Former chief of Australia’s short-lived tuner company Giocattolo Motori, 72-year-old Paul Halstead has announced his latest project, which happens to be a three-seater speedster with a mid-mounted double LS7-based W16 engine. He calls the Giocattolo Marcella a “Hyperod,” and hopes the ultra-low and wide wonder will debut at Pebble Beach in July 2022, with a manufacturing plant then set up in the United States. The Marcella may also feature taillight fins inspired by 1959 Cadillacs, so one could argue that there’s a lot to unwrap here.
Mind you, Paul Halstead is not new to this game. Having built his first fortune in London through an IT requirement business in the 1970s, he drove around in a De Tomaso Mangusta before moving back home, only to end up purchasing De Tomaso Australia. Halstead soon opened an official dealership as well, where he sold various exotics next to his Panteras and Longchamps, also building race cars on the side. As Top Gear detailed back in March, the story goes that after Alfa Romeo canceled its Group B-bound Alfasud Sprint 6C prototypes powered by a mid-mounted Busso V6, Halstead wanted to continue the project where the Italians left off, envisioning a very quick road car. Yet after Alfa refused to sell him both its Sprint bodyshells and engines, the Australian dialed everything up by sourcing production Alfa Romeos from New Zealand, only to strip and rebuild them in Australia using mid-mounted 5.0-liter Holden V8s tuned by Tom Walkinshaw Racing.
With a ZF five-speed transaxle, plenty of Kevlar bits and a race suspension designed by former McLaren F1 and Can-Am engineer Barry Lock, the Giocattolo was quite a beast, offering a zero-to-60 time of under five seconds. However, while quite successful with its Pantera-based racing cars, Giocattolo Motori only managed to build 15 of its expensive road-legal Group Bs before the company folded in 1989.
Three decades wiser and financially successful since, Paul Halstead intends to launch a new mid-engine car in 2022, powered by no less than a pair of 7.0-liter Chevy LS7 V8s. Still developed with the help of Barry Lock, the Giocattolo Marcella’s open body is also supposed to be so low to the ground that its three occupants won’t even need doors to get in. Try that with your McLaren Elva…
Australia’s CarAdvice talked to Halstead to get all the details, but the key aspects of the car they call a “Hyperod” are as follows:
Two naturally aspirated LS7s turned into a W16, with Higgins race heads and a machined alloy billet bridge between the two engine mounts. There’s also a plate across the back to which the custom transfer case is mounted, taking the drive from both cranks to a center shaft with the flywheel. It’s fully exposed and produces 1,400 horsepower as an emissions-compliant package, while transmission supplier Albins also came up with an alloy billet transaxle for this W16, incorporating a six-speed sequential gearbox and a limited-slip differential. The idea is that the whole drivetrain will act as a stress-bearing member of the chassis, just like in a Ferrari F50.
The engine will end in eight central exhaust pipes collected into two, as well as four more per side exiting flat above the carbon floor.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Halstead is also a huge fan of Gordon Murray’s McLaren F1, and while we know how Murray believes anything beyond 12 cylinders is just showing off, the Giocattolo Marcella’s three-seater central-driving position and target weight of 2,755 pounds are clear nods to McLaren’s 1993-1998 classic, even with the F1 weighing just 2,509 pounds as a coupé.
When it comes to the overall looks of the Marcella, Mr. Halstead told CarAdvice that having failed to work with three people, he finally found his designer in Naish Chapman. Now, Australia’s most ambitious sports car fan is selling both his wide-bodied and chopped supercharged Holden Monaro, personal Giocattolo Competizione and Pantera race car to push this wild W16 speedster vision into the prototype stage. Pebble in 2022? Perhaps if 2021 pulls a miracle.
What’s for sure is that while we’ve already seen LS-based V16s from both Steve Morris Engines and marine specialists XVI Power, a dry-sump W16 with its two crankshafts rotating just 9.8 inches apart would be a new one.
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