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SILVER BULLETS
OK, so not all the Tigers Peter Filby and Adam Wilkins drove were silver, but we liked the title anyway. There are plenty of new developments going on at the Cambridgeshire-based firm right now which is why our intrepid scribes were there. Wilkins kicks off...

Generally speaking, the kit car scene seems to attract hard-working, innovative characters. But even by industry standards, Jim and Sue Dudley, the driving force behind Tiger Racing, always seem to excel in both areas. Whether honouring a steady stream of orders, developing new models or revising existing offerings, the duo and their army of workers run the company on high-octane enthusiasm.

Last year was a good one for Tiger with about 230 kits supplied. In fact, that's pretty much consistent with 2001's figures, although according to Jim it took more effort to sustain that level of business. The company puts that down to increased competition from the plethora of budget Lotus Seven-inspired models to take hold over the last couple of years.

During 2003, Tiger aims to keep the recipe much the same, although the signals suggest a move upmarket. The company is also keen to sell more complete, turn-key cars and get more involved in the racing and track day scene.

Of course, part of that will be fulfilled by the ERA single-seater for which there will be a single-make race series later this year. Also under construction in the workshop is a new R6 which will perform the dual roles of demonstrator and track day car as a source of entertainment for the Tiger workforce. It's the company's flagship car-powered model featuring a lightweight, tubular chassis, bespoke De Dion set-up and a 185bhp Ford Zetec engine. The pink colour scheme (which Tiger insists is purple) should ensure it doesn't go un-noticed.

Alongside the R6 was a Z100 under construction. The new machine ­ designated Mk2 ­ features a number of key developments over the original car, not least the two Suzuki GSXR engines producing 145bhp each. It's going to be a much more bespoke machine than the first car, with high levels of craftsmanship promised. We'll no doubt bring you more details when the car's finished ­ about mid-April is the estimate.

An important logistical change for the factory is the fact that the engineering shop which makes the lightweight round-tube chassis for the R6 and B6 has moved from London to a 2000sq ft workshop near Tiger's Thorney Toll HQ. What does this mean for customers? A reduction in kit prices. Can't be bad!

However, it's the Cat and Avon models which steepen Tiger's sales charts the most and, during our visit, we had the chance to sample a fine example of each...

CAT Mk2
A revised nose is the big visual clue to Tiger's Cat Mk2. This, the very first example, is a turn-key car built to order by the factory.

Looking at the photographs of the new Tiger on these pages, you'd be forgiven for not being sure whether it's a Cat or a Super Six before you. Those rear wings are flat-topped, so it can't be a Six, but then where is the Cat's distinctive sloping nose cone? Give up?

Okay, I'll tell you that it's actually a Cat Mk2. The alterations basically extend to nothing more than a nose job, although Tiger's Jim Dudley is obviously a more accomplished scalpel-wielder than Michael Jackson's plastic surgeon. The revisions certainly make the Cat look a lot more like its Super Six stablemate, although in fact the new nose sits somewhere between original Cat and Super Six. Whatever, it looks good.

The silver machine is the first Mk2 Cat to be built and it's a commission for a customer. He'll be paying Tiger over £10,000 for the car and one or two notable luxuries have pushed the price up from the usual budget price for which Cats can be built. The metallic paintjob is the obvious one, although a tuned 2-litre Pinto, full set of instruments, adjustable seats and side screens add their bit. Plus, of course, the labour charge as it's a turn-key car.

Also, it's a Super Cat which means it gets larger wheelarches filled out with 7x15" wheels which, in turn, demand 205-section tyres (another reason this example looks close to a Super Six).

The bigger wheel and tyre combination means the Super Cat should have more grip through the bends though, if I'm honest, I can't report on the Cat's ultimate road manners. As this was a freshly-built customer car with very few miles on the clock, I had to tread carefully on the trip to the photo location ­ no more than 3500rpm and easy round the corners were the orders!

But I didn't mind. The gutsy Pinto unit never demanded any more than 3000rpm to return decent keep-up-with-the-flow pace while the 5-speed gearbox and light user-friendly controls meant the Super Cat could stroll along at a gentle speed without getting flustered. With side screens in place, and heater on, and the seat moved forward, it was all remarkably civilised. Certainly, with the pre-windchill temperature at below 2 degrees C, I definitely had the car better suited to the conditions than Filby in the screenless B6!

Returning the Cat to the factory with its showroom lustre intact, it was time to look beyond the end of its nose at some of the more subtle changes to the Mk2. Under the skin, rubber bushes are replaced with nylatron items throughout, promising more compliance. The all-new pedal box cover, which did appear on some Mk1s, looks neat and tidy with a much improved finished and removable inspection panel and finally, a revised propshaft tunnel top allows more room for the remote gearchange linkage.

One final change is the kit price, up from £2600 to £2995. However, that's still a low price for a kit package which is very comprehensive and you should be able to complete a Mk2 for not a lot more than an original Cat ­ something like £6000. Sure, you won't have the ultimate spec of the customer's car here, but it will have the all-round ability of the fundamental set-up. The silver machine represents what's achievable and, particularly for those who don't want to build their own car, is good news. Tiger says it wants to concentrate on more turn-key cars in future, and this example bodes well for the kind of build quality you can expect.

And, talking of build quality, here's another car from Tiger's range that's been screwed together rather well...

AVON
The Avon is Tiger's way of taking on the Locost end of the market. Here's what happens if you tear-up the cheap approach and make a high-spec variant.

The thing about the Locost phenomenon (of which the Avon is a part if only because it's a rival at that end of the market) is that builders can do exactly what they want with their hardware to create a finished item that's unique. The clamshell winged car here was built by customer Neil Tuckey, who bought a basic chassis and body from Tiger and didn't make contact with the factory until it was finished.

His priority was making a car that looked good ­ until today, it hadn't turned a wheel in anger on public roads ­ and he's certainly succeeded. From the metallic Rover Nightfire red paintwork to those superb 16" alloys, it's a stunning looking machine. Acres of chrome also do their bit to add to its visual appeal. Inside you'll find a fully-instrumented dashboard, neat carpets and adjustable seats.

But that doesn't mean the mechanical side has been neglected. The Avon features a suspension system with plenty of bespoke parts as standard and that's been added to with a 2-litre Pinto tuned to stage 3 and a rear disc conversion ­ all of which promises a good on-road experience despite its bias towards being a show car.

Sadly, those big, comfortable looking seats rob the interior of valuable space. I say sadly, but really I mean happily as it means Filby can't fit in and it will have to be me who drives the Avon! It's not all good news, though, as they're thickly bolstered, too, so even I feel in slightly the wrong place in relation to the steering wheel and gearknob. Having sat in (but not driven) Tiger's own demonstrator, I know the standard seats make a big improvement.

After being restricted in the Cat, I'm allowed to let rip in the Avon, which means a more detailed story will be on its way in a future edition of Which Kit? For the time being, I'll let you in on the fact that this car is very quick. Weighing only 580kg (compared to about 630kg for the Cat), it makes the most of the Pinto's clout. And through the bends on the undulating Fen roads, the Avon maintains its composure ­ although it can be provoked if you really want...

But I'll save those thoughts for the future. In conclusion, despite the builder of this car's inclination to make a car that looks good, the chassis, suspension and tuned engine mean it has the go to match the show.

Tiger Racing acquired Neil Tuckey's car on a part-exchange basis, which is why you'll no doubt see it at a few shows throughout 2003. Neil has moved on to building a B6. Knock me down with a feather if that's not a neat link to what Filby drove on our visit to Tiger. Over to the boss...

B6 Mk2
The latest Mk2 B6 has Suzuki GSXR 1000cc power, Sierra based front suspension and lower prices. Apart from that, it's big fun business as usual. Filby tries to count the gears.

Bloody hell! We're in 5th (I think), on a meagre 8500 rpm (up to 11,000 is available) and charging very, very hard. The speedo needle is doing its own thing so I've no idea whether we're big-time illegal or not. Applying the word OEfrantic' to this situation is an under-statement.

Blasting from the exhaust is a harsh, tight, exciting roar. Let's try for what should be 6th. Depress the lightweight clutch, slot the gear lever briefly back and the change is completed in a flash, with only a minimal drop in revs. Hard on the gas and the charge is relentless.

Steering feel is close to perfection. Despite the thrash, despite the commotion, the car feels composed and strong. The lightweight, mostly round tube (1" and 3ˇ4" diameter) spaceframe chassis is strong. It's making the suspension work efficiently. Under the circumstances, the ride is amazingly good. It's almost comfortable.

Corners? There's hardly any need to take any notice of them. Remember, this is a true road racer. It swallows them whole, loves them. Provoke it too far on the tight ones and all it does is dance a little at the back. Tame it from the front and charge on. This thing's like a dog with a ball to chase: it never seems to tire of the game.

Trouble is, my face is becoming painfully cold. Minimal Perspex wind deflectors have replaced the windscreen and the fiercely icy wind (it's early February) is biting through to my bones. Nothing for it but to slow right down and try for survival. Believe me, no-one would last long in the circumstances. It's a nasty job, this, but someone's got to do it...

Tiger's new Mk2 B6 demonstrator is a real nutter bastard of a chariot, especially at this time of year. But, finished in superb silver paint offset by carbon-fibre wheel arches and interior panels, it's a real classy bastard. In fact, it's an absolute stonker to look at.

Pretty much finished late last year and finally fettled during January, it's getting its first serious outing. Sitting at the hungrier, more focused end of Tiger's amazing range of performance roadsters, it's a lean, mean and magnificent beast. Not for the faint-hearted, though, and certainly not the average first-timer.

Power this time is Suzuki's latest GSXR 1000 injected unit offering around 145bhp ­ a lot of horses for a lightweight machine that hits the scales at only 460kg all-up. Gearbox is Suzuki's standard 6-speed sequential job and is a real pleasure to use. Super-fast changes are a vital part of the mayhem this little baby stirs up.

Tiger boss Jim Dudley says around 85% of the B6 chassis is round tube. Whatever, it's a beautifully crafted assembly fabricated by an expert. Jim also suggests it's the only spaceframe made to such design standards outside of Caterham.

All-new with this car is the use of Sierra-based front suspension. The Golf stuff has gone, replaced with modified Ford uprights, while the wishbones are also new. With the Golf uprights more difficult to get, it's a layout that's now being used on Tiger's new generation B6 and R6 models and the forthcoming Super Six Lightweight (more on that next month). Says the Tiger boss: ³There's not much in it but, at high speeds, my guess is that the new front end does now feel more planted."

At the rear, Tiger's excellent De Dion set-up continues unchanged, using the diff and standard driveshafts from the Sierra. Braking is taken care of by Sierra ventilated front discs and standard rear drums and, believe me, it's plenty enough to powerfully stop this lightweight machine. Reversing is courtesy of a Quaife gearbox operated, as usual, by one of those functional looking, bare metal levers sitting close to the main gearchange. It's a bit agricultural but it works fine.

So, the B6 is responsible for freezing my face, making my eyes stream and reviving the nerves of that long-forgotten broken tooth. But it has also blasted away every care in the world and provided interesting new memories. Naughty, naughty speeds in a ferociously fast, utterly furious chariot on a bitingly cold day aren't the sort of thing you forget in a hurry. Brilliant stuff.

Coming back to earth, OEuser-friendly' is the logical term that best sums-up the amazing Suzuki powered Mk2 B6. Sure, it can be a fierce performance machine but, in fact, the engine's liberal helpings of low-down torque make it genuinely easy to drive and live with.

Build your own, with comprehensive body/chassis kit prices (they've just been reduced) starting at £3200 + VAT. Alternatively, opt for a turn-key, factory built job and you're looking at around £14,000 + VAT for a car using all-new parts throughout. Further information from Tiger Racing Ltd, Ecco New Toll Service Station, Thorney Toll, Nr Wisbech, Cambridgeshire PE13 4AX. Tel: 01733 849328 (showroom/technical) or 01733 271131 (parts).

www.tigerracing.com

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