A TVR Journey by Ayo Blake

Before setting out on any major road trip I begin to experience a rising anxiety. I ask myself the question, why am I actually doing this? It’s not like the flights are expensive, and you can hire something when you […]

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Before setting out on any major road trip I begin to experience a rising anxiety. I ask myself the question, why am I actually doing this?

It’s not like the flights are expensive, and you can hire something when you get there, right? All that mileage, bugs stuck to the headlights and windscreen, and if you break down, if the car stops behaving in a functional manner while you are out there? Can it be fixed out there? On the road? So why do this? Why take these prize possessions into the wilderness?

The answer for me starts on a drive. I’m in Wales with my good friend Hamish, bombing along in full focus mode. I’m chasing four exhaust pipes, spitting and screaming their disapproval of my relentless pursuit and it’s only when we run up behind the inevitable caravan that I realise my hands are dripping with sweat. The rush of survival floods the brain like a narcotic and I’m longing for more but we are in traffic now and I’m feeling the withdrawal, punching the accelerator at any small opening. We need more. Not another drive though, more than a drive. What we need is a journey.

On the way back into London we stopped in the Cotswolds at (the sign proudly proclaimed) “England’s best pub”, a hugely ambitious claim considering the sheer diversity of our nation´s drinking establishments, but I digress. It had a vibe! Sipping bitter shandy and gazing proudly at our tethered steeds in the parking lot we began to reminisce on the great drives, and before long I was extolling the virtues of Andorra. A principality and ski resort in the winter, tucked in between France and Spain the capital, La Vella, is a modern city with incredible architecture that looks as though it were being transported by air and was accidentally dropped in between some mountains. The surrounding peaks are so high, when night fall’s the lights of the dwellings look like unfamiliar constellations on a strange horizons. Oh, did I mention the roads? Why they don’t have a Grand Prix there is beyond me.

Adventure was brewing and we had grown thirsty for the taste. The plan was pretty simple. I would head to Spain by way of the ferry to Bilbao. I would then drive to my house just north of Barcelona, where we would meet up, and then drive to Andorra. All that was left was an oil change, a quick trip to Amour for some fettleing of the electrics, and I was ready to go.

I booked my ferry for a sunny Sunday in May but two days before departure I received an email informing me that it had been cancelled, and did I want a refund? I did not! In the end they agreed to put me on the next ferry leaving on the following Wednesday, in a deluxe four man cabin. This was undoubtedly a win, but I was still not happy. Sunday’s weather forecast had been brilliant sunshine but Wednesday’s was not. Heavy rain and thunderstorms were on the menu all through morning of my departure. I had previously driven the Chimaera in the rain and I had actually enjoyed it. It was a cosy place to be on a rainy London day, but when I pulled out onto the M3 to Portsmouth, the rain had become so heavy that the white lines had all but disappeared from sight. I did not feel at all cosy. I pulled off for fuel, momentarily lost all control as I parted a sea of standing water on the exit ramp, and pulled into the service station with steam billowing off the manifolds. It was 7.30 am.

When I finally arrived in Portsmouth, the rain was over but my problems were not. The customs officer wanted me. He instructed me to exit the car, snatched the keys from my hand and sent me into a little room where a lady proceeded to swab me for any residues of disobedience. My chemical assessment was, however, cut short when the custom officer returned, keys still in hand, and explained, rather sheepishly that he was unable to gain entry. “Ahhhhh” I said “you have to tickle her ear!” pointing to the wing mirror. He flashed me a look of utter distrust and I thought for a minute that he might take umbrage at my seemingly obscure retort. But as his fingers made contact with the release button and the door ejected open, I saw something else scurry across the stone clad face of the officer. A smirk, or perhaps a smile?

As I pulled out of the customs bay and into the loading queue, storm clouds had made way to patches of blue sky, and the sun hit the spots of standing water like a disco ball reflecting light on to the most incredible selection of machinery I had ever seen in one place. At first I thought some kind of promotional Ferrari event was taking place, but as I parked behind a seemingly endless line of red cars, I noticed other animals in the herd. Everything, including a P1, was there, and leading the group one, beautiful, red Sagaris. Fresh as the day it was made, with, the owner proudly announced, 240k on the clock. This was my kind of queue. After negotiating the ramps and turns, while the ferry staff herded us like cows to slaughter, I finally parked between an Aventador and the incredible P1. Hours passed on the ferry, discussing cars, events and legendary hidden roads, and before long I was staggering to my cabin in what had become a very rough sea. The cabin was awful. The four man part of the description was technically accurate, but the claim to luxury was quite frankly ludicrous. It had all the ambiance of a kitchen cabinet. As I drifted off to sleep I began to wonder if, in all the excitement, I had remembered to put the handbrake on!


Disembarking from the ferry, the mix of adrenaline, land sickness, and the previous night’s festivities had created a bubbling nausea in my stomach. Added to which, the six lane toll road I was following was heavily congested and spots of rain were hitting the windscreen, promising an uncomfortable situation for anyone unable to get the roof on in a hurry. I found a lay- by to pull over and assess my options. Reluctant to return to the sweaty confines in the un-air-conditioned cabin, I decided a change of route was in order. The motorway took me directly into the path of the approaching rain, but the back route appeared to circum-navigate the bad weather and would take me directly through the dry desert-scape of central Spain. I turned off the motorway at the next exit and passed through a deserted industrial town that looked as though the inhabitants had fled a zombie apocalypse, leaving it to decay quietly in the sun. The gurgle of the exhausts resonated between the graffiti covered walls until the last of the forsaken buildings had vanished and all that remained was a strip of tarmac winding its way into the shimmering heat haze of the horizon. I buried the throttle into the thick carpet and the wind took over from the propeller plane sound of the engine until it filled my ears like a standing ovation. I felt free. More free than I had in a long time, and the smile that came with it slapped itself to my face like it had blown over the top of the windscreen.

The days passed slowly in Spain. The heat made any serious day driving far too sticky a situation and so, other than a few glorious evening blasts into Barcelona through the four lane tunnels that surround the city,  and one to the airport to collect my girlfriend,  the Chimaera sat mostly unused under the gazeebo I had erected to stop the fierce Spanish sun from fully consuming the already delicate rubbers.

Hamish had work to finish in London and by the time he had fulfilled his duties all chances of catching a ferry to Spain were gone. It was going to be the long route. A blast to Paris through the night, then clear France in a day on the toll roads, to finally arrive in the cool altitude of Andorra,  where we would meet.

My trip was much shorter. 90 miles to be exact, but it was not likely I would be counting them. The route was through some of the most breath taking scenery in Catalonia, on what has surely got to be one of the best roads in Europe. A snake of tarmac winding its way up and up into the sky. Bridges cross aquamarine mountain lakes and tunnels penetrate the mountains, throwing you into a sodium lamp time machine that suddenly spits you out the other end into colours so vibrant, the eyes momentarily recoil from the onslaught. This is driving for the senses, which brings me onto an interesting point. Some cars are good for crossing a continent in  a day. Some cars are good for getting sunburn. But we choose. We choose according to our priorities. We choose from the head when we must, but we choose from heart when we can, and that day, my choice could not possibly of been better.

We met in Andorra in La Vella at the hotel Pyrenees, by the beautiful roof top pool, and the happiness of seeing familiar faces in such an unfamiliar setting filled us with new energy. Dinner was acquired in a beautiful city square, and after a few medicinal cocktails for the stresses of the road, we took a walk around Andorra´s capital city until we came upon “the Nobility of Time”. It’s a sculpture of the iconic dripping clocks that became synonymous with the great Salvador Dali. I’m sure that some history and explanation goes along with it and its placement in the central square of La Vella, but at that moment, with friends, partners, and full of medicinal cocktails, we were happy to just stand and look!

Driving a sports car is undoubtedly an amazing experience, but if you want to really feel it, if you want the volume at 11 then add 1 more. For best results put a friend in the driver seat. Hamish and I have been friends and fellow enthusiasts for some years now, and our cars have always been completely different and yet somehow very similar. Hamish is by far the superior driver, and favours the more performance focused vehicles, but we rarely race. That’s not the vibe. We worship the open road. The black Goddess of ashfelt that beckons us to the horizon on a wave of endorphins. There is always more. Always a road un-driven. We pour an ocean of tarmac so that we may have the gift of freedom and, with that freedom, enter into a unique symbiosis between Man and machinery that will never die.

There are only 2200 chims left on the road and I can’t recall how many TVRs in total. How many are roaming the through the Pyrenees this summer I have no idea. If you happened to see us then maybe it surprised and delighted you or maybe it ruined the tranquillity some of the world’s finest scenery but, if so then don’t worry, because it won’t happen often. As for all of those who appreciate the sound of a straight pipes shredding the mountain air then take solace for as long as there are TVR badges on bonnets, garage doors will open, engines will turn and journeys will begin!

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