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A new Canadian supercar sizzles in Montreal

The Magnum MK5 is street legal.

The usual suspects were doing their best to steal the spotlight at the 2015 Montreal International Auto Show. But on level five of the Palais des Congrès, in the middle of a fleet of British luxury cars that collectively cost tens of millions of dollars, there was an unusual suspect – a new supercar from Quebec, the Magnum MK5.

While it's not every day that a new Canadian supercar hits the market, there have been some recent examples.

At last year's show, the Felino cB7 roared into frame. Like the MK5, the curvaceous yet menacing cB7 is offered by a Quebec-based manufacturer and headed up by a former race driver. In 2007, the Palais des Congrès was the setting for the debut of another Quebec supercar, the HTT Plethore LC-750. The Plethore went on to a starring role on Dragon's Den and is still making the rounds at car shows in search of interested parties.

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All of these cars are attempts to make the public forget what is considered to be the original Canadian supercar, the Bricklin SV-1, which was produced from 1974-76. To be fair, this ill-fated, gull-winged attempt was built in Canada, but the dubious design and engineering hailed from south of the border. When all was said and done, 2,854 examples of the SV-1 were produced and the New Brunswick government was $23 million poorer.

The team at Magnum is forging its own path, jumping into the fast lane with the MK5, a limited-production, street-legal track car powered by its founders' long history in motorsport.

In 1968, Jean-Pierre St-Jacques began building and competing in his own open-wheel race cars, adopting the Magnum brand name two years later. In 1973, an up-and-coming Gilles Villeneuve raced the then-latest version of St-Jacques' Formula Ford car, the Magnum MkIII. Villeneuve went on to claim that year's title, a testament to the driver's speed and the car's build quality – the Quebec racer was notoriously tough on his equipment.

Fast forward some 40 years and Magnum made the leap from race car engineering and fabrication to specialty road car design and production. Spearheading the effort is Jean-Pierre St-Jacques and his son, Bruno, a racer himself who competed in the FIA Formula 3000 Championship. At the Montreal show, the younger St-Jacques was swamped with media requests and questions from the general public. For good reason – the Magnum MK5 looks like the real deal.

The low-slung, angular body is constructed of carbon-fibre composite panels. The design incorporates aerodynamic devices derived from racing, including a front splitter, rear diffuser and flat underbody. The engine is a modified four-cylinder engine taken from the Suzuki Hayabusa, one of the fastest motorcycles on the planet. With a dry weight of 545 kg, the engine's "modest" 250 horsepower is expected to propel the MK5 to 100 km/h in 3.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 240 km/h.

"We wanted to offer the experience of driving a race car to a broader audience," says St-Jacques. "We wanted to build a car that excites all the senses. The driving experience, the sound of the engine, the dynamics of the car and the quick shifting of the sequential transmission … it's as close to experiencing a real race car as possible."

Although the Magnum is street legal, its open-top design practically guarantees that most customers will use it mainly as a track car. On paper, the MK5 appears positioned in between the current bare-bones track-car offerings, such as the Ariel Atom, and exotic supercars from the likes of Ferrari. The MK5 retails for $139,000 (U.S.).

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The company has secured 10 pre-orders for the MK5, and the first year of production is expected to sell out. Most of the raised hands hail from America, where the car was shown to the public at racetracks and exotic car shows last year.

"The MK5 appeals to different categories of people," says St-Jacques. "It does appeal to people looking for a track car because it's lightweight, easy on tires and brakes, easy to maintain. But it's a broader market than that – it's also people who like exotic cars or supercars, but they want something different."

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