“Moreover, the beast is pretty wide. Your ego works overtime on the outward view, all sculpted Can Am-style wheel arches, but then suffers a massive crash with the rending sound of glassfibre graunching pavement.
“At least you can be comforted that it’s relatively easy to drive, docile and tractable, and the noise! Never before has a humble Renault V6 sounded so like a burbling Chevy V8. It’s muscle without the tears.”
Perhaps more of a challenge than threading through narrow streets was keeping away public attention. The effect on passers-by was apparently “something akin to Samantha Fox removing her dress in an army base”.
On our fifth try, we finally got the Ultima parked in front of the Empire cinema with police permission, only for “what seemed like half the world to descend upon it”, half of them drunk and all of them desperate to have their photograph taken with it – even if only one reveller didn’t need telling exactly what the Ultima actually was.
“Forget your Ferraris, Porsches and Panther Sixes,” we enthused, “this beats the lot in pure, unadultered pose value.”
Okay, enough of that; time to test the thing where it belonged. So the next day we took to the country, and there the Ultima revealed itself to “handle and drive like the racing car its outward appearance suggests”.
“Tractability is excellent, the car simple and easy to conduct. The fascia may be less than ergonomically perfect, but everything is there, and the driving position is sensational, as you lie prone, racing car-style, with near-straight legs and arms.
“The handling of this all-round independently suspended beast is superb. For sure, there’s a little bump-steer, but the roadholding limits go far beyond the bounds of my bravery.
“The gearchange takes some getting used to, with an imprecise gate for the Renault five-speeder, but it’s slick once you get used to it, while the steering is suitably precise, if slightly too light, likewise the clutch, all of which aid day-to-day driving.”
The 2.6-litre six-cylinder engine had been modified only slightly by Noble, with just a peaky pair of cams and three double-choke Dellorto carburettors to boost its power output to 168bhp. However, the car weighed only around 740kg, so it recorded some “incredible” performance figures at our MIRA test track: 0-60mph in 6.5sec in the rain.
We continued: “The 30-50mph and 50-70mph in-gear acceleration times were faster than the Audi Sport Quattro we tested last year and very close to the Lamborghini Countach Quattrovalvole times as well.