The Tie Fighter

by Richard Morris (copyright 2001)


"My God, it looks like something out of Star Wars...!"

Maureen Morris said it all. She drives a yellow MX5 and has seen
a few Lotuses come and go in the past decade so she is literate in such matters. Indeed, she possesses her own discerning taste for performance cars but I tell you nothing could have prepared her for the shock of the "Tie-Fighter" on that pivotal evening back in March. No vehicle ever gone before could have possibly softened the intensity of her reaction, that eye popping and incredulous response which has since become an everyday happening for the 340R owner who dares to mix company with the passer-by and fellow motorist.










One of the problems is that you cannot ground yourself, study from a frame of reference. "Oh it looks like so and so..." - the amount of times I hear this type of trite, valueless exclamation when directors, advertising creatives, animators, designers etc.. look upon something fresh. Seemingly in distrust or in the absence of real inner vision and creativity, everything has to be understood in terms of which movie scene or which contemporary artist or which commercial it looks like. Well I have some news, this form of anesthetized, intellectualized relation to the visual simply cannot be employed when casting one's gaze upon the 340R.

At last, here is an object of such arresting visual impact that the mental plagiarist is unable to classify and pointlessly relate. Quite simply, it has no relations. Okay, so there will always be background mumblings of "beach buggy" but these utterances can only be the product of extreme ill breeding and are best ignored. No, witnessing the 340R you have to pause, reframe then take a long hard look. In a gasp, the visually alien has to be ingested and somehow formed into the logical, the intelligible; "No doors ! No roof ! exhaust falling off the back and look you can see straight through it !"

In practice however, the cognitive process at work is really not so problematic. The brutality of all the 340's exposed vitals, the outlandish use of transparent plastics, the devilish aerodynamic protrusions, menacing yet graceful edges purposely targeted down and toward the horizon and perhaps above all, the unsettling vision of a car which by familiar standards is grossly lacking - a quarter of a car maybe - somehow all these effects come together as one. Initially visually unsettling perhaps but ultimately the "Tie Fighter" presents itself as a homogenous whole; its many components - and lets face it, it does not exactly try to hide any of them - do indeed gel and for some like myself, mouth-wateringly so !

Man demands order for all the facets of his existence. However, it appears that he also relishes a degree of controllable chaos and discord, especially when the arts, the appreciation of the aesthetic and music are concerned. A frosted winter landscape, a kaleidoscopic underwater coral reef, the insane fractal patterns evident in trees and plants - the extraordinary beauty of nature excites our sense like nothing else yet in initial guise it is devoid of a sense of geometry and symmetry. Ultimately this disharmony reflects our final being and that is why we seek it out; we are not defined identities, more a conglomerate, a happenstance of self and other.


This for me is a big reason for the 340R. The 340 is my John Coltrane's "sheets of sound", the impossible somehow harmonized together for an intoxicating effect. Sure, there is melody there but convention is forced to live with madness. Arguably, the nose of the car is aggressive but also has real grace and beauty. The same cannot be said of the rear however. Ugly, awkward, out of place, nothing to do with cars.... you can pick your own words, but the important aspect for me is in this mix, this outrageous mass of panels, metal and machined parts which achieves a shocking look which is unlike anything else on the road.

Of course underlying the whole design is another basic message: "don't ****!". The 340R is nothing but a toy but just a flash of its face in a rear-view mirror is more than enough to convince you that it is also deadly, deadly serious. If truth be told this machine is for one thing only...... lap times. The amusing point is that almost every member of planet earth (in my experience as an owner) seems to know this very fact regardless of their knowledge of motorsport, sports cars or any related pastime. I have witnessed pedestrians drooling, inspecting, pointing and poking the "R" for tens of minutes, and if you are out shopping or going about your 9-8pm daily business then that is a hell of a long time. It still amazes me when great-grandmothers of 70 or 80+ years, or Micra-driving pregnant housewives with 2 other kids in pushchairs - consumed by motherhood - stop their routine and pay the "R" just as much attention as the boy racer in the Dimma 205gti who asks the 0-60.

Interaction is indeed a hidden extra that comes with ownership. On any given outing you are bound to be drawn into conversation about the car (what's the top speed sadly is still the most common question) but hell, as topics go it ain't a bad one ! It is on that note that I will finish my rant. Rounding the end of the Kings Road in south London one afternoon I stopped at the lights and spied a very round and overweight chap leaning out of a flat window high up above. With his can of Bud in hand he took one look at me in the "R" and in a very strong southern US accent shouted, "Hey.... wheeere's f***in' Robin Man !". When the lights finally went green he was still pointing and laughing his head off.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the 340R, there really is nothing like it on earth, to look at or drive.

Rich M 2001


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