side windows and windscreen are made from high strength plexiglass. Appropriately, the steering wheel is a leather-covered custom unit featuring a Magic 8 ball in the middle.
As this car was conceived as part of a technology showcase cocktail by Orange, there are mounts on the dashboard for tablets than can be used for telemetry, navigation and entertainment.
And that little black box in the middle is an induction charger for mobile devices.
The chopped look of classic hot rods has been retained, albeit in an extremely raked setup.
With each model, the students try to experiment with materials and constructions. This is the first time I have seen natural fibre reinforced plastic. Certain components on the EIGHT – such as the wing mirror casing – use linen as the base which is embedded in the resin.
One of the things I really like about the design school is how they involve not only current students working on the project, but also alumni. Composites 21 is a company founded by two former students from ESPERA Sbarro, which specializes in composite and leather work. They did all the upholstery in the interior of the EIGHT concept.
The fuel tank rests underneath a fibreglass cowl at the rear of the car and part of the casing is held together by leather straps in the same finish as the seats.
Slabs of colored plexiglass with LEDs embedded inside them act as futuristic-looking rear light clusters.
In the small gap along the sides of the nose are translucent plastic strips, underneath which are LEDs that act as headlamps.
Compared to the rest of the specification of the EIGHT, Peugeot 307 brakes are a far more ordinary addition.
When I asked about the greyhound Sbarro logo, Anthony said, “Ferrari has the prancing horse, Lamborghini has the raging bull and Bugatti has the elephant. The Sbarro greyhound symbolizes lightness, agility and speed.”
A team of 24, consisting of 20 students and four teachers, worked on the EIGHT concept. The final product is an interesting fusion of two ends of a design spectrum.
I saw the EIGHT for the first time a few years back at the Essen Motor Show where Rod and Jonathan made a note to feature it some day on Speedhunters. Unfortunately, as is with many things in a busy life, that ‘note’ somehow got lost in the pile until I dug it back up a few months back. I’m glad I did though.
What concept cars have captured your imagination? Are there any you’d like us to chase after? Once you’ve checked out the Bonus Images chapter, let us know in the comment section!