February 18, 2013 10:02 PM |
Posted By: steveo220
Rated 5.0 out of 5.0 by 3 members
Remember that story from youthful bedtimes about a hare and a tortoise? ‘Yeah yeah’ we all said when Mummy shut the book on another apocryphal instalment of animal rivalry, ‘but there is no way the tortoise would win in real life!’ – as on we marched to manhood, convinced that speed is everything and that tortoises – no matter how the story ends - suck.
Fortunate enough to own a supercar, I get to play this story out for real on a regular basis. Take last Sunday, for example. A trip to a tile-shop beckoned and with the weather being so delightful, it seemed like a good idea to take the XJ220 for the 25 mile round trip. In a normal car, this would be a simple activity, comprising the following tasks:
- Drive to tile shop
- Buy tiles
- Drive home
In a supercar…you’d better set your alarm clock early, because it just doesn’t work like that. For a start, the car needs to be kept in a secure, alarmed, dehumidified garage. Once you have negotiated Chubb’s finest security system, one that would keep Bletchley Park humming all night to figure out, and finally gained entry to your car, the starting procedure begins. Firing up is easy and always a joy. Easing into reverse, you coax the car onto the driveway…where it has to sit idling for around 5-10 minutes, in a procedure known to the cognoscenti as ‘warming up’. Some owners use this time productively, by writing a last will and testament, or preparing a four-course dinner. I prefer to watch, voyeuristically, as the vapour cloud from the exhaust subsides and the engine note changes from gruff bark to more of a roar. At that point – I am ready to drive. Of course, had I taken the regular car, I’d be halfway to my destination by now. No matter, a supercar renders large distances obsolete and will make up the distance in no time…
Gently manoeuvring on the driveway to avoid burning the clutch (a perennial supercar owning hazard), I reach the gate onto the road, which faces East to the morning sun - and realise that I can’t see a thing. Dismissing initial concerns of sudden onset cataract syndrome, I recall that I didn’t wash the car after its last outing (more of this later). A level of screen dirt which, on a normal car, would hardly be noticed, on the steeply raked screen of the XJ220 leaves you literally blinded by the light. So, leaving the car running at the gate, I hot foot it back to the garage for some screen polish and a dry, lint-free cloth.
Screen clean, I finally leave my property and join the Queen’s highway. The clock is ticking. In a normal car, I would be almost at my destination by now. No matter, because these are the moments you dream about your whole life. I’d rather be a hare. The tortoise, even if he might win in the end, still sucks.
Setting off, I am forced to take a different route from the one I would take in a normal car. My local council, afflicted by a plague of state nanny-ism, has kindly erected some extreme ‘traffic calming’ measures in the village between my house and the main road. I have literally seen grown men weeping at the roadside next to broken 4X4s, such is the ferocity of the speed-humps. I am told that the air cools perceptibly as you drive over them. Something I will not be experiencing today in my XJ220. So, I drive the bumpy back road through another village, adding about 5 miles to the journey. At no point am I able to get past 40mph, which means I don’t get out of second gear. The best way to enjoy these back-roads is with the window down, exhaust ricocheting off the houses and hedgerows in a highly addictive manner.
At the main A-road, the fun begins. I join a traffic-free section and quickly get up to what is known amongst supercar owners as ‘speed’. Within a couple of minutes I join slower traffic, but overtaking is swift and we are soon onto a section of dual carriageway where the light-bending properties of the car can be fully experienced. By the time I arrive at the tile shop, in one of those edge-of-town retail parks that make you think you have stumbled into Bakersfield, California, I am exhilarated, refreshed but still quite a long way behind my alter-ego in his ‘normal’ car.
Job done and after a brief chat with a passing gentleman (‘nice car mate!’) it’s time to head home and really make up the deficit. The car is running beautifully and even on cold and slightly damp roads, finding grip is not a problem. Arriving home, I glance at my watch and realise that I am probably still 15 minutes behind where I would have been in my ‘normal’ car. It seems the tortoise had a point.
But, dear reader, that is not the end of the story. For the corollary of the starting procedure is, I suppose, the stopping procedure. On most winter runs, this involves rinsing and washing the car, mainly to remove road salt. (In the summer, removal of squashed flies becomes the priority). Once finished and with freezing cold hands, it’s finally time to get the car back into its luxuriously appointed abode, ready for another day…of going fast, slowly.