Another blip to the end
TVR joins trend towards a fundamental re-think of the way cars are made
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.
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.