“Supremely fast, usable, exploitable and, crucially, affordable… it may very well be the English sports car hundreds of us have been waiting for.” That’s what PH head man Nic said about the Zenos E10 after he’d tried it out in 2015. The aim was to provide a mid-engined two seater that would dish up all the driving fun of a Lotus Elise but at a more bargainaceous price. Simplicity and putting the end user at the pointy end of the development and ownership processes were key pillars of the proposition.
The story started off well. The founders were Ansar Ali and Mark Edwards who, after big-cheesing at Lotus and Caterham Cars, set up Zenos in Wymondham, Norfolk. The Zenos name reportedly came from ‘zen’, meaning er zen, and the Latin word ‘os’, as in osteopath, meaning spine. That wasn’t a reference to discomfort but to the hybrid chassis which was formed from a steel safety cell bonded to an extruded aluminium spine with a recycled carbonfibre/plastic honeycomb cockpit. Suspension was double-wishbone. The bodywork consisted of 18 plastic panels that you could unmount and mount yourself. Dry weights were claimed to be as little as 700kg, depending on the model.
The basic non-turbo 200hp Ford 2.0 E10 was priced at a fiver under £25k, which was £5k cheaper than the equivalent basic Elise. It did the 0-60 in 4.5sec and topped out at 135mph. The E10S had a turbocharged EcoBoost 2.0 litre engine with 250hp and 295lb ft of torque, enough for a 4.0sec 0-60 time, a 0-100 in 11 and a bit seconds and a 145mph maximum. That cost £29,995. The range-topper was the £39,995 2.3 turbocharged EcoBoost E10R with 350hp, 350lb ft, 155mph and a claimed 0-60 of 3.0sec.
The Elise-beating prices were achieved by spartanising the spec. There were no doors, no roof, no heater, no stability or traction controls and no ABS. A full windscreen to replace the standard aero slice was a £1,700 extra. Other options included a 6-speed box (£1,595), uprated brakes (£1,195, the regular unassisted brakes needed a big push), LSD, Bilstein ‘track’ dampers (£795), heated driver’s seat (£195), a get-you-home weather hood, tonneau cover, and removable steering wheel. Even if you didn’t like the pricing structure you couldn’t deny the fact that the Zenos finance package granted you access to a boggo E10 for £5k down and £399 a month for 60 months. By September 2016, 18 months after selling its first car, Zenos racked up its 100th sale.
Unfortunately, just a few months later Zenon went into administration having sold between 120 and 160 cars, depending on the internet. Half of them had gone to UK buyers and about a quarter to the US. Cancelled orders and a failed attempt to raise capital through a crowdfunding exercise were given as the reasons.
Employees were made redundant but the assets were bought in March 2017 by a consortium fronted by AC Cars. They were going to take E10 production from the UK to South Africa, where they had a manufacturing facility at which Noble chassises had been made. An announcement in October 2017 indicated that a new E10 was due to start manufacture in February 2018.
By this time prices had gone up. The 250hp turbo E10S which had been by far the most popular version was £35k. That price included the pretty much essential screen. The Zenos’s main drawbacks – heavyish brakes and steering, and intrusive intake racket – were to be addressed in the new model by the fitment of six-piston brakes and a front-mounted water-to-air intercooler in place of the old sidepod-mounted (and not massively efficient) air intercooler. Power would be slightly hiked to 260hp and there was also going to be a better integrated roll cage. All these improvements were to be refro-fittable to the older cars.
We’ve had to use the future conditional tense in that last paragraph because as of April 2022 there was no sign of any of that stuff happening. However, as of the same date the website is still live https://www.zenoscars.com/ and if the rumours about Zenos production restarting later in 2022 with a projected annual output of 75 cars turn out to be true, then the prices for the three used cars that are for sale on PH Classifieds at the moment might right now may well seem highly tempting to anyone in the market for this type of vehicle. Even if nothing continues to happen AC Zenos-wise you can rest easy in the knowledge that expertise and spares are available through outfits such as 24-7 Motorsport in Norwich, who have some ex-Zenos people working there.
All three of the PH Classifieds cars have full windscreens and all are advertised as E10S models, although the power being quoted for the cheapest one suggests it’s actually the base model. Of the other two E10Ss, our spotted is a delivery miles ex-collection specimen at £26,995. That represents a big saving on the £39,400 price paid for it new. The other one is this sub-4,000-mile car with intake and ECU mods hoisting the power to 280hp and all the ‘extras’ you could ever want. Yours for £24,995, which brings the story full circle in a way as that was the original starting price of a base E10.
SPECIFICATION | ZENOS E10 S
Engine: 1,999cc, 4-cyl turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 250@7,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 295@2,500rpm
Year registered: 2015
Recorded mileage: 80
Price new: £39,400
Yours for: £26,995