Moving Machinges: High Performance Art

<< Back to Robb Report, August 2002
  • Sheila J. Gibson

The offerings of brand-name exotic carmakers disappoint Xeno III designer Nick Pugh. To be precise, he dislikes the notion of creating a fantastic exotic only to build and sell hundreds or even thousands of copies of that same car. A genuinely exotic car, he asserts, should not be a one-size-fits-all machine. Rather, it should be completely custom-designed for its owner. In fact, Pugh envisions a world wherein those with sufficient means commission master designers to craft vehicles that are entirely bespoke, from the width of the grille to the shape of the taillights, from the style of the hood ornament to the type of fuel the car consumes. People commission architects to build homes expressly for them, Pugh reasons, so why not do the same with cars?  

In the quest to realize his vision, Pugh spurned job offers from various automotive design departments over the last decade, toiling instead over what would eventually become the Xeno III. He built the Xeno III to reflect his own personality and to please only himself. The car is specifically scaled to fit his 6-foot frame, and its Go Kart–like chassis is painted from bumper to bumper in self-indulgent shades of gold—a whim of Pugh’s that defies explanation. His decision to place a 500-hp engine in a street-legal vehicle that runs on ultralow-emission natural gas, however, very definitely reveals his delight in paradoxes. The car as a whole embodies his fanatical obsession with making everything as aesthetically pleasing and perfect as possible. Jerry Forster, who was general manager of the SO-CAL Speed Shop garage in Pomona, Calif., during the assembly of the Xeno III, said of the project, “No car I’ve ever heard of has demanded this kind of attention. Nick wants us to handmake body attachment clamps you could hang in the Getty.”  

Firm performance stats are harder to nail down, but the few who have had the privilege of driving it agree that it is an exhilirating ride. Mark Christensen, a journalist and longtime sponsor of the project, says the car “makes the Lamborghini Diablo look like a Chevy Impala.” While the Xeno III is available for purchase (for $1 million), it has also served to promote Pugh’s personal concept car design and building services, which carry a minimum price tag of $1 million. He’s involved in serious discussions with a number of clients, including one who is interested in creating a machine that is part sports car, part limousine. Given Pugh’s demonstrated preference for paradoxes, such a design shouldn’t be a problem.   

Nick Pugh, 562.433.4487, www.nickpugh.com

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