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Big, Fast, Mad, Scary, Fun! - SEAC 420 Test Drive

By Mike Bressington

As you may or may not know. I have recently sold my 350i (shock, horror)! After over seven years of ownership I have decided to part company with my baby and look for something a little newer and dare I say it, something a little more comfortable!

Coming up to 40 (well in a few years time) I think that I am going through what can only be described as a reverse mid-life crisis. After owning a 350i for so many years, which as we all know only comes in one flavour - LOUD, in a moment of weakness I find myself hankering after something a little more ‘civilised’ to drive around in – In this case I was thinking about a Chimaera.

I think that the cars however are two totally different beasts. If cars were liked to rock bands then the Wedge series (especially the bigger badder Wedge cars) would have to be AC/DC or Motorhead; raw, gruff and just a little bit rude. The Chimaera would be more akin to Aerosmith, more modern, polished with better production and a little more ‘sophistication’ but still with a rebellious ‘bad boy’ side. And with AC/DC and the like you either like them or you don’t just like the Wedge cars.

Now I have absolutely nothing against Chimaera TVR’s and can honestly say that after testing quite a few they have proved to be very capable, good looking, well handling sportscars. They even stop when you want them to, what a novelty that was after driving around in a 350i with almost zero braking power for so many years!

Something was telling me though instead of going for a Chimaera which in my humble opinion are a little bit ‘popular’ for want of a better word but to go for a bigger, madder, scarier Wedge car. The noise, relative exclusivity and the bonkers ‘dated’ 80’s aggressive styling has always made me smile whenever I see (or hear) one. I decided to have a look around at a few models and to test-drive a few just to get the feel of the cars before making a decision as to which one to replace my 350i with. Out of the blue a regular Wedge forum member Richard Hurd aka ‘Dickymint’ came up with an interesting offer to help make my mind up.

After a brief phone conversation which ended up with Richard saying ‘Well, if you pop up I will take you out in my 420 SEAC, and if you want you can take the wheel to get a proper feel for the car, would that interest you?’ A go in a SEAC! would that interest me? Wild horses would not keep me away.

The day arrived and after studying the car from many different angles I decided that it just looked gorgeous. It literally looks like it is going 200 miles an hour just standing there on his drive.

Mike Bressington - the author
Richard Hurd SEAC Owner
The author and the big, bad SEAC   Richard Hurd the car's owner

One thing that I did notice however was that you can definitely see the composite kevlar ‘ripple’ of the bodywork at certain angles. Richard’s car of course was one of the SEACs that were bodied in the composite material and just a small percentage of the car perhaps just the front air dam(?) made of GRP instead of the entire body as with most other TVR’s.

I believe that TVR re-bodied a lot of the SEACS due to customer complaints and body stress cracking issues. An interesting thing to note with the composite cars is that the panels tend to be very thin compared to GRP (and therefore 200lbs lighter) and actually change shape in the heat. Press the door panel and it actually flexes, same with every panel on the car which is really disconcerting!

SEAC Front
The big wing
SEAC 420   The 'Big Wing' To enlarge click HERE

Richard turned the key and the tuned 4228cc 300bhp V8 exploded into life, wow does this baby make it’s presence known. This car makes absolutely no pretence of what it’s purpose is, rev the car and it literally barks at you, this is one sports car not for the feint hearted. After taking quite a few pictures, Richard and I sped off. I do not make a very good passenger especially in powerful cars but on this occasion I must confess I was especially on edge.

You could tell by the purposeful exhaust note that under the bonnet there was a big bad monster ready to be let rip. Compared to the 350i this car is nothing short of an animal, much more aggressive and to top it all, it had started to rain just to add to the fun!

Engine bay
The engine bay   Magnolia half hide interior

Although a slight misfire was evident due to car being relatively cold the SEAC was obviously not happy about being held back and having to behave, driving slowly through small towns are not its thing! We burbled and rumbled our way out of town onto some clear driving roads. After a mile or two the engine was suitably warmed up and the misfire seemed to disappear, Richard let rip on the throttle and all I remember was hanging on thinking ‘Jessssus’.

It was my turn to have a go and Richard pulled into a lay by for me to change positions with him. Immediately I noticed a much lower driving position than the 350i. The seat seemed inches lower, I wondered if this was ‘standard’ on the SEACs or had the seat runners been altered to accommodate a taller person in the past? The position was not uncomfortable but just different to my old Wedge. The car also sports scalloped inner door panels which give the occupants a little more elbow room than the other Wedge cars I have been in.

I released the rather odd ‘umbrella handle’ under dash hand brake and started to let off the clutch. ‘Take it easy at first not too much revs’ I thought, then big wheel spin - oops, picked up speed went into second another wheel spin - oops, started to pick up some more speed went into third and the tyres chirped again! This drive is going to be interesting I thought.

Compared to the 350i this car has some serious power and savage acceleration. I was acutely aware that the road was a little wet and this car seemed much lighter on it’s feet due to the lightweight body than what I was used to. I got the distinct feeling that if you were to loose respect for the car for a moment it would turn around and bite a BIG chunk out of you.

Mean mother!
Side decals
Mean mother! To enlarge click HERE   The name says it all!

After gripping onto the wooden steering wheel like grim death for a while I started to actually feel a little less nervous about the drive, in spite of the back end trying to break away every time we went around a corner a little too fast. I was just thankful that the roads were drying out, I was also especially thankful that the SEACS were fitted with ‘uprated’ brakes - these babies stop you in 300 yards instead of 400 as on the 350i’s!!

After some short sprints and a few good fast runs up and down the bypass Rich suggested that we go for a coke and ice in his local pub that was coming up just around the corner. As we were taking a few more photos in the car park Rich noticed a familiar car pulling in. It was his good Lady, Sam popping in for a stress reliever after work. Turns out that Sam is a total convert to the Wedge community as well – She has taken the reins of Dickymints’ first baby his old red 350i. And I thought I was addicted to Wedge cars!

After the refreshment stop and a good natter it was time to take a few more pics, start the SEAC up and head back to Richard’s home. I pulled up on his drive and switched off the car – phew what a morning.

The experience had been nothing short of exhilarating. One of my fears when Richard offered me the chance to have a go, was I was going to actually drive my dream car. Sometimes if you get the chance to drive the car of your dreams it may turn out to be not as good as you imagined it and it could be a big let down.

This car was nothing short of awesome it exceeded what I imagined it to be like, I am one of the lucky ones who’s dream car is everything I expected it to be and then some. Only problem now is that I want one so bad that it hurts - thanks Richard you have ruined my life! ;-)

So I have only now got to try out a 450SE and I can die a happy man. One thing for sure is though I won’t be buying that Chim.

I would like to thank Richard Hurd for the faith and trust in me to let me have a go of his beloved 420 SEAC - Long live Wedges.

Mike Bressington