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August 19, 2017

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Slovenian supercar maker Tushek joins world's elite

PTUJ, Slovenia--Out of a little garage in northeastern Slovenia, comes a new supercar — and it is already joining the ranks of the world's elite, alongside Lamborghini and Ferrari.

Only six months after presenting his first prototype at Monaco's Top Marques event, Aljosa Tusek, 46, has been invited to London's exclusive Salon Prive car show which runs Wednesday through Friday, and customers from all over the world keep calling him.

Far from a sleek assembly line however, his Renovatio T500 saw the light of day in a friend's garage.

A former racer, Tusek designed it in his spare time, building it with the help of about 10 fellow car enthusiasts over several years, while balancing a full-time job as a distributor for an international tire company.

"A moment comes when you decide to stop racing, but you do not want to quit it.

"Since I could not find a car that would satisfy me the way racing did, I decided to make it myself," Tusek told AFP while showing off his creation in a modest hangar in Ptuj, in northeastern Slovenia.

Using the Slovak K1-Attack racer as a basis, he created a supercar equipped with an Audi V8 FSI engine with 450 horse power, that weighs approximately 1 ton and can accelerate from zero to 100 kph (62 miles per hour) in 3.7 seconds.

And the 300,000-euro (US$375,000) car — listed as one of the highlights at the Monaco show — has already earned a shining review from the renowned BBC auto show Top Gear, which described it as "massively fast," "agile" and "quite civilized."

The "newcomer from Slovenia ... looks very much at home next to the established exotica from Alfa Romeo, Bugatti, Ferrari, Lamborghini," it added.

'Everyone can buy a Ferrari'

"Brands like Ferrari have developed strongly, increased their production and market share. That makes it less interesting for extremely wealthy customers.

"They do own a Ferrari but it is no longer a status symbol, everyone can buy it," he told AFP.

Tushek on the other hand — the company has an added "h" in its name to make it easier for non-Slovenians to pronounce — will produce only a limited number of each model.

So far, Tusek has built three cars and sold two of them, but his long-term plans are to speed up production and deliver 10 cars per year. Waiting time should not exceed six months, he says.

For that, he will hire 10-15 people, mostly engineers and friends who already helped him produce the first cars, working during their free time while keeping steady jobs.

For Tusek too, retreating to the garage has always been a means to escape daily stress.

"I did not start this for the money ... I started it with the idea of making the car I would like to drive," he said.

From his early childhood, he raced: first with go-carts, then motorbikes and finally cars, winning various regional races.

Now still, he takes his creations very seriously, testing them on the road so that nothing will surprise the future owners.

The global crisis does not worry him.

"This is the best time to start with a business like this. There will be a way out of recession, because there has to be, and when that happens we will already be a strong company."

Still, if he had the choice, he would live in Monaco, Switzerland or a major capital like Paris or London.

"There you can see that for some there is no crisis at all, there are so many wealthy people," Tusek said, and admitted to targeting British and French millionaires, to whom he hopes to sell at least three more cars by the end of the year.

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