If you thought Porsche Caymans were for folk who couldn’t afford 911s, think again.
The Porsche Cayman S
The Cayman S looks superb, with its flared wheel arches, steeply tapered rear end and flowing profile designed around the mid-mounted engine.
It also has a real sense of balance when you drive it fast. It handles bends amazingly, and is fun to drive.
With 0â€“60 coming up in 5.4 seconds, topping out just above 170mph the Cayman S has real power. Like all great Porsches since 1963, it has the flat-six engine, which makes a unique sound on the road — a sort of angry drone.
James Martin writes, “This is the sports car equivalent of a radio-friendly hit, with drinks holders, comfortable seats and (unlike the 911) loads of storage, thanks to the two boots, one front and one rear. It’s for everyman. I was happy my car had the manual gearbox and not the Tiptronic thing; I don’t need to pretend I’m a Formula 1 driver. … Can I recommend it without any ifs, buts or alternatives? I thought so.”
Not many people today will remember the Rootes Group, a British car-maker that was tip-top in its day — or the Hillman marque that did much to sustain it.
The Hillman Avenger was created to replace the Hillman Minx, Rootesâ€™ best selling car. However, the Arrow range — that was intended to replace the Minx and Super Minx — was already being developed by this time. It became the Hillman Hunter in 1966. The Arrow was already taking most of Rootes’s development resources.
Company executives still saw a need for a smaller, smarter model. The new car would bridge the gap between the Imp and the Minx, and take on the rampant Ford Cortina.
In November 1965, the Avenger was called the “B Car”, and its product guidelines had been determined. The engineers knew it would need to be compact, cute, spacious and fast — by the standards of the day. It would have to offer more than its rivals. Rootes also wanted to take advantage of the new fashion for “company cars”.
The main problem was that British cars were cheap and cheerful at the time, almost thrown together by a stroppy workforce that cared little for Britain’s past proud achievements in car making. Unions ruled the roost, with many a connection direct into the Kremlin. One thing would make the Avenger stand out from the pack — its name. The Avengers television series gave it a cachet it scarcely deserved, and made it “cool” in a jaded marketplace.
In February 1970, the Hillman Avenger was launched, with reviewers praising its excellence on the road, and its contemporary styling. There was a real sense that the car would be the making of the ailing company, and that under Chrysler’s direction, what was the Rootes group would go on to prosper (for a while) in the emerging company car market.
A professor at Purdue University, Jerry Woodall, has found a method of producing hydrogen from aluminum alloy pellets and water. This is very important for the motor industry as it promises to solve many of the problems that confront the introduction of engines running on hydrogen as a fuel.
Although hydrogen is the perfect alternative fuel, its exhaust containing nothing more harmful than water vapor, its use has been dogged by a bad press, with memories of old airship disasters like the Hindenburg, the problem that generating it by electrolysis uses more power than it produces, and the difficulties involved in storing it in quantity. The Purdue solution offers a way around all of these, suggesting that cars of the future need only fill up with the alloy pellets.
Hydrogen is generated spontaneously when water is added to pellets of the alloy, which is made of aluminum and a metal called gallium. The researchers have shown how hydrogen is produced when water is added to a small tank containing the pellets. Hydrogen produced in such a system could be fed directly to an engine.
Gallium is an important ingredient since it stops a skin of aluminum oxide forming and protecting the metal from further reaction with the water. And the by product of the reaction is hydrogen…
The Purdue Foundation has applied for the patent to the process and plans are in process for its commercial use.
TVR used to be a very small company that made typical British sports cars – in Blackpool, Lancashire, of all places. They followed the same formula as all the other constructors: lightweight fiberglass body on a great-handling chassis and a lightly-tuned straight-4 to provide the power. AC broke away from the norm when Carroll Shelby squeezed an enormous American V8 into their Ace to create the Cobra and that gave everyone the same idea – why not do the same for other Brit sports cars?
It was tried with a variety of cars and TVR were no exception, but nothing earth-shattering was created until the eighties, when the company was bought by Peter Wheeler, a millionaire with big ideas. He wanted to make TVR into a “serious” sports car manufacturer.
The result was a series of models that multiplied to the point of confusion. They all had one thing in common, however – they were ridiculously overpowered and a handful to drive as a result. Until the Sagaris of 2004, that is.
The styling is very TVR, aggressive and slightly over the top, but at last the company had produced a car that could handle the power delivered by its 4 liter straight-6. And the result was a car as desirable as any of the great Italian supercars at a fraction of the price.
Well, Jeremy Clarkson seems to think so, anyway…