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Days Like These - 5th October 2010

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There is a Van Morrison song about a perfect day, spent with his family at Coney Island in his native Ireland, bird watching and eating seafood. The song ends with the final line being spoken "Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this all the time?" Which sums up today’s little run perfectly.

Fellow DA’er Gav has finally scratched an itch and bought his TVR Chimaera so on his birthday we planned a little blat. Having spoken with the other DA’er, Mike, this grew to three cars as he said he would get the keys to his father in law’s MGF. Then a friend coming up for Gav’s celebration asked if it was ok to bring along his 2.8 Z3. Four quickly went to five as Andy’s Series 2 MX5 S was added. A chance meeting in the local supermarket with Gav’s Exige S owning neighbour saw the ranks swell again and the Magnificent Seven was completed by ex-racer and fellow Seven owner Jon.

I love that slightly nervous anticipation I get before a good multi car blat, especially with a good mix of motors like today. The roads were damp but the stiff breeze was drying them fast as we set off for some of our favourite local roads with a vague plan to get some pictures and video for the Website and be back in time for the Italian Grand Prix. The great thing about our little convoy was the sheer variety of the noises on offer and the air, heavy with moisture, seemed to give the cars great voice and a few extra horses.

Just as well as Gav’s TVR was setting the pace and its big V8 was doing what V8s do best - pulling like a freight train. The sound was simply epic - bellowing, barking, popping, banging, it had all the clichés covered and then some. It was making me laugh out loud every time Gav accelerated and the big TVR lunged forward, its rear end sitting down under the onslaught of all that torque.

At the opposite end of the noise scale was the Exige S with its brittle harsh supercharged shriek, the sort of noise that makes the hairs on the nape of your neck prick up. It was amazing and it was cutting through the damp air in a way that got me desperate for a ride in this mini Le Mans racer.

Jon’s Crossflow powered Seven runs on good old fashioned Twin 45 Webers and the induction roar made me all nostalgic for the good old days, with the added bonus of it spitting flames on the over-run, lovely gas blue flames which matched the sky above perfectly.

Andy’s fitted a stainless back box to the MX5 which has not only allowed the Mazda to breath better but has added a great burble making it sound like a classic British sports car that hardens to a real twin cam bark on full throttle. Although the MX shares the same engine layout as the Seven and the MGF you can tell them apart - the K series has a more metallic timbre, like a racer, especially in the Seven with its 4-2-1 side-exit exhaust. The Z3 is the smoothie of the bunch with the creamiest of exhaust notes that belies the torquey punch which pushes the roadster along so effortlessly - the old adage "speak softly and carry a big stick" has never been so apt.

These seven cars covered nearly all the bases as far as petrol engines are concerned, a V12 would have been the cherry on top perhaps but it’s why electric cars will always struggle to win our affections. We need to fill all our senses for a full on experience and sound helps reinforce the feedback we get from driving our cars. Electric must be like hearing your favourite song hummed instead of being in the front row of a concert.

The drive was great with the birthday boy leading the charge to the horizon. Following the Exige’s racer rear end as it bobbed and weaved its way over the lumpy moorland tarmac was special despite its rear diffuser sucking up the detritus that the previous day’s rain had washed onto the road and flinging it at the Seven - a small price to pay for a front row seat at this musical extravaganza.

As we hit Holme Moss I was at the back, a great place to be - the road winds and climbs up to the summit, the first corners are tight and steep and to see the TVR and Z3 demolish the gradient with such disdain brought another old saying to mind "there ain’t no substitute for cubes" but the little lightweights clawed back the advantage in the corners, carrying more speed onto the straight and braking later for the next corner.

The cars were working hard you could feel and smell the pockets of hot air left by them as they charged towards the television mast that marks the peak of this old hill climb. I was wringing the neck of my Caterham to close the gap on the other Seven, Exige and Chimaera and pushing as hard as I dare, blasting past the others, my exhaust note changing as it flared off the side of the cars, change up lights racing to red as the next gear change was needed. All the time I can hear the wail of the supercharger, the bellow of the V8 and the sharp retort of Jon’s Seven as another flame signals a lift or down change bouncing off the hillside.

All too quickly the top is reached and we pull into the car park. The cars are shuffled into an arc to capture the moment for posterity. The tink, tink of cooling metal plays in the background as we discuss the run, those little moments between grip and slip when the world feels right, when you feel most alive. Yes all days should be like this and I know in the dark days of winter I’ll look back and smile just like Van Morrison did.


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