On Monday, four days after Lyons Motor Car was set to debut its 290-mph hypercar at the New York auto show, the company finally had something on its show stand.
It's not a car.
Wedged between an escalator and a snack counter sits a hunk of fiberglass-encased foam carved into a relative likeness of the concept drawings that hit the Internet two weeks ago. There's no interior; no working lights; no hood, trunk, steering wheel, doors, brakes, or engine to speak of. Viewed up close, it's a lumpen first draft with a moderate aroma of still-drying spray paint.
It's my favorite debut from this year's New York Auto Show.
Attend enough car shows, and you learn to see through the bright lights and claims of "segment-leading this-and-that" dutifully touted with every introduction of yet another facelifted midsize sedan. That jadedness enveloped every conversation I had with colleagues at the Javits center last week.
The two biggest New York debuts were and a glimpse at 2016's most ubiquitous economy car. Journalists, trained to furrow their brows at every automaker's attempt to gin up their enthusiasm, found themselves with practically nothing to furrow at. When the press preview ended Thursday night, the media exited the Javits Center on a sigh.
Monday morning, I returned to the convention center to see . This time, I wasn't surrounded by media know-it-alls; I was just another guy in a sea of regular people. The folks around me weren't bloviating about torque ratings, caliper size, boost pressure or tire width.
What a relief.
In the weeks leading up to NYIAS, this previously-unheard-of automotive startup generated a tornado of coverage. It wasn't just : Lyons' claim of having designed a 1700-hp, 290-mph hypercar was featured on , , and .
Many were . No-name upstarts generally don't succeed in the auto business, especially when they set out to overtake the world's fastest production car by 20 mph and eliminate traditional wiring entirely via .
Lyons being a didn't exactly boost anyone's confidence. But the Regular People flooding past don't know the politics of the press schedule. They don't perform the elaborate calculus of automotive journos who pre-determine their reaction to a vehicle from 50 feet away and stick around just long enough to self-confirm.
The crowds around me saw a swooping concept car that looks like it was built by Pop Racer out of a wrecked Pagani. They hear the voice of Lyons Motor Car's chief operations officer, Bryan Lyons, rattling off those eye-popping numbers: 1,700 horsepower, 290 mph, 0-60 in 2.2 seconds. Fastest supercar in the world. America's Bugatti.
The Streamliner mockup is pretty rough: The fiberglass is thin in spots and cracked in others; the spray paint sags; the car's understanding of symmetry is conversational at best. But to little kids walking by, it's the coolest thing in the world. Same for teenagers, their parents, camera-toting tourists, and the locals who took a day off and a subway ride from Queens to see the sci-fi future of transportation.
Bryan Lyons told me that the company hopes to begin production this year. His brother, Kevin, the president and CEO, coaxed the design of the car from a napkin sketch to the prototype on display over the past three years. The Lyons brothers come from a long line of mechanics and fabricators, and they grew up building classic cars, resto mods, and a .
Bryan says the company will build this car in neighboring Long Island, and that they've already had interest from potential buyers including Shaquille O'Neal and Jay-Z. He says the brothers will soon have their own autoclave cranking out carbon fiber bodywork, to be draped over an all-wheel-drive layout and aluminum-and-titanium suspension.
It almost doesn't matter if they ever build it. You and I will never be in the market for a $1.3-million hypercar. Most of the attendees who stopped by the show to gawk at this soap bar on wheels and listen to the pitch ("no wires!") have already forgotten the Lyons Motor Car name.
The odds of success are not in Lyons Motor Car's favor. But seeing the unbridled optimism that these guys brought to carved-foam life was my favorite highlight in an otherwise dull exhibition. That's why the Lyons brothers' claims got such widespread media play in the run-up to the show: They offered the kind of luridly unrealistic daydream that none of the major automakers could possibly get permission to talk about.
There's something irresistible about an impossible dream.