Sunday, January 18, 2009

Problem solvent

‘Tick this box to discuss savings’. Those were the words written on the deposit envelope as I paid in the last lump sum from my former life at Ford. And it seemed like a good idea - despite the much-clichéd global economic meltdown I’ve never been in a better position financially and putting some away for a rainy day seemed like a solid plan.

Except when the bank actually phoned me over Christmas the best they could offer, even on a 9-month bond, was still below inflation. In slight disbelief I clarified, “so I’d actually end up losing 0.8% a year?” “Erm, yeah,” Mr Barclays sheepishly replied, “you would”. So at that point I reasoned I’d rather lose a little more, but get a car for my troubles.

Dangerous thoughts started filling my head. If it was going to be sort of an investment, lovingly secreted in the garage and rarely used, then all manner of hitherto unobtainable machinery was now an option. An Aston martin Virage appealed, but while I could just about afford to buy one, the first Aston-only part to go pop would have put me in much the same position as Lehman Brothers. Likewise, a Maserati 3200GT, although now quite affordable, is capable of generating its own value in service bills each year. So, in the end, the list of potential replacements for the S3 came down to various other TVRs.

After much umming and arring, I decided the Cerbera was out – partly for financial reasons and partly because the car that one magazine described as ‘violently unpredictable, intimidating and in some cases downright undriveable’ would very possibly kill me. Much the same argument was applied to the Tuscan 2. And, while the Tamora and T350C were said to be less intimidating behind the wheel, the spectre of repeated Speed Six engine rebuilds loomed large, as did the prospect of higher depreciation. So, it seemed like a two-horse race between the Griffith and the Chimaera.

However, a funny thing happened when I went to look at them. Growing up in the ‘90s, the Griffith had always seemed like the iconic TVR, but in the flesh I couldn’t understand the considerable premium it commands over its bigger-booted sibling. Both sharing the same chassis, and being largely the same mechanically, I elected to try a Chimaera. Behind the wheel, its straight-line performance advantage over the V6-engined S was nothing like as dramatic as expected and it just didn’t feel as nimble or as communicative as ‘the entry level’ S3. I went home unconvinced.

Despite my reservations about the newer cars, I still didn’t feel like I’d done the TVR thing. So, after much deliberation and a chance meeting with a TVR S-Series suspension guru at the Autosport Show, the decision was made to stick with the current car for a while. However, I plan to carry out a few changes: The standard dampers are going in favour of Gaz Gold Pros, the original springs are being replaced with stiffer units and I plan to sort out a few of the car’s idiosyncrasies, such as the hood and the fuel gauge.

This leaves a more or less Griffith-sized chunk still sat in the bank – part of which I intend to squander on petrol and track day fees - hopefully the first of which will be the Car Limits Activity Day at North Weald in a couple of weeks. As for the rest, well I guess that'll go under the mattress for the time being - after all, money is much harder to come by in my new career. But at least the financial outlook could be worse… I could work for a bank.

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