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Do it now I'll do it later...
Wednesday 30th January 2013


PH FLEET: TVR CHIMAERA AND MAZDA MX-5

Inactivity (intended) for one and inactivity (unexpected) for the other sees Garlick get on his bike


A strange month or two for the fleet. One car has had an unintentional hibernation, one has proved to be less than reliable and my main transport has been a bicycle. Allow me to explain.

You may recall I parted company with the Lexus LS400 and replaced it with a 1997 MX-5 1.8is. This was to be my new reliable daily car and it had some tough boots to fill after life with the fantastic LS. Having replaced the rusty sills and leaking hood I was looking forward to spending time with K-Mo (sadly all my cars are named after the 'plates) but in the lead up to Christmas my troubles started.

Mazda's shown reluctance to go anywhere
Mazda's shown reluctance to go anywhere
Waiting at some traffic lights in Twickenham a motorcyclist lost his front wheel and ended up coming to rest alongside my car. Naturally I got out to assist and moved his bike, then moved my own car off the road too. 10 minutes later, once the police and ambulance had arrived, I went on my way ... or at least I would have done if the car had started. It just wouldn't fire and soon enough the battery went flat too. Another call to Adrian Flux rescue (I now have the number on speed dial) and a three-hour wait for recovery followed a failed attempt to fix at the roadside.

It appeared to be immobiliser related and I was going nowhere, worrying with Christmas eve just around the corner. Fortunately I found a mobile auto electrician who removed the retro-fitted late-90s alarm and immobiliser for the princely sum of £45. But that didn't fix the issue it just help us to diagnose it. Turns out the factory-fitted immobiliser (which I didn't know I had) had caused the non-starting, and the key wasn't talking to the main unit meaning no ignition. A switch to the spare key and all was well once more, with the master key needing nothing more than a re-programme at a Mazda dealer.

A few weekend jaunts had been made in the TVR and all was running well in that department, the Chimaera feeling supercar fast after the Mazda. I'm still getting used to the new (more refined) sound of the V8 after keeping the catalysts in place, and while it is still largely unsilenced the noise is more grown-up than it used to be and still catches me out when I start it up.

'It's just a five-minute job' and all that
'It's just a five-minute job' and all that
With the salty roads and filthy weather the TVR was rested in the garage and the trip to (a very foggy) Yorkshire for Christmas was undertaken in the Mazda. We covered 600 miles in the wettest conditions I've ever seen and the MX performed without fault (thank god) and it was gratifying to see the new roof was watertight too.

Between Christmas and New Year I was moving house, a task the MX-5 and TVR were largely useless for meaning more packing than driving. The TVR sat in the garage and the Mazda on the street while we buzzed around in hired vans and borrowed hatchbacks. Once settled I went back to collect the Mazda and found the front nearside brake firmly stuck on. Putting it down to lack of use I headed off with bouts of fierce braking in an attempt to loosen it off, but if anything it was getting worse. There was no time to wait for recovery so I tried hitting the calipers in an attempt to release them. This didn't help, so I resorted to buying four litres of water from a shop and stopping every mile to cool the discs with water. It wasn't pretty but I got home, dumped the car in a huff and got on with the move. To say I was falling out of love with the Mazda would be an understatement.

So now I found myself at a new house, with an immobile Mazda taking up my only allocated parking space and a TVR that was in my garage 14 miles away. Work, life and a lack of parts needed to fix and waiting for a mate to assist me with the task of fitting meant a month with my pushbike being my only transport, not great but I've lost some weight as a result and a week ago we finally got around to starting the fix.

Credit to James' persistence - it's now fixed
Credit to James' persistence - it's now fixed
New exchange calipers were ordered from Chris at Mill Autoquip along with some new pads and my mate James (who also happens to work on the Performance Car Show) popped over to help. The left hand caliper was badly seized and took a lot of brute force for it to yield the disc, which was remarkably free of damage. With new calipers fitted we experienced issues with bleeding and called it a night after many failed attempts. Disheartened I was back on the bicycle for the commute and James collected the car the next day to take another look, but still couldn't get pedal pressure. In the end he realised the bleed nipple on the new caliper was allowing a tiny bit of air in and was a faulty unit. One new bleed nipple later and I was back on the road! What is it with my bad luck and cars?

Now the Mazda is finally rolling I will regularly swap between it and the TVR as the car I have at home. I still rent a garage near my old house so one car will be in the garage while the other lives in my underground residents' car park, being warm, dry and secure. I am more than happy to leave the TVR in the new car park and the easier access should mean more V8 miles covered in 2013 than then pathetic 3,000 covered in 2012.

After all, the TVR will be more reliable than the bloody Mazda at least. Zoom Zoom indeed....anyone got an LS400 for sale?


Fact Sheet:
Car:
 1999 TVR Chimaera 4.0
Run by: Garlick
Bought: December 2009
Purchase price: £12,995
Last month at a glance: Rested, missed, battery probably flat

Fact Sheet:
Car:
 1997 Mazda MX-5 1.8is
Run by: Garlick
Bought: November 2012
Purchase price: £600
Last month at a glance: Broken, broken again, working again (for how long?)


Author: Garlick
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