Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's good to be back

Do you remember what it was like to be a kid on Christmas Eve? Well, that’s exactly how I was feeling for the entirety of last week. The call came through from Trimar Sports Cars in Barnet on Tuesday to say that the TVR was finally ready to be collected. And, from that moment, the countdown to ‘Christmas’ began.

Picking the car up yesterday I was too excited too think about the considerable bill (£860 for some exhaust fabrication, an MOT, service and front brake overhaul). Or the three weeks it had taken to accomplish it. Or the fact the car had been obviously been left outside without its cover to thoroughly moisten the interior. No, I just wanted to get out and drive it.

After I’d wiped the worst of the condensation from the inside of the windscreen I set off with the top down for a spot of blow drying. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that cold – the rear section of the hood (minus the targa panels) greatly reduces buffeting and the heater actually does a respectable job of keeping the cockpit warm.

I was mindful of bedding in the new brake pads on the quick cross-country dash to South Mimms, but already it felt good to have the car back. From there I headed up the A1 and to one of life’s simple pleasures – the experience of driving a TVR through a tunnel. Maybe it’s psychosomatic, but I could swear it sounds different since the work – a somewhat leaner, harder sound than before.

I could swear it’s more than just the noise which has changed in the past month or so too. The warm, grippy tarmac of late summer has been replaced by something altogether more entertaining and the series of roundabouts that take me off the motorway provide plenty of childish amusement. This time of year seems to strengthen the position of cars like the S-Series, which a mere mortal can exploit on the public road at sensible speeds. Any hot hatch worth its salt would leave it behind on a twisty road, but there’s nothing quite like the combination of modest grip levels, ample steering feedback and a well balanced chassis.

Continuing onto the B-roads of Hertfordshire the TVR feels firmly in its element. The roads seem to be uncharacteristically empty for early afternoon, which (along with falling petrol prices and a surfeit of affordable sports cars) leads me to believe the ‘credit crunch’ isn’t such a bad thing after all.

I press on, into Bedfordshire, which brings some fantastic roads and some very English place names. After getting stuck behind the first real traffic of the trip, I take a chance on a side turning signposted to Apsley End and discover a fantastic stretch of tarmac, full of well-sighted bends. As it passes under the trees, the car kicks up cloud of dry autumn leaves and I really, really wish I had a photographer. From there I randomly pick Higham Gobian as the next destination and get rewarded by an equally entertaining, if rather faster, exposed stretch which takes me all the way to Barton Le Clay.

I’ve driven here before, but never via this route and one thing becomes clear – there are many more fantastic roads to be found and many more side turning to be explored. In fact, a few miles north of here lies the A507 – allegedly an entertaining drive in itself, it eventually leads to the sensational roads of rural Essex. These two areas, plus all that lies between, add up to create an impressive playground for petrolheads, all just a short hop from the edge of London. Christmas, it seems, is here all year round.

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