Top Gear is the property of the BBC. Tom Swift was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
Top Gear reviews the Swift Tri-X
James May drove the slick, red roadster along a winding road on a sunny day in the British countryside. “This is the Swift Tri-X roadster,” he said to the the camera mounted on the rear-view mirror. “The latest technology demonstrator from Swift Enterprises.”
The car swept around a corner bordered in green hedges.
“Now, you can’t buy one of these, yourself, quite yet, and if you could, the price would be, well, astronomical, because Swift is primarily an airplane manufacturer, and as such they build cars the same way that Ferrari does: in limited quantities, with a lot of individual, hand crafted components.
“But this was never intended to be a production automobile. Swift Enterprises just meant for it to show off technologies that they are licensing to other automobile manufacturers.
“You won’t be able to buy a Swift car that does everything that this car can do, but in a few years, you will
be able to buy a Chrysler, Toyota, or Volkswagen that does.
“‘What’s so special about this car?’ you might ask, and I’ll tell you.
“First off, you may have noticed that there is none of that roaring noise that Jezza gets so worked up about. This car doesn’t run on petrol, or diesel. It runs off electricity, generated from a hydrogen fuel cell.
“And while hydrogen filling stations aren’t as common as petrol stations, all you really need to make hydrogen is water and electricity, so you can refuel this car while it is parked in your garage at home.
“And when you are driving this car along country roads, it gives you a quiet, smooth, and comfortable ride. It doesn’t have an automatic transmission, it doesn’t really have a transmission at all. Its electric motors give you smooth acceleration, with plenty of torques over their full range of speed.
“It doesn’t have a limited slip differential, either, or any sort of differential at all. Each wheel is driven by its own motor, in fact each wheel is
a motor, so no space is wasted inside the body on silly things like drive shafts to transfer power from a motor at one end of the car to wheels at the other, so this car has lots of room, both in the front and the back. And while much of the boot space is taken up by the retractable hard-top, if you lift the bonnet, you find that instead of an engine, you find lots of space to put your shopping.”
More scenes followed of James driving the car sedately around the British countryside.
“But how does it do on the track? We’ve tested electric cars before, and found them lacking. Some of them have outstanding performance…for about three laps, until their batteries go dead. This one does a bit better.”
May drove the car through a gate, and turned into the old Dunsfold Aerodrome, home of the Top Gear
“This car doesn’t have one engine — it has four! Each one integrated into a wheel, and generating up to one hundred brake horse power.”
The car accelerated down the main runway, which did double service as the Top Gear
“The entire body is made from light weight Swift Durastress, and Tomasite plastics, so it has a better power-to-weight ratio than a Porsche 911 GT3! The acceleration is astonishing! Doing 0 to 60 in 3.7 seconds!”
At the end of the straight, the car braked hard and turned off the main runway onto one of the taxi-ways.
“And it isn’t just amazing in a straight line! We all know that Americans are very good at making cars that go fast in a straight line, but they have problems handling the curves, so the Swifts very sensibly borrowed some engineers from Audi, and BMW to design their suspension, and traction control systems to make a car that goes around corners, too.”
The view shifted to May accelerating the car down the track toward the Hammerhead, before hitting the brakes at the last second. “There are no disks in the brakes, nothing to heat up, and cause brake fading. This car uses regenerative braking to convert some of the water generated by the fuel cell back into hydrogen and oxygen.”
The car turned sharply to the left. “Then as you take the corner, the traction control system parcels out just the right amount of power to each of the four wheels, and it stiffens the suspension to keep all four wheels firmly planted on the track!”
May swung the wheel around the other way, into the sweeping right turn of the Hammerhead, accelerating again as he pulled into the straight of the Follow-through.
“I don’t think that I’ve ever
taken the Hammerhead that quickly, or with so little drama! The grip is phenomenal!”
“Normally, at about this point in their reviews, one of those other idi— I mean my esteemed co-presenters — would show you the car doing all sorts of skids, with lots of smoking tires and such, but it is nearly impossible to put this car into a skid! It just won’t do it! All four tires stay firmly planted on the track no matter what you do, it takes something extreme to break them loose.”
The car pulled back out onto one of the main runways at Dunsfold. “And extreme is something else that this car does rather well.” The view shifted to May’s fingers on a touch screen on the car’s dashboard. His finger brushed down the screen, and the main display shifted from one labeled ‘Land’ to another labeled ‘Air.’
“Which brings us to the main reason I’m doing this review, instead of one of those other toss— I mean my esteemed colleagues.” The car rose off the track, and the wheels folded back into the underside of the body. “For the next bit of this review, you need a pilot’s licence!”
The car flew up, away from the runway.
“When the twenty-first century rolled around — eleven or twelve year ago, depending on how you counted it — a lot of us were asking ‘Where’s my flying car? We were supposed to have flying cars by now!’ Well, it’s a decade late, but it’s finally here!”
The car soared up into the sky.
“At the moment, you need to have a pilot’s licence to do this, but I really don’t know why. Much of the training for flying an airplane has to do with things like how to avoid stalling the plane, and what to do if — even after hours of being told ‘don’t do that!’ you manage to do it.” The car seemed to come to a stop, hovering over the Top Gear
hanger. “But you can’t
stall this, and unlike a helicopter, where hovering in place is something that takes a lot of practice, and skill, hovering a Tri-X is mostly just a matter of holding down the brake pedal until you’ve stopped, and then letting go of the controls.
“The flight controls are pretty much exactly the same as the road controls. Pressing the accelerator makes you go faster; pressing the brake makes you slow down; twisting left or right on the wheel makes you turn left or right.
“The only extra bit of control you get comes from pushing the steering wheel forward, or pulling it back. Forward makes you go down, back makes you go up. It’s that simple. It’s only the Civil Aviation Authority that keeps dolts— I mean my esteemed collaborators, from doing this.”
The car flew through a sequence of graceful turns.
“Quite frankly, I find that it is easier to fly this, than it is to drive a normal car on the Queen’s highways.
“Normally, in an airplane, the pilot has to carefully coordinate their rudder and ailerons to make a perfect turn, but this car doesn’t have either of those. You tun the wheel, telling the computer how sharply you want to turn, and the computer decides just how much bank you need to make that turn without spilling your tea.” James nodded toward a styrofoam cup held in a holder in the console beside him, which was nearly full of a light brown liquid. “I’ve been trying. No matter what I do, since I left the ground, I haven’t been able to spill a drop!”
The car shifted between sharp right and left turns, and swooped down over the Top Gear
hanger. “With the top down, flight speed is limited to 150 miles per hour, and altitude to eight thousand feet. With the top up you can go as fast as six
hundred miles per hour, at an altitude of thirty
“The Swift engineers tell me that the only reason that this car can’t go into orbit, is that it doesn’t have the life support systems needed to keep its passengers alive outside of the atmosphere.”
The car swooped down towards a lake. “But what about that name?” asked James May. “‘Tri-X’ ‘Tri’ implies three. It drives on the ground, it flies through the air. What could that third thing be?” The car dropped down onto the surface of the lake.
“Oh, yes, it floats too!” James grinned at the camera. “After that last little flying bit, this may seem like a bit of an anti-climax, but yes, this car is also a boat. Jeremy’s ‘Nissank’ may have managed to cross the channel, but with this car, even people without pilot’s licences can skim across the waves in style!” The car was shown planing across the surface of the lake, in a series of graceful ‘S’ turns.
The scene shifted back to the Top Gear
studio. “But this is a car show, so how does the Swift Tri-X stack up, as a car?” asked James May. “To get the answer to that, we had to turn it over to our tame racing driver. Some say that he fell to Earth inside a flaming meteor. Others say that he bleeds motor oil. All we know is that he’s called ‘The Stig’!”
The Tri-X sat still on the starting line with the white suited, helmeted man at the wheel.
“And he’s off!”
The car accelerated away from the start. “No wheel spin, the Tri-X traction control system parcels out power to all four wheels ensuring maximum acceleration.”
The car turned into the first corner, hitting the apex perfectly, and drifting out until the outside tires were right at the edge of the track. Inside the car, the Stig was shown holding the wheel steady, while Olivia Newton John’s “I Honestly Love You” played from the car stereo.
“Oh, dear, the Stig is listening to 70’s Love Ballads this week,’ said James.
The Stig continued on into Chicago, taking the corner faster than James May had ever tried it, causing the tail end to drift loose a bit as the car came out of the corner into the next straight. “I don’t believe it!” said May. “You can’t turn the traction control in this car off, but the computer system is
smart enough to recognize when it’s being driven by a driver who knows what he’s doing!”
The Stig accelerated away from Chicago, before braking into the quick left, and then right turns of the Hammerhead. “I thought I took that corner fast,” said May, “but the Stig would have left me in his tire smoke — if you could make this car’s tires smoke!
“And he’s accelerating hard into the Follow-through … past the tires, into the back straight away … into the second to last corner, cutting it a bit fine, but staying on the track … into Gambon, and across the line!”
“So, how’d it do?” asked Richard Hammond, looking up at James, expectantly.
“Well, it was one minute…”
“Yes, we all knew that,” said Jeremy Clarkson.
“Go on,” said Hammond.
“Point three seconds!” said James May. He slapped the time placard onto the Power Lap board, near the top. “That’s faster than the Mercedes SLR McLaren! Faster than the Koenigsegg CCX! That’s amazing for an electric, plastic car!”
“You know what’s even more amazing?” asked Clarkson.
“What?” asked Richard Hammond.
“It can do it even faster!”
The view shifted to the Top Gear
test track, only this time showing the car floating about five feet off the ground with its wheels retracted into its under-belly. It started to accelerate down the track.
“And here we see what the Tri-X can do in Luke Skywalker-Land Speeder mode, which you don’t
need a pilot’s license to use…” said Jeremy Clarkson. The car hurtled down the track, banking at a forty-five degree angle through the first corner, and continuing to accelerate into Chicago. It slammed through the quick left and right turns of the Hammerhead without skipping a beat. It was going even faster as it entered the Follow-through, passed the tires, and accelerated down the back stretch into the the last couple of corners.
“And it’s across the line in forty-seven point two seconds! Faster than a Formula 1 race car!” Jeremy Clarkson slapped the placard into place at the top of the Power Lap board.
Richard Hammond was ready, with a step-stool that let him climb up and take the placard down. “Unfortunately, this board is only for cars that are street legal, and hover-mode is only allowed when you are off-road.”
“And on that bomb-shell, we say ‘good-night!’” said Jeremy Clarkson.