Wall Street Journal, Octubre 2, 2010

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Mastretta MXT: Hooray For The Red, White And Green

A couple million cars are built in Mexico every year — GM and VW are big transplant players — and there are enormous Tier 1 and supplier resources south of the border. The surprise of the Mastretta MXT, which made its production-final debut at the Paris Motor Show this week, is that it has taken this long for an entrepreneur to tap into these resources to build its own high-performance sports car.

And why is this the only Mexican company in the game? Is the world market suffering an excess of Latin coolness?

The Mastretta, built by Technoidea SAPI de CV near Mexico City, is straight-forward low-volume speedcraft: a glued and riveted aluminum monocoque, a 2.0-liter turbocharged crate motor (GM’s Ecotec), mid-engine configuration, bare bones cockpit. Essentially, a Mexican Lotus Elise. According to the company, it is the first sports car to be designed and built completely in Mexico. The company’s principal, Daniel Mastretta, is also responsible for the design.

Beginning in the 1990s, Mastretta learned its chops making Porsche Speedster and ‘58 Corvette replicas, kit sports cars and urban buses. It expects to hand-build 150 of the MXT’s annually.

Visually, the car has some interesting moves. The integrated headlamp/intake elements that arch over the front fenders; the well-organized fuselage treatment, the general conformation and proportions, all look quite right. If you ever wanted an Elise but thought they were too busy, well, here’s the cure. The MXT’s rear bumper treatment, with a faux diffuser with a Cycloptic single exhaust, needs some work.

The machinery is pretty much what you’d ask for if you were designing a raw, elemental road-and-track car: about 2,000 pounds, 250 hp and 250 pound-feet of torque; five-speed manual with single-plate dry clutch; double wishbones at all four corners; biggie brakes and 17-inch wheels. Figure $60,000 to buy in the U.S., so not too spendy to take to the track, and if you make a mistake and hit something, it’s not the end of your financial world.

For all you hot shoes out there, Viva zapato.