Zenos Cars gearing up on road to success

PUBLISHED: 11:40 06 June 2016 | UPDATED: 11:40 06 June 2016

Zenos Cars at  Wymondham is looking to gear up production of its hand-built E10 sports car range and introduce new models.

Zenos Cars at Wymondham is looking to gear up production of its hand-built E10 sports car range and introduce new models.

Andy Russell/Supplied

The affordable thrills of Zenos Cars’s range of high-performance, lightweight and accessible sports cars sees it preparing to move up a gear. Motoring editor Andy Russell visits its Norfolk factory.

Affordable thrills – the Zenos range

The first car is the mid-engined E10 – the E from the surname of managing director Mark Edwards, the 10 signifying the 10th programme he has worked on.

It is built around a rigid tub, made of recycled carbon fibre, and backbone, believed to be the largest single aluminium extrusion used in any road car. They are bonded together to form an immensely strong platform. All built by hand, they can be produced in right or left-hand drive.

It’s not so much a production line as a line-up of four cars in various stages of assembly. Each car takes about 120 man hours to build, and up to four weeks before it is fully finished, tested and ready for delivery, so Zenos currently produces up to 10 cars a month.

With the emphasis on low cost of ownership, the body and trim panels, made from recycled carbon fibre and glass-reinforced plastic, bolt on so are easily replaced if damaged.

“It is all about being affordable,” said Jamie Lewis, new head of sales and marketing.

Three versions of the E10 series are available, powered by Ford petrol engines, and with rear-wheel drive.

E10, from £26,995

Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, developing 200bhp at 7,200rpm and 210Nm of torque at 6,100rpm, mated to five-speed manual transmission

Performance: 0-60mph 4.5 seconds; top speed 135mph

Dry weight: 700kg

E10S, from £32,995

Engine: Turbocharged and intercooled 2.0-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost, developing 250bhp at 7,000rpm and 400Nm of torque at 2,500rpm, mated to five-speed manual transmission

Performance: 0-60mph 4.0 seconds; top speed 145mph

Dry weight: 725kg

E10R, from £39,995

Engine: Turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-litre, four-cylinder EcoBoost, developing 350bhp at 6,000rpm and 475Nm of torque at 4,000rpm, mated to six-speed manual transmission

Performance: 0-60mph 3.0 seconds; top speed 155mph

Dry weight: 700kg

Mention a Norfolk sports car-maker and people will think of Lotus but a fledgling company is making serious inroads into the fun and affordable market.

Zenos Cars, based at Wymondham Business Park not far from Hethel – home to Lotus for 50 years this year, was established in 2012 and has already sold more than 100 cars since production started in January last year.

Zenos Cars was founded in 2012 and Mark Edwards, managing director of Zenos Cars, helped start up the business at Hethel Engineering Centre, where research and development was carried out, before moving to its current site to start production.

Now it is seeking £750,000 of private investment through the Seedrs crowd-funding platform to expand further, and has achieved 22% of it within two weeks. It plans to employ eight new staff, some through an apprentice programme, raising the workforce from 22, including a team of 12 hand-building the cars, to more than 30.

Its expansion plans have been boosted by Jamie Lewis joining as head of sales and marketing. He has held senior sales and finance roles with brands including Lotus, Volvo and Aston Martin, and has international experience from working in the Middle East and dealing with multiple overseas markets.

Zenos Cars will be looking to add further customer options with finance, that will be available soon through a main lender.

And, as well as four service agents in the UK, it now has two dedicated dealerships in Edinburgh and Wilmslow, Cheshire. Customers can also collect their cars from the Wymondham factory, with two buyers recently driving them to Edinburgh and Jersey.

Operations director Matt Windle said: “We are really pleased with the progress we have made and how the products have been received by customers and motoring press alike.”

Zenos is looking to expand the model range in the future with a fixed-top coupe and open-top Spyder based on the E series platform.

Dubbed E11, following on from E10, it will be higher volume and will have European small series type approval.

“Our plan is to be building about 500 cars a year in 2020 and have 130 staff.

“We are going to need another manufacturing facility and we are going to expand the company but what we are trying to do is not to run before we can walk,” said Mr Windle, who was chief body engineer at Caterham Technology and Innovation, having been principal engineer at Tesla, and who also has experience of niche and high-volume models at Lotus Cars, Nissan, Volvo and Daewoo.

“We have done what we set out to do over the last two years so are heading in the right direction. This year is going to be a big year for us establishing the brand.”

He explained that the ethos of Zenos Cars includes accessible price and cost of ownership, and being fun to drive – affordable thrills.

It’s borne out by the E10 being designed from the inside out, with the starting point the driving seat position, so it was built around the driver.

Every Zenos built is already sold, and 50% go abroad to Europe, America, Japan and China. The youngest customer so far is 21, the eldest 74.

“We have one customer who works from home and every day he runs out of bread and milk so he has an excuse to go out in his car,” said Mr Windle.

Designed for the track – testing was carried out at Snetterton, Silverstone, Brands Hatch, Donington and Blyton Park circuits – the E10 is equally at home on the road, with some storage space and an optional roof.

Zenos Cars also organises customer road and track test days where the customer-focused management team can join the experience and get feedback.

Mr Lewis said: “They are a lifestyle choice car, a weekend car that can be driven on track as well.

“There is demand out there and it is growing day by day. We were at the London Motor Show last month and have seen our inquiries boosted since then. We are also displaying at Goodwood Festival of Speed in June.”

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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