June 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Soup it up: Lucra Cars' motto is street legal ... barely

Calif. company's $100K roadster packages heavy-duty power in a lightweight body

Lucra Cars' LC470 is built for the race track, but can be used for the daily commute. (Larry Edsall / Special to The Detroit News)

With a British father and an American mother, and spending most of his childhood in England before coming to the United States for high school, Luke Richards learned to appreciate both the deft handling of small European sports cars and the awesome power of the American V8.

“My dad said you can’t have both,” Richards recalled. “It’s one or the other. Fast in the straightway or fast on the curves. And that battle always intrigued me.”

Turns out, father didn’t know best. Richards would become so intrigued by the battle that he started his own car company with a goal of producing a car that’s light, nimble and blisteringly fast. That car is the Lucra LC470, now being joined by a second model, the L148.

As a youngster, Richards built and raced remote-controlled, gas-powered scale-model cars which, he says, “were very accurate replicas of real cars. Much of the information I used now on aerodynamics or suspension, I refer back to the days of testing those things.”

For example, he said, you could take the same chassis, tweak the suspension, make changes to the bodywork and have a car with very different performance parameters.

“As a kid, you start analyzing why,” he said of his early exploration of things such as tires, gearing, aerodynamics and weight distribution. “It was a huge head start.”

But Richards didn’t set out on a career as an automotive engineer, let alone an automaker. He was a commercial pilot, primarily flying private charters, until one day when he realized, “I needed to figure out how to be the guy in the back of the plane, not the guy in the front.”

He worked for a while in an exotic car dealership in southern California, but was convinced he could create something better for his customers, “a car with the weight of the Lotus and the power of a Corvette.”

Using aerospace-grade components and manufacturing techniques and off-the-shelf automotive parts, such as 600-plus horsepower “crate” versions of Corvette or Mercedes-Benz AMG powertrains, Lucra Cars LLC, based in Los Angeles with manufacturing in San Marcos, Calif., sells its LC470 for around $100,000.

The car is a two-seat roadster with its V8 engine “front-mid” mounted, behind the front axle and just ahead of the occupants.

The car weighs only 2,000 pounds, with 58 percent of its mass biased to the rear for more confident handling at speed. Lucra says the car can sprint to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds and will turn a quarter-mile in 10.1 (or less).

“Street legal … but just barely” is the Lucra Cars motto.

Richards, who personally track tests every vehicle before handing the keys to the buyer, said the LC470 is designed for the driver who wants a track-day car that also can be used for daily driving.

For example, the leather seating surfaces can be unsnapped from their underlying structure and removed when the car is being driven at the track, and then replaced for the drive back home.

While the LC470 is designed with the race track in mind, the new L148 is a larger car — 80 inches wide vs. 68 for the 470 — still with outstanding performance, but built with more creature comforts for the road, for example, it comes with power windows and efficient air conditioning.

“I didn’t want to replace the 470,” Richards said. “The cars are designed for different jobs. I want a guy to say ‘I need both.’ ”

For more information, visit the www.lucracars.com website.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.