Five Questions: Jeff Lemke from Falcon Motorsports
Since the dawn of time there has always been a quest for speed and power. It has pitted automakers against each other for decades of a never-ending game of one-upmanship only to give the public a constant wave of halo cars that will forever more be bench raced by those who cannot afford these supercars.
So what constitutes a supercar? You want to first discuss pavement-melting power, although power alone does not make a supercar. You want to compare that power to the car’s weight; thanks to modern materials, most modern-day supercars are hundreds of pounds lighter than even the last decade’s contributions to this automotive category.
What about handling and track performance? With today’s access to anything this side of a one-year-old F1 chassis, again the technology melting pot is as wide as the pockets are deep. That’s not always the recipe to success, though – you need to have all the parts and pieces in place to have it not only perform like a race car, but be docile enough to take your better half to dinner on the town.
Enter the Falcon F7. Born from the minds of America’s Motor City, I sat down with Falcon Motorsports CEO Jeff Lemke and climbed into the mind behind one of the most intriguing supercars I’ve ever seen.
LSX TV: Jeff, what is the story behind the design and the company, Falcon Motorsports?
Jeff Lemke: “The origin behind Falcon Motorsports would start with a background of manufacturing aftermarket parts for cars like the Dodge Viper, the Plymouth Prowler, Corvette, and cars of that nature. The Falcon F7 came about from what we felt was a void in the category of a racecar-inspired supercar platforms that were built and designed on American soil. There wasn’t really a car in that space anymore, so we wanted to fill that gap.”
LSX: Let’s talk mechanics – what powerplant are you using, and what’s the chassis layout?
Lemke: “The drivetrain is based on an LS7 Corvette motor. It’s been enhanced with a cam and a special intake manifold. The transaxle is a Ricardo, which is the same transaxle that was used in the last Ford GT. The chassis and suspension is based off of a racecar and it’s all solid billet suspension components. The control arms and uprights are specific for this car. The monocoque aluminum chassis is also designed specifically for this car and it uses a balsa wood sandwiched-composite floor pan and other structural elements mostly with Kevlar and carbon fiber, as well.”
LSX: The rear suspension design is very interesting – what’s the inspiration for that?
Lemke: “What it’s based on is a pushrod suspension, which a lot of the high-end exotic cars are going to lately. If you look at the new Lamborghini Aventador and Ferrari 599, they will utilize a pushrod suspension, which gets the weight off of the un-sprung section of the wheel and puts it somewhere else on the chassis. It uses the rod to keep that un-sprung weight as little as possible.”
LSX: There are several design cues on the car that seem to work from front to back. Is there a theme or basis for the exterior look?
Lemke: “The theme is a retro design. It was never meant to be a car that was taking design to a new level or something completely different. It’s very old school. It’s a culmination of all of my favorite cars of all time. There’s a lot of Ferrari 288 GTO and there’s a lot of Viper, Ford GT and Corvette. You know, people see a lot of different cars in that design and I think those familiar elements are what attract people to it.”
LSX: What would you say to the person, or the critic better still, who would call it a “Kit Car”?
Lemke: “Well, everybody has their own definition of what they think a “kit car” is, and this particular car has so few components that are borrowed from other vehicles – it’s very much manufactured Falcon-specific. All the control arms are Falcon-specific. The chassis is Falcon-specific. [In the chassis] the roll cage and the body panels are the only thing that it utilizes from other vehicles. The LS-based powerplant and some small items like hinges and spindles do come from major car manufacturers. As far as it being a “kit” of any sort, it’s nothing that anybody could ever build in his or her garage as a “kit.” I mean [laughing] you’d have to know what you’re doing… this is a hand-built car the old school way, the grass roots type, and maybe people would refer to that as a “kit car” now. But you take a car like the first Dodge Vipers that were manufactured one by one, and people would never refer to those early Vipers as “kit cars.” Again, I suppose it’s determined on what your definition of a kit car is. The Falcon F7 is not anything, like I said, you can build yourself.”
LSX: What is the next step for Falcon Motorsports and getting this car into the public eye beyond the dramatic unveil at this year’s NAIAS?
Lemke: “The car is already in the public’s hands and it’s great to see production units in their garages. Our next hurdle as a car company is building confidence and holding out and sticking around for a while. Getting out on the track, win some races, and prove our quality. The appeal is already there. That’s not a problem, it’s just getting our footing as a company that’s going to be around for awhile.”
LSX: Do you have “official” performance numbers for the F7 yet?
Lemke: “In regards to performance with the F7, most of the performance testing was done at Mid-Ohio. We hired a professional driver to flog the F7 and we recorded times of 3.3 seconds from 0-60. Though we didn’t officially put the car over 200 MPH, the driver felt that it wouldn’t have a problem based on gearing, power and aero. He didn’t think it was going to be a problem, but we haven’t officially done that yet. The bottom line is the F7 is very light and nimble and the power to weight ratio is really intense; as you know, that is the true mathematics of power and speed.”
With that, I stood back and gazed at the Falcon F7 in all its glory as Jeff lit the fire in the LS mill and the thunder of exhaust and churn of mechanical music filled the space around me. It did not hit me until a couple of weeks later as I called Jeff to fact check a couple of things in this story, and he asked me, “Why didn’t you ask to drive it?” I thought to myself, “what was going through my mind at the time?” I’m sure I thought there would be no chance to slide behind the wheel of this automotive work of art… Jeff then said “I would have let you drive it no problem at all” and with that, this journalist remembered that if you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no.”
Next time Jeff, next time.
Editor’s note: Yes, we know that’s actually six questions. Consider it a bonus… – PH