Tino and Paul Huet grew up with a passion for classic sports cars, and after a decade of restoring Alfa Romeos, Bugattis, Porsches and Maseratis, decided to build a 1950s-style Le Mans racer replica of their own, the HB (for Huet Brothers) Special. Five years later, in 2012, work began on a new project, the HB Coupe. Now, to advance the Coupe along in the prototype phase, the Huet Brothers have launched a Kickstarter campaign, selling their branded, limited-production Swiss watches to raise funding.
The original HB Special, an open-air Barchetta that looks vaguely like the offspring of an Aston Martin DBR3, Jaguar D-Type and a Maserati 300S, dates to roughly 2007. Built atop a Triumph TR6 chassis, the road-legal racer sported hand-crafted carbon fiber bodywork, while its all-business interior was constructed primarily of aluminum. The Huet Brothers claimed an assembled weight of 760 kg (1,672 pounds), meaning that the Triumph inline-six engine, bored from 2.5-liters to 2.7-liters and rated at 170 horsepower, delivered spirited performance.
The HB Special prototype, repaired from a 2010 road accident in Germany.
Initially, the goal was to build 12 HB Specials and rent the cars for guided sports car tours throughout Europe, but this proved too complex and too expensive to execute. Assembly of the hand-built cars was a tedious and labor-intensive process not suited to mass production. Instead, the Huet Brothers opted to build HB Specials on demand (Tino tells us that four customer cars are under construction at the moment), and design an enclosed car that blended similar throwback styling with daily-driver practicality.
The HB Coupe will feature carbon fiber monocoque construction, with a 2.0-liter, four-cylinder Mazda powertrain and a traditional front-engine, rear drive layout. The base engine will deliver 170 hp, while a tuned and turbocharged variant will produce a claimed 248 horsepower, enough to deliver exceptional performance in a coupe that tips the scales at a projected 800 kg (1,874 pounds). Based upon interest from potential U.S. and Canadian buyers, Tino tells us they’d love to sell the HB Coupe here well. The drivetrain is already emissions-certified in the Mazda Miata, and the rest may fall into place (for U.S. buyers, anyway) if the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act ever advances.
Today, the HB Coupe exists as a series of 0s and 1s on a computer hard drive, and as a 1:1 scale model machined from foam. Tino says the scale model revealed things “you just don’t see on the computer,” so adjustments to the existing design will be made for both aesthetic and production reasons. Once the design work is finalized, molds for the carbon fiber monocoque and body panels (29 in total) will need to be produced, a functional prototype will need to be assembled, and then the plan to enter production can be implemented once regulatory approval is granted.
The Huet Brothers have taken an intriguing path to funding Coupe production. Instead of taking deposits, soliciting donations or selling shares of stock, Tino and Paul have designed a series of Swiss-movement watches to partially fund different stages of the HB Coupe’s development. The current numbered-edition Benefactor watch is their sixth such funding endeavor (and their first Kickstarter campaign), and comes with a 10-year warranty. Available in two sizes (42.5 mm and 40 mm cases), each watch is water-resistant to 100 meters, and features a 316L stainless steel case, a double-domed sapphire crystal, luminous hands and a waterproof leather band, at a price significantly lower than one would expect to pay for a prestige brand.
The Benefactor Classic chronograph (top), and the Benefactor Sport chronograph.
If the all-or-nothing Kickstarter project is fully funded (and it likely will be, since in a single week the brothers have already reached $74,406 of their $115,147 goal), supporters will net a stylish timepiece unique in their circle of friends, plus will have the knowledge that they helped to support the development of a true grass-roots retro sports car. To contribute to the effort and purchase an HB Benefactor chronograph, visit Kickstarter.com/Projects/HuetBrothers/Its-Time-to-Get-the-HB-Coupe-on-the-Road/. To learn more about the Huet Brothers efforts, visit HuetBrothers.com.