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