Car hunting on the Isle of Man

IMG_4655It’s all about motorbikes on the Isle of Man during TT week, from sunrise to sunset. But at other times of the year motorsport of the four wheeled variety is also very popular, and the Isle of Man has a higher than average percentage of interesting cars given its small size. Whilst most of them stay hidden away during the two weeks of the TT, I did manage to spot a few interesting rides during my visit.

DSC_0434So why is there so much interesting metal on this small slice of land in the Irish sea?

The island seems to be a giant playground designed for the sports car. There’s over 500km of twisting roads, and outside of the big race weekends they are almost always deserted. Couple that with a very lenient and understanding police force and no speed limits outside of the towns, and you have a supercar dreamland. It’s probably the only place in the world where you can exercise these cars as their makers intended.

DSC_0270The Isle of Man also benefits from some very lenient tax laws making it a haven of a different kind also.  There’s plenty of money about on the island, so the proportion of people able to own something special is much higher. You move to the island to save on your tax bill, and the side benefit is miles of driving roads right at your doorstep. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

DSC_0331Another thing I noticed was the complete lack of poseurs. Cities like Singapore and Dubai are filled with supercars, but there’s nowhere to drive them properly. This is contrasted by the Isle of Man, where there’s no point trying to pose in a supercar outside of race week because there’s simply no one to pose to. Pure driving is the only reason you’d own one here, and that’s the way it should be.

DSC_0335This street parked 360 Spider was fitted with Michelin Pilot Sport Cup tires and was optioned with carbon race bucket seats and a manual gearbox – all signs of an owner who likes to drive.

DSC_0014In the end I stopped taking pictures of red 458’s because I saw so many of them – I counted four different ones.

DSC_0325But it wasn’t just supercars, and the island was busy with other interesting drivers cars such as this Triumph TR2.

DSC_0326It’s always difficult to retrofit modern safety equipment into these old cars without ruining the character, but I think this one has been done almost perfectly.

DSC_0077Certainly not a driver’s car, but this Citroen van had character in spades. Does anyone know what model it is or any more information about it?

DSC_0076The Mk1 Ford Focus RS is a cult hero car that we never got in Australia. Channeling the Colin McRae early noughties WRC vibe, they look so aggressive but this is exactly how they came from the factory. And 212hp through the front wheels? Craziness!

IMG_4632Staying with the rally vibe, the distinctive 5 cylinder howl combined with a loud turbo wastegate whoosh could only mean one thing – an Audi UR Quattro.

IMG_4597We spent one of the TT race sessions spectating from someone’s front yard. The owner directed me through his garage to the toilet, and I nearly had a heart attack when I saw his Escort RS Cosworth sitting covered in dust. It was briefly used by Ford for demonstration runs at Brands Hatch with various Formula 1 drivers behind the wheel, and the current owner bought it from Ford. With just 12,000 miles on the clock it’s in beautiful condition, and it gets exercised from time to time on the mountain roads.

DSC_0397For some reason I’ve never really noticed the current generation Renault Clio Sport in Australia, but they are everywhere on the Isle of Man. With a wild range of colours, big Brembo brakes, grippy Recaro seats and an aggressive bodykit, they seem to me to be almost a baby GT3 RS.

DSC_0403Just look at the vent behind the front wheel – pure aggression. Some models even have exhausts that exit downwards into the diffuser. I might have to try and drive one of these at some stage if I can.

DSC_0408While on the subject of Clio Sport’s, this example was subtly but effectively modified for track work. It was also for sale for just over $3,000, which seems great value to me.

IMG_4635This E28 5 series was sporting a nice set of Alpina rims and a driver’s race seat from the Ford Ka Rally Challenge. The harness and scuffed chin spoiler indicates that it gets used often.

DSC_0442And to finish off with another Ferrari 360 parked on Douglas Promende.

Words and photos by Andrew Coles

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  1. Antony June 12, 2013 Reply

    Chevaux is French for Horse ;)

  2. Tom Gilbert June 12, 2013 Reply

    Did do ANY relaxing on the Isla of Man?? Great story.. again.

    • Andrew Coles June 13, 2013 Reply

      Thanks mate! Not much relaxing... I get bored easily :)

  3. SiFi June 12, 2013 Reply

    The Citroen is a H-van, produced from 1947 to 1981. The corrugated body being inspired by the old German Junkers aircraft, with the thin gauge corrugated steel adding lightness with rigidity. Front wheel drive, with a variety of motors most commonly derived from the Traction or the D-series, with a couple of diesels thrown in as well.

    $3k for the Clio 172 seems full for a Euro based car, perhaps the timing belt has just been done.

    As usual, great coverage! Enjoy yourself, and don't work too hard!!

    • Andrew Coles June 13, 2013 Reply

      Thanks for the clarification there! That's interesting about the Clio - car prices in Europe constantly astound me. The other day I saw a low km V10 M5 for about £17,000. I guess insurance for these cars is the killer though

  4. Robert June 12, 2013 Reply

    Another great read thank you!
    Would you go again if you had the opportunity?!

    • Andrew Coles June 13, 2013 Reply

      Thanks Robert! That's an interesting question, and the honest answer is probably not, simply because I've seen it now and ticked that box. I'd probably choose to instead go and see something new. But that is not a comment on the TT, it's more a comment of how much there is to do in the rest of Europe. But if I went back again, it wouldn't be boring - it would be just as exciting.

  5. alex October 26, 2013 Reply

    I'm a spotter from the isle of man, it was great reading this, after spotting for over a year a few of them 360s I've never seen about, check out my Facebook page : Alex absolute supercar photography.

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