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Provo company hand-builds performance roadsters

Provo company hand-builds performance roadsters

(Mike Stapley)


29 photos

Estimated read time: 10-11 minutes

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PROVO — From the outside, Vanderhall Motor Works in Provo looks much like any other industrial strip. Inside, it's a hub of hand-crafted automotive artistry.

Hidden away on the outskirts of the college town, Vanderhall assembles three-wheel performance roadsters by hand. Though it still fabricates parts in its original Provo location, it now also has two other buildings in use, including the new headquarters at the foot of southern Provo’s mountains.

In this newest building, parts arriving from the other two buildings are combined with General Motors' drivetrains to produce the Venice and Laguna series of roadsters. A nationwide dealer network — mostly comprised of Indian Motorcycle dealers — allow this Provo builder to sell to enthusiasts everywhere.

The story, though, begins in Utah.

The build

Owner and founder Stephen Hall is no stranger to the automotive world and once owned his own independent car dealership, catering to luxury and performance buyers in Salt Lake City for years.

Now, instead of "reinventing the wheel" and designing an entirely new engine and transmission, Vanderhall can take take a new model from design to production in under a year. That timing is a remarkable achievement, considering traditional automakers often work with a design to production cycle of five to seven years. In Hall’s estimation, this will allow Vanderhall Motors to quickly achieve its goal of eventually having 15 models compared to the current two.

While three-wheel roadsters and trikes — as they are called by traditional motorcycle manufacturers — aren’t unique, the way Vanderhall Motors builds them is.

“We offer the only unitized chassis, or frame, that’s one piece with body panels in power sports,” Hall said. “We’ve chosen to go with complete unibody aluminum construction, and most of our intellectual property is in tab-and-slot construction, which is a method of putting panels together.”

In short, this construction method allows for little to no tooling. For enthusiasts, this means Vanderhall can adapt to changing demands quickly and provide production changes and new models virtually on the fly.

That flexibility is important for Vanderhall, since buyers currently don’t easily fit any one demographic, according to Hall. Those who wouldn’t traditionally consider buying a performance car (let alone a motorcycle) are visiting power sports dealers for the first time to check out Vanderhall models, Hall said. Current motorcycle, trike and car enthusiasts are also buying.

Both models have a six-speed automatic transmission. A manual mode is available, along with a driver-side shift lever, which gives enthusiasts more control. The Venice model I drove is powered by a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo motor that generates 180 horsepower.

At only 1,375 pounds, the Venice achieves power-to-weight ratios that rival the world’s finest sports cars. And at less than $30,000, the acceleration comes cheap.

In addition to the performance capabilities, the Venice is also simple to drive for first timers — unlike a motorcycle. The seating, pedals, shifter and instrumentation are the same as any car. A Bluetooth-only 600 watt sound system is controlled by one simple dial. A heater and heated seats are standard.

The review

It's rare to find a vehicle that can wow an enthusiast on the back roads and still allow for relaxed city driving and tight parking. Add an estimated 38 miles per gallon combined city and highway gas mileage, and the Venice has wide-reaching appeal.

Vanderhall’s director of marketing Daniel Boyer first took me for a ride before handing me the keys. Vanderhall’s headquarters currently has few neighbors and the roundabout down the street provided the perfect spot to show off the torque and grip of the Venice.

Originally, the Venice was a rear-wheel drive vehicle but has since moved to front-wheel drive with added stability and little understeer. It dives into corners without hesitation, and the tires, mounted to 18-inch wheels, stick to the road like glue.

For my solo drive, I took a trip to Sundance and back. Despite the windscreen, the ride was very motorcycle-like. Wind and noise surround the driver at all times, the view is unobstructed at all angles and the turbo spin and venting are obviously much louder than the often hushed interiors of many modern cars.

I found myself accelerating at times only so I could let off the gas pedal to hear the waste gases flushed. Accelerating out of the corners, though, is where the fun begins. Since the driver is literally sitting about a foot off the ground, there's an amplified sensation of speed. With 185 pound-feet of torque and 180 horsepower, the Venice has a reported zero-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds.

The turbo lag was noticeable, particularly while driving in the canyon. Driving in a straight line back in town was less so.

The Venice is not luxury appointed. The wooden steering wheel is a beautiful touch and the analog gauges are perfect, but black plastic and stainless toggle switches make up everything else the driver sees. The much higher-priced Laguna model has air conditioning, finer interior touches and even an available hard top. The old school driving experience of the Venice is well worth the lack of modern creature comforts, though.

Vanderhall Motors was recently featured on Jay Leno's Garage.

Vanderhall Motors sells both the Venice and the Laguna in Utah via third-party local dealerships. The Venice is priced at $30,000 and the Laguna's price varies depending on added features, but is above $50,000.


Mike Stapley

About the Author: Mike Stapley

Mike Stapley is a father of two, a business sales manager for a telecom company and an aspiring novelist living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at mstapley4@gmail.com.

PROVO — From the outside, Vanderhall Motor Works in Provo looks much like any other industrial strip. Inside, it's a hub of hand-crafted automotive artistry.

Hidden away on the outskirts of the college town, Vanderhall assembles three-wheel performance roadsters by hand. Though it still fabricates parts in its original Provo location, it now also has two other buildings in use, including the new headquarters at the foot of southern Provo’s mountains.

In this newest building, parts arriving from the other two buildings are combined with General Motors' drivetrains to produce the Venice and Laguna series of roadsters. A nationwide dealer network — mostly comprised of Indian Motorcycle dealers — allow this Provo builder to sell to enthusiasts everywhere.

The story, though, begins in Utah.

The build

Owner and founder Stephen Hall is no stranger to the automotive world and once owned his own independent car dealership, catering to luxury and performance buyers in Salt Lake City for years.

Now, instead of "reinventing the wheel" and designing an entirely new engine and transmission, Vanderhall can take take a new model from design to production in under a year. That timing is a remarkable achievement, considering traditional automakers often work with a design to production cycle of five to seven years. In Hall’s estimation, this will allow Vanderhall Motors to quickly achieve its goal of eventually having 15 models compared to the current two.

While three-wheel roadsters and trikes — as they are called by traditional motorcycle manufacturers — aren’t unique, the way Vanderhall Motors builds them is.

“We offer the only unitized chassis, or frame, that’s one piece with body panels in power sports,” Hall said. “We’ve chosen to go with complete unibody aluminum construction, and most of our intellectual property is in tab-and-slot construction, which is a method of putting panels together.”

In short, this construction method allows for little to no tooling. For enthusiasts, this means Vanderhall can adapt to changing demands quickly and provide production changes and new models virtually on the fly.

That flexibility is important for Vanderhall, since buyers currently don’t easily fit any one demographic, according to Hall. Those who wouldn’t traditionally consider buying a performance car (let alone a motorcycle) are visiting power sports dealers for the first time to check out Vanderhall models, Hall said. Current motorcycle, trike and car enthusiasts are also buying.

Both models have a six-speed automatic transmission. A manual mode is available, along with a driver-side shift lever, which gives enthusiasts more control. The Venice model I drove is powered by a 1.4-liter, four-cylinder turbo motor that generates 180 horsepower.

At only 1,375 pounds, the Venice achieves power-to-weight ratios that rival the world’s finest sports cars. And at less than $30,000, the acceleration comes cheap.

In addition to the performance capabilities, the Venice is also simple to drive for first timers — unlike a motorcycle. The seating, pedals, shifter and instrumentation are the same as any car. A Bluetooth-only 600 watt sound system is controlled by one simple dial. A heater and heated seats are standard.

The review

It's rare to find a vehicle that can wow an enthusiast on the back roads and still allow for relaxed city driving and tight parking. Add an estimated 38 miles per gallon combined city and highway gas mileage, and the Venice has wide-reaching appeal.

Vanderhall’s director of marketing Daniel Boyer first took me for a ride before handing me the keys. Vanderhall’s headquarters currently has few neighbors and the roundabout down the street provided the perfect spot to show off the torque and grip of the Venice.

Originally, the Venice was a rear-wheel drive vehicle but has since moved to front-wheel drive with added stability and little understeer. It dives into corners without hesitation, and the tires, mounted to 18-inch wheels, stick to the road like glue.

For my solo drive, I took a trip to Sundance and back. Despite the windscreen, the ride was very motorcycle-like. Wind and noise surround the driver at all times, the view is unobstructed at all angles and the turbo spin and venting are obviously much louder than the often hushed interiors of many modern cars.

I found myself accelerating at times only so I could let off the gas pedal to hear the waste gases flushed. Accelerating out of the corners, though, is where the fun begins. Since the driver is literally sitting about a foot off the ground, there's an amplified sensation of speed. With 185 pound-feet of torque and 180 horsepower, the Venice has a reported zero-to-60 mph time of 4.5 seconds.

The turbo lag was noticeable, particularly while driving in the canyon. Driving in a straight line back in town was less so.

The Venice is not luxury appointed. The wooden steering wheel is a beautiful touch and the analog gauges are perfect, but black plastic and stainless toggle switches make up everything else the driver sees. The much higher-priced Laguna model has air conditioning, finer interior touches and even an available hard top. The old school driving experience of the Venice is well worth the lack of modern creature comforts, though.

Vanderhall Motors was recently featured on Jay Leno's Garage.

Vanderhall Motors sells both the Venice and the Laguna in Utah via third-party local dealerships. The Venice is priced at $30,000 and the Laguna's price varies depending on added features, but is above $50,000.


![Mike Stapley](http://img.ksl.com/slc/2583/258384/25838475\.jpg?filter=ksl/65x65)
About the Author: Mike Stapley ------------------------------

Mike Stapley is a father of two, a business sales manager for a telecom company and an aspiring novelist living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at mstapley4@gmail.com.

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