So, after possibly the longest week of my life and a certain amount of insomnia I picked up my S3 on Saturday. Mr Livingstone and co were clearly conspiring against me as my train was first delayed by an hour and then, having only travelled a handful of miles, spent the next 15 minutes reversing back towards Kings Cross to clear a broken down service. Finally, five and a half hours after leaving the house I made it to Brough and with glorious sunshine it was far from grim up north. The formalities dispensed with, then a quick explanation on how to work the immobiliser and I was away. Hood down naturally.
The fuel gauge was firmly set on zero, so a couple of miles down the road I pulled into a garage and tentatively filled it up, trying my best to avoid tripping the auto-cut-off on the pump whilst simultaneously attempting to guess the quantity that was left. I gave up at £40's worth and headed off again. The fuel gauge still read zero, but frankly I didn't care as the sun was out and I was heading down a slip road in a TVR.
Cruising along the M18 I came across an interesting looking mini with flared arches and a roll cage. I slotted into a gap in the traffic just after him until the road cleared and then (easily up to temperature) I dropped down to fourth and gave it some beans. To my surprise the mini was still right behind me, accelerating hard at the sort of speed a standard A-series car would struggle even to reach. Accompanying it was a banshee wail, suggesting a bike engine or VTEC lurked within. That's what I'm choosing to tell myself anyway. Discretion kicked in shortly afterwards and we both pulled in to resume a more law abiding rate.
After about an hour on the A1 I was starting to loose feeling in most of my extremities; whilst I still had a broad 'village idiot' grin, on my face, the shivering that was starting to accompany it was less becoming, so I pulled in to the services for my first attempt on the hood. I went for the previous owner's suggested technique of balancing the targa panels in the windscreen and rolling the rear section up to meet it. Despite fears of broken glass and ripped canvas, all went smoothly. That was until I came to restart the car atleast. A single relay clicked with no other signs of life and I began to suspect this was where my TVR experience really began. After a quick phone call to the seller who re-iterated his earlier advice on the idiosyncrasies of the immobiliser system, I was (much to my relief) back on the road.
With the hood up the car suddenly became a very civilised proposition. The heater now had some effect, I was regaining feeling in my arms and the wind noise was virtually gone. Fortunately the engine note wasn't and it burbled on along the final stretch of the A1 sounding even better than it did with the hood down. As the Hatfield tunnel approached I couldn't resist winding the window down and listening to the exhaust note echo off the walls. Naturally I went through exactly the same routine in the Enfield and Holmesdale tunnels on the M25 - it would have been rude not to.
Emerging from the final tunnel with aching cheek muscles, I took a diversion up the M11 and onto the A414. This particular stretch is quite twisty in places and great fun in daylight with a car with that you know. Despite covering over 200 miles in the tiv by that point it had been almost exclusively straight and darkness was now upon us so I had to exercise some self-restraint in the corners. On the straight stretches however the S proved to have about the best overtaking pace of any car I've owned. The power delivery is so effortless compared to the 4 cylinder screamers I'm used to that it could have been left in top, but instead the schoolboy within demanded 4th if not 3rd and full throttle. The torque of the V6 makes real world progress feel very rapid - I'd love to know what the V8S is like.
As I finally pulled up outside my garage in the outskirts Chelmsford one of my old worries resurfaced. Would it fit in? I edged up very nervously, drove the front in and then got out to check for clearance on the back (the wing mirrors had long since been folded up). The eventual clearance between the rear wheel arches and two particularly vicious looking metal plates that stick out from the door frame was about 2" on either side. No worse than the average London parking space perhaps, but a nerve racking experience when parking the most expensive thing you have ever owned for the first time. Once the car was safely in I began the equally precarious task of getting me out. In the confines of the garage this involved removing the driver's side targa panel and squeezing out over the top.
Safely extracted, I got a lift back to the house and that evening I slept far more soundly than I had previously. The grin however, remains.