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Artega GT | What Happened To The Car That Showed So Much Promise

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Artega GT | What Happened To The Car That Showed So Much Promise

Artega GT Goodwood Festival of Speed

On paper and in the metal, the Artega GT looked sensational. With big money and industry heavyweights backing the project, it looked to be a sure-fire success. However, things went sour quicker milk left out of the fridge. So, where did it all go wrong? Tim Dunlop reports.

You know sometimes when you are watching your favourite chef on the TV and the ingredients they assemble are all the things you love, you just know the finished dish is going to be delicious.

Well the Artega GT was just like that. Firstly renowned designer Henrik Fisker was responsible for the body shape, Hardy Essig (previously of Porsche fame) was tasked with engineering design, with financial and technical backing coming from Paragon AG, who had such belief in the project that they also brought in their CEO, Klaus Dieter Frers (previously head of Rolls-Royce).

Whilst quality ingredients make the basis for a great dish it’s the person cooking them that adds the passion and finesse to make it a delight to eat. In the Artega’s case this came courtesy of Karl-Heinz Kalbfell best known for his work at BMW's M Division, as well as Alfa Romeo, Maserati and Lotus and regarded as one of the motor industry’s most respected leaders.

The Artega GT was launched in 2008 with appearances at various motor shows and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and it’s there that I first came across the car. I had read a bit about the car prior to visiting Goodwood (which coincidentally was my first time at the event) and given that many were talking about it as the German version of the recently launched Lotus Evora I was intrigued to check it out.

First impressions are always important and personally I don’t mind the colour the team at Artega chose for the launch car, although many journalists reporting at the time pointed out that the vanilla ice cream coloured paint was not particularly photogenic. The factory was obviously listening as the production ready car doing the rounds the following year was in a much more sportscar like bright orange.

Seeing the car in the FOS paddock and its immediately noticeable that the car is quite short (about the length of a VW polo) but quite wide (similar to a big luxury executive car such as the Mercedes S Class). This gives is a pretty butch appearance yet with the height of a conventional supercar like the Gallardo it does looks perfect proportioned. What you cannot see from the outside its what’s underneath, beneath the creamy coloured paint is a carbon composite body which clads an aluminium spaceframe. This frame holds the engine which is positioned somewhere in between the middle of the car and the rear making it neither one or the other.


Artega GT Goodwood Festival of Speed 2

Speaking of the engine, reading the spec sheet next to the car confirms it’s a VW sourced unit coming from of all things the Passat R36 (itself a very rare car and something any petrolhead worth their salt knows all about) mated to the perfectly capable twin clutch DSG auto box. In this car the powerplant is putting out 296bhp, yes I know that’s a bit weedy but the cars kerb weight of 1100kg gives a power to weight ratio of 273bhp/ton. In terms of performance this package meant the Artega was good for 0–62mph in 4.6 seconds, with a top speed estimated to be over 168 mph. By comparison a Porsche Cayman S from this era was putting out 219 bhp/ton so the Artega on paper certainly looks promising, however the Cayman’s bigger brother was probably more the target market for the Artega given the predicted selling price.

Many motoring contributors at the time of launch and also as the car neared full production were full of praise for the way the car looked, handled and performed. David Vivian writing in Evo having driven the pre-production car commented “No flab, no filtering, no blurring of intention. If ever there was a grip ‘n’ go sportscar, this is it”. However, price was ultimately a stumbling block for many. In 2008/9 there was some uncertainty in the world financial markets and the launch price quoted at Goodwood of around £65,000 became nearer £80k when the car reached production a year later. This put the car firmly alongside another German sportscar namely the 911 (in 997 guise) and given the choice many buyers would be writing cheques to the Stuttgart based company without even bothering to take a close look at Artega.

However as with most low volume sportscar brands there will always be enthusiasts willing to give a car like the Artega a chance, and although there would not be enough fans to get to the brands targeted production in year three of 500 cars per annum finished cars did begin to find owners.

Ultimately the financial turmoil in Europe continued into the early 2010’s and despite Mexican investment firm Tresalia Capital taking control of the company and promising a raft of new models, including an entry into the US market and an all-electric version, the Artega GT was not destined to become a runaway success.

The final nail in the coffin came in 2012 when Paragon AG purchased the company when Artega’s owners filed for bankruptcy protection redeployed the 34 staff to other areas of the Paragon business and stopped production of the GT with the total numbers of cars being built standing at just 153. Browsing the German version of Autotrader there are a few cars for sale - at the time of writing the 4 cars advertised are all around the €100,000 mark. There is even one for sale in Vanilla if you are so inclined.

Perhaps the Artega brand was cursed from the start, not only did the company fail and was consigned to the history books but shortly after production ceased Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, aged 63, was tragically killed while practising for a classic motorcycle race at Brands Hatch.


Artega GT Goodwood Festival of Speed 3

All images by Tim Dunlop


Written by

Tim Dunlop

Published

14 April 2023

Last Updated

14/04/23

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