"Warren's World" Car and Driver May 1999 Warren Mosler is odd but bright. His Consuliers, Intruders, and Raptors are odd but fast. You should see the stuff he hasn't shown the world. By JOHN PHILLIPS At first, there were the cruel jokes: How do you double the value of a Consulier? Fill it with fuel. Why are Michael Jackson and a Consulier so much alike? Because both are made of plastic and dangerous for children to play with. If you write off your Consulier, why is it so expensive? Because it's worth it. Twelve years after building his first Consulier GTP, 49-year-old Warren Mosler still can't laugh at those jabsÂindeed, he doesn't even understand them. "All the jokes, they come from people who seem to judge a car's usefulness by its styling alone. If that's a worthy measure, how do you explain the success of other unique-looking carsÂa Porsche 911 or, say, a Lotus 7Âthat are essentially still in production today?" Such philosophical ruminations arise daily in Warren's World, a 45,000-square-foot cinder-block shop (formerly a lumberyard not far from Wizard of Oz Liquors) in Riviera Beach, Florida. This is the home of Mosler Automotive and the birthplace of the Consulier, whose 275-pound composite monocoque body somewhat awkwardly enshrouded a transversely mounted turbocharged 2.2-liter Chrysler four-cylinder engine. It was followed by the Mosler Intruder (a Consulier powered by a Lingenfelter-modified Corvette LT1 V-8), which was rechristened the Mosler Raptor (still a Consulier, this time with a two-piece windshield that reminded onlookers of a fighter cockpit or something Captain Nemo might have invented). To own one of these variations on a Consulier theme, you'll shell out anywhere between $52,165 and $157,980. From Mosler's factoryÂwhich includes its own machine shop, dyno room, and composites facilityÂ100 Consuliers have been sold or leased since 1988. Warren Mosler, whose brown hair is bespoiled by nary a wisp of gray, is as lanky as Mr. Green Jeans, with a stomach as flat as his Raptor's windshield and teeth as white as porcelain. He was born in Manchester, Connecticut. Only his lizard-skin loafers belie his lower-middle-class origins. His German father ran a small insurance company, and his Lithuanian mother was a night-shift nurse. The family home had no garage. Mosler is unerringly polite and soft-spoken, and he introduces each of his 25 employees by name, often complimenting their work. Ask Mosler a question, and he pauses five seconds, then delivers an answer in complete paragraphs. To meet Warren Mosler is to like Warren Mosler. He earned a degree in economics from the University of Connecticut. His first job was at a savings bank where he repossessed cars and, at one point, a 40-unit motel that he briefly managed. At the same time, he was investing some $5 million of his bank's cash in various stocks and bonds. He possessed a knack for this and rocketed through the ranks: Bache, Banker's Trust, then William Blair & Company in Chicago, where he absorbed the intricacies of bond arbitrage and trading. "It was eight degrees the day I started there," Mosler recalls. "I made a note to move south at the first opportunity." That opportunity came quickly. In 1984, Mosler and two partners created a firm called Adams, Viner and Mosler, Ltd. (AVM), whose office they erected in West Palm Beach, five miles from where Mosler Automotive is today. AVM specializes in securities trading and government bond arbitrage. The company today is said to handle $20 billion in securities, and Mosler personally runs a $2.5 billion offshore hedge fund. In '96, AVM bought a majority interest in Enterprise National Bank, with $8 million in capital and, today, $100 million in assets. Mosler's daily routine is to jog four miles, then fiddle with bonds at AVM for five hours. Then he drives to the shop, spending only an hour there daily. "Mosler Automotive is not my main business," he says, "but it's not a hobby, either." Even if it were a hobby, Mosler could afford it. He is not related to the Mosler Safe empire (a widely held myth) and is secretive about his assets, admitting only, "Yes, I'm a millionaire, but my worth isn't even half of Ross Perot's." Nor is his wealth inherited: "In fact, on a financial statement last year, I put down $50,000 as my inheritance," he says. "The banker asked for details, and I said, 'That's what I send annually to my parents.'" Mosler Automotive is funded entirely by Warren's cash. The company has no creditors but has lost money every year of its existence. "I won't guess how much," he says, but a source spoke of a $1.8 million loss in '88 and $2.5 million in '89. "Still, it hasn't affected my standard of living," he says. Mosler owns so many companies that he can't recite them all without four-by-six note cards. Right now, the list includes MosArt, an art gallery run by his wife, the ebullient, blond Sue-Ellen Gamble ("No, I'm not part of the Procter & Gamble families," she says). He owns CRA-Z Soap, a hand cleaner that is a product of Southeast Automotive, a parts manufacturer that itself is a division of Consulier Engineering, Inc. He owns an engine-building shop called Total Engine Concepts. And he owns a steak-and-seafood restaurant called Michaels', a fact unknown to me the night we dined there. "Let me get the check, Warren," I insisted. "Not necessary," he countered. "Absolutely, the food was superb," I replied. "Well, actually you can't get the check, John," he said emphatically, "because no check will come. I own this place. Also Rockwell's [restaurant] in West Palm." There's more. Mosler owns III Offshore Investors (a "trading adviser," he says, "to funds set up by James River Capital of Virginia"), Entertainment Systems Technologies (which builds hand-held devices that supply Internet access), Constant Velocity (makers of bolt-on independent-rear-suspension units for trucks), Tool Topper (a contraption that holds tools atop stepladders), and Mosler Cleaning Services. He also retains financial interests in Diamond Star Ranch in Colorado, in Lake Forest Sports Cars outside Chicago, in TrackTime driving schools, and in Roger Lessman's land speed record car. With his wife and two childrenÂSada, 16, and Jacob, 15ÂMosler lives in either of two expansive homes near West Palm Beach. One is on Singer Island, the other in Hobe Sound. He has 11 personal vehicles, among them an '86 Benz 380SL, an '82 Jaguar XJS V-12, a silver Raptor, a Sunbeam Tiger, an '89 IROC Camaro, and a '97 Jag XK8 he calls "a girl's car, for my wife." The idea for the Consulier came to Mosler in 1985, when he went looking for a new car. "I'd been doing some SCCA racing," he recalls, "and I thought, wouldn't it be nice if I could buy something to drive to work, then, on Saturday, go racing fastÂand I mean Corvette fast or 911 Turbo fastÂwithout doing anything more complex than changing tire pressures? Well, there wasn't anything that would do that. Nothing. And then a Texas surgeon said to me: 'You want fast? Forget horsepower. Take 1200 pounds out of your [SCCA] Rabbit.' And that's when it hit me, the 'Mosler Philosophy of Automotive Engineering,'" he says with a toothy grin. "It's weight that's the enemy. Weight ruins your braking, weight affects handling, weight degrades fuel economy, weight strains every mechanical part in the car. So I said, 'I'll build a car that's light, mid-engined, with low frontal area, wide track, and narrow cockpit. People will kill to buy it. I was right on all counts but the last." He hired a yacht builder to help with the Consulier's fiberglass and PVC-foam sandwich body. "I didn't even know what this 2100-pound car would look like," he recalls. "Its shape mostly evolved day by day, an outcome of how it most efficiently wrapped around the hard pieces." And that's why the Consulier looks odd? "I don't think it's odd," he replies with an edge. "In fact, in the years I've stared at that car, the better and better it looks to me. A car like this must be designed by the stopwatch. What will make it fast, competent, and efficient? We regularly run 24-hour races with one set of brake pads. The reason is low weight. You know, I had two great compliments paid to me. The first was when Hurley Haywood initially saw a Consulier at Lime Rock. He said, 'Hey, you can't run that. Just look at it. It's illegal.' The second was when Carroll Shelby rode with me, and I said, 'Carroll, some people think my car's odd-looking, and I wonder if it's hurting sales.' And Shelby replied: 'Boy, read your history. When the Cobra first come out, people said: "Shelby, that car is some kinda ugly, but it works okay as a racer." Now they tell me it's gorgeous.'" When it first appeared, Mosler's Consulier was met with similar reviews. It was fast on the track, but its fit and finish was crude, and its shape recalled Fiberfab kits from the flower-power dune buggies of the '60s. "I admit it's a narrow-focus kind of car," counters Mosler, "but when the Air Force built the stealth bomber, the Defense Department never said, 'Wait a sec, we can't build that plane, 'cause it's too ugly to bomb Baghdad.' My goal was to build the top street-legal performance car available in the United States. And that's what I did." Not everyone accepted that assertion, of course. Mosler was surprised. "Nobody gave the car the benefit of the doubt," he recalls. "I thought, gee, at least car magazines understand the manifold benefits of good power to weight. But I sent a test car to one magazine out West. Nineteen staff members poured out of the office, and 18 said they loved it. Then the editor says, 'No car that looks like that is going in my magazine, no matter how fast it is.'" To force enthusiasts to take him seriously, Mosler issued an audacious ultimatum. In 1991, at Sebring, he hosted the "Consulier $100,000 Challenge," in which he swore he'd pay that amount "to any U.S. or foreign standard production automobile posting a faster lap." Mosler's Consulier was fitted with remotely adjustable shocks and cockpit-adjustable boost control, not to mention his own development driver, former Indy-car racer Chet Fillip. Five cars accepted the challenge, and at the end of the day, just as Mosler had predicted, the Consulier logged the quickest lap, seriously challenged only by a Ruf Porsche. But bickering erupted. What boost had the Consulier run? Was it fitted with catalytic converters? And at Mosler Automotive, what, exactly, comprised a "production car"? Covering the Sebring challenge, AutoWeek wrote, "Nothing had actually been proven" except, as its headline declared, "that professional race-car drivers are faster than almost all amateurs." In an independent competition that Car and Driver staged, using its own drivers at the Chrysler proving ground in Chelsea, Michigan, a manual 1991 Corvette turned a lap 1.5 seconds quicker than a Consulier GTP Sport. Mosler was livid. He insisted that the Consulier C/D tested was a much-abused and out-of-tune '88 R&D model that did not represent his current lineup. (Perhaps so, but we acquired it through the company that manages test fleets for several car companies.) "Worse," he says, "AutoWeek implied I was a con man. Customers called wanting their money back. Sales died. Just went flat." At the time of the Sebring challenge, Mosler says he had sold or leased nearly 75 cars. In the succeeding years, he has sold, on average, only three annually. "In fact, I can't remember the last one," he says. To fill time and keep employees busy, he began concentrating on competition-only cars, hiring drivers as diverse as Shane Lewis (Mosler's current on-salary R&D tester), Scott Lagasse, and even Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader. Their track record is distinguished: 40-some wins, including victories in SCCA regional and ITE divisions, in the IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Series, in the Twin-Six Enduros at Sebring, at 24-hour races at Nelson Ledges and Moroso, and in C/D's own One Lap. But even racing didn't fill all of Mosler's spare time, and the shop in Warren's World began to swell with more mobile creations, some of which Michael Eisner might successfully employ to sell tickets: Mosler J-10: This is a Jeep CJ body perched atop the frame and three feet of the bed of a Chevrolet S-10 pickup, powered by a Chevy LT1. Only one exists. Mosler Mustang: This kit car comprises a composite shell that mimics a 1966 Mustang fastback, plus body pieces, subframes, and attachment hardware. The buyer supplies the interior and running gear. If Mosler ever finishes it, the kit should sell for $8500. Mosler GTP Jeep: A composite "Funny Car" Jeep CJ bodyÂonly the doors are stockÂis grafted to a Consulier platform, complete with mid-engined Chrysler 2.2 turbo. Oddly, its fit and finish exceeds anything in Mosler's shop. "I gave it to my daughter," says Mosler, "but she preferred driving a pickup truck." Only one exists. Mosler Ramchop: Mosler fashioned this composite microvan, less than 10 feet long, to function as an in-town commuter. "You could park two, end to end, in your garage," he says. It has a lone bench from a Dodge van that seats four across, behind which is 55 cubic feet of cargo space. It weighs 1500 pounds and is intended to derive power from one ton of lead-acid batteries. Only one exists. Mosler USA Electric Car van: In a brief lash-up with this electric-car company, Mosler devised a composite-bodied van with almost six feet of interior standing room. "It's 2000 pounds lighter than a steel van," he asserts. He built 12 bodies before USA Electric Car pulled the plug. Mosler HP40: As big as a Lincoln, this four-passenger composite coupe was intended to withstand 40-mph impacts, fore and aft. It weighs 2800 pounds. Its V-8 resides behind the rear seats but in front of the trunk, resulting in a derriere the size of Newark. It languishes in a paint booth. Mosler Trenne MT900: So far merely a blueprint, this mid-engined two-seaterÂthe "900" stands for the car's predicted weight in kilogramsÂwas styled by 29-year-old Rod Trenne of Unigraphics Solutions, which specializes in CAD systems for GM. Powered by a Chevy LS1, it's basically a show car to flaunt Unigraphics software. Mosler says he'll build the $100,000 MT900 later this year: "One or 100 of them, I don't know," he says. Mosler TwinStar: Mosler's favorite projectÂat least todayÂis a dual-engined, four-wheel-drive Cadillac Eldorado. The second Northstar V-8 is lashed into the trunk. The rear wheels are set back 18 inches, and huge NACA ducts, leading to side-mounted radiators, intrude where the original wheel wells used to reside. Conversion price: $21,950. Two TwinStars exist. Mosler Raptor 2000: A new Raptor is aborningÂthe composite buck is completeÂwhose architecture mimics the previous Raptor's, including a mid-mounted V-8 and the split windshield ("25 percent less drag," says Mosler, although he admits he's never taken a car into a wind tunnel). This car's all-new tail and noseÂthe latter reminiscent of a squashed Dodge Intrepid'sÂare sleeker than anything yet wrought in Warren's World. This time, he affirms, he hired a stylist: Lui Valencia. Mosler's collection is, well, eccentric, an appellation that has almost become a parasitic prefix expropriating the man's first name. He genuinely does not understand why. "Listen," he pleads. "People say, 'A twin-engined Cadillac? You're crazy.' But I built it for two logical reasons. First, if you ride in the back seat of a front-drive car, you'll notice lots of vertical pitching. It's because all the weight is on the car's nose. On the other hand, mid-engined cars ride great. Second, how come an Eldo with a big V-8 isn't fast? With the second engine, I cured both problems. People say, 'Warren, you're answering questions nobody asked.' But I say, 'What if I'm answering questions that will get asked? Is that eccentric, or is that foresight?' "Or take the little Ramchop," he continues, oblivious to two phones ringing behind him. "I look at crowded American roads and say, 'Know what? Our roads are wider than our cars, so we have this lateral excess of pavement. It's length that's at a premium.' What if we could put two cars in each urban parking slot? Is that eccentric?" But in truth, Mosler's philosophies sometimes discourage even Mosler. "Right now, the company is worth just about zero," he admits, "and I'd sell any car at my cost, because that's double what I'm asking for them." He still has about 20 ConsuliersÂsome just off lease, others he bought back for sentimental reasons. He knows that some of the public's cynicism is rooted in unsavory specialty manufacturers who preceded him: Bricklin, De Lorean, Wiegert. "But it would renew my faith in all of this if Cadillac offered the TwinStar as a real option," he says, "or if the Trenne went into serious production. "When my spirits get low, I look around and see my own philosophy reinforced. I mean, fail to heed the formula and you wind up with a Dodge Stealth. It's packed with technology: four-wheel drive, movable spoilers, traction control, adjustable suspension. But it's a mess to drive. Why? Because of weight. To make it work, they'd have to remove 1000 pounds, but that'd cost another $20,000. The rule holds true even at Porsche. Wouldn't a 2200-pound 911 be a killer? Well, to cut 800 pounds, it would add $40,000. Funny thing is, eventually Porsche did just thatÂit's called the GT1, and it's a race car, and just like me, they put the engine in the middle. It costs a million bucks. It may sound immodest, but I think I got there first. And my car's about $850,000 cheaper and street legal." Of other specialty niche cars, Mosler admires only those that mimic his world view. "Imagine a Lotus Esprit Turbo that weighed 2000 pounds," he says. "I also like Morgans. But you know what really knocks me out? The Trihawk [a three-wheeler with two seats and a Citroen engine; C/D, June 1983]. That's almost perfect." In the air, the word "eccentric" again lingers as thick as Churchilliancigar smoke. To this day, when Mosler defends his Consuliers and their derivatives, there's a subtle undercurrent of bitterness that manifests. It's a combination of not being taken seriously, a low-grade fury that every race he wins seemingly ensures he'll be uninvited the following year, and residual disdain for journalists who imply his cars are rendered haphazardly in backyard garages by teenage auto-body dropouts. It so happens that Warren Mosler is accustomed to being taken very seriously. In the world of high finance, he's a lecturer at Harvard and the London School of Economics. After pursuing his unique brand of vehicular Valhalla for 14 years, however, he at least now realizes that a streetgoing sports car cannot be 90 percent racer and only 10 percent commuter. "I don't regret starting the business," he says, "but if I did it all over, I'd build cars only for myself." "If you couldn't build cars," I ask, "what would you do?" "Well, a lot of people say I can't build cars," he replies. Of all the old Consulier jokes, this one alone makes him laughÂout loud and animatedly. But not uproariously.