Where I live, and probably where you live too, there are more than enough bumpy roads. And I’ve lately realised that in almost every new car I drive, I half-grit my teeth when I see a ridge, pothole, ripple or dip approaching its low profiles.
What I’m preparing for is a thumping, small-scale shockwave to earthquake through the car. Sometimes it comes, sometimes it doesn’t but with most cars, you can reckon on a hard thudding at some point on every drive.
What made me notice the half-gritting bit is driving something pretty old, but with a mileage accumulation low enough that I’m confident it behaves pretty much as its makers intended. The car in question is one I own, and rather shamefully, I’ve been too busy to use it much over the past year.
But this week I’ve been enjoying it rather a lot, and the thing I’ve been enjoying most of all is its way with bumps. Which might seem a surprise for a machine that’s supposed to be a sports car, and even more of a surprise given its suspension layout, which appears to border on the crude.
But the McPherson strut, live axle chassis arrangement of the Triumph TR7 was masterminded by legendary Rover engineer Spen King, who reckoned that a properly controlled live axle and well-damped, long-travel springs was the way to go for America, where most TR7s were destined.
And these days, it’s a great solution for Britain’s turbulent roads, too. It works especially well in the coupé version that I have, whose unusually stiff body structure (challenging vehicle roll-over legislation was expected when the TR7 was being developed, which delayed the arrival of a drop-top) allows the suspension to work its long travel ways without causing shell flex.
In fact, the TR7 is far from the best-riding car of the past 40 years, but the fact that this simply engineered sports car so easily bests just about every new car I’ve driven over the past five years reminded me how much we’ve lost when it comes to ride comfort. Of course, we’ve gained massively in high-speed body control, flat cornering and outright grip.
You can see the advance compared to the TR7, whose body-roll, brake-dive and acceleration-triggered bottom-squat regularly disturb the calm of its advance unless you’re deft with wheel, throttle and brake.
But I don’t mind trading that for a car in which you can relish the onslaught of crests, dips and heaves and actually enjoy the accomplished way it absorbs them all. It’s a sensation you’ll struggle to experience in almost any new car made today.