The Leela Spyder brings back the days when a sports car could be driven on the road and on the track. At 1720 lbs., and near perfect 50/50 weight distribution, the Leela Spyder is an exhilarating car to drive. Many factors must work together harmoniously for a car fun on the road and fast on the track. The Leela is light, the CG is low, the engine and the transaxle are both in-board of the wheels giving it a low polar moment-of-inertia, making it handle more like a mid-engine car. The brakes are capable of stopping a car weighing 1000 lbs. more under racing conditions, and with 1000 lbs. less than the Alfa Milano donor car, the 2.5 V6 engine accelerates effortlessly.
The Momo seats and 5 point harnesses keep both driver and passenger in place during enthusiastic driving. The (removeable) leather covered Momo steering wheel is exactly where it should be, and the mahogany shifter is perfectly located beside it for a minimum distance from one to the other.
The view from the cockpit is a visual delight: the machine turned gage mounts, billet machined gage bezels and windshield mounts, carbon fiber dash and mirrors, and the view over the smooth fenders and hood bulge combine to make the drivers experience unlike most modern cars. The ride, while firm is not harsh, and the Leela comes with standard features such as a fuel cell, SCCA spec roll bar, racing seats and harnesses. Turn the key and the all aluminum overhead cam hemi fires right up making all the right sounds.
-The Leela Spyder was awarded the 'Student's Choice' award for inspired design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena in 2012
Leela Spyders are purpose built to individual specifications and driving ability. Several engine options are available including the Alfa and Ford V6's displacing 2.5, 3.0, 3.2, and 3.7 (Ford 4 cam 4 valve) litres, and the Buick/Rover 3.5, 3.9, & 4.6 aluminum V8's
Services provided by Leela Motors Corp.:
-manufactures the Leela Spyder: rollers and turn-key cars
-design, tooling, fabrication and machining.
At Laguna Seca- Concorso Italiano photos by Rick Adams
(Click the picture for larger size)
It all started a long time ago...
When I was about 13 a friend introduced me to Road & Track magazine. This had profound consequences that persist to this day. I was born in Switzerland and after moving to England, Canada, and the US, we moved back to Switzerland when I was 14. What better place to practice driving than on mountain roads in the Alps and a good deal of it on snow. It's no wonder many of the world's best sports cars have their origin in and around the Alps. It's the perfect place to refine handling, brakes, and motors.
Fortunately I had very cooperative parents who let me drive the family car on back roads in out of the way places! It was here at an early age that my senses took in the sights, sounds, and smell, of the International Hillclimb Championship race from Ollons to Villars, and two Monaco GPs. The mold was set for what would later become the Leela Spyder.
After Switzerland we moved to Boulder, Colorado where I rode my 500 cc Norton to school everyday of the school year in the snow, wind, and freezing temperatures.
While in Colorado some relatives we had not met were living in Mexico City, so my mother thought it would be fun to go visit them. Being the only one in the family with some car sense she asked me to pick out a car for the trip. After a brief search I came across a Ford Falcon wagon with a straight six and a four speed on the floor. Perfect! We bought it and got ready to leave for Mexico City.
Driving in Mexico was a teenagers dream come true. Everybody drove as though they were Pedro Rodriguez. I've followed empty 5 ton trucks on mountain roads hanging the 4 back tires out as they went around corners. Stakes are high so mistakes are not ok. But there are roads with 100's of miles of curves. Most notably the roads from Toluca to Morelia, Durango to Mazatlan, Guadalahara to Manzanillo, Cuernavaca to Acapulco and Oaxaca. It was on one such trip to Acapulco driving my sister's Datsun 510, that on a mountain haipin bend, where I could see down the mountainside that no cars were coming, that I overtook 3 tanker trucks and 2 trucks in one go. My brother Trevor called me a "Maniaco" from then on. I've always loved to drive and it was during the three years in Mexico that I was able to hone my driving skills on real roads. As teenagers we used to look for new housing developments being built where the roads were finished but before the houses went up. These served our purpose as race tracks, and where we could experiment with different driving techniques.
Once, possessed by a spirit of adventure, some friends, my brother and I tried to drive from Playa Azul to Zihuatanejo before there was a road. This was in a 1950 GMC panel truck we dubbed Panurge II, which I had fitted with beds and a turret through the roof. After driving through swamps, cutting our way through jungle with machetes, and digging ourselves out of several pits in the ground, we decided we'd need at least another week to get to Zihuatanejo, so we decided to turn back. It was one of those memorable exploits that imprints itself on your mind, like spending a sleepless night camping in the freezing cold with a poorly insulated sleeping bag. Not a successful exploit, but an adventure that makes a hammock and a thatched hut on a beach seem like a 5 star hotel. Today there is a road, although I have not driven it. I would love to go back to Mexico and drive these roads again.
In terms of my own ability I don't think there is any substitute for natural intelligence and skill. Eventhough I have degrees from UCLA, US International University, and two years in a doctoral program, none of this education helped me in either my work or designing and building the Leela. Everything I know I learned working, studying on my own, and reflecting about what is a good solution to various circustances we are faced with. What is beauty? Why is a 250 GTO so universally appealing that it has become the most expensive car to date? Modern cars are mechanically superior in many ways, but my guess is that in 30 years, most of them will sell for a fraction of their current selling price.
Over the years in business and the thousands of parts I have made, from the very simple to very complex, my feeling is that the attitude and intent we have as we work becomes embedded in the work we perform. It guides our every move and intimately influences what we bring into existence: the part that emerges from a block of aluminum, or a car body from a hunk of clay. This feeling is what makes something valuable, beautiful, and, the Leela is such a creation. I matured the design in my mind long before I started modelling it. So when I finally sat down with the clay, it took me only two sittings of about 5 hours each to finish the design.
Aesthetics is something that arises from within us. When we see something outside ourselves that matches the formula inside, it resonates as beautiful, and it gives us joy. We appreciate it, and it is valuable to us. The Leela is moving art. It is not just a combination of mechanical parts put together to make it run. It is carefully thought out to match a sense of beauty and function that I feel within me. It is an externalization of my nature, my character. I hope this gives the Leela the character and charm I am shooting for.
We live in north San Diego County close to some of the best sports car roads in the country and we have about the best climate on earth. Also, my three sons were getting to an age where they could help out and learn some helpful skills. Having a CNC machining and manufacturing business for over 25 years had enabled me to acquire all the necessary tools and skills to build the car of my dreams. I had had several nice sports cars over the years, including two Abarths, a Datsun 510, a 240 Z, an Alfa GTV6, and a Porsche 911 SC, but none of them had everything I wanted. They all had shortcomings of one kind or another. So finally I decided to build my own car with everything I wanted. I was after a no-holes-barred sports racer at home on mountain roads and on the track. A car that is fast and efficient should also be beautiful. When power, grace and beauty merge together in movement things assume a timeless quality. It might not be easy to express but we somehow know it when we witness it. This is what the Leela is an attempt to do.