I was out and about in the Melrose District on a furiously warm Los Angeles Sunday, doing distinctly non-car things. Among racks of ironic vintage NASCAR jackets (which have become a serious fashion vogue in the past year), I saw a folding table with a scale model of a Ferrari F50 and an enormous pile of old brochures. Being the geek that I am, I re-entered The Car Mentality and started rifling through the brochures, grabbing some 1993 Volkswagen stuff and something I’d never seen before: a brochure for a Vector W8.
If you haven’t heard of Vector at all, this video by Doug DeMuro offers a rare detailed glimpse into the mythical American supercar.
Keeping the story short; a guy named Jerry Weigert decided to show the world that America can produce a supercar as good as the Europeans with all-American parts. Jerry founded a design house called Vehicle Design Force, which sounds like a league of chisel-jawed seven-foot tall draftsman making bitchin’ cars.
It took Jerry’s team seven years to bring their first car to market: the 1978 Vector W2. It was a wedge-shaped gill-filled twin-turbo V8-powered supercar that was featured in major magazines but never entered production. Ultimately, Jerry had to wait eleven years to introduce the Vector that would finally be sold to (a small group of) the public — the aforementioned 1989 Vector W8.
Since then, Vehicle Design Force became Vector Aeromotive Corporation. The W2 was delayed due to a significant economic downturn and had since accrued the funds necessary to pay 80 employees and have the facilities to build his dream. For a period, Vector was a real car company building actual cars! It built 22 of these wild W8s right in my backyard, a city called Wilmington within limits of Los Angeles.
Now, back to the brochure. It’s a tidy little tri-fold with large photos of the W8. The seller didn’t remember much about how he got it, just mentioning something about the annual LA Auto Show, so it’s likely that the Vector was shown in-period and the brochure was procured at the show. Imagine seeing that in person!
Some of the text in the brochure is pretty hilarious, with lines like “multi-mode missions can be planned by the VECTOR (yes, it’s capitalized in the brochure) owner to the race track for club events, for cross country trips, autobahn touring or a quick drive to your country club.” Multi-mode missions! Ha! My favorite part is the spec sheet calling the four-wheel disc brakes “Formula 1 four-wheel ventilated discs.”
It has all the making of a boutique supercar maker with double the personality. The W8 was genuinely insane for the period with some serious headline numbers. Powered by a 6.0-liter all-aluminum twin-turbo V8 that made over 600 horsepower and 600 ft-lbs of torque and a fully aluminum monocoque chassis, it certainly made its case on the spec sheets. Where it got strange was a three-speed GM gearbox with an insanely high 2.43:1 final drive ratio, which sapped a lot of performance according to DeMuro.
This brochure certainly feels like a rare fine and I’m amazed I found it at Melrose hipster heaven. My findings go even deeper as I opened the tri-fold up in the spring heat of Los Angeles. Another bit of documentation falls out and it’s even rarer; a few in-period amateur photos and a single-page official brochure of the W8s successor, the WX3. Woah!
The W8 is well-beloved but the tale of Vector’s other cars is lost to the ages. Not to mention, the W8 is the only Vector to enter any sort of real production capacity. The 1992 Vector Avtech WX3 was the planned successor, with a larger 7.0-liter DOHC V8 that could be had naturally aspirated or twin-turbo. On this sheet, the twin-turbo model is claimed to have 850-1200 horsepower, which is a lot, especially for 1992.
I can’t find any driving impressions of the WX3, but I imagine they are largely the same as the W8, considering that the WX3 was an updated W8. I’m not even sure where you could even get any sort of official documentation on the WX3, they only built two. This was the coolest find of the lot.
Sadly, Jerry Weigert passed away in January of 2021. He had another car brewing since 2007 called the WX8 that never came to fruition, at least beyond a concept shown at the 2007 LA Auto Show. It was reportedly as recently as 2018 that the car was still being developed, but its future is uncertain after Jerry’s death.
What a cool and strange bit of history to find a clothing swap meet. It was certainly the last thing I expected in a distinctly non-car activity but it goes to show that it can find you anywhere and anytime. Vector is position something like an American folk hero with Jerry Weigert being the guy who actually went and built a few radical cars. For that, his memory will stand for the ages.