Steve Cro­p­ley

Autocar - - THIS WEEK -

His­tory in the mak­ing in Corn­wall


Truly im­pressed to clock the in­side of LEVC’S mighty head­quar­ters and fac­tory (which I of­ten no­ticed while it was be­ing built) at An­sty, Coven­try, and to take a drive in the new car, the global TX taxi (p56). A panel of en­gi­neers I met threw me by start­ing their tech pre­sen­ta­tion with a pic­ture of a Lo­tus Elise, but it soon be­came clear that their new cre­ation’s chas­sis uses the same well-proven bonded alu­minium prin­ci­ples. “We’re not build­ing a good taxi,” they kept telling me, “we’re build­ing a good car.” And so it proved. When I drove the TX, frankly, the car struck me as a bit too good for some of the cab­bies and pas­sen­gers I’ve met. But per­fect for the ma­jor­ity.


Set off for Corn­wall in the af­ter­noon to watch Blood­hound’s first runs on Corn­wall Air­port in Newquay (p22). It’s a fair step from the of­fice (240 miles), so I bor­rowed Matt Burt’s Mercedesbenz E220d es­tate long-ter­mer, ex­pect­ing a com­fort­able drive but noth­ing ex­tra-spe­cial. But I re­ally rated this car. It’s not su­per-quick, though plenty long legged. The ride’s de­cent too. But what I re­ally loved was the steer­ing. It was so ac­cu­rate yet be­nign, and so faith­ful to tiny cor­rec­tive in­puts that it felt as if it had been de­signed specif­i­cally for me, for my own re­flexes and my own horny hands. I don’t of­ten feel like that – and the good news is I’ve bagged this car un­til the other side of the week­end.


Prob­lem: ar­rived in the Newquay area in the Benz, with­out fo­cus­ing on the facts that a) this was half-term, and b) an­other 4000 peo­ple were ex­pected at to­mor­row’s event, so there was pres­sure on lo­cal ac­com­mo­da­tion. I had a ho­tel book­ing, as it hap­pened, but ar­rived to find it had been bagged by some­one else who said he was me! He was out for din­ner, too, so I couldn’t even re­mon­strate. Tried five other venues (no dice) so stopped in a se­cure-ish lay-by and started lay­ing down the Merc seats flat (it’s roomy). But then I spied a coun­try pub in the dis­tance. Turned out the oblig­ing peo­ple at Slades House Coun­try Inn, out­side Wade­bridge, had one room they were ren­o­vat­ing af­ter storm dam­age. They let me stay in it for £30. No of­fence to the Benz, which would have been bet­ter than most ve­hi­cles I’ve slept in.


Up be­fore dawn so as not to miss any of Blood­hound’s big day, which promised to be one to re­mem­ber. Newquay air­port is one of those places with huge, hid­den wastes con­tain­ing fas­ci­nat­ing taxi­ways and satanic-look­ing blast­proof hangars you never see from the ter­mi­nal. The car’s crew dra­mat­i­cally rolled Blood­hound out in the half-light, and I felt priv­i­leged to be there. The TV hordes were there too, ex­cit­edly send­ing stuff to var­i­ous break­fast pro­grammes. It was par­tic­u­lar fun stand­ing next to Andy Green while he was in­ter­viewed for Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme. “Any­thing you want to say,” he asked me dur­ing a pause. “I’ve checked – John Humphrys has got the day off…”

Green is a great driver of land speed record cars, for sure, but as a talker he’s a force of na­ture. He was be­ing in­ter­viewed when I ar­rived (6am) and still be­ing in­ter­viewed when I left (6pm). From his lips came the gem about Blood­hound’s fuel pump hav­ing to move a tonne of per­ox­ide in 18 sec­onds, and the one about the car be­ing the same size as a Red Ar­rows jet but as pow­er­ful as all nine of them. If there were a way to har­ness this re­mark­able bloke’s en­ergy, he’d break the record on his own.

The new TX taxi struck me as a bit too good for some of the cab­bies I’ve met

Blood­hound’s test run in Newquay piqued public and me­dia in­ter­est

Hard to see, but the new black cab has links with the Elise

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