Since Topcats Racing completed the conversion of their T350 with the now revered LS7 engine in November 2012, its purpose was to demonstrate to clients its performance, above all, but also to show how tractable and even relaxing it could be when the driver wants it to be.
If anyone assumed that this car would rest idle on the forecourt while it awaited others to sample its power or the occasional fair weather jaunt, they would be surprised to note that the T350 in pristine cleanliness with a cold engine would be a rare occurence.
Perhaps owner of Topcats Racing and therefore the T350, Warren Gilbert, may have entered into this T350 LS7 project with the pretence that this would be for the enjoyment of others as he steadfastly kept keys safely in pocket or in the ignition.
This is not say that Warren had become possessive, far from it. He revels in the opportunity to show off such an extreme piece of machinery, of which I will get to the details later. Some will have come specifically to see what it’s all about, others may have come to pick up their own TVR and are intrigued enough to get in the passenger’s seat. Others are coerced by Warren if he is feeling devilish.
Reactions are mixed but none are impassive when they leave the passenger seat. (I’ve neglected to ask if Warren lets other people drive it, and I mean really drive it). Warren is a hugely accomplished racing driver and lacks even a smidgen of fear mainly because of his superb car control. He does have enough sense though to give it some respect. That said, the range of emotion from everyone that has sat in it with Warren goes from elated hysteria to ashen faced wrecks.
The team are in this game to give drivers the complete package, an as perfect driving experience as mechanically and humanly possible, whether it’s on the race track or on the road. A 550hp engine is no good to anyone if the car and of course the driver can’t handle it.
Warren has clocked up a few thousand miles in almost 12 months mainly commuting backwards and forwards to work. He works unconventional hours which he puts down to workload but which all the rest of us put down to empty roads before and after rush hour.
The 25 minute drive to work consists mainly of undulating, twisting Buckinghamshire B roads that have fast become famous for their shameful potholes that speckle the entire road network. I’m just trying to set the scene for you.
The T350, when it was finally let loose in November still had its original suspension and tyres and little else was done except the engine and gearbox. For Warren, every commute was a character building experience. Steering was vague and hopping away from the desired trajectory was unnerving.
The T350 has undergone a progressive development programme adding elements one by one so that they could be tested individually.
The core of the success of this conversion is owed to the low centre of gravity installation of the LS7 engine coupled with a TKO600 6 speed (or 5 speed if you want) gearbox and bespoke alloy bellhousing.
I would have to waffle on indefinitely if I were to go into detail about everything that has been put into this car so probably best to list it. Without question though, the Gaz Gold suspension (there are to be back to back tests with Nitrons kit soon too) has really put car hand in hand with driver. Driver input is immediately communicated to contact with the road and Warren’s option to go with Federal track day tyres is sensational.
Research is underway to install a sequential gearbox that can be installed whilst soundproofing to make it suitable for road car use. We are some way off from making this possible but the rewards of a sequential gearbox are worthy of attempt.
Having sat in the passenger seat with Warren on a test it was a revelation how close to race car performance it has become without losing its road car comfort appeal. Bearing in mind that it is not fitted with a roll cage, it rigidly holds a corner with copious amounts of throttle from the midpoint. This is mechanical and tyre grip in equal measure and is as reassuring and pointy as a go kart.
The car can be provoked on demand into plenty of oversteer too, if you fancy it. Chose a corner, overfeed the throttle, dial in some opposite lock and the car will hold obliquely for as long as you desire, allowing you to admire the snake of black tyre tracks from the side window.
Braking capacity is astonishing considering that the brakes haven’t been upgraded from the standard fitment. Ridiculously late braking, even downhill, failed to unbalance the car or fade. Again the surefootedness has to be attributed to the suspension aptly dealing with weight transfer. When asked his opinion of the brakes, Warren said they were adequate. For relentless pounding or regular track day use, an upgrade would probably be advisable.
I have had the pleasure of driving the car, although I can count the number of times on one hand. Irrespective of the fact that I have been racing for almost 20 years, I have been driving an automatic diesel BMW estate for the past 5 years and have only raced once in the last couple of years. I was cautious to start with which invited plenty of goading from Warren sitting in the passenger’s seat.
The last time I drove it a couple of weeks ago I found my ‘mojo’ again and could feel the heady mix of adrenalin and fiendish aggression building up. Advice coming from the passenger seat changed dramatically. “You know, if you go too hard on the throttle in the corners it could bite you in the ass”.
LS7 engine with dry sump
TKO600 six speed gearbox with bespoke alloy bell housing
Gaz Gold suspension / Both being tested – back to back to follow
Federal track day tyres
Alloy competition large core radiator
Bushes and shim packs all new in suspension
Fly by wire throttle with advanced GM ECU package
Competition starter and alternator
Competition spec lightweight stainless exhaust built to any customer noise level
All stainless hose clips
Silicone hoses throughout
Gun barrel lightweight driveshafts
Alloy housed rallycross airfilter
Bespoke wring loom totally intergrated into the TVR systems
Low centre of gravity installation
Problems solved and advantages over speed six installation
Better fuel consumption averaging 25mpg
Longer engine life
No 12K mile tappet service
No clutch finger and slave cylinder failures
No NS engine mount failures
Next to no oil consumption
Better cold start and warm up
No butterfly bearing wear
Smoother throttle and cruising control
Less engine running noise
Softer clutch pedal
Less oil leakage
Excellent customer care upgrade packages
Cheaper engine service
Better centre of gravity