Oh ho! One of the rarest cars you’ll ever see, a sports motor from the 1990’s that was meant to take on the likes of the Ferrari 456, but ended up disappearing into obscurity.
Venturi Automobiles is a French based small-time manufacturer known today for the creation of obscure luxury electric vehicles. Founded in 1984, the company has created a myriad of automobiles as per customer request and in small numbers.
What you’re looking at here is the Atlantique 300, the company’s most famous model, a two door coupé with a fibreglass body that was built between 1991 and 2000 at their Couëron factory in Pays de la Loire.
The car was designed by Claude Poiraud and Gérard Godfroy, bearing many similarities with the Ferrari 456 of around the same time, with pop-up headlights and a low smooth body that made it absolutely sublime to look at.
The original Atlantique was rebuilt from the earlier Venturi APC 260, but continued to use the company’s 2.8L Turbocharged V6 which produced 260hp, but had the advantage of a reduced weight of 2,450lbs. Top speed was a reasonable 167mph and a 0-60 of 5.2 seconds.
The 300 on the other hand was conceived by Scotsman Hubert O’Neill, who purchased Venturi in 1994 and originally desired the construction of the Venturi 400GT as well as a revised Atlantique. After a rushed design time of six months, the new Atlantique 300 was unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. Its new 3.0L 24V V6 engine was hijacked from other Peugeot/Citroën models and encompassed 210hp in naturally aspirated form or 281hp with a Turbocharger.
Trouble brewed however in 1996 when Venturi went into bankruptcy for the 2nd time, and was rescued by Thai firm Nakarin Benz, under whom the company focused its concentration upon road cars. The biturbo version Atlantique 300 was released in 1998 and brought the power up to 310hp, taking the car from 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and would go on to a top speed of 171mph, putting it in the same range as the Lotus Esprit.
But sadly in spite of it being a formidable sports coupe, the car sold poorly, at only around 700 cars over its 9 year period. Critically though, the car was well received, with Jeremy Clarkson, reviewing both this and the Alpine A610 in 1992, declared that the Atlantique was “like having your own personal jet fighter… I love it to death.” In comparing the biturbo Atlantique and the Lotus Esprit, Performance Car noted that the Atlantique was “…a more relaxing car to drive, its tidier dimensions make it easier to place, it rides more smoothly, generates far less road noise, and has a much slicker gearchange. It’s better built too.”
The biggest problem that Venturi faced was similar to that of Maybach, the brands it was going up against such as Lotus, Ferrari and Porsche were all established and globally renowned sports brands, whilst Venturi was little-known outside of France.
With their investment in the Atlantique being an abysmal failure, the company went into bankruptcy in 2000, with the Atlantique being discontinued. The company was rescued again, this time by Gildo Pallanca Pastor, a Monegasque millionaire, the Atlantique was never restarted, the company choosing instead to work on the electric sports cars such as the Venturi Fétish (God what a name! They should call it the Venturi Ann Summers!).