I recently had the chance to drive a Vector W8, which is truly insane. I’ve driven a lot of insane cars, to be sure, but none quite as crazy as the Vector W8 — and today I’m going to explain what I mean and what it’s like to drive one of the most unbelievably bizarre cars of the modern era.
So here’s the gist: The Vector W8 was the brainchild of a guy named Jerry Wiegert, who wanted to build a supercar that rivaled European brands’ — except in America. It took him years to get his project off the ground, but the result was the Vector W8, and the resulting design is truly stunning. I consider it to be the single most striking vehicle design of all time, period. It’s that amazing.
A lot of the rest of the car was pretty amazing, too. Inside, it truly feels like an aircraft cockpit, which was the intent, and the switchgear and many of the screens were borrowed in design — or in actuality — from airplanes. For a car from the 1980s, it was crazily ahead of its time — far beyond the Ferrari F40 or the Lamborghini Countach, which were its contemporaries.
Unfortunately, while those cars had lengthy production runs, the W8 simply didn’t. Vector managed to unload only around 22 W8 models between 1989 and 1993, and financial issues brought the program to a halt. And while most ultra-low-production exotic cars are often forgotten about 30 years later, the Vector simply never was. I’m constantly asked to review one, as people are still very curious about this car — in large part, I think, because of its styling, which is so low and flat that it’s almost hard to describe.
Under the hood, the W8 used a 6.0-liter V8 engine that was based on a General Motors design. It was twin-turbocharged for about 625 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque — insane numbers that remain insane today. The W8 also came standard with a 3-speed General Motors automatic transmission whose shift lever was mounted to the left of the driver’s seat rather than between the seats.
That’s just one of the many weird things about the car — but here, I’m going to focus on driving experience, as the attached video covers all the amazing quirks and features. And the driving experience, I must say, was surprisingly good. The Vector I drove was a bit of a passion project for the owner, who also had a Lamborghini Miura, so he and his mechanic had spent a lot of time going through it and trying to make it right. When I drove it, it still wasn’t perfect — but it did everything asked of it, and it never seemed as though it would break down or have any issues.
On the road, the W8 is surprisingly quick. I say “surprisingly” because for my entire life I had assumed that the 3-speed automatic would be a big limitation — however, it isn’t. The car has more than enough power to overcome the issue of the 3-speed, and it still feels fast, even though, sure, more gears would help. When you jam on the throttle, it feels quick and fun and exciting, and it felt like more of a thrill than the Lamborghini Countach — even though you weren’t doing the gear-shifting work yourself. Overall, it’s surprisingly quick.
The handling, too, is sharper than I was expecting. The steering is communicative, and the car goes through corners relatively easily — it’s fun and exciting to send there, and it feels pretty stable on the road. There’s no kit-car feel to this thing, shockingly, and it’s enjoyable to drive. One drawback with the 3-speed, however, is that it’s difficult to get precisely the correct power coming out of a corner. A manual transmission would be easier, as you could position yourself properly in the rev range, but it’s a bit more challenging with an automatic — especially because the W8 has an old-school turbo setup where engine speed is really important for determining acceleration.
And then there’s the interior comfort. That’s probably the thing that surprised me the most, as I’ve driven an F40 and a Countach and I know them to be ergonomic disasters. This is true even of the more reachable 1980s supercars, like the Ferrari Testarossa and Lamborghini Jalpa. The W8, however, was comfortable: built by Americans for Americans, with enough room for your knees, legs, height and basically everything else. It was, dare I say, comfortable.
Indeed, the W8 was pretty special — and after driving it, I’m even more disappointed that it didn’t become popular. It’d be nice to see these things around occasionally or to even have a chance to own one — but they basically never come up for sale, and parts are unobtanium given the low production volume. Still, the W8 is a cool car — a very cool car — whose driving experience surpassed my expectations, and I’m absolutely thrilled that I had the chance to spend the day with one. Find a Vector W8 for sale