While mainstream exoticar makers (now there's an oxymoron!) like Lamborghini are just now starting to get serious about lightweight construction methods, Mosler has been quietly building featherweight monsters crafted from carbon fiber and Kevlar for years. This kind of cutting-edge engineering isn't what you'd normally expect from a tiny, low-volume manufacturer from Florida, but it's the result of founder Warren Mosler's clear mission: to build amazing cars, not to sell them. Mosler doesn't seem to care if people buy his cars. "I want to do something great because I can," he says. "If we sell some, great. There will be some happy owners." And during a recent visit to Palm Beach International Raceway, Mosler Automotive made sure there was at least one happy journalist.
Director of engineering J. Todd Wagner surprised us by showing up and handing over the keys to a $394,500 Photon. At the time, we knew basically nothing about the car. As we were strapping ourselves in, every eye in the paddock was on the orange thing with the exhaust note so violent it could set off air-raid alarms. Wagner yelled over the exhaust, rattling off a ludicrous horsepower number (550), that ridiculous curb weight, and explaining that the Photon -- which has a custom Hewland sequential-manual racing gearbox -- uses a flywheel with about as much rotational inertia as a spinning, dying housefly. It'll stall if you look at it sideways. No pressure.
Having never once been around PBIR's track, and not even knowing if the Photon had antilock brakes (it doesn't, we would learn), we begged for a pace car. When a volunteer stepped forward, he hopped into his track-prepped Porsche 911 GT3 on slicks. When we were told that he was the local Porsche club's fastest instructor, we asked him to take it easy.