Motormuse: Convertibleness

MX5

There aren’t many times when one can just sit down and be totally content with watching the world go by, but this was one of those times. My girlfriend was in the hospital having an operation on her back. I was being the strong, confident, up-beat partner and although I didn’t show it, I was worried. Its a fairly routine operation and the doctor gave ample reassurance but I’m of a nervous disposition around hospitals and with any lower back op the risks include life affirming terms like “death” and “paralysis”. The time was upon us though and she was taken in to surgery – it would take approximately 2 hours.

This left me with nothing to do except wait, hope and look for distraction. Relatives live not too far away from the hospital and although I had originally thought to call and see them, truth be told I didn’t want to speak to anyone right now. My own company was all I wanted at the time. It was a lovely day and there were some shops about a mile down the road. Time for a good head-clearing stroll. As I arrived at the shops, I noticed a bench near the bus stop which looked out over the pavement and road ways. This is where I would take up residency for the next hour or so.

Armed with a magazine, a bottle of pop and some fatty badness in the form of crisps and sweets I sat on the bench in the summer sun and watched the world go by. Being a car enthusiast my attention was naturally drawn the passing motorists. Convertibles are more conspicuous than than a regular car and nothing brings out more drop-top cars than a beautiful day…

An old triumph passed by, piloted by its middle aged owner with a cap on. The day had come to finally allow him the liberty of taking his pride and joy out of the shed and onto the road. Then passed the mum in the blue MG-F; top down, shades on – reliving her youth.

It wasn’t long before the modern Beetle passed me, occupied by a group of immaculate young women all smiling and laughing, shortly followed by several MX5’s in various shapes and guises.

Lots of other cars were on the road that day, but those that appeared in a more relaxed disposition where the convertibles. They just seemed in no rush, just enjoying the experience.

The 80’s Porsche. Red. Pop up headlights and cream folding roof. Does anything symbolise the ultimate historical motoring desire than the 80’s Porsche? The sunshine positively radiated from the bonnet as the owner parked near a junction and waited for his passenger. It sent me straight back to my youth when a convertible Porsche meant it was likely someone of importance in society. The modern world is one of finance and overpaid celebrity, so many cars are achievable with just a little hard work, or a big personal gamble. But back then, the red Porsche convertible was owned only by the seriously rich. It still looked good and its gleaming red coachwork was commanding attention from passers by. Still got ‘it’.

I was tucking into the crisps I had bought as a BMW 3 series pulled up outside the shop next to me. Black. Folding metal roof. Driven by Mean-Looking Bouncer Man. Black shades, black jacket. Mean. Except today he wasn’t mean. He had brought his young daughter to the shops with the roof down. He’s also a cautious guy, raising the roof before leaving the car. Now it looks like a coupe; nice car.

As I started my hike back up the hill, some 60 minutes after my journey began, I realised that there really is a convertible car for everyone. From the older hobbyist to the young and youthful, or the image conscious motoring purest, there is a something to suit everyone. Even a hardened bouncer, immortal to pain but with a serious reputation to uphold has a model of choice. From practical to poseur, its a topless path that few people who only need just a small interest in motoring choose to embark upon at some point in their lives.

A vast choice available to suit all pockets. From a few hundred quid, to a few hundred grand. Its a dream of motoring desire, not always spoken; the care-free wind in your hair feeling of driving – maybe even without a predetermined destination. Heading out to your driveway, shades in hand, into the driving seat, roof down and off you go. Feeling nature and machine working as one – all for your benefit. No matter which model or marque you choose – everyone loves a convertible.

The operation was a success. A very nervous time had now passed. I was back at the hospital bedside, waiting anxiously for my lady to wake up. It had been a worrying few hours, one which denied me an ability to focus on anything significant. On that beautiful day, just watching the world go by was a great stress reliever. I wanted for nothing and life was, for a short time, on hold.

I imagine that the driving experience for those people in the convertibles – that drop-top pleasure, made them feel the same.

23rd December 2009

Event: Knight Rider Show 2010

Guilty Pleasures

2010 Celebrates another year of the annual Knight Rider convention, held in the town of Halifax, UK. Over the years KnightCon has grown and is now one of the world’s biggest Knight Rider events – with replica cars from past and present and the original Knight Rider rolling command centre on display (or “a massive truck” to those unaffiliated with the original series). Many other American cars also attended – including replicas from several other classic TV shows.

KITT Replicas

KITT Replicas

The event is organised by Steve and Rob, who work tirelessly throughout the year to make these events so special. This year didn’t disappoint with a flagship marquee, inside displaying perfect replica’s of the original 80’s icon – The Knight Industries Two Thousand as well as the Mustang Three Thousand from the 2009 series.

Inside of KITT

Inside of KITT

There were props built to look like the inside of the trailer, a stage for the celebrity guests and TVs showing schematics of KITT. Guests were also treated to a bar and a shop where you could buy Knight Rider based goodies. Outside the car park was full of KITTs, Mustangs, The General Lee and even the A-Team van!

KnightCon this year was a 2 day event, starting Friday night with a VIP guest party.  I’m a big fan of Knight Rider and Chris Jones had been asked to help with the on-the-day organisation and he’d ask if I could come along to assist with event security for the Friday evening. Happy to oblige, I started practicing my lines. I had received a clipboard list of guests who were down for the Friday event. One of the barmaids in the Marquee mentioned that her husband was due to come down later so was overjoyed when the opportunity presented itself. I scanned my name list. “I’m sorry” I said with a dry smile, “If their name isn’t down, they are not coming in”.

Chris grimaced. “You’ve been dying to say that haven’t you”.

The Knight Rider Truck!

The Knight Rider Truck!

Outside the Marquee there was a projection of the KITT schematics onto the top of the tent which looked fantastic at night.

The Friday night event was excellent – with music and drink flowing until the guests arrived later in the evening. Rebecca Holden, who played April in Series two and Mike Scheffe who designed the original KITT car came along as special guests. After being presented on the stage, they said a few words and then proceeded to mingle with the crowd for the rest of the evening.

The evening passed without a hitch and the next morning I arrived expecting a few people milling around. I could scarcely believe my eyes – a car park packed with people, cars overflowing and a semi-frantic Chris welcoming me with “Where the f**k have you been?!” Whoops…

The car display was magnificent. As you entered the car park where were a number of American cars of all ages to the right, further up the straight were TV show cars including Starsky and Hutch, Delorian, The A-Team van and the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard!

Some people did appreciate the Ferrari

Some people did appreciate the Ferrari

An out of place character was also on display near the entrance to the show – a bright yellow Ferrari 355 convertible. Jonty owns the car and had come to see the car show like the rest of us. Not knowing where to park he mistakenly drove into the event and was directed to park up inside with the display cars! Having the car near the entrance caused a lot of negative feeling with some of the hardcore American car owners which I found disappointing – yet not unusual as I’ve seen this behaviour before.

As Jonty left later in the afternoon there was much jeering “I bet it’s an MR2 or some crap replica” one said. I found this negativity towards someone who had only come to enjoy the show like everyone else a little unfair “That’s a real Ferrari” I said to one of them. Laughs and dismissive belief followed along with aired comments “Why bring that to an American car show”. As he departed, revving the engine to get over the speed hump and up the hill “yeah, that’s it, blow your engine up!” Mercifully, they were in the minority and seeing the fruitlessness of any defence I just left them to it.

Later in the afternoon “Eleanor” also arrived from Gone in 60 Seconds fame, which attracted a huge amount of interest. A spectacular rare car, fastidiously looked after by its owner who has modified a number of components to improve its performance. “It’s a real handful to drive though” he tells us “No power steering and a cable clutch means it is hard to control when setting off”.

Mustang

Mustang

Now then main event – the KITT replica’s. A huge number of cars were on display. Many of them had the complete dashboards and one in particular had a voice recognition system, which allowed KITT to actually respond to your requests. Fantastic!!

Dukes of Hazard and the A-Team van

Dukes of Hazard and the A-Team van

The Celebrity guests arrived in the afternoon, being driven to the crowds in three replica KITT cars. With Rebecca and Mike they were also accompanied by Catherine Hickland who played Stevie in the original series. She Married “Michael Knight” in the show and actually married David Hasslehoff in real life.

A Q&A session followed, allowing anyone to ask them questions about the show, their lives at the time, or what they are doing now. We were regaled with stories of life during the Knight Rider days and the fun that was had whilst producing the TV show. These days Rebecaa is a singer and Catherine is now a professional hypnotist in Las Vegas!

Video messages were also played from many of the other cast and crew, including David himself.

All in all, a fantastic day out, with a lot to see. Three cheers for Rob and Steve who put this event together with such detail and perfection. In the run up to the event they spent several days working until 4am with friends and family to get everything finished in time. They then proceeded to spend most of the weekend either shell-shocked or in frantic panic keeping the show running smoothly. Not that you’d know it as it was one of the most professionally arranged events I have attended.

KITT Indoors

KITT Indoors

The 2009 KITT

The 2009 KITT

So thanks again to you both.  One man – or in this case two – really can “make a difference”.

Addendum: The series of KnightCon shows finished in 2013 and due to expansion in the displays and wider public appeal, will in future be known as Star Cars and Heroes.

September 2010

DRIVEN: 2010 911 Carrera S Cabrio

£72,000. That’s what I reckoned this car would cost. Not even close. After a check on the Car Configurator, adding all the options this baby is clocking up just shy of £92,000. Wow!

This is the latest Porsche 911. The Generation 2 model of the 997 with LED running lights, fussy rear lights and a more powerful engine (385bhp and 0-60 in 4.5 seconds). Porsche have kindly (finally!) leant me a 911 for an extended 24 hour test drive and being a demonstrator model is stocked to the rafters with toys and noise. It is also a cabriolet – a welcome surprise as I’ve missed the roof down action from my previous Boxster.

As I settle into the car my immediate thought is to drop the roof. However, with the revised 997 roofs, I couldn’t find the manual catch lever – or the auto buttons to lower the roof so my first journey is one in a closed environment. It’s a nice place to be too, with full leather interior and the more luxurious sports seats it is a cosseted, yet distinctly sporty ride.

A little more on those optional toys; We have the PDK 7 speed double-clutch gearbox, Sports Chrono, switchable sports exhaust, heated leather interior, phone preparation, Bose Sound system and a curious button labelled “Sports Plus”.

First things first – that Exhaust button gets pressed. The exhaust note is good as standard but with the option enabled has an additional raspy effect. Deep and throaty indeed it is. Marvellous!

Travelling on the road, I hit the Sports button. The transmission immediately drops a couple of gears, keeping itself closer to the optimum rev range for immediate speed. It also sharpens up the dampers which unfortunately is too fidgety for the unsmooth British roads. I suspect this is aimed more at those who favour track days; thankfully you can disable this option to keep the ride more comfortable. Does that make me sound old?

Putting the boot down is just a marvellous experience – and with Chrono enabled a face-grinning superlative experience is guaranteed. The pace pick up is rapid – rather bonkers quick, with the exhaust spitting its most aggressive growl it gives you an instant “want one” feeling.

I’ve driven a PDK model before in the Cayman and thoroughly enjoyed it and the 911 provides a similar experience. If you put your foot down hard, it will drop a couple of gears ready for lift-off. However, if you’re really put the boot in the gearbox acknowledges the immediacy of your request and finds the perfect gear for maximum takeoff.

The result of all this means you can go from meandering to blistering speeds with a mere squeeze of the go pedal. When you do, the acceleration is wonderful – the noise is addictive and the push back into your seat is fantastic. At a set of traffic lights I floored it and looking behind I was astonished to see just how much ground I had covered, with other motorists transformed to just dots in the mirror.

So quick is the 911 PDK it doesn’t taker more than a few seconds to be breaking the laws of the land so unless you are risking a ticket, this wholesome noise – and your satisfied grin – is relatively short lived on a long straight. You need a few bends to break up the drama and allow for some handling experience.

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

2010 Porsche 911 Carrera S Cabriolet

The 911 handles effortlessly and although doesn’t generate quite as much feedback through the steering as a Cayman it certainly isn’t lacking. The driving ‘feel’ also informs you of the heavy lump that is hanging around at the back of the car and I would imagine that if you gave this a good boot on any moderately slippery surface you’d find yourself sideways in quick time. Thankfully I didn’t find any of that on my test and a dashing of rain gave me a chance to turn off the Sports options and just cruise.

In this mode the 911 is a great GT car. You’ve got toys a plenty, a wonderful stereo system, a Sat Nav which knows all of the traffic hotspots – even showing you maps of the affected areas – and heated seats to keep your bum warm in the cold.

Before long the sun is back out again and I start on the convertible roof again. After much confusion followed by internet help I discover how you drop the roof. Unlike the Boxster of old, there is no manual catch – the whole operation is now simply automatic. Press and hold the button near the handbrake and the roof lowers in full in around 30 seconds.

Topless motoring is fantastic and with the 911 it allows you to hear all of its vocals undiluted. If you have left the 911 Cabrio buttoned up in a car park, you can lower the roof on your way back to the car just by holding one of the buttons on the remote control. Very flash!

The only downside to convertibles, even new ones such as this is that they have a habit of generating rattles and squeaks at random inside the cabin when the roof is up.

This particular model has the two-tone leather, with a half black/beige dashboard and sand-beige seats and door cards to match. I like it, but Sand is a colour that isn’t favoured by many – including my good lady. “I’m not sure about all this brown business” she says when first introduced to the car! 🙂

This model also has the clear glass rear lights and the optional 911 logo on the boot, much to the delight of passing youth on their bikes; “Woooow! A 911!!” one exclaims as we park up on the driveway.

And what of the Sports Plus button? I have to admit, I didn’t get chance to try this out too much – when pressed, it drops the gears even lower but I’m not sure what else it does. That is until I was a few hundred yards from returning the when I realised it is used for the Launch Control. Doh! I would have loved to have played with that, but apologies in advance that it didn’t occur to me! So many sporty options in sports cars nowadays….

So how does it compare to the Cayman? It is noticeably faster and louder too – in a good way. It has back seats but no boot so that could be concluded ‘a draw’. It’s also infinitely better than the 996 model, which I never really bonded with. But at £92,000 you’ll needed some pretty deep pockets and some mega depreciation balls to take the plunge on this car. For that money, you could actually buy a used 997.1 Coupe, a Cayman, Boxster AND Cayenne – and still have plenty of change to run and insure the whole fleet.

Has the 911 now made it onto my to-do list? I’m pleased to say that this 997 is enough of a step away from the other models in the range (Cayman, Boxster) to warrant moving up a cog come change over. A truly fantastic flagship sports car that really can be used every day – heading to the shops, sitting in traffic or blasting around a track at silly speeds it is the do-all companion for any motoring enthusiast.

My only criticism is those rattles with the roof up (accepted though for a convertible, almost certainly won’t be heard in a coupe) and that it feels a little too vibratey when idle – I suspect this is the auto transmission balancing the clutch when stationary.

If my next car is once again a Porsche – it will likely be a 997 911. But personally, I’ll be in .1 edition – until the PDK models come into my budget, as £92,000 just makes my eyes water…!

Great car!

September 2010

Cayman Diaries: MOT Time

Whoops! Due to working away and then a bunch of holidays recently I haven’t been using the Cayman much during the week and I completely forgot that it was due its MOT on September 1st. I booked it in yesterday and the MOT was carried out at Porsche Leeds today.  It passed with flying colours, but I still get that tentative feeling whilst any of my cars are in being inspected!

Then, just as I was about to drive off, one of the rear brake lights failed. I got a warning on the dashboard – most impressive as I hadnt realised that it does this. I wandered back in and the dealer put me another bulb in free of charge. They also gave the car a full clean inside and out as part of the MOT and it looks and smells lovely again. Hurrah!

Professional Photos
The Cayman has recently had some professional photos done as part of a feature I have written comparing my Camyan 2.7 to the mighty 911 Turbo. I can’t put them online as yet as my article is going to be published in the Porsche Post UK owners club magazine! Happy days indeed. As soon as the mag has been released I’ll put the photos on here for one and all to enjoy!

🙂

Motor-nature

People like to be around people. It’s a fact of human nature that we love to love and to be loved. Finding your perfect partner and living life happily with someone is the stuff that both life and Hollywood dreams are made of.

Books have been written about the psychology behind companionship and how depression can be linked to loneliness. I understand where they are coming from too as, most of the time anyway, I like being around people. I enjoy time with my friends and family and nothing beats a nice relaxing afternoon spent with my good lady girlfriend.

I’m fortunate enough to have the ability in my daily job to work from home when I want or need to. This is great for those traffic infested days when someone chose to park their car in the boot of the one in front. It allows me to avoid the resulting absolute chaos that subsequently reigns all over motorway-land.

Despite this great benefit of my chosen career, its not something that I choose to do very often because, whilst its an expensive waste of time driving to the office, I do enjoy the social aspect of being around people and catching up with what’s going on in everyone’s life. It’s just more rewarding than being at home on my own. So, unless your one of the fine lone warriors from a David Gemmel fantasy novel its fair to say that people enjoy being with people. Everyone wants to be with someone.

This well known fact surprisingly runs contrary to a belief which, until last Saturday I had no idea even existed, but for the purpose of this Motormuse I would like to clarify this point and set the record straight:

My car does NOT need any company.

It is a machine. An enjoyable machine nonetheless, which when I’m having a good driving day feels like its just an extension of my very being. However it should be noted that it doesn’t understand the concept of companionship. It isn’t Herbie, it doesn’t get lonely. Its MY car and I know whats best for it.

Maybe you’re confused. Perhaps you already know this. “Of course a car doesn’t need company” you are thinking. Well, it would appear that the owner of KG03 ZGX has no idea that human emotions aren’t extended into a cars computer chip and on that basis I feel some people probably do need a little factual information outside of the cinema screen. Think of it as a public service. No charge.

You see, on Sunday afternoon me and my lady went on a shopping trip to Morrison’s. The drudge of the shopping grind made all the more better by going as a twosome (back to the human nature thing again). Being later in the afternoon the car park was pretty empty. Its a huge car park, also designed to cope with the business of weekend shoppers who are just wanting a look around town rather than just grocery shopping (Pay and Display of course).

Is there not enough room everywhere else?

Is there not enough room everywhere else? Note that this is only a small section of an empty car park!

I’m still of a paranoid nature with my cars so I headed over to the far reaches of the car park where only a handful of cars were parked. With no-one around, we could open those chunky doors nice and wide and get in and out comfortably. Plus, with chips on the doors (one now repaired at our not insignificant expense) already from moronic individuals who are unable to get out of their car without bashing the one next to them I don’t like to run this risk unless we absolutely have to. A little stroll back to the shop will do us good anyway.

So, we’ve parked, we’ve strolled and we’ve loaded our shopping trolley with the obligatory £1. We are ready to shop. As we get to the front doors, imagine my surprise – and immediate anger – as I glance back to the car park to find that KG03 has parked right next to us!!

Try to imagine if you will – an almost empty car park, large enough to host an annual HGV lorry parade and KG03 has decided that the best space to park, in this vast arena of emptiness is in the space right next to our car.

It’s not even like we are near the door. It’s not like we are near anything! It makes no sense and the only rationalisation I feel that KG03’s owners could have possibly come up with, is that Sally might have been lonely without Lightening McQueen. Therefore our car couldn’t possibly stay on its own in the car park without any company. I can only imagine their distress seeing the handful of other cars out on their own in the wilderness of Morrison’s finest complimentary tarmac.

So, it comes back again to that delicate balance between works of fiction and genuine common sense in the real world. I guess some people really are seemingly incapable of distinguishing between real-life and ‘make believe’.

Either that or they did it for no other reason than to selfishly piss me off. Well done KG03, mission accomplished.

August 2010

Event: Project Kahn Visit

Project Kahn Visit - Veryron

Project Kahn Visit - Veryron

August’s main outing for our group is a drive out and meeting at Project Kahn based in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Project Kahn has been around for years and primarily turns very special cars in extra special cars with mod’s including bodywork, wheels, interiors and of course engine and power hikes.

Project Kahn Visit

We were invited to the showroom to meet the staff and see what they can do. Inside, the main showroom is actually upstairs and is like a car-candy sweet shop for the motoring nut. An array of Range Rovers, Ferrari’s and Porsche’s are on display. Taking proud of place at the front of the showroom is a gleaming white Bugatti Veyron. A very special car indeed, with the rear spoilers proudly erected to almost lofty heights, the curves of the bodywork seem to shrink the car, looking relatively small in its demeanor.

An Orange and Black Range Rover Cosworth is in the centre of the showroom which is a great talking point. Hmmmmm….Cosworth. If bling is your thing, Kahn undoubtedly has something of interest to you!

The drive to Kahn has brought a lot of great cars out today. We’ve got numerous Ferrari’s and Porsches and we’ve also got a couple of Lamborghini’s; a black Gallardo and a yellow Murcielago with a street presence to match is formidable status. The car looks huge and bonkers.

Project Kahn Visit

Project Kahn Visit

The drive to Kahn is a wet one, coupled with a dose of finest motorway roadworks ensures that speeds are kept to a minimum and the group bunched together on the motorway. Brightly coloured cars painting the dreary wet landscape and keeping the drivers of some of the more slippery metal in maximum concentration mode.

Rain or shine isn’t going to spoil a good outing for our convertible posse though – indeed, the classic Jaguar team don’t have much of a choice – they didn’t have roofs in those days, so cap-and-goggles it is!

Project Kahn Visit

Project Kahn Visit

A great turnout and morning was had at the Kahn showrooms. The highlight had to be the Veyron – one of two that usually live in the very special showroom!

Event: Ginetta Factory Tour

I am now the feature writer for supercardriver.com . This report can be viewed in a magazine format, by clicking here.

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta was originally formed in 1958 by the Walklett brothers, primarily as a racing company. The company ran into trouble in the late 80’s and ultimately was acquired by businessman Lawrence Tomlinson in 2005. Since then company has gone from strength to strength, winning several racing events, the highlight being the GT2 class at Le Mans. Ginetta are also in the Guinness Book of Records for being the only car to drive across the channel tunnel. Supercardriver arranged a factory tour and the turnout was a resounding success.

Today’s special car-park head turners included a Lamborghini Murcielago in brightest of bright blue and, new to our camp, a Dodge Viper – still looking as wild and bonkers as ever a car could do. My good lady is with me for the first time on these events and is busying herself on camera duty. I give special mention to the Ferrari 360 in front of us, hoping to gain some kind of purchase agreement. She prefers the 911 in the corner (GT3RS). “I like the blue wheels”, and peering inside “Oooh, it’s got blue seatbelts too!” Ah. The gleaming white Z4M Coupe also gets a special mention so I give up on my mission as a task for another day and press on with car park navigation and photos.

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

We are soon greeted by Mike Simpson who will be our main host for the tour. Mike is the sales manager at Ginetta as well as a racing driver and has huge breadth of knowledge. As we enter the impressive boardroom through a set of double-doors the first thing that strikes you is the not-inconsiderable boardroom table with seating for 20 people. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the feature wall holding the many trophies that have been won over the years by the Marque.

The adjacent wall overlooks the factory below with large windows for us to peer through which we all dutifully do, with just a smidge of concealed excitement. We are then informed by our hosts that Supercardriver has “provided the biggest turnout ever to the factory tour – and by far the most impressive display in the car park”. Mike then proceeds to tell us the Ginetta story of followed by a short video highlighting the notable history and Ginetta’s heritage.

Introduction over, a brief Q&A follows and we are then taken to the offices where the CAD (computer aided design) work takes place. From here, the technology can be used to establish impact of changes and build new designs. These assessments can prove crucial when viewing the likely impact of body/chassis changes before moving them to production – thus potentially saving a lot of money in the event of an unforeseen design problem. This was fascinating to see and our group asked several questions.

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

On display around the building are several cars that have recently been built. A red G20 is waiting collection from a 14-year-old youngster who will be taking part in next years Ginetta Junior racing series. These competitions are designed for those who are too young to race in more senior competitions, whilst still giving them a taste of the full-blown racing action.

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Next we are led into the workshop where our hosts describe each of the engineering bays and the production processes in areas such as engine and roll cage development/creation. Leading through the factory, we are shown Ginetta’s road ready electric sports car. After an 8-hour charge, the batteries will run the car for 250 miles before needing another pump of home-brew juice. The car is taxed, road legal and a fully working example of what could be achieved using alternative power. Our host commented that it feels very much the same to drive as a normal car, just with an eerie silence when stationary. The dashboard is cluttered with many buttons and switches, revealing its prototype status. The post-it note on the dashboard amuses; “if you don’t recognise it, don’t touch it!”

Around the workshop, many racing cars are in different stages of undress, being rebuilt or prepared for their next outing. In a corner of the workshop floor are a number of special cars including iconic Ginetta and TVR cars that Lawrence and the racing team took to racing victory, as well as some classics and rarities from his personal collection. Towering over the cars, amidst the racing support-lorries and buses, is a real surprise and delight – a magnificent black and orange helicopter!

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta recently acquired Farbio and with it the GTS model. Now re-branded as the F400 and modified to improve on this already impressive production road car. With a carbon fibre body it continues to be built at the specialist factory in Bath, whilst these premises in Leeds focus on the racing breed. Still, there is an F400 production car taking centre stage for us to drool over. Used as the demonstration vehicle, the car undoubtedly has had a tough life but to look at you wouldn’t know it – as striking as ever with the classic bold lines of a modern small supercar, slightly McLaren-esque one might say.

Sitting in the car, low and rigidly straight forward you are immediately reminded of its purpose; leather sports seats and a minimalist look to the cabin, a large screen display on the centre console acting as your only company. Once in the driving seat – not a delicate maneuver it has to be said – it’s a comfortable place to be and it feels like a real racecar, legs stretched out forward in the low-slung seat, hands gripping the small steering wheel.

Ginetta Factory Tour

Ginetta Factory Tour

Leading us out after the tour comes to a close, we pass through the staff Gymnasium, lavished with all the latest fitness apparatus. It gives further impression that employees of Ginetta are well looked after and those who we had the opportunity to speak to were certainly hugely enthusiastic about the company. The factory tour was a great way to spend a Monday evening. A huge thanks goes to Mike and the staff at Ginetta who stayed back especially to allow us the pleasure of an insight to this fascinating world of racecar production. We wish them every success for the future.

Their only request of us was a donation to their chosen charity – The Teenage Cancer Trust. With donations from all our drivers we raised a fantastic £640.

Event: A Wet August Peak Drive

Supercars in the rain

Supercars in the rain

When it rains, it pours. And pour it did. As a hallmark to the final Sheffield Supercar Sunday drive the weather could no longer hold out and it bolted it down. Expecting a poor turnout, there was a pleasant surprise waiting at Sheffield on this early Sunday morning. Many of the regulars had made it with a few new members turning up too! Even a Ferrari Testarossa came to the party – a car that many believe could disintegrate in anything other than California summer conditions. Well, I am pleased to report that it didn’t, although it did need a few push-starts every now and again. Italian electrics, you see.

A magnificent car though – classic 80’s Ferrari and with those wide square hips it looked positively huge as we trudged through pelting rain and puddles. Steve had also made the event in his Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. That car looked good. No, actually, it looked bloomin’ awesome. Steve has had the car just under a year, after swapping his previous Audi R8. He reveals the Gallardo is the better car of the two. To date nothing has gone wrong with the car, save a minor issue with the washer jets which was promptly fixed with a little poking about and the odd prod-and-spanner.

Supercar Lineup

Supercar Lineup

After coffee and conversation we shortly depart on what was undoubtedly the best-planned driving route that we have ever had on the Sheffield Supercar Sunday. Carefully detailed, mapped, post-coded for Sat Nav and a designated lead car (a red RS4 no less) ensured that the group was kept together for the duration – and crucially no-one got lost. The roads were truly fantastic, cutting through some of the quieter areas of the peak district and climbing the high hills revealing spectacular views – all whilst travelling in a convoy of some of the worlds most superb and varied motorcars.We stopped at a pub somewhere on the lofty heights of the district and went inside for a warm and a coffee.

James has come along from Manchester in his Maserati Gransport. Based on the 4200 but with improved handling and  performance it’s a rare and special car. James confirms that the Gransport takes the 4200 away from the GT and more towards the sports-car arena. With 400bhp, focused handling and 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, the stats certainly back up this claim! The Gransport rear lights were up for debate – with preference shown for the boomerang style from the previous model, which were ultimately dropped for the 4200 in order to meet US legislation. “I heard about someone doing a conversion”, James tells me. “It cost around £6,000 to put the boomerangs onto the 4200!” I imagine that’s a pretty exclusive conversation!

As we departed the rain had lightened but the wind was still in abundance. Back inside my car, with the warmth of the car heaters and we are on our way, heading through some smaller villages with surprised smiles beaming from residents as the convoy respectfully passed through their town. Our next destination – the bookstore.

After some more fun on the winding roads, and an almost sideways moment for one of the Skylines, we arive at the bookstore. Not just any old bookstore – but the bookstore. Settled in the middle of seemingly nowhere is a large paper repository-cum-café. With sandwiches and drinks on tap for our convoy it was a great chance to mingle with the group and get to know all of the owners.

A Line of Nissan GTRs

A Line of Nissan GTRs

John comes over to say hello. A fellow Cayman owner – or at least he was – he has just traded for a 911. Today though, he has come in his mental blue Skyline – it needed an outing. The Skyline is currently kicking out around 700bhp. It’s a track focused weapon but time restrictions means that it spends less time on the track than John would like. The Skyline forms part of a photo lineup, ranging from the original R33 GTS-T model, up to the latest GTR – today we are fortunate to have both a black and a white versions in our midst. A few more photos and chat ensued before the morning run was drawn to a close.

We had the roads. We had the views, the cars, the noise and the right kind of people. There was fun, drinks, food, chatter and – most of all – driving. The only thing we didn’t have was the weather, but to be honest that just made the drama of the scenic, quiet peak hills even more spectacular.

Images courtesy of www.supercardriver.com

August 2010

Event: Chatsworth Picnic

I am now the feature writer for supercardriver.com . This report can be viewed in a magazine format, by clicking here.

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

The meet today started life at 7.45am in Sheffield. It’s already in full swing by the time I arrive, several of the club members being ably propped up by Costa Coffee’s finest morning mocha-choca-wotta-lotta-brew. I think I’ll join them.

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

Cars Parked and ready to go!

Beverage in hand, I meet Adam for a morning hello and scan today’s splendidness. We’ve got many of the regulars here today and a few new faces, including a lovely Audi R8 Spyder in a fantastic electric blue colour. Also in the blue corner is a modified Nissan 350z. A new 997.2 GT3 contrasts in radiant red. Happy days indeed.

An unusual car is catching a lot of attention today is Ryan’s wacky GTM Libra. These cars, largely self-build and for the motoring enthusiast handy with spanners is a real spectacle and generates a lot of interest.

As several more cars arrive, we are just waiting for Chris – he’s coming along in his Noble M12. As a daily driver clocking up more than 80,000 miles, stone chips had taken their toll turning the front splitter almost white from its original dark green colour. The M12 completed a full respray only a few days ago and we are keen to see the result. This model has the M400 ECU upgrade and is now pushing out 355 galloping stallions with a frightfully quick 0-60 of 3.6 seconds. This power is ably demonstrated later in the day, showing the Nissan GTR a clean pair of heels! 😮

He arrives momentarily, turbos spooling and wiz-bang-popping, formally announcing the Noble’s attendance. The new paint job looks great and brings the car curb-appeal back to as-new fresh. There can’t be many Nobles that have seen such high mileage – a testament to the build quality of these fiery race-like cars. Chris is very happy with the finish and as a newbie of the SUPERCARdriver club is looking forward to the drive out this morning.

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

SUPERCARdriver has a professional photographer today called Dominic Fisher (DFishPix) and throughout the day could be seen laid in the undergrowth and hanging from trees to get the best possible shot of the cars as we drive from point to point.

Onward to the Fox pub where we are treated to bacon sarnies, more coffee and a little light conversation. Adam is buzzing around, fleeting in one direction and another organising the day, taking photos, greeting all the owners, sorting out others who are lost and generally doing a good job of keeping the wheels greased for today’s outing.

Its here I catch up with Paul – a network engineer from Nottingham. Paul is part of the furniture at these meets and one of our regular enthusiastic members. He has attended previous meets with his BMW M5, but has recently traded for a silver Ferrari 360 Spyder. After an initial battery problem the car is now running lovely.

I asked him about power. “The M5 feels faster” he recalls “but the power delivery is different – and the Ferrari is lighter. You drive them both differently”. Paul is no junior to the fast car world, having previously owned an RS4. “I loved that car, you could throw so much in the boot and use it every day for work!”.

The silver Ferrari looks great, he chose the colour having heard too many bad things about the traditional red convertible getting abuse from passers by. “This is more understated” he says.

The exhaust makes up for the 360’s subtle paint job. With 400bhp mated to a Tubi exhaust the car tunefully sings its soundtrack on top volume wherever it goes, burbling along on the over-run. As the lead car for the drive today, it announced our convoy was coming to town from miles around.

Cayman on the country lanes - Photo by Dom Fisher

Cayman on the country lanes - Photo by Dom Fisher

As we set off on the run through the Peak District I hand over my printed directions to the lead car as the navigator isn’t sure of the way. I’m assured that I’ll be able to keep track with the rest of the group as we’ll be in convoy. We embark on the next part of the journey and 5 minutes later, I’m lost.

Within a few minutes my view has gone from being BMW 645 and red Ferrari 550 to now being twixed a grey Vauxhall Mariva and a Vectra. Not the most exciting automotive visual stimulation it has to be said. After a redirect from Adam, I find my way to the back of the convoy and we depart along the country roads, heading to Chatsworth house for our next meeting point.

I’m back behind the Ferrari 550. The group now divided, its just me and the Fez. As we pass a pub on a sharp bend, the customers outside stop dead in their tracks to view as we cost round the camber and press on through the straights. The 550 isn’t really pushing it though, just cruising along. There is something hypnotically serene when staring at the prancing horse in front. If Ferrari is happy cruising, then I’m happy cruising.

Up ahead, we are met with road works and catch up to the rest of the team. The council once again using their budget road surfacing methods; apply industrial glue, sprinkle with crushed stones and a dash of tarmac; allow traffic to bed the stones to the glue. As the loose stones fly everywhere, even at walking pace, splashes of the black stuff flew up the side of the brand new red GT3 as we all crawled past the tarmac pressing machine. Hopefully Autogylm’s finest tar remover will sort this out.

The convoy arrives at Chatsworth house in the early afternoon and we are directed to a car park just outside of the main venue. With a few cars missing from the convoy the remainder pull up for more chat about the days outing and an ice cream or two. The weather is turning out lovely and Dan has arrived in his Aston Martin.

Dan has a V12 DB9, in unmarked light blue it’s his weekend only pride and joy. Covering only a few thousand miles it looks – and sounds – like an Aston Martin should do. Dan is one of the young ‘uns at SUPERCARdriver and like Paul with the 360, he is a network engineer. Sheer determination and hard graft allowed him to purchase this splendid car several years ago. Cars are his hobby and to prove it he’s just bought a Volvo T5-R! “I saw it, and couldn’t help myself” he laughs. We’ll look forward to seeing that at a future meet!

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

Chatworth House Visit - Photos by Dom Fisher

The final stage of the day is a private picnic set in the gorgeous forests of the peak district. The roads are long and meander through the peaks, allowing a little fun in our cars on the bends. The traffic is light. With spectacular views on all sides, Wales is just peeking into view from across the horizon. We approach our meeting point – farmland settled intricately in the forest of the Peaks. We cruise along a narrow country lane and shortly arrive at our host’s residency – a beautiful farmhouse with several outbuildings and a garage full of automotive memorabilia.

Parked up next to one of the paddocks is the silver Ultima and looking as striking as ever. We park our cars on the main field next to numerous other clubs who have been invited to the picnic. Porsche Club GB is here, as are Morgan and the classic car & bike club. The older cars are fascinating. One car owner is offering passenger demonstrations in his three-wheeler Bugatti race car. The engine is entirely exposed and mounted at the very front of the car. Inside the cabin there is… well, pretty much nothing. Not even a seat! You even sit on the centre beam which travels through the car. The owner has plushed his model with finest blanket in an attempt to keep his passengers a little more comfortable.

As the demonstrations continue, the noise is classic, old-school motoring. Loud, brash and always entertaining.  Picnic and conversation ensues for a few hours and shortly before we head home, prizes are awarded by the farm owner for the best turned out car and the ‘car we’d most like to own’.

With an extended invite to next year’s picnic we’ll be sure to make this the main event of the day so that everyone can attend and experience the wide variety of cars and generous hospitality of our hosts.

Hope to see you there!

July 2010

Cayman Diaries: New Plugs and Sensor

Failure notice warned of a broken temperature sensor

Failure notice warned of a broken temperature sensor

Over the past few weeks, the “Failure Indicator” light has come back on intermittently. I called my Porsche specialist garage who said its likely to be a fault with the coolant temperature sensor – apparently a lot of these are being replaced at the minute.

The Cayman went in for its fix today as I’m off on another jolly jaunt with the Supercardriver club on Sunday and didn’t want to risk the problem occurring again.

Whilst it was in I elected to have the 4 year sparkplug change completed. This isn’t due for another month but figured whilst its in, I might as well have it sorted out.

They also adjusted the handbrake for me as this had got a little increased play over the few years I’ve owned it.

2 hours later, I’d got a new temperature sensor, lots of lovely sparking bits and a tighter handbrake. My wallet lost £115, but thats not a terribly high amount of money giving the few hours worth of work that was put in.

If you need a specialist in the Pontefract-Barnsley area, I’d recommend Porsche Euro.

Cayman now happy. Paul now happy.

Event: Ecurie25 Visit

I am now the feature writer for supercardriver.com . This report can be viewed in a magazine format, by clicking here.

Supercar Sunday – Ecurie25

Today will be a special day. We’ve had an invite to the delivery/unveiling of the new Ferrari 458 at the Supercar Club E25 and I’m all giddy again.  The meeting point is in Sheffield and although E25 is close to where I live, I want to be part of the convoy. With a meeting time is scheduled for 9am I’m fire up the Cayman an hour earlier, my red steed sitting proudly in the garage – hastily washed the evening before. I give the accelerator a little push to separate the disks from now sealed break pads and wake the car from its lazy slumber.

Clearly not happy with this unexpected early morning rise, mighty Cayman shouts at me with Exhibit A.

Failure on dashboard

Failure on dashboard

Oh dear. Lots more redness appears on the dashboard advising me that Cayman was non-too-happy about being woken up.

But we’ve got a meeting to go to and the Cayman is a fundamental requirement of my getting there. A previous phone call to my specialist reveals that this is likely a fault with the temperature sensor. Thankfully the meeting is at Millbrook, so I’m in the right place if something goes bang. So we press on with today’s adventure, red lights guiltily flashing at me from under the cowl.

Ferrari F355 and 360

Ferrari F355 and 360

Heading down the M1 to J34, my visual sensors are heightened to every car on the road. In the opposite direction a Porsche Panamera, then a Cayenne GTS. Not part of my clan today. As my temperature sensor finds an auto-fix and springs back to horizontal like a morning rise, I keep checking the rear view mirror for any supercars that might be joining today’s venture. Nothing there. A few minutes pass and I spot something white and sporting in my mirror. Maybe that’s ‘one of us’?  Now the dilemma – do I slow down and let it pass to see what it is, or do I press on and see if I’m catching something up in front? Decisions, decisions.

Then in my rear view mirror – a bright yellow blob in the distance. That can only mean one thing – Ferrari. As I approach the Meadowhall turn off he’s pulled up behind me. It’s a yellow F355 Spyder and it looks stunning. He pulls up in the lane next to me and coasts around the roundabout onto the viaduct before giving it some beans. The Tubi exhaust note just bounces off the underpass, reminiscent of an F1 car. I’m chasing behind and spot the flames shoot from the exhaust as he changes gear. Awesome!! As we get to the end of the road, I pull up beside him. “Millbrooke?” says I. “Yep! Know where you going?” is the reply. I do, and we set off on green after the driver of a van offers the F355 a race to the next lights.

2 Audi R8's

2 Audi R8's

On arrival we are greeted to the now familiar rainbow spec of automotive manufacturers’ best work in the sporting arena. Classic and modern TVRs, Audi R8’s, Ferrari 430 Scuderia and many more besides. Our yellow friend pulls up next to a silver 360 Spyder – the owner is having teething troubles with his new purchase. “What’s the problem – battery?” asks Jonty (the 355 owner). “Yeah” is the reply as the charging kit comes out of the boot. “Its ok, you’ll get used to it. At least you know one thing, it’s always electrics on these cars. The Italians just can’t do electrics”. “Didn’t know I’d be needing to carry all these bits around with me” said the 360 owner, charging kit in hand.

Jonty knew. “If it breaks every three months, then that’s about right, you’ll have a good car if it’s only going wrong every 3 months”. Aaah, the joys of Ferrari ownership.

After a quick hello to the guys at Millbrooke we set off, back down to the Viaduct before hitting the M1. The aural delights from that underpass are just wonderful! As each of these supercars fly past, my grin just gets bigger and bigger. Then comes the F430 Scuderia, shooting past with a sound so deafeningly loud it literally rumbles through my chest cavity. Not even Bose or JBL can manage the decibels that Ferrari has achieved with this top spec motor. The 360 Capristo behind it – ordinarily a thunderous sound by its on merits is practically silenced by the raw noise coming from the Scud. It’s hard to imagine without actually hearing it – even video can’t capture the deafening “I’m going for it” sound that car can make!

Cayman mirror onto a Ferrari F430

Cayman mirror onto a Ferrari F430

On to the motorway now, so many lovely cars but the 360 and the F430 are light Genies in a magic lamp. One minute they are there, the next – gone. The other cars follow suit and my cop-radar fear gets the better of me and I’m left behind with the hum-drum of Saturday motoring traffic. Only a few miles before a re-group at the services. Time for more chat and get to know the owners a little better. In a full on no-shame request I cheekily ask Tim, the Scud owner, if he could take me for a spin later. “No problem” is the reply!

F430 Scuderia and Ferrari Testarossa

F430 Scuderia and Ferrari Testarossa

Ferrari 458

Ferrari 360 CS

Ferrari 360 CS

Onward now to E25, where the unveiling of the Ferrari 458 will commence shortly. As we are greeted at reception and taken through into a large warehouse. Its dimly lit, with floodlights highlighting just two cars. A 360 Scuderia in the corner and taking centre stage is the new 458, under cover with a large video screen playing in the background footage from E25’s fleet of cars.

The music is distinctly operatic, symbolising everything Italian. A limited number of people at the event highlight its exclusivity with canapé’s and Champaign been offered to guests. The quality of the vocals on the music is crystal clear – as I’m scanning around the building I find the reason: a live Opera singer at the top of the staircase! Impressive stuff.

Not long afterwards we are greeted by Paul, the MD of E25 in Wakefield who gives us a brief insight as to what E25 is about and how proud they are to now have the 458 on the fleet. Two of the female staff then remove the covers from the car, revealing the revolutionary design of this new Supercar.

Ferrari F430 undercover

Ferrari F430 undercover

The 458 is a real step away from the 360/430 design and the angles highlight Ferrari’s new, distinctive lines. From the back it could be on a race track, and the front it could be in Batman’s garage. The interior is mad and the whole thing together looks positively stunning. A road presence like no car I’ve seen since the F40 – and a price tag and performance to match. In my mind marking this as a hybrid of super and hyper car.

Ferrari 458

Ferrari 458

Tim’s buying one.

Ferrari F430 Scuderia

Tim currently owns the F430 Scuderia and a classic Mondial. It’s clear he has a huge passion for Ferrari, having tried other brands (Mclaren, Lamborghini) in a bid to find something different but always coming back to famous Italian breed. “It just feels like others are trying to be like Ferrari” he says.

Tim, the softly spoken, quiet mannered fellow is really into his cars. When I ask about his Ferrari’s he smiles like a child holding his favourite toys at Christmas. “So which do you drive most often?” I ask. “A Golf!” he laughs. He has to leave shortly, saying his goodbyes he says “you want a go don’t you?”. Yes please!

He pulls the car out of the parking space and gestures to sit in the drivers’ seat, I bottle it and jump in as a passenger. I’ve never been intimidated by such a prospect before, but this car is something else. It’s got racing harnesses, paddleshifts, “race” dials and a number of other things which make me think.. “Maybe next time!”. As I get in the car and fiddle about with the harness “What do I do with this then?” I ask. “Put it on” is the reply. And we’re off!

The noise is something else. Its so raw, loud, aggressive – and such fun! Adam later informs me that they could hear us all around the city as the car set off from each set of lights. Inside the car there are acres of carbon fibre – and not much else! It appears that Ferrari have taken an F1 car, shoved a body resembling a road car on the top, then put it up for sale.

The acceleration on this car is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, its rams you in your seat so furiously my head was back and forward like a floppy doll whenever Tim pressed the loud pedal. A pure driving machine that takes it all the way up to 11. Astonishing!

As we wait at a set of lights, I ask Tim “What’s your favourite, Mondial or this?”. He beams a wide smile and thinks about it for a moment. “That’s really difficult. The Mondial is fantastic, I love it – really love it. But this, well – this is just silly. I leave it at work so that if I’ve ever had a bad day this will always cheer me up on the way home”.

Tim is one of the most relaxed characters I’ve ever met.  A very down-to-earth, approachable guy and as with so many people at these events keeps us all inspired to work that bit harder.

Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati

Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati near Millbrooke

E25 Club

Juliette is the membership manager at E25. She is very enthusiastic the company and kindly spared Supercardriver some time to talk a little more about the E25 Supercar members club.

How did the company start?
Paul Brown [the MD] has always loved cars. He has a huge passion for Lamborghini and bought a Gallardo himself a few years ago. Friends and family were regularly asking if they could hire his car for weekends, weddings etc. He got thinking about this as a business venture and decided to set up his own Supercar club with the E25 franchise. The business has grown since then and we now have Audi R8’s, Porsches and Ferrari’s on our fleet.

E25 has been running for 4 years with our Wakefield branch celebrating its first birthday this September! We are the only supercar club north of Birmingham, so our location is closer and more convenient for anyone living in the north. To date are the only club with a Ferrari 458 on its fleet.

We currently have around 230 members throughout E25, with 32 of those being in Wakefield. We keep a close eye on the member-to-car ratio to ensure that cars are available for our members when they want them.

Whats the age demographic of the members?
There isn’t a set age for our members, and they range from aged 30 up to late 50’s. We also have corporate customers who give their staff the opportunity to drive our cars.

How do you choose your cars? Do members have a say in what is purchased?
Yes, very much so. We listen to our members to understand what cars they have an interest in. We rotate the fleet regularly to keep the cars fresh and ensure that members have something new to try. We attend lots of events and keep in touch with manufacturers to see what’s up and coming. We have been to see the new McLaren and have expressed an interest in their new car already.

How does the club work?
You pay your subscription and are given a number of credits. There are different levels of membership which and this allows you access to our cars and events. Our standard membership would get you on average 50-110 days worth of use per year, depending on the type of car you choose and the events you attend. We provide high-performance driving tuition at the start of your membership and we meet all our prospective members to make sure that the club is right for them.

Once you have joined, you trade your credits for time with our cars and events. There are no specific restrictions – as long as you have the credits and the car you want is available, you can have it.

We like to have transparency with our club. Our members are free to come here when they like. We are available all the time and have exclusive open days.

As well as the cars, members get access to our organised events. In addition to the more high profile events, such as F1 and track days we also arrange mini road rallies. These are often mid-week and our members can choose one of our cars and come with us for days out. We have recently done a trip to Whitby and are planning others such as the Peak and Lake District. This offers our members to get involved and meet each other. Its offering something more, particularly for those whose schedules don’t allow them to attend weekend events.

What is your favourite car in the fleet?
Ooooh (ponders for a moment..), personally I’ve got a thing for the Astons but I love our little white Gallardo. The R8 is great to drive though!

Do you get to drive them?
[laughs]. We have to take a super-car training course before we are allowed to drive the fleet. This is to ensure we are confident with controls of some of the cars, such as the paddle shift and to understand how they behave in different weather conditions. This means that if we need to take them anywhere we are confident with the controls and can drive them correctly. But we don’t get to take them home unfortunately – they are out most of the time with members although Paul does take the odd one home sometimes!

Supercardriver.com is partnered with E25. If you would like to know more about the club, please contract Juliette on 01924 207812 or email juliette@ecurie25.co.uk

As I leave E25, my car is the only one remaining in the car park, just as another batch of Supercars arrive to see the 458 in the afternoon. They are in for a real treat!

July 2010

Light Fantastic

Lately, there seems to be an obsession with lights – specifically, car lights. A new directive from the health and safety executive in Europe has decreed that people are now so ignorant and blind that they are unable to see any of the huge, multi-tonne, brightly coloured vehicles during the day – unless they’ve got lights on. So, from 2012, this will be a requirement that all new cars will light up the roads, whether the sun is out doing it for them or not.

Volvo have done this for years and, lets face it, a Volvo with their dim lights shining ahead on a lovely sunny day do not look good. Something had to be done to modernise this visual jewelry and Audi would be the first.

Enter the R8. With its bling bling daytime LEDs firing crystal clear white lines in a menacingly shapely arc it signalled the start of a new craze in motoring fashion. All cars are getting in on the act. Even boy racers can buy aftermarket LED strips to chav up their motors. Mercedes have put them on their cars as well, largely to ill effect, but y’know, they’ve had a go. Like they do.

Seemingly happy with their year-round festive creation, Audi have applied the LED design to all models in the range at both ends of the car. The A4 now has eye brows, the A5 squints when an indicator is put on (can’t do both, as the LED lights are too bright you see) and the A3 scowls now as it passes by.

And with attention now on rear lights, headaches are my main point of concern.

My first car was a 1983 Ford Fiesta. It had two brake lights, one on each side. They were about 2″ square and when they lit up, they advised the person behind that I was indeed slowing down. Over time, lights on new generation cars got bigger and bigger.

The Bright Lights of Volvo

The Bright Lights of Volvo

The previous pioneers of motoring safety – Volvo – have been caught up in this area by other manufacturers over the years so clearly they needed something to make their cars extra-safe. They introduced the 3rd brake light years ago – but what now? Well, it would appear that someone at the Volvo Brake Light Design Studio felt they hadn’t been given enough focus of late.

The solution then: Now Volvo new cars have brake lights so bright that they simply burn straight through your retina and into the back of your skull, thus making sure that every inch of your brain is left in no doubt that the car in front is indeed slowing down. Or, as is more likely in Britain’s highly congested roads, the automatic Volvo in front is in fact stationary and the lazy driver is sat with his foot on brake pedal. These lights, akin to the glare from a sun heading to a supernova explosion are so big and so bright that you can do nothing more than be persecuted by the lazy moron in front who hasn’t discovered what ‘Park’ means on the gearbox whilst you queue endlessly on your way home from a tiring day at work. But it wouldn’t be so bad if they were just normal lights. But they aren’t, they have expanded in size and shape and on the estate cars occupy a head-splittingly large acreage of the car posterior. Thanks Volvo.

Bentley, for a long time has had brake lights that are so wide that I’m convinced they are sending messages to outer space. The Space Station can now tell when some well healed individual is stopped in traffic, and you can probably spot them on Google Earth.

Mercedes, obviously thinking this was a good idea applied similar logic to their Compact car – giant strips of red across the boot laughably destroying what little appeal the car had at the arse end of the frame.

And then we come to Citroen. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. They’ve obviously taken a leaf out of the Volvo Estate break-light manual and decided to go one better. Their new people carrier now has wrap-around lights. They head from the middle of the boot, aaaaaalll the way around the top of the car and then down the other side. A bit like a square Christmas tree. When Volvo sees this, there will be hell to pay. Doubtless their next models will have full rear-window lights and the entire glass screen will light up red when the driver touches the stop pedal. Of course, they’ll be made of LEDs so they are super bright. The car will be called the Volvo Nurofen and the pharmaceutical industry will rejoice muchly. Nobody beats Volvo.

At that point, right before the powerful orb in the sky – the Sun – takes its bat and ball home after being made redundant, the Eco Warriors will start bleating about the amount of light-pollution that we’ve now got on our roads.

Me, I’d be inclined to agree.

July 2010

Event: Lambo & Ferrari Driving Day

I thought I had been good in 2009. My missus must have agreed and lodged an appeal with Santa to give me a drive in on of my all time favourite supercars. The man in the red suit obliged and to my extremely excitable surprise I had a Supercar driving day for Christmas!

The day is run by Vision Motorsport, a red-letter day company offering the ultimate driving experience in a multitude of wonderful poster supercars. I had chosen the Lamborghini Gallardo – a dream car of mine.

I decided to wait until June before booking my slot – hedging my bets that the weather might work in my favour. I wasn’t disappointed and June 25th was a beautiful day. I arrived an hour early (eager, you see), didn’t want to risk being late as traffic around York can be bedlam. On display was a lovely selection of supercars. A couple of Aston Martin’s, Audi R8, a Porsche GT, Ferrari 360 and of course, my Lamborghini Gallardo. In bright yellow!

Lots of supercars

Lots of supercars

Off to the side was an Ariel Atom which, for a small fee, could be taken out as a passenger demonstration to show you just how quick and precise these crazy little cars can be.

Supercar driving day

Supercar driving day

Following a safety briefing and the option of additional insurance should you take a few too many liberties, we were ready to begin.

The driver took us out initially in a Subaru Impreza, describing the course and the angles to take each of the corners. The event was relatively quiet, so only a couple of supercars were out on the track at once – the other being the Ferrari 360, its red bodywork positively radiating the sun’s reflection on this beautiful day.

As the two cars started up – the Ferrari starter motor turning with the rapid squeal bereft only of supercars before barking to life with positive gusto, shortly followed by the Gallardo – which rather wheezed and whirred to life like a sleeping lion with all the intention of staying in slumber for just as long as it pleases. After a few moments only, the lethargic engine gave a reluctant bark indicating it was now fired up and ready to go – and alluding to the age old adage ‘its not just the buying, its the running that costs’.

There were 4 people in our group to play with the Lambo, I was 3rd on the list (alphabet and all that) and watched as the other drivers went out in the Gallardo.

Yellow Lamborghini Gallardo

Yellow Lamborghini Gallardo

Once the guy before me came back, I took a few photos and jumped in. Tight squeeze for tall Paul I tell you. But once in, other than my hair shaving the car roof it was a pretty comfortable place to be. Everything is just a minor reach away. The pedals were close together though, the giant plates at the end of my ankles requiring careful placement to avoid slamming both the accelerator and brake pedal all at once. The fit and finish of the Lamborghini indicates this new breed of Audi build quality is a solid, well made car.

RL instruct you to be out of 1st and 2nd gear almost immediately and the course is driven in 3rd and 4th. This allows you to get up to around 120mph on the straights but you loose out on the immediacy of the speed generated through the key gears, which normally allow for rapid pace out of the corners. Presumably this is to reduce the chance of powering into a hedge as you get a little too excitable with the unexpected power surge allowed by the lower cogs. I also suspect that finance plays a strong part here – regular use of 2nd gear would lead to much redline and a likely premature death of some expensive automotive parts.

Either way, it was an exhilarating experience, throwing this £100k car around the bends and giving it the boot all the way up the long straights it’s a day I won’t be forgetting in a hurry. The Gallardo, like its appearance felt very stable, precise and sure footed. It was a clean drive where you point and squirt and the car takes you in your chosen direction without any question, just adding more and more ingredients to the massive grin on my face. The gear change was slick and the whole car felt very poised and with its clean external lines, a rather neat if somewhat aggressive looking beast to behold.

Ferrari and Aston Martin

Ferrari and Aston Martin

Contrast to the Ferrari which, after my 6 laps in the Gallardo and adrenaline in full swing I was itching to try. Deposit down, strap in and off we go. By comparison the appearance of the Ferrari is something more brutal and raw. Its design is fit for purpose and that purpose is to go as fast as it can in an undiluted quest for engineering perfection. You take it by the scruff of the neck and it rewards as your throw it around the bends. It’s like an angry bull, chomping at the bit and making a thoroughly good job of audio drama. Performance was brisk – not quite as fast as the Lambo, but this might have been the gear ratio setup on the straights. I only managed 105mph compared to 115mph in the Lambo. The gearbox took some getting used to, being the gated variety which was more mechanical than the traditional shift that you’d find in a regular car. The clutch on the Gallardo was very modern and light for a supercar, unlike the Ferrari which felt nearly as heavy as a 348 that I sat in a few years ago. A well oiled left knee and pumped leg muscles are still a pre requisite of Ferrari ownership it would seem.

This flip on my expectations on these two cars was somewhat surprising, as the Ferrari has always been the one which historically mated beauty with engineering perfection whilst Lamborghini preferred a slightly more unhinged, bonkers approach. How times have changed.

The driving day was fantastic fun and allows us mere mortals the chance to experience cars which, without these red-letter companies could well stay on a dream to-do list for many years to come. Both cars offer an exclusive driving feel but their distinction is also their affinity – both offer a wonderful, lasting memory for any car nut.

Time to get writing to Santa….

Yellow Lamborghini Gallardo on the track

Yellow Lamborghini Gallardo on the track

June / July 2010

Event: Manchester Peak District Drive

I am now the feature writer for supercardriver.com . This report can be viewed in a magazine format, by clicking here.

10 hours, 187 miles, £400 for charity and 1 very memorable day.

It was an early start, but this meet promised to be a good one, unlike the weather which was indecisive between showers and sunshine at 6am. I set off from West Yorkshire and headed to Sheffield, collecting a friend on the way and stopping for some fatty badness breakfast at the local fast food restaurant.

Sheffield Supercar Sunday is organised by Adam and Richard from Supercardriver.com and feedback from previous meets promised a great day out with a variety of wild and wonderful cars. Adam had sent me an invite and I’ve been thoroughly looking forward to it. For this drive we started out from Sheffield, through Glossop and arriving at Manchester and stopping at various points for photo opportunities or to collect another bunch of car enthusiasts on the way.

We arrived at the Sheffield meet point at 7.30am and a nice selection of cars had already arrived including an Aston Martin, BMW M5, M3, Corvette, Lotus Elise, Merc SLK, Caterham and 997 Turbo to name a few. Then a Ferrari F355 Spyder turned up and not one, but two 2010 Nissan Skyline GTRs. A Lotus Elise pulled up next to one of them initially, a visual scene reminiscent of the story ‘David and Golliath’. One by one more cars arrived until we departed at 8am, heading over ‘Snake Pass’ into Glossop.

And they're off....

And they're off....

The drive along Snake Pass is lovely. Beautiful countryside with a long winding road through the centre of the dales, taking you into Glossop via a few small villages, random ambling sheep and some great twists and straights. All drivers enjoyed the experience, some of the more powerful machines ducking and diving traffic when the opportunity arose.

2At one point, there was a slowdown caused by a Land Rover who was leisurely driving along. He must have seen the long line of brightly coloured livery in his mirror as he pulled over at one point to let us all past. Thank you to that man. 🙂

5We pulled up at Lady Bower lake along the way for a photo opportunity and a Ferrari 550 joined our convoy of around 20 cars. Back on the road at the next straight each car slowed before accelerating hard along the road for a short time. My little Cayman tried its best and I was pleased with the performance, until I noticed the SLK glued to my bumper. “That Merc is a bit quick” says I to my passenger. “It wants to be, its a 5 litre AMG”. Ah. Jestful comments will surely be made of my performance at the next meet point and I wasn’t disappointed. 😆

Next stop, Tesco’s in Glossop and here we meet a whole new bunch of cars. Noble M12s, F355s, 360s and F430s (including Challenge Stradale models), a Lamborghini Gallardo, Audi RS4’s and many others. All cars of varying combinations of loud, mad, rare and colourful surely made for a great sight for passers by.

As we departed for Manchester, an impromptu automotive form of willy waving ensued as the engines were started. From the Corvette positively barking its authority like claps of thunder, to the Tubi F355 whaling like a screaming banshee and everything in between, it was a piston head’s audible delight!

Supercars

Supercars

Onward now to Manchester via a few more twisties and a short motorway dash to meet the rest of the team, before a drive through the town centre. As the convoy exits the motorway we are caught by some traffic lights. A van man pulls up next to us. With a big grin he asks “What’s all this then, ‘2 Fast, 2 Furious’ or something?!”. We laugh in agreement and he added “Your car looks lovely!” as the lights turn green.

At this point, getting lost became a regular occurrence and confusingly we’d often see super cars heading in all directions at junctions trying to find their way onto the correct road. “Are they lost, or are we?” became the question of the day. At a set of lights, we pulled up next to one of the Nissan GTRs for a quick chat on directions. “Are we racing then?” jokes the driver. “Go on then, next green” says I, “Just to next lights” a few hundred yards ahead. The lights change (AMBER I might add!! 😉 ) and the GTR is off under a crescendo of noise. I feel rather stupid. My mate looks at me as we sheepishly set off “So… you weren’t ready then?”.

Finally we arrive at the War Museum in Manchester and meet the final herd of our precession. Around 60 super cars are now gathered together and its a real sight to behold with so many different models and colours, not a single car looked the same as another one. After coffee and conversation we head off around a predetermined route through the city centre. A route which was unexpectedly thwart with roadworks, making for even more comedy lostness.

More supercars

More supercars

As we all queued heading towards a roundabout, the roadworks brought us all to a standstill. Other motorists ambled past us in the outside lane, all occupants with huge smiles on their faces as they drove past some of the fastest most desirable cars in the world. A rare sight to see one Ferrari on the road, even rarer to see a Noble or a Lambo. To see 50 or so all lined up in a row was a great visual scene.

Silver Ferrari F430 and Grey F550

Silver Ferrari F430 and Grey F550

As we get through the roadworks, cars go off in all directions. Eventually, most cars gather together on the same road and the driver of the silver Ferrari F430 is in familiar territory so agrees to take the lead. With cars ditched in bus stops and filter lanes waiting for everyone else to catchup, amazingly the rest of the population don’t seem phased by this. Normally one would expect horns to be blaring and expletives to be shouted out of open windows. But not today, I suspect a collective respectful understanding was in the air and the people of Manchester allowed us a minor chaos whilst we sorted ourselves out.

By now I was 3rd from the front and the group frequently got divided by the traffic lights. A Challenge Stradale was somewhere near the rear of the group and you knew they were on their way again as the echo of the engine under acceleration filled the air from several streets away. We were parked in a lay by near a large pedestrian square and the Silver F430 commanded attention from absolutely everyone. Public smiles grew and grew as more exotica came around the corner. The red Ferrari’s, the yellow Corvette and the almost luminous green 911 GT bringing up the rear.

After traveling around the streets of Manchester we regrouped at the War Museum once again before heading of shortly afterwards.

For me, this is the pinnacle of motoring as a car enthusiast. Such a rare bunch of cars gathered together usually only occurs at car shows. Yet the inherent flaw at a ‘show’ is that all this fantastic automotive machinery is static. Having a convoy of like-minded, level headed enthusiasts driving together actively yet responsibly, enjoying the sights of new roads and towns is what it should be about.

Challenge Ferrari

Challenge Ferrari

As a youngster, and even now, to see several million pounds of the most desirable cars in the world all passing by in my town would bring an uncontrollable grin to my face, and would be a lengthy talking point in the pub that evening. I think that the collective achieved this in Manchester yesterday and I for one felt very privileged to be just a small part of such an amazing group.

BMW M3 and Lambo

BMW M3 and Lambo

And what of the owners of these great cars? Far from being elitist, everyone was approachable and relaxed – just ‘normal’. Friendly, regular guys and gals with a like-minded passion for cars, all expressed in various automotive shapes and sizes. From the sophistication of the blue Aston Martin to the hardcore of the orange Westfield, everyone expressed their hobby in a different way – and that’s what made this meet such a special one.

After a great day out, we headed home, once again over the snake pass – the group now disbanded. The swan song of the day was the AMG Merc – behind me on the first leg of the journey and arrived in my rear view mirror once again as we arrived into Sheffield, shortly before going our separate ways a few minutes later and signaling the close of what was a thoroughly enjoyable day.

£400 was raised for the Museum charity by the group as a thank you for allowing us to use their car park.

A huge thank you goes to Richard and Adam for arranging our motley crew in such an organised fashion.

A few name checks and thanks to a few of the many people who I spoke to during the day…

  • Merc AMG for being a good sport. Are you getting that F430 next then after your passengaer ride?! 😉
  • The guy in the 911 Turbo who used to have the Cayman – nice car dude!
  • The guy at Sheffield in the Aston Martin, just for having such a cool car.
  • ‘Brute’ for having by far the most awesome sounding car in the history of the world.
  • The Silver F430 for being such an uncontrollable head turning, traffic stopping car – and changing my previously held opinion that a Red Ferrari is the only Ferrari to have!

Here’s to the next meet. Personally, I can’t wait! 🙂

TVR

TVR

June 2010