The finished result

Help me!

"Help me!", it cries. It was a tough first week back for the wee plastic shed after the drive up from Tamworth.

First week

Q. It looks a bit grubby.

A. A 500-mile round trip to Exeter in a day will do that.

Q. That's really no way to treat a car that's just been rebuilt.

A. I know, but it was Granny's 90th birthday, so I had to go, and I did want to give the car a good test.

Q. Did it pass?

A. In the main, yes. Only problems were:

SST in the snow

It looks like acts of cruelty to a newly-rebuilt car, doesn't it? It wasn't meant to be that way, but I guess a baptism by fire (ice?) was always going to be on the cards. Anyway, God does the weather so don't blame me.

Roof - cheap replacement - isn't a great fit and I've found it more watertight to leave the bits around the side windows on the outside when parked.

SST engine bay

Under the bonnet it's like a new car. As you'd expect, I suppose, since all the bits are new. Danny's certainly done a fine job of putting it all together, because I've probably done 1000 miles in this first week with no need to look at it. There's a plate near the front of the engine bay with 'SST 008' on it. Which would lead me to suspect, Watson, that this is an early prototype with a later build number on it. Think I'm joking? I'm sure they were capable of anything.

SST interior

Inside is as standard apart from the boost gauge where the ashtray used to be (low down in front of the gear lever).

SST side view

A good-looking car? I think so. The bumpers painted body-colour certainly help it quite a lot. £7000-worth of car? Probably not, but then maybe not that far off (I'm biased, of course - you pays your money and you takes your choice). It certainly gives me a lot of confidence driving it knowing that just about everything from the tyres up is brand new.

On the road

Driver's seat

The dash (see photo above) is dreadful, with both the rev counter and speedometer difficult to see at speed. Would be a lot nicer with a new wheel and some clear round gauges. Hmmm. Better start saving again. Well, once I've paid off the loan for the rebuild anyway ...

Stalks are a bit flimsy but I'm glad the self-canceling is broken on the indicators. I'll never understand why the car manufacturers moved en masse to self-canceling indicators. The only things more annoying are wipers that change speed by themselves and a hi-fi that adjusts volume to what it thinks is right. Do they think we're total idiots, and can't make these decisions for ourselves?

Seats not too bad, but I'm lucky as I haven't got any back problems. The best seats I've ever found are in the SE4 Coupe. No idea why - they're only simple low buckets - but I don't get any aches at all, even after hours at the wheel. Most cars can leave me hobbling around for hours after a long stint. Maybe it's the SE4 driving position i.e. sitting on the floor?

Overall I suppose 'snug' sums up the SST, especially with the roof up. But if you forget the useless dash then the important bits - steering wheel, pedals, gear lever - are exactly where you'd want them. That sounds a bit simplistic but there are too many cars out there with the pedals skewed off to one side, a steering wheel that can do every trick except sit dead in front at a good reach or a gear lever that's either a few inches too far away or a few inches behind you. When you're pushing on these things matter.

Handling

At first I thought the adjustable shocks were set up a bit too firm, but I'm not sure now - it may just be the fact that the whole thing weighs less than a gnat's privates. Either way, it moves around a fair bit on bumpy corners. Not a problem, but it just takes a bit of getting used to and I find myself having to read the road surface a lot more than I'm used to. Which, let's face it, can't be bad thing.

It grips incredibly well. I was a bit dubious about the new Colway remoulds (if 'new remoulds' makes any kind of sense) but Danny assured me that they were good and he was right. I know I've got nowhere near the limits of the handling yet, but I'm also aware that every time I try I'm getting a bit closer. To the scenery. Wonder how much a rollbar and full harnesses would cost ..?

Performance

This car is wickedly, stupidly, addictively fast. And it's very small and very light, so you can throw it through gaps where you'd hesitate with a bigger car. The gears are where you'd want them to be, the steering is direct (don't sneeze) and the handling gives a lot of confidence. Just about any excuse at the moment and I'll head off for the local A and B roads. Addiction is certainly the word.

The new Turbo Technics hybrid turbo is still on 'standard' boost - about 0.5 bar. I can't see a reason (and I may well have to eat my words later) for increasing the power. It'll quite happily chirp the rear tyres at the moment if you're a bit brutal going up to 3rd gear. How much more power do you need?

I'm still getting to know the car, and trying not to thrash the nuts off it whilst the engine is so young, but one of the things I know I like already is that it's fairly anonymous. Meaning that no-one really knows what to make of it, which is just fine by me.

Overall

Fair to say, then, that I'm impressed. I think I'll need to go on a track day, something I've not done til now, to get near the real limits of the car.

If you like fast cars then buy one - SS1, SST or Sabre, it probably doesn't matter as long as you've got the Nissan engine and it's not too worn - and treat yourself. Thrills don't often come this cheap.

SST front three-quarters

Updates since

Turns out there's a headlamp electrical overload button under the dash on the right. Which had tripped, causing the lights to stop playing. Somebody should have read the Owner's Manual first. That'll be me then.

The heater matrix (a small radiator, in fact) has been replaced and the heater now works fairly well. Replacing the thing was a bit of a job for the local garage, and the thinking afterwards was that the whole car was actually built around it. Which wouldn't surprise me with Reliant, as I seem to remember them doing the same thing with the Coupe's wiper motor.

With the weather improving, more driving experiences with less chance of finding ice. It really is a great little car. Everyone should have one.

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