When I went to the Motor Show 2002 I saw the T350C and thought it was themost impressive piece of automotive sculpture I'd seen for some time. I satinside and dreamed, along with the other TVR fans huddled around the stand. Itmust have been a success, as 100 cars were ordered at the show! If it looks thisgood, I thought; what's it like to drive?
Harrogate Horseless Carriages offered me the chance to find out by drivingtheir silver T350C. The first attempt at a drive was cancelled. I woke early,excited at the prospect of a drive, only to be disappointed by the thick icelying on the road surface. There was no way I was about to take out a 350bhp caron ice! Postponement was the only sensible option.
Two weeks passed and a day off from "the job" made a drive a realpossibility. A quick phone call and I was booked in. This time the sun shone andthe roads were dry. I parked up and took my seat in the demo car.
Despite the intention to use many parts from the Tamora, the doors areactually the only shared bodywork. The front of the car has new shape lights.The curved tear drop shape works well, flowing with the curved bonnet. Thebonnet reaches down towards the road surface, with smooth lines. There sit twolarge intakes, one either side of the number plate. This gives the front of thecar a snake-like look.
The Griffith-like vented bonnet hides the 3.6 litre in line 6 cylinder, handbuilt engine, producing 350bhp. Eighteen inch alloy wheels and low profile tyresadd to the car's sleek but aggressive looks.
The roof line is also smooth as it curves back and down towards its shortrear quarters. The rear screen is hinged at th top. Originally side hinged, itnow lifts on two gas struts and the most exotic hinges I think I've ever seen!They should get an automotive award alone!
The rear luggage space is large for the style of car, with easy accessthrough that large rear screen. The petrol filler is another piece of"grand design". A small chrome ball, on the near side rear wing,rotates by operating a pull up handle, placed inside the rear wing, exposing ahole, just big enough to fit the petrol pipe nozzle in. Its one of those itemsthat I'm sure will entertain filling station attendants across the world!
Then there's that rear end. This appears to be the major design talking pointof this car. It is very flat and, after following the smooth decent of the roofline, appears very abrupt. The rear lights seem very Maserati like as they wrapround.
The two exhausts poke out through a rear skirt riddled with holes. All thismakes the rear view very distinct.
The interior is identical though to the Tamora. Gone are the Tuscan clocksand window switches, which I have to say were fiddly and perhaps "overdesigned". The interior trim is hand stitched, and all the switches arecustom made by TVR. The dash instruments are a nice touch, with the speedo andrev counter turning into towards each other.
You also get an array of readouts for speed and engine revs, which sit abovea switchable multi-function display. Two buttons on the rear of the steeringwheel control the display, giving a range of information from engine water andoil temperature, outside air temperature and battery volts to maximum andminimum values achieved (including speed). There's even a 'sports pack', whichoffers expanded telemetry, such as specific lap times and so forth.
The bucket seats are firm but supportive and the sense of rigidity isenhanced by the cage, prominent on either side of the interior roof.
Time to Drive
I took the car out towards Skipton, through Summerbridge, Pateley Bridge andon to Thruscross Reservoir, before returning to Harrogate. The roads out thereare fast B roads with sweeping tight bends, dips and hills - a great area totest the car's ability.
Thedemo car was still running in so I was limited in how much welly I could giveit. The first thing I noticed was the ease of control over the pedals. Thebottom pivoted pedals needed very little effort to move.
The acceleration is immediate with power really cutting in around 3000rpm andto reign in that enthusiasm are the fiercely effective brakes. The steering ispower assisted but even with assistance I still felt in touch with the road,feeling every undulation through the wheel.
The suspension set up is quite stiff and over pot holed roads I felt a littleuncomfortable but once I'd quickened the pace, the ride was tight, responsiveand rewarding. The car turned into corners well and swept round them like it wason rails. There was very little body roll, adding to the feeling of speed. Veryimpressive!
The Speed Six unit is the same as the Tamora, but because of the sleekaerodynamics, the test track figures say the car will do a 4.2 seconds 0-60mphtime and 180mph top speed. I did a considerably lesser speed. I feel this car'slimits will be well beyond mine!
Into Harrogate then for the "X factor" test. Immediately I noticedpeople looking at the car. It's not because of the noise. I was, in fact, alittle disappointed with the lack of growl. The days of the oomph from the bigRover V8 are nearly done and I'm sure that in time we'll all get used to the 6cylinder engine. The many admiring looks were from people who appreciate goodaesthetics. The car generated various reactions, from pointing fingers and grinsto astonishment and that was on every corner! Don't buy this one if you wish togo unnoticed.
The it was time to go back to the garage and regrettably hand over the keys.
I took the chance to ask the owner of HHC, Nigel Kemp, what his thoughts wereon the T350C. "It's a very easy car to drive " said Nigel."It's a fast, useable and practical car. The T350C allows its driver totransfer it from a car, capable of every day use to one that's equally at homeon the race track ".
If you're having thoughts about changing your car then I'd thoroughlyrecommend trying this fabulous new TVR. Even if you weren't thinking of changingyour car, a drive in this might change that!
Many thanks to www.harrogatehorselesscarriages.co.uk
Rich Abbott is the RO for the NorthYorkshire TVRCC