Warren's World

Discussion in '2005 Mosler MT900 S' started by Gunman, May 31, 2004.

  1. "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.

    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 jabs—indeed, 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 cars—a Porsche 911 or, say, a Lotus 7—that 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
    factory—which includes its own machine shop, dyno room, and
    composites facility—100 Consuliers have been sold or leased since

    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

    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 children—Sada, 16, and Jacob, 15—Mosler
    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 fast—and I mean Corvette
    fast or 911 Turbo fast—without 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

    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

    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 body—only the
    doors are stock—is 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-seater—the "900" stands for the car's predicted weight in
    kilograms—was 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 project—at least today—is 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 aborning—the composite buck
    is complete—whose 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 nose—the latter
    reminiscent of a squashed Dodge Intrepid's—are 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 Consuliers—some 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 that—it'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 laugh—out loud and
    animatedly. But not uproariously.

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