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There's a prescribed method to get into a Consulier, and it goes like this: Stand by the open door, turn 180 degrees away from the car, stick one leg behind you into the passenger compartment, crouch down and fall into the seat, haul your other leg in, and spin around to face the front.
The seats are about six inches off the ground, but the rocker panel is six inches higher, so with the door open, you really have to step over and down. A more conventional approach would leave you straddling the rocker like a balance beam. Anyone in a tight skirt would be stuck until help happened by.
Once inside the fit is snug but not claustrophobic. The two-seat, midengine, fiberglass-bodied sports car has plenty of legroom, no doubt at the behest of its six-foot-tall creator and manufacturer, West Palm Beach financier Warren Mosler.
Mosler turns the key, and the turbocharged Chrysler engine fires up behind his head. He pulls out of the parking lot of his Riviera Beach shop, turns right on Old Dixie Highway, and motors sedately down the street.
Not until he takes a hard right at 40 mph, without touching the brakes, do Mosler's intentions become apparent. He's showing off his creation, which he says is the fastest, best-handling sports car on the road. It will outrun anything, he claims, and get 28 mpg doing it. He could be right. The car handles like a go-kart, no wallowing in turns or squealing tires. On a back street, Mosler puts his tasseled loafer hard into the gas pedal, and the car shoots forward like a scorched hare, hitting 70 mph in the space of a short block.
All fine and good except the car looks kind of strange, like a cross between a VW kit car in the front and a Dukes of Hazzard-era Dodge Charger in the back. There's something about the design that just doesn't jell.
This is the car that was supposed to bring the automotive world to Warren Mosler's door. He would be lauded by those with a keen appreciation of fast cars and slick engineering. His name would be forever enshrined with the likes of racecar builder Carroll Shelby, who gave the world the Shelby Cobra, and Zora Arkus Duntov, credited with designing the Corvette.
History can be a cruel mistress, however. She certainly hasn't been kind to Mosler. He's been snubbed by the automotive press and buyers alike. If he's noted at all in the annals of cardom, Mosler will probably go down as an oddity, someone akin to John De Lorean, whose namesake is better known as a punch line than a vehicle.
Mosler's put a lot of time and money into the Consulier and the company that builds it, Mosler Automotive. But he just can't seem to win much respect for his creation. You'd think that would piss him off, but Mosler isn't the kind of guy to get pissed off. A bit incredulous maybe, a tad irked certainly, but not pissed off.
"What's your opinion of this car?" he asks, genuinely interested in a response. "Do you see anything wrong with the way it looks?"
Mosler, age 49, is a man accustomed to success. He is a founding partner of AVM, a West Palm investment company that handles $20 billion in assets. He personally manages an offshore hedge fund worth $2.5 billion. But he doesn't want to get into that. "I can't talk directly about that because it's considered advertising. You are not allowed to advertise." Apparently he doesn't have to. Business must be good, judging by his homes in Singer Island and Hobe Sound.
AVM owns a majority share in Enterprise National Bank, which holds assets of about $100 million. But it doesn't stop there. He also owns or has a stake in CRA-Z Soap, Entertainment Systems Technologies, Constant Velocity, Tool Topper, MosArt art gallery, Mosler Cleaning Services, and two West Palm restaurants, Michael's and Rockwell's.
And then there's Mosler Automotive (and its divisions, Total Engine Concepts and Southeast Automotive). Its headquarters used to be a lumberyard, so there's plenty of space for the machine shop, dyno room, fiberglass-fabricating shop, engine shop, warehouse, and show room.
The place is littered with half-finished embodiments of Mosler's odd notions. This, undoubtedly, is a man who keeps a notepad on his nightstand. Anyone in the market for a fiberglass Jeep-like vehicle powered by a Corvette engine mounted behind the driver's seat? How about a Cadillac Eldorado with a second engine stuffed in the trunk? A kit that combines modern Mustang mechanicals with a fiberglass knockoff of a 1966 body? Anyone asking themselves "Why?"
"I don't know," Mosler says in even, measured tones. "It's just a sickness, I think."
The place is also littered with Consuliers. Mosler started building them in 1988. He figures he's produced about 100 of them and sold maybe 60, many of which seem to have come home to roost. Two of the warehouse areas are chock-a-block with the chunky little cars parked door to door, gathering dust. "When people sold them as used cars, I ended up buying them back," says Mosler. "I've got way too many cars." One of the warehouses also houses five or six of Mosler's old VWs he used to race and a couple of small planes built by a company he used to own.