The Filipino Dream : Three Cars and A Man

Filipinos love their wheels.

We have a large community of car enthusiasts, ranging from your regular daily driving sedan, to vans, to sports cars and even very expensive luxury sportscars, exotics and supercars. These cars come from all sorts of places, mostly from Japan, Germany, Britain and America. There are car clubs, both legit and not (pun intended), various publications online like Time Attack Manila, James Deakin and hell, we even have a local Top Gear. We have racing events – drag racing, autocross, slalom, road circuit, rallying…the only thing we do not have here is snow, and a car that’s thoroughly home grown (at least posited to be) here in the Philippines.

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Car meets? We got lots of those. This was from the last night that the Sushi Run was able to gather at Petron Westgate.

While making and building cars is not our national past time, and no nationalized industrial backing is available (unless you want to count the assembly lines here) it hasn’t stopped the average Pinoy from squeezing the most enjoyment out of his vehicle, and we Filipinos love throwing around the word “modified” whenever we talk about our rides. If we put a cold air intake on the engine, we will introduce the car to friends as “Pare, modified na auto ko.” (1) I guess this satisfies an inner want within us to “completely own” the car that we drive. We have lots of shops catering to people who want spoilers, skirts, chins, airbag systems that drop and raise our cars, and given the very Filipino trait of tinkering with stuff to make it work, someone will be crazy enough to do it. We have people here who turn their formerly boring commuter cars into road race cars, rally cars, rock crawlers…the more moneyed can even have replicas of historic cars made, with companies like Rapid 7 who specialize in a Locost kit for the legendary Lotus 7.

A Rapid 7 kit car

Then we have people who flip out totally, and “build” their “own” car. Today, I’m talking about a car that’s been making its rounds locally and internationally (online) – the Aurelio.

Aurelio

Aurelio

Meet Aurelio, a car made in the Philippines that is currently being heralded by many as our country’s answer to the world’s supercars – our own supercar. The Aurelio is the brainchild of Mr. Brendan Aurelio, owner of Pacita Fibertech, a shop located in Laguna that specializes in various fiberglass fabrications for all sorts of things. The car itself though was said to have been designed by a college student named Kevin Factor from Adamson University, and the car was initially known as “Factor Aurelio” with an in-house tag of FA-1. The car made its public debut in the flesh during the 2014 Trans Sport Show, but had been making rounds in Facebook for many months prior to it. However in the months after the debut, there seems to have been conflict between Brendan and Kevin, who was initially credited with the design. They’d since parted ways, with a simple Facebook post denoting the renaming of the car from “Factore Aurelio” to simply “Aurelio”.

credits to : clippingpoint.net

Ever since I laid eyes on the car on the internet, I wanted to see it for real, and to speak with Mr. Aurelio himself. The stuff being described online is simply epic, with different write ups claiming different things. But mostly it agrees on one thing – that this will take the fight to established supercar makers, and to provide a seed for a locally built supercar.

Ok, everyone throws around the term “supercar”, but exactly what is a “supercar”, and what makes a car, “super”? The very word is not very clearly defined, as shown by this thread on Speedhunters. As with most things, one just cannot take Wikipedia’s entry on the word as very serious reference, but there are some points of agreement – beauty and elegance, power and movement, the unique technologies contained in it, the unreal price tag, and that’s where I draw my idea of what a supercar is. Car guys though, seem to have a nose to know what a supercar is, but even their opinions may be divided at times. The general public may not that that much of a better idea either.

Let me put in my two cents on the matter.

Beauty and Elegance – The aesthetics of a supercar will leave you breathless. It looks killer, and one would agree that no supercar looks like your average car, nor would your mother’s sedan be sprinting from 0-100 kph in 3 seconds. Even at a standstill, and just looking at the car’s fine lines is equivalent to sex with clothes on. The interior is often lush, with luxury and suave oozing out of every vent. Each piece of detail should reflect this sense of beauty and awe, and commands attention and respect at every street corner, or lush hotel parking lot, or next to your private jet. But there had been supercars that had a pretty basic interior (like the F40) but had everything a supercar should have because it is one.

Ferrari F40, one of my favorite supercars ever.

The Ferrari Testarossa’s interior in all its 80’s glory

The interior of a Lamborghini Aventador – so you people won’t accuse me of being biased towards 80’s Ferraris.

Power and Movement – All that beauty described above is rendered immobile if the car is a slouch. To this end, most supercars produce godlike amounts of power, far removed from our daily driven cars. In the world of cars, we’re mere mortals who are content to rev all day to make it to speed. Supercars were created when Zeus jacked off, and his seed accidentally fell to earth and turned into a car. Supercars need to be fast, and these days, mindblowingly (hypercars) fast. To do that, it relies on the brute force produced by its engines, and these engines are often multi-cylinder designs (with the smallest acceptable being a V6), and a lot of them are placed in the midsection of the car, and most are now on forced induction.

One should note though that this isn’t always the case – the McLaren F1 was the world’s fastest production car from the 90’s well into the next century, and ran a naturally aspirated BMW engine. Whether the mid section is a portal to a different dimension, summoning power from beyond the realm of man, I have no idea. But yes, a supercar has to be fast. Fucking fast.

Lamborghini Diablo doing a burn-out

Unique Technologies – The internal combustion engine can only produce so much with the fire and the flames. But man is continually in pursuit of harnessing the power of the internal combustion engine, and is preoccupied with either making more of it or getting more out of it. The usual solution is to take both, and then make even more of it. Computer aided design, extensive wind tunnel testing and all other things to make it slip through the air easier, has become a battle arena all its own, with engineers working their asses off to get the car to be more aerodynamically efficient, and less of a brick attempting to break through the air.

All this power though, needs to be controlled – after all, who wants to be behind the wheel of a renegade missile? Traction control, unreal amounts of braking power, the ability to corner at G’s that are only known to the Thunderbirds…yep, these add “super” to “supercar”. In the recent past, fuel mileage was not a problem, it was a consideration but wasn’t much of a design point. With the advent of hybrid technology, and the world now trying to save much needed fuel, designs such as the hybrid Porsche 918 have appeared.

McLaren F1, the first modern hypercar, and the car built to best it, the Bugatti Veyron.

 

The Unreal Price Tag – All of the the above mentioned, combined into a single entity, does not come cheap. Let’s look at it this way, how can all the technological marvels that allow the car to perform way above mere mortal automobiles, come for the price of an ice cream cone? We pay grand bucks for smartphones, family sedans are now coming dangerously close to the million peso mark. You can safely expect that anything “super” is well beyond what your dealership is able to quote you.

Let’s also add to the fact that the brand/s that makes a supercar is almost always one with a rich and proud racing history (Ferrari, Porsche), a deep rivalry and a general flip-the-bird attitude towards other manufacturers (Lamborghini, Bugatti), a sense of “i-want-to-show-the-world-how-it’s-done” (McLaren, Koenigsegg) or they just want to make something ridiculously expensive, and then fast (Lykan). Others just wanted to start a supercar marque within their country, as was the case with Vector in America, Venturi in France and the lesser known case of Zender in Germany.

In general, upon first mention of the brand name, it should evoke these “values”, probably followed by a mental image of the car. It’s like this whole paragraph, minus the cuss, is abbreviated in one name – it’s something and everything at the same time. A singularity of sorts.

Why are we even talking about what a supercar is?

Because a lot of people tout the Aurelio as a supercar, a locally made one at that. My car guy self though, has quite a bit of gripes about calling it such, and so does a lot of others in the motoring community that I happen to be a part of.

Let me shed some light on what the Aurelio is, or at least as much as was divulged to me, and found out for myself when I spoke to Brendan during the Trans Sport Show over the past weekend.

Let’s talk more about the Aurelio at this point, and not nitpick the terminologies. I was finally able to weave through my usually full weekend schedule, and made my way down to the World Trade Center at the 2015 Trans Sport Show. It was there that I met, and spoke to the man himself, Brendan Aurelio of Aurelio Concepts. As I was told (and had already known prior), the car is based on the platform of a regular road going sedan, quite unlike any traditional supercar out there that has a specifically designed chassis. If you think about it though, Hennessy also makes “supercars” based on existing Lotus models, but this makes it closer to makers like RUF and Tommykaira.

I was told that at least one of the models they had on hand during the show was based on a Honda Civic. In true supercar manner though, the car is MR (mid ship, rear drive) and lightweight, supposedly weighing in at 640kgs, which is lighter than current Formula 1 cars that weigh in at 691kgs, and pretty much all supercars previous and current. The body is made of fiberglass, not exactly an exotic material by any means, but definitely lightweight. Fiberglass clad vehicles are not unheard of – Venturi did this back in the 90’s.

This is the more special of the 3 Aurelios on display. Apparently, someone already owns it, and boasts of a J30 3.0L V6 with an automatic transmission.

This is the more special of the 3 Aurelios on display. Apparently, someone already owns it, and boasts of a J30 3.0L V6 with an automatic transmission.

Right now, the Aurelio is not powered by a single kind of engine, but rather by any engine of choice by the prospective owner. At some point in the future though, Brendan envisions that the final production version of the car will be powered by a Honda K20, but exactly which version of the K20 it is, we hadn’t spoken about. This is a pretty strange choice of engine for what is being touted as a supercar, even for a very high performance sports car, but the K20 is an incredible engine on its own.

A K20A engine. Not exactly the supercar engine of choice, but in a lightweight chassis, it will make a killing.

The original Aurelio was powered by a Honda B18, one model came with a Mitsubishi 4G63T (I’m not sure which generation of the 63T) and a one off car, shown on top, is powered by a Honda J30. I had more of an inkling towards a V6 or V8 engine, simply because a good powerplant is needed if the car is to perform as touted. Power figures vary, but Brendan puts it at around 500hp, although he didn’t tell me exactly which of the three cars there produces that much power. He reasons that the car will perform as speculated due to its light weight, and relatively high powered engine. I have some doubts about it being the outcome though – Brendan wants a car to produce that much power from a 4 cylinder engine. It’s certainly achievable, as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X is powered by a 4B11T engine capable of churning out 400 hp (FQ400 UK) stock. But the B18 and 4B11T are worlds apart in terms of build and technology.

The Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, the last Evolution model, a true sport sedan.

But that’s with Mitsubishi’s in-house development which was specifically geared towards that goal. Mitsubishi has a rich rally racing history, and it is not surprising that what works for them in their various rally campaigns will make its way back to their white trimmed offices, to the production line and to prospective civilian owners.

But the Aurelio?

We’re talking about an engine in current model Hondas that in stock trim makes maybe 150 hp within an inch of its usable life. Forced induction is certainly an option, but this may come at the cost of reliability and every day operation, especially looking at how they’d want to produce that much power out of a 4 cylinder engine that wasn’t exactly designed by Honda to make extensive use of forced induction.

Exactly how the Aurelio team plans to get 500 horses from a 4 cylinder engine, and keep the car drivable like any regular car out there, with emphasis on fuel economy, under everyday conditions, I wasn’t told about. He says that the car will be available in the transmission style of the customer’s choice – most models available have a manual transmission, but the red one shown on top has an automatic transmission, presumably one that came with the J30 V6 engine. Currently, the only available manual transmission is a stick shift, but a paddle shift semi-automatic doesn’t seem to be too far removed from the plan.

We haven’t spoken about him eventually being able to provide a purpose built engine for the car, but I assume that most serious car builders, or even the average car guy, would include that in his plan. On the most part, he wants to go with a 4-cyl engine because he feels that fuel economy should also be considered, and probably to appeal to the general Filipino motoring public. After all, we live in a country where the 4 banger is king, and people generally avoid buying “de saiz” or “de ocho” (V6 / V8 as known colloquially) because of concerns regarding fuel economy, and the logic that given our smaller, narrower roads, there is almost no place to unleash the fury of a mighty V8 engine.

Also, I’d noticed that Filipinos in general seem to have a general love affair with anything that has to do with Honda, and having a Honda engine allows it to be instantly be synonymous with fast, as far as most people are concerned. And it’s not just the engine that’s questionable. In order to make the 280++ kph claimed top speed, it needs a good transmission and final drive. As it is, the engine is mated to its stock transmission, and what is presumably a stock final drive.

Philippine-Ball-4vs8

The Auerlio team also touted that a large percentage of parts are of local origin, again focusing on the word “local”. But a quick look into the parts used would show that most are regular factory parts from different manufacturers (last time I checked we do not as of yet manufacture brake / underchassis parts locally apart from maybe Moog in Baguio), and it would also seem that a lot of mix and matching of parts have gone on into the build.One should not expect Brembo or Wilwood brake parts, or any other specialized name brand parts in the build process – not, at least at this time, unless the customer will bring in his own parts for the build.

Looking at how the engine is (still) not uniform within its model line, and the fact that the chassis is one taken from an existing vehicle, this makes the Aurelio sound closer to a kit car, than an actual factory / purpose built car. Brendan isn’t averse to this, and knows that what I meant when I pointed that to him. Currently, he is working on having his project recognized as a car in its own right, rather than for people to see it as a big kit car, or a custom one. He also mentioned in passing that if one buys an Aurelio now, it will appear in LTO paperwork as the car that it was before the transformation – a Civic, a Sentra or what have you.

Given all of the work needing to be done to the car, it may be a long time before prospective buyers can have the Aurelio tagged as a proper sports car in official paper work. The interior of the car still hasn’t been finalized, and I wasn’t lucky enough to be allowed inside the car to sit on it. I was able to take a good look at the interior beyond the cordoned line. Currently, the interior is also custom made, with a leather lined dashboard, and what seemed to me as an existing instrument panel from an existing car, grafted into it. The shifter is also from an existing car, especially obvious in the red V6 model. The three cars on display though had Bride reclining bucket seats, which evoke more of a custom car feel rather than a super, nor sport car feel. The steering wheel is obviously inspired by existing designs – it could be probably an off the shelf item, and has the company logo printed on it.

I would’ve wanted to see parts of the interior, or at least the seats, to have the company logo stamped as well. I was assured by Brendan though, that the car will have air-conditioning, although I didn’t notice if any of the three cars had a working A/C system. I’m not sure if these have power windows and mirrors, but I’m guessing they would be since that’s a option even in the most basic of modern cars. I wish that the cars were lit up on the inside as well to make it easier to make out the interior, but that wasn’t the case. In true supercar fashion though, it has scissor doors, or as most would know as a “Lambo door”.

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The interior of the car, shot from beyond the cordon.

On the exterior, the Aurelio resembles the supercar in our dreams and posters. Sitting there with big tires, low on the ground, with a vast array of cooling vents, painted brightly in glossy paint, one could not help to note the cars that inspired the design. To me, it looked like the rear of an LFA and Gallardo, the side profile of an F1, and the front of a California. When stared at hard enough, one can also spot a Zonda-ish vibe, especially on the rear windshield. The glass surrounding the car are all tempered, auto safety glass that are custom made by their supplier to fit the car’s design.

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The Aurelio team proudly displaying their awards in the Custom Car Category.

DSC_1033 DSC_1049 The headlights are custom made units based on an existing projector headlight, and the tail lights are said to be custom made LED units. They didn’t light the car up while I was there, so I wasn’t able to see how the car would look like in the dark.

This has an Evangelion Unit 02 vibe...

This has an Evangelion Unit 02 vibe…

Projector headlight

Projector headlight

The tail light.

The tail light.

I asked Brendan about the safety of the occupants of the car, and he says that currently, the only safety feature installed is an ABS system. He says that eventually he will be incorporating airbags into the design. I’d failed to ask though if the Aurelio had been designed with passenger survival in mind, because one would like to also feel safe and secure while strapped into the car. I didn’t spot signs of any sort of space frame cage to stiffen the body, and it seems everything was bolted to frames that roughly held the Aurelio’s form. There is no traction / stability control, but if you ask me, that can be left out of the options that the owner can choose from.

DSC_1032 DSC_1048

The Aurelio rolls on 20in rims, and all three models used Achilles 245 / 30 / R20 tires. The cars use all disc brake systems, but exactly what rotors nor calipers are used were not divulged. One would think though that the rotors, at least the one shown in this photo, seems too small against the car’s wheel. One would wonder how these will even attempt to slow the car down from its advertised top speed of well over 280 kph. As of now, the Aurelio will roll on wheels provided, or specified by the prospective owner, again hinting more about the options possible on it, giving it much more of a kit car vibe.

An Aurelio, as it was previously told on Facebook, will set you back around Php 1.7M, around the price of a Toyota GT86. These three cars were all priced differently, since they were made differently with different options on them. I forgot the exact figures, but the red Aurelio is currently priced at Php 3M. This is dirt cheap as far as supercars go, but pretty hefty for a kit car, especially one that is in essence, still in development. The “base” model Aurelio is at the same price bracket as a Toyota GT86 / Subaru BRZ. While I don’t exactly have Php 3M to plunk on one, I’d pretty much think twice, since a Miata is about 1/5 of that price. And as Jalopnik puts it, the Miata is the answer to every motoring question.

To sum it up, the Aurelio, as it is right now, needs a donor car provided by the prospective owner, or the company can source one for you before you get a finished Aurelio. Again, this is a kit car in it’s strictest sense, and falls more on the custom car category, which the Trans Sport Show so recognized, as the Aurelio team won awards during the show for their work in creating the car. To be fair though, during our conversation, Brendan admits that it wasn’t his idea to brand this as a supercar, it was the people on the web, news publications and the real world who had done so. This is probably due to its supercar-ish exterior, and it can be expected that a lot of the overly eager netizens may be quick to brand it as such.

Some of the Google hits when you use search for the car.

Some of the Google hits when you use search for the car.

He told me that he is not entirely sure of the car’s category as of yet, but he is leaning towards a high performance sports car, than an outright supercar. From the sound of it, the man does know what he is on to. He also knows that such a claim of his car being the “Philippines’ Supercar” will bring scrutiny on his project, as evidenced by the many posts on the internet on the veracity of the claim. But in typical Pinoy style, he is going ahead full steam with the project, and that shows his dedication towards it.

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Side mounted radiator visible through the driver side cooling duct.

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Here is my biggest gripe of all – a design like this, which evokes memories of the McLaren F1 (a very obvious design inspiration) powered by an engine that one can find at most times of the day by popping open the hood on a current model Honda – it just doesn’t sink in with me. I’d spoken to a lot of my motoring friends about this, and many of them have the same impression of the car. While the general public may have less of an idea to even care, there is a legion of people who would bat an eyelash at first sight of it.

The Aurelio is currently an unproven concept which looks great on your monitor, but hadn’t really gone out to stretch its legs. The design was not wind tunnel tested, so God knows what its drag coefficient is. Even if it manages to be so aerodynamically efficient, I highly doubt that the transmission can help propel the car to the claimed top speed. As it is, the Auerlio has no active aerodynamics to plant it to the ground, and I’m not certain if it’s optimized to operate to get the car to top speed (highly aerodynamic, less downforce) or for cornering performance (not so aerodynamic, more downforce) or a balance between both. At 280++ kph, one tiny slip and hello kingdom come.

Mulsanne anyone?

Supercars built within the current generation make use of active electronics to balance out performance in a straight line and on corners. It had certainly been spotted many times on the roads of Santa Rosa. I was provided by information on engine output, speed and other figures, but the car hadn’t been on the dyno (as of the time of writing) as far as I know. It had however, been filmed, running on the Clark International Speedway, which is currently on the Aurelio’s video advertisement. But there is no commentary from drivers about how it performs, how it feels, or if it even comes close to performing as claimed. The car is driven by the company’s test drivers, but a review or test had yet to be done by outside, independent sources.

During one instance of our conversation, Brendan claimed that his car outguns the McLaren P1 in terms of power to weight ratio, apparently a combination of the high power output and low weight of his car. While I admit that the principle behind it is true, as exemplified by Colin Chapman’s philosophy and the logic for Lotus cars, one just can’t help and wonder if the Aurelio will really be up to it.

The late great Colin Chapman

To close my piece on the Aurelio, I liken it to the Jeepney. It was something already existing (Willy’s Jeep) that was happened upon by the Filipino imagination, and made into something different yet inherently the same.

The Aurelio, as it is currently, seems to have more bark than bite and while I earnestly want with all my heart to support its development, I am taken aback because we seem to be at it again – taking something apart, putting it back together with fancy panels, and calling it something new.

If the Aurelio was built ground-up with an in-house designed chassis (presumably a space-frame one) and given a non-uniform engine, I would easily support it. Lotus does this – the Seven was originally powered by a Ford Cosworth, the Elise uses a Toyota 1Z / 2Z engine, the Esprit had varying engine options etc. And Lotus builds its own chassis for its own cars. As long as the Aurelio is basically a Civic or Sentra or what-have-you chassis with a fancy shell, it will always be a kit or custom car, much the same as a Jeepney.

I do not, and cannot fault Brendan’s passion however – he has a lot of it, and he worked to turn it from an idea, into reality. And if we look back far enough, Lamborghini was founded by a man who made tractors, not sports cars. Ferrucio Lamborghini though, came up with the Miura, and the rest is motoring history. The Aurelio is not yet as earth shattering as the Miura was, and there is much work to be done on it.

I hope that over time, through careful research and development the Aurelio becomes the Aurelio, a car all its own, without semblance to those that have come before it, built as the Aurelio, and not as a donor car turned sportscar. International motoring forums have the same kind of argument as a lot of us, myself included, have.

Still, I hope, beyond all hope, that Brendan continues to work on his creation. He assures me that he knows about what a lot of us are thinking, and he would like to continue working to prove to everyone that his vision is attainable, and to have a legit homegrown car that we can proudly tag as “Made in the Philippines”.

I also hope that the government will see his work, and help him out so there would come a time that the Aurelio comes off as a better researched car, stocked with brand new parts from the factory, proudly wearing its badge, as it carries in honor the name of its creator, and the place where it came from – a humble workshop in Santa Rosa, Laguna. DSC_1038

Oh, and here is the obligatory author meets the subject photo. We chatted for a good long while. He is a good spirited man, full of passion and dedication. He’d personally spent long hours actually working on the car, as would a father taking care of his children.

DSC_1053

By the way, Brendan and his team are still far better off than the Lyons Motor Car Company, who came up with an even more “amazing” design of their own for their Streamliner. Brendan and the Aurelio team have produced a working car that moves on its own, and while it may have teething problems, has a lot more realistic potential. Read more about the Lyons Streamliner here and here.

Here is the Lyons Streamliner in all its static glory. I will definitely take the Aurelio over this bamf any day.


1. Dude, my car is modified. **these are my opinions, these are not hard truths, and I do, I really do, dream of the day that Brendan produces the  Aurelio and rolls it off from his shop ***the Aurelios displayed at the 2015 Trans Sport Show are not yet fully completed cars, but they are indeed functional as far as basic car operations go ****i used the word “engine” all throughout this article, and was actually struggling to do so. i am quite used to using the word “motor” because of my day job (sigh) ikr *****i threw in many Lotus references, pardon me, but I am such a fan of their cars and philosophy

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