Another blip to the end

TVR joins trend to­wards a fun­da­men­tal re-think of the way cars are made

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

IT is my grimly happy hobby to mark the blips on the radar screen that spell out the end of the car trade as we know it.

Grim, be­cause the car trade as we know it puts food on my ta­ble.

Happy, be­cause I pre­dict that car de­sign will be­come a lot more per­sonal in or­der to sell a lot more units to our many mil­lions of chil­dren in what­ever shape or form their lit­tle hearts de­sire, from sin­gle, self-bal­anc­ing small wheels to fam­ily cars like the Stella Lux on the op­po­site page.

With 9,5 bil­lion peo­ple ex­pected by 2050, of whom 70% will be liv­ing in cities, per­sonal trans­port will per­force have to be small, last-mile units, as con­ges­tion will force most peo­ple in or onto smaller trans­port de­vices. But the same num­ber of peo­ple will then want to ex­press and ex­tend their in­di­vid­u­al­ity with their wheels, as we are do­ing to­day. Many of these wheels will be more for show than for use — again, just like we are do­ing to­day.

The latest blip on the radar screen that con­firms my pre­dic­tions came from the Bri­tish sports car maker TVR.

A re­sus­ci­tated TVR re­cently signed up for Gor­don Mur­ray’s car-fac­tory-in-a-con­tainer idea — it­self a ma­jor blip on my radar in 2009.

Reg­u­lar Wheels read­ers will re­call that Mur­ray had then tried to in­ter­est the world in his City Car, which he could build any­where easily, us­ing his reg­is­tered iStream tech­nol­ogy, which is ba­si­cally the process rac­ers use to build cars for the track.

Mur­ray states on his web­site that iStream “will be the big­gest revo­lu­tion in high-vol­ume automotive man­u­fac­tur­ing since Henry Ford in­tro­duced the pro­duc­tion line over a cen­tury ago”.

He uses longer words to ex­plains why iStream is a fun­da­men­tal re-think of the way cars are de­signed, de­vel­oped and man­u­fac­tured, but it is ba­si­cally a three-step process.

Step one is to weld a roll cage in the shape the cus­tomer wants. Step two adds a driv­e­train and wheels. Step three is to bolt on the pan­els to fin­ish off the cus­tomer’s dream, and de­liver.

In each step, Mur­ray ad­heres re­li­giously to Colin Chap­man’s maxim: “just add light­ness”.

Back­draft Rac­ing in Amanz­im­toti and Neil Wool­ridge Mo­tors in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg fol­low sim­i­lar pro­cesses to built clas­sic Cobra looka­likes and Dakar rac­ing Rangers that sell for up to four mil­lion rand.

A com­pe­tent team can do the work in any garage or even a 20foot con­tainer. This is bad news for the big car fac­to­ries that build too many cars for too few buy­ers just to qual­ify for bil­lions in tax sub­si­dies. They will be re­placed by smaller shops that build trans­port as spec­i­fied by buy­ers, be it a cheap and re­li­able elec­tric one-seater, or an old­fash­ioned, petrol-burn­ing V8 like the TVR.

The news that Mur­ray, who achieved fame for his F1-win­ning McLaren, is de­sign­ing the TVR sports cars has gen­er­ated a lot of ex­cite­ment.

Les Edgar, chair­per­son of TVR, said his man­age­ment team was to­tally blown away by the re­ac­tion to a new TVR with a light chas­sis, Cos­worth V8 up front, and a man­ual gear box send­ing power to the rear. “Our phone lines and online in­quiry sys­tem went into melt­down when the news was an­nounced, and we de­cided that we must be­gin to bring a struc­ture to the in­quiries and build a de­liv­ery pipeline well in ad­vance of pro­duc­tion.”

A de­posit of £5 000 (about R97 066) se­cures a car, with pro­duc­tion hav­ing started ear­lier this month.

This TVR blip on my radar her­alds a fu­ture in which our chil­dren’s chil­dren will know of no other way to get a dream car.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Les Edgar, chair­per­son of TVR, and Dur­ban’s car-de­sign leg­end Gor­don Mur­ray, af­ter the an­nounce­ment that Mur­ray’s iStream de­sign will be used to make new TVR cars.

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