The Rocket Is Gordon Murray's Pre-McLaren Masterpiece

Built in 1991, this street-legal motorcycle-powered car weighs just 770 lbs.

YouTubeJay Leno's Garage

There's a reason why Jay Leno's 1991 Light Car Company Rocket is bone stock, still using its factory brake pads. But let's take a step back.

Pretty much everybody at McLaren loves the Lotus Elans of the early 1960s due to their lightweight design and perfectly balanced handling, the fact that they pack peppy engines with just enough power to have fun. That combination is still hard to beat.

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Now, an early Elan is roughly 1500 lbs. And while that figure is already ridiculously low for a road car, in the early 1990s, Gordon Murray decided to design a vehicle weighing half that. He launched the appropriately named Light Car Company with racing driver Chris Craft just a year before the McLaren F1's Monaco debut, and the Rocket did not disappoint.

The rear-engined two-seater is "no bigger than a coffin," as Jay Leno puts it. It came with a Yamaha 147-horsepower motorcycle engine with a 12,500-rpm redline, connected to a six-speed sequential gearbox. What's more, like all Murray cars, it had a perfectly streetable ride, with more than enough stopping power and pop-up headlamps for those late night drives.

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Light Car Company only built 55 Rockets—for such a bare-bones car, they were expensive at the time. Then again, it's hard to put a price on engineering perfection, and the sense of speed you get from a street car that weighs less than 800 lbs. It's low enough to drive underneath a semi-trailer. Even the McLaren F1 can't do what this thing can.

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