Kiwi made Hulme puts a smile on dial

By Eric Thompson

No way Driven would miss the chance to drive this Kiwi-bred Supercar

It may not be new with all the bells and whistles, but the Denny Hulme Supercar is a delight to drive, noisy with a ton of grunt. Pictures / Geoff Ridder, supplied
It may not be new with all the bells and whistles, but the Denny Hulme Supercar is a delight to drive, noisy with a ton of grunt. Pictures / Geoff Ridder, supplied

When you get a phone call straight out of the blue asking if you want to take the only one of its kind in the world for a spin it would be very, very churlish indeed to say no for any reason whatsoever.

There is only one Hulme Supercar. It has travelled extensively around the world and has appeared at just about every major motoring and motorsport event to much acclaim.

Very few people, let alone journalists, have had the opportunity to slip inside, belt up, grab the steering wheel and push the go button in the Hulme. Driven was presented with the chance to drive the car last weekend when the car's custodian, Jock Freemantle, called and said he would bring it along to Hampton Downs so I could drive it.

Needless to say I dropped everything, headed to the track and paced the floor in anticipation.

The car was inspired by Denny Hulme and has an engine that's been fettled by a former McLaren F1 mechanic, John Nicholson.

All the back story on the hows, the whys and the wherefores of the car build blah, blah, blah can be found on www.hulmesupercars.com.

This piece is about what it was like to drive the bloody thing. After all, it's been touted as a pure driver's car and it didn't disappoint.

Some may find the car aesthetically challenging, and while it's not quite my cup of tea visually, if I owned one I sure as hell wouldn't be putting it in my lounge to be looked at. I'd be driving it every hour the good Lord gave me.

From the moment you push the fun button and the eight cylinders sitting right behind your head fire into action there's a hint of something special.

Freemantle was at pains to explain before we set off that the steering was precise, the gearbox notchy, the ride a little hard ...

At this point, I politely asked him to stop complaining about the characteristics of a car that was built for driving, and not putting one to sleep. It all sounded just fine to me.

Cars are meant to be driven by the driver, not the car. The Hulme has no driver aids and nor should it. Leave all that mullarkey to Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and the likes. If you can't control what's under your bum through skill, you shouldn't be driving it anyway.

However, I digress. Not only does the car attract people to it like a Kodiak bear to a moonshine still, the sound is sensational and it's not all exhaust noise.

The air intake is just behind your left ear and even a blip on the throttle causes the intake to hiss like an angry Komodo dragon. Once on the open road and the throttle is planted towards the floor, the roar sounds like a Harrier jump jet in hover mode and will suck in small animals - brilliant.

And it's on the open road the car comes into its own. The finish isn't perfect but then again the car is still a work in progress. What it does do bloody well, though, is drive.

Freemantle and his co-creators wanted to build a Formula One car you can drive to the shops and they've pretty much nailed it right down to the front of the car being able to be raised to avoid high curbs and the like.

If you want a car you have to drive and have a hefty say in what it does on the road, this is the beast for you. If you want a car that drives you look elsewhere. This thing is about driving. The steering is light, precise and gives more than enough feedback without any juddering, bounce or twist. The ride is a little hard, but then again, what would you expect on the goat tracks we have for country roads in New Zealand? And anyway, there's no cup holder so no place to put any coffee that might spill. However on motorway road surfaces, it's silky smooth.

You can flick the Hulme into any corner at legal speed and it simply goes around it.

There will be very few people other than professional race-car drivers who will be able to find the handling and performance limits of the Hulme Supercar.

Simply put, the designers and builders have got the geometry spot on - there's not even a hint of body roll no matter how tight the corner.

The engine is a thing of wonder, being able to idle along in second gear while you crawl through traffic, but turns into a raving lunatic on loopy juice when you find a bit of open road and give it some welly.

Your head is smacked back into the headrest, the cheeks start to flutter in the wind and you find smile muscles you haven't used in years. Now that is something to write home about. The gearbox has a short, notchy throw that requires a decent shove to change gear - a proper box.

My favourite bit of driving the car was using the brakes. These are man's brakes - you have to push the pedal using your thigh muscles rather that twitching the toes to pull the car up. The harder you push, the harder the Hulme stops and you get a great feel for the relationship between the tyres and the road surface.

If collecting badges and boring the pants off your mates in the pub about the latest European supercar is your thing, this is not the car for you. If you want a bit of history, pedigree and a car built to be driven and you feel part of, this is the one for you.

I had a Morgan Plus Four when living in England for many years and drove it everywhere and people thought I was mad because it had no creature comforts and was hard to drive. It wasn't hard to drive, you just had to want to drive it, and it was the sweetest-handling thing I've ever driven, until now.

Funny thing though: Mark Aston, who has worked for the Morgan Motor Company for three decades, is also involved in the Hulme Supercar - small world.

- NZ Herald

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