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Silver Bullet

An Australian-built supercar to upset Ferraris, Lambos and Porsches!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Australian-built supercar
  • Space-frame chassis
  • Kevlar/carbon fibre panels
  • Adjustable suspension
  • 1UZ-FE V8 engine - atmo or supercharged
  • An awesome driver's car!
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This article was first published in 2006.

"Supercar" is a word that’s thrown around willy-nilly these days. But here’s a machine that lives up to the name – the Bullet Roadster SS. You’re looking at a lightweight space-frame platform stuffed with the immense muscle of a supercharged Lexus V8. And, yes, it’s fully ADR approved and ready to be kick Lambo butt!

The Bullet story began in the late ‘90s when the original manufacturer produced a turbo rotary powered version of the little convertible and, later, a Lexus V8 version. The outfit was then purchased by Perth-based company AEC and, with further investment, the Bullet gained ADR approval for low volume compliance. It was no longer classified as an individually constructed vehicle. Most recently, Bullet Cars has been purchased by Steve Marriott and Tom Rabold – and that’s where we’re at today.

So let’s get into the nitty-gritty detail of the Bullet.

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After looking at our photos you’ve probably recognised some Mazda MX-5 in the appearance of the Bullet. Certainly, there are some MX-5 genes but it’s important to realise this isn’t a MX-5 based vehicle – the space-frame chassis and custom suspension provide a longer wheelbase and wider track compared to the MX-5. It’s a long way from a Mazda.

The space-frame chassis (which was engineered by AEC) is designed to handle the high torque output of a supercharged V8 engine and provide the stiffest possible platform for suspension mounting. Tom Rabold from Bullet Cars says the chassis gives almost double the rigidity required for ADRs.

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Hung from the front of the frame are built-from-scratch MacPherson struts teamed with Prosport adjustable coil-overs and a swaybar. Castor, camber and toe are all fully adjustable. At the rear you’ll find double wishbones (which are derived from MX-5 items), adjustable coil-overs, low-compliance bushes and an adjustable swaybar.

The Bullet’s space-frame is combined with the ‘tub’ section of a MX-5. This provides door hanging facilities, pedals, dashboard and ensures there’s enough space to incorporate a functional folding soft-top. So, by necessity, the use of a MX-5 tub influences styling.

But the performance is utterly different to a MX-5!

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The road-going version of the Bullet is available in two guises – the naturally aspirated V8 Roadster and the supercharged SS version. The NA version puts out 220kW while the supercharged SS scares Ferraris with 320kW.

Interestingly, Bullet Cars source good second-hand Toyota/Lexus 4-litre quad-cam, 32-valve V8s and comprehensively rebuild them to their specifications. The engine is a brilliant design from factory so there’s not a lot of modification needed – just new pistons (providing a different compression ratio), altered cam profiles, custom sump and an Autronic engine management system (which employs closed-loop fuelling to meet emissions requirements). C-N-J Motorsport in Brisbane has played a considerable part in all matters related to the Autronic system. Engine cooling is taken care of by an AU Ford Falcon aluminium radiator and a 16 inch thermo fan.

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The supercharged SS Bullet boasts a Sprintex S90 positive displacement supercharger which is mounted on a custom manifold. Maximum boost pressure is 10 psi. Tom says there isn’t enough under-bonnet clearance to fit a water-to-air intercooler but an extra fuel injector provides some useful charge-air cooling. The extra injector is mounted before the entry to the supercharger and is triggered by engine load.

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As seen here, the supercharged Bullet employs dual throttle bodies which are opened sequentially. According to Tom, the sequential opening makes the car much smoother and more forgiving to drive. The blown V8 breathes through a twin 2 ½ inch stainless exhaust while the less powerful NA version uses a twin 2 ¼ incher. The rear muffler is specially manufactured by Lukey to ensure legal noise output and a sexy note.

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Manual or automatic transmissions are available. The manual version employs a Toyota five-speed ‘box with a single-plate heavy-duty clutch while the auto version uses an upgraded Lexus four-speed trannie featuring a programmable control unit from the States. Both versions channel drive to a Hydratrac LSD – perfect for high-torque applications.

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With a V8 donk crammed into its nose you may be wondering how much this machine weighs. Well, the answer is around 1220kg (depending on engine spec and driveline choice) so you’re talking one hell of an impressive power-to-weight ratio. According to Tom, the best official quarter mile time is a 12.6 seconds – achieved by an automatic version!

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The Bullet’s 12 second quarter mile performance is certainly in the field of supercars – and so are its brakes. The Supercharged SS stops in its tracks thanks to 330mm ventilated front discs with Brembo four-pot calipers while the atmo version employs slightly smaller discs with four-potters. Rear brakes on both cars are 276mm discs with single pot RX-7 calipers. ABS is not fitted.

Steering is direct and well weighted using a combination of Mazda parts. An MX-5 steering column and shaft are joined to a RX-7 rack which is equipped with a power assistance system. Interestingly, Bullet Cars can vary the amount of steering assistance to suit each buyer.

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Inside, it’s all familiar MX-5 - but with a few extras. The entire cabin is trimmed in high-quality leather (in the buyer’s choice of colour), and a Bullet instrument cluster (which includes a 300 km/h speedo) and a tailored audio system are installed. Alpine is generally the audio system of choice.

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Obviously, the use of a MX-5 tub means the Bullet has a Mazda-like appearance – but a Mazda that’s overdosed on steroids! The all-new Kevlar/carbon fibre panels incorporate wheel arch flares, an aero panel behind the polished roll-over bars, skirts, a low-reaching rear bar, taillight mask, and a bonnet-scoop incorporated into the one-piece tilt nose. The one-piece flip-front nose is primarily a ‘feel good’ feature but it also gives access to much of the engine, chassis and front suspension. The supercharged SS comes with a high-quality canvas roof material (similar to that used in BMWs) while the atmo version gets a vinyl roof like that found in the MX-5. Wheels are 18 inch on the blown version and 17 inch on the atmo car.

So what’s the Bullet like to drive?

Well, unfortunately, we can’t say anything from personal experience... but we can tell you that everyone who’s ever tillered one says it lives up to its name! The supercharged V8 is ultra throttle responsive and has tremendous torque at all revs – more than enough to fling the lightweight soft-top at the horizon with hero-car performance. The car has also been thrown around several racetracks by a variety of drivers (including some notable V8 supercar drivers) and there have been plenty of hours invested in the chassis tune. Tom says the Bullet is set-up to provide maximum fun. The chassis is responsive and there’s plenty of on-demand power oversteer – a handling characteristic that’s largely driven by buyer demand.

So now onto the question that’s been in your mind since first laying eyes on the car. What’s she worth?

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Well, if you’re content to drive the naturally aspirated Bullet you’ll pay AUD$98,000 but if you want the supercharged SS you’ll need to bite the you-know-what and produce a cool AUD$118,000. Obviously, it’s not a car that the average performance enthusiast can afford – but isn’t that always the case when talking true supercars?

At present, the company is manufacturing four of five Bullets annually with each example taking around 1500 hours of labour. Tom is happy for sales to continue to tick over at this rate given the company is also taking on some other project vehicles and is successfully selling supercharger kits for the Toyota/Lexus V8. Oh, and the team is also developing an updated Bullet that will add under-car aerodynamics, front wishbone suspension, a longer wheelbase and, yes, more power.

Hmmm, maybe it’s time to create a new category of performance cars...

Contacts:

Bullet Cars
+61 7 3382 0018
www.bulletcars.com

C-N-J Motorsport
+617 3290 3966
www.cnjmotorsport.com.au

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