Trevor Europe Express

DSC_0991_4a55ce17ed78d-lightboxThe belated arrival of the Chimaera as an active part of the fleet after some serious underbonnet surgery and registering it in The Netherlands and my financials prompted a serious thinning out of the herd.

The bonkers Saab 900 (‘Saabine’) which I had owned and modified for over 14 years and its cosmetically challenged sibling which I had intended to turning into a cheap ‘Ring shed was duly sold back to my Saab specialist mate (which reminds me I still have a Safety Devices rear cage for a 2-door Saab 900 laying around there – hopefully…).

From now on it would be just me, the Chimmie and the Mini Cooper company car (red with black roof – I like colour coördinating my cars…). For a city dweller on a relatively modest income and no endless amounts of time either, this seemed like an eminently sensible move… but would I come to regret it?

Luckily, from the monent I started using the TVR it was clear that this wasn’t going to be one of those nightmare cars you keep hearing about when discussing the Blackpudlian breed. Right from the off, it felt solid, dependable and most importantly enjoyable in all conditions. Good thing too, as I would now be stuck with it for all private transportation duties…

In fact the only glitch I experienced so far was on its first major outing, the Dutch Spring Run ’08 – a weekend-long tour of sometimes very minor roads in the countryside by an eclectic collection of classic and modern cars of mainly British and Dutch entrants. On one of the narrowest points of the route on Saturday morning, the throttle pedal sank to the floor without the corresponding response from the engine when I wanted to set off from a standstill. A quick look under the bonnet revealed that a small nut securing the throttle cable to the throttle plate spindle had made a bid for freedom – thankfully it didn’t get far so after finding the right size spanner and a tie-wrap as to avoid a repeat performance (both kindly provided by fellow Runners) it was back in place.

The whole procedure only took a few minutes, but as it was impossible for anything to pass, by the time I set off again a long tailback of exotic sports and classic cars and irate pushbikers had formed (and of course, the further back in the line you got, the wilder the stories about the ‘TVR breakdown’…). Somewhere in Pistonheads there must still be a pic of an old man in his invalid carriage sitting patiently behind a stationary Bugatti EB110…

The Spring Run was followed by a good few events to properly stretch Chimmie’s legs, more often than not in convoy with its siblings as well as assorted other motoring highlights – the Goodwood Festival Of Speed, the autumnal Nürburgring/Spa-Francorchamps trip organised by the good folks of the Cerbera forum on PH and perhaps most notably, the Thunder In The Tunnels 3 event to commemmorate the second anniversary of the London Thunder run to protest against the closure of the Blackpool factory and support the TVR workers in November ’06.

The wondrous sight and sound of a good 150 TVRs travelling in packs through central London in all possible directions on a Sunday morning was surreal to say the least, and judging by the amount of photo flashers making overtime the public and tourists liked it, too! The spectacle and the antics of TVRs revving, literally flying the flag for its defunct maker, taking off like rockets from traffic lights, sliding and sometimes spinning at underground roundabouts – if I weren’t laughing out loud at any point I certainly had a grin on my face that could barly be contained within the confines of the car…

Meanwhile, the car had got a lot better again after a day’s visit to Intrax’s headquarters in Volkel, where proprietor and current Dutch Supercar Challenge Supersport class champion Henk Thuis – also the man responsible for the suspension on the Benetton F1 of one M. Schumacher back in ’94 and ’95 – proceeded to assess the 110,000 miles old OEM set up and wheel geometry – as I suspected,the latter was miles off in several aspects – before replacing the tired old Bilsteins with something a little more advanced (not to mention costlier) and treating the car to a proper geo set up.

After having given the car the thumbs up overall on the final test drive, Henk sent me on my way again with an utterly transformed TVR. At the current exchange rate the 1K2 Black Titan monotube, fully adjustable coilovers with alloy housings, titanium rods with some sort of aerospace-developed anti-friction coating and rose-jointed mounts would work out at something close to £2.5K – which sounds like madness given the sort of money one buys Chimaeras for in the UK these days.

Still I think it’s well worth the outlay as the difference in grip, balance and composure is nothing short of amazing, even compared to well set up examples on more reasonably priced aftermarket suspension I’ve sampled. Together with the utter flexibility and relentless urge of the re-engineered RV8 lump I feel the newfound level of transparency of the car’s responses and its resolutely four-square stance, where it would feel floaty and non-committing before, have really taken the Chimaera to an altogether higher plane as a driving machine.

Granted, it won’t challenge a GT-R for cross-country pace or a Caterham Superlight on track but that’s not the point of a TVR. Where it excels, is in giving just about the maximum possible driver involvement and the richest blend of motoring sensations, even on mundane day to day business one needs to go about. I never feel using the car for that sort of driving as being ‘a waste’ – even going slowly in dense traffic is an event of sorts in a TVR – while on the other hand it’s comfortable enough never to think twice about using it for 6-700 miles’ worth of driving on a single day. Oh, and unlike the bonkers modified Saab it’s quite reasonable on fuel, too…

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Eric van Spelde