Clarkson on: TVRs
Last month, I wrote about the nanny state and how the health and safety mindset was removing all risk from everyday life. This, I speculated, would end all human endeavour and crush our natural spirit of adventure. Then, to make a point, I took my six-year-old to an outdoor kart track and let her have a go.
Anyway, she’s out of hospital now and we’re told the skin grafts have taken well. After a couple of months, we’re assured she’ll be walking again too.
So have I learned my lesson? Do I now wear safety goggles while eating, and a hi-vis jacket when mowing the lawn? More to the point, am I now consulting health and safety experts as I prepare a multi-million-pound lawsuit against the manufacturers of the kart, the people who rented it to us, and Tony Blair himself, for being an arse?
The simple answer is no. In fact, I’ve just had a call from the council’s environmental health team who wanted to know what had happened and if there’d been any negligence on anyone’s part. I told them something these people seem not to understand. It was an accident, and accidents will always happen, no matter how many reinforced elbow and knee pads you’re wearing.
And that brings me neatly on to the new TVR Tuscan 2. This is the first of the cars launched since the company was bought by a 14-year-old Russian business-boy, and is said to be easier to drive, and easier to live with than any TVR ever.
Hmmm. It still doesn’t have an airbag, or anti lock brakes, or any kind of traction control. In fact, the only safety feature is the ludicrous starting procedure which is so complicated, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll never actually get it going. And a stationary, silent car is damn hard to crash.
In the course of trying to make its big six cylinder engine burst into life, you will hit every button that you see, so when the motor does fire, absolutely everything will be on, and you’ll have no idea how to turn it all off again. So you’ll try to get out, which is impossible because so far as I can see, there are no door handles.
This meant I drove to a friend’s house for dinner with the hazards and the high intensity rear light on. And when I got there, I had to phone and ask the hostess to come out to open the driver’s door for me. I think she thought I was a loony.
As the week wore on, I learned my way around the controls until I was sufficiently comfortable to turn my concentration to whether or not it’s easier to drive than the Tuscan 1 was.
They say they’ve loosened the steering so a quarter turn of the wheel no longer means you’re instantly going the other way – but it still felt pretty savage to me. Comparing the two would be like comparing a velociraptor with a tyrannosaurus rex.
“If this was my car, I might have scrawled “Nik‘s a fuckwit” on the bonnet, and sent it back again”
Then there’s the speed. Stamp on the throttle and the back end squats like a yachting dog before you are hurled into an all-new space and time continuum. Easier to drive? Easier to live with? Only if your usual transport is a Star Wars X-Fighter.
This is good news. It means the very essence of TVR is still there. It still feels like a beer drinking, rugby brawling upper crust thug, never more at home than on the mean streets of Fulham, burbling its way from The Ship in Wandsworth to The Sloaney Pony on Parson’s Green.
So, the Russian has bought the company, taken the Tuscan out of production and put it back with the same snarling, public school feel. And that’s good.
What’s not so good is that he doesn’t seem to have done anything at all about quality. The single biggest bugbear in TVR’s past.
Apparently, he tried to forge an alliance with Volkswagen at one point, wondering if he could sell the Phaeton over here with a TVR badge. But this came to nought. It’s hard to see how VW might have benefited from such a deal.
He’s also, I understand, stopped the lads from cooking their pizzas in the paint shop ovens. This used to alarm visitors to the plant as they waited for their new car to come down the conveyor. This is a Cerbera. This is a Griffith and this… yes, it’s a ham and pineapple with extra pepperoni.
I’m unable to report on whether they’ve also stopped writing messages on bits of bodywork that are hidden beneath carpet, or the roof lining. Apparently, if you peel away the upholstery in your TVR there may well be a big drawing of a penis. Or a note saying that “Wozzer is a fat bastard”.
Of course, a bit of graffiti will not cause the car to go wrong. But it doesn’t inspire confidence. You never, for instance, see “Fritz is a tosser” written on the fuel tank of a Maybach. Because if you did, you’d think it had been built by a bunch of cowboys.
I hope, therefore, that the practice has been eliminated without industrial unrest, and that the business boy has got to grips with this quality issue. Unfortunately, I’m not overly hopeful. On my test car, the windscreen wipers lifted off the screen completely at 80 mph – which I suppose is a safety feature of sorts: it reminds you to slow down again. Less easy to explain was the passenger door window which would go all the way to the top, pause until the precise moment you thought it would stay there… and then come down again.
If this had been my car, paid for with my own money, I may well have scrawled “Nik is a fuckwit” on the bonnet, and sent it back again.
That’s if I’d been able to buy it in the first place. But in the recent past TVR has fallen into the “life’s too short category”. Every 15 minutes a new model would come along and a spokesman would claim that while it was the same size, and had the same engine, and roughly the same looks as the one which had been launched only 15 minutes ago, it was in fact completely different.
Rubbish. Griffith? Tamora? T350C? Tuscan? Chimera? They were all exactly the same car.
The new range needs to be simplified. There should be a convertible and a coupe. And that’s it. Oh, and when the European grim reaper harvests that 3.6-litre engine because it’s killing too many trees, it needs to be replaced with a V8. Because straight sixes are for nancy boys. OK?
Sadly, it doesn’t seem this is going to happen. Because, as I write, they’re putting the finishing touches to the Sagaris which, when it was first shown, was a T350C that had been hit, repeatedly, with an axe. I now understand the slashes have gone. So, it’s just another T350C then.
I fear for TVR, I really do, because they need to spend their money on electrics that work, and wipers that stay put, rather than an endless array of pointless new models. If it all goes tits up, it’d be a crying shame because the cars are fine. That Tuscan I drove was a one ton hypodermic full of adrenaline. It was a big fat poke in the eye for the nanny state. And for that reason alone, it’s more than just a car. It is responsible for the sanity and well being of the entire Western world.