Enjoying my surprise, Joe leads the way up a narrow wooden staircase past more shelves bowing under the weight of tools and into a room dominated by a large wooden table sticky with ingrained oil and, bizarrely, a 1960s kitchen range.
“I love old stuff,” Mason says, beaming. “Someone was chucking out this wonderful old kitchen so I saved it and gave it a home.”
He offers me a beer but it’s only 9.30am, so we talk about the Tempest side of his business. Called the Tempest 850, the two-seater roadster was commissioned by Reliant in 1987 and designed by John Box, designer of the TVR 350i, and Ian Foster, creator of the Teal Bugatti lookalike. It shared many parts with the Reliant Kitten and Fox and had a tubular steel chassis on which was mounted a GRP body. Power was provided by Reliant’s trusty, all-alloy, 850cc four-cylinder engine producing 40bhp.
However, soon after the first car was built, Reliant decided to concentrate on its new SS1 sports car, leaving Box free to develop and build the Tempest. Cars were delivered 85% complete with the balance of parts included for the new owner to fit. Over the years ownership of the Tempest rights changed hands until, in 2011, Joe acquired them.
“I believe around 50 Tempests and the little van, the Vantique, that was spun from it, were made,” he says.
Joe has since modified the design to give more leg room and added front disc brakes and electronic ignition. If you can find one, original Tempests start at around £6500, but Joe can put you into a refurbished one from £8500. Or if you have a Reliant Fox or Kitten (a Fox is better for its lower gearing and galvanised chassis), he can sell you a kit from around £1500.
Excited by the possibility of owning such a cheap and unusual roadster, I take a Tempest for a quick spin. The 40bhp engine has little difficulty launching the 550kg roadster up the hill. The gearchange is a little vague but, if you don’t rush it, finds the ratios reliably enough. The rack and pinion steering is light and precise, and the car’s turning circle incredibly tight. It’s a hoot in the best Toad of Toad Hall fashion, which is what it’s all about.
Pembleton Motor Company
Twenty miles from Tempest of England, in the picturesque Worcestershire village of Bayton, is Pembleton Motor Company. Like all the best men-in-shed businesses, it’s almost impossible to find without spoken directions.
It’s the home of the Pembleton, a cycle car designed by former national hill climb champion Phil Gregory, who was inspired by pre-war cycle cars and vintage motorcycles. Whisper it, but to the uneducated it looks like a Morgan 3 Wheeler, right down to its front-mounted V-twin engine.