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Unusual cars with interesting histories

Just what happened to Marussia?


What's this? A Russian supercar, seriously? Yes, welcome to the Marussia B1 and B2.

By 2007 there was a new spirit in the air in Russia. Glasnost and Pererstroika meant that a lot of Russians had money to spend and there was a trend towards buying cars rather than leaving this money in the bank where it was likely to depreciate. The time seemed right to build sports cars which the new Russian elite could enjoy. Enter onto the stage Nikolai Formenko, a larger than life character who was a TV personality, singer, and racing driver all rolled into one. He formed Marussia Motors in 2007 and by December of 2008 the first 'supercar', the B1 was rolled out, followed the next year by the B2.

Both cars were essenially the same mechanically, sharing the same chassis and engine choices; the difference being mainly cosmetic.

The Russian elite, prospective buyers of the cars, were invited to have either of the two body styles, with the interiors customised to their own tastes. However they were basically lightweight two seater sports cars of Italianate design, with a choice of Cosworth engines, connected to a six speed automatic gearbox driving the rear wheels, sitting transversely on the rear axle. There were various engine choices available, the top one being a 2.8 litre V6 turbo, producing 420 hp and powering in the car up to 160 mph with acceleration of nought to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds.

Interiors were luxurious indeed with soft, handstitched leather coverings throughout but it was up to date too with a high-tech information system incorporating the latest technical developments including 4G communications.

The way to publicise a car has always been through racing. Marussia bought a substantial shareholding in the Virgin Racing Formula 1 team; this didn't prove to be a particularly good investment though as success on the track was not outstanding. To compound their misfortunes one of their drivers, Jules Bianchi, was involved in a serious accident at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka in Japan and received injuries from which he died later. The omens were not good.

There were plans to produce 3000 B1s and then 500 B2s. A full order book was claimed and production was going to be switched to Valmet in Finland. However by 2014 the company's money had run out; the employees, who apparently had not been paid for a while, quit. The remaining cars, or parts of cars, were abandoned and left to rot, rust and vandalism. The racing team folded not long afterwards.

Why did everything turn to dust? Little information is available. However the company had spent an enormous sum on motorsports but had very little success, leading to good publicity, in return. Sales were probably a lot less than expected thanks to the financial problems in Russia caused by the decline in oil prices.

In the end, yet again a car manufacturing company with high ambitions died not with a roar but a quiet whimper. Marussia only exists now in video games.

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