When I arrived at Dordrecht, I waited to be picked up by Harry Kroonen in a Carver. As I looked up and down the street he arrived a few moments later in one of the prototype Carvers that he had built. It was the first time I’d seen a Carver in the flesh and it looked a superbly finished vehicle, but what I noticed more was the public’s gaze. As Harry pulled up everyone in the street just stopped and looked trying to work out if it was a car or some futuristic jet fighter. After greeting Harry, he pulled open the surprisingly long door and I clambered into the back. Now for those of you who saw the Carver on the BBC program Top Gear you may have smiled when Jeremy Clarkson clambered into the back of the Carver just to prove he could get in. My girlfriend thought this was hysterical and said images of Jeremy Clarkson flooded her mind when I mentioned I was being picked up in the Carver.
After a few miles we reached open countryside and Harry asked, “Are you ready for a go?”. I certainly was. With all the excitement of a 5 year old opening his Christmas presents, I unfolded my legs and clambered out of the back. Harry then leapt into the rear seat and I boarded at the front. Now at 6ft 3”, I’m not the smallest of chaps, but was amazed at the amount of leg room and head room I had. The driving position was superb and everything I needed was all laid out around me. With a turn of the key, the engine fired into life, I then slipped the car into 1st gear and we were off. At this point Harry said that the Carver was very responsive so until I was used to it suggested I drive with one hand on the gear lever and one on the steering wheel. The gear lever is mounted at a nice height on the right hand side and you would think that after driving in the UK and always changing gear with the left hand, that it would feel strange changing with the right. It wasn’t, and if anything seemed a lot more comfortable. The Carver was now in third gear and we approached the first corner. I wondered what the car would do, but as I turned the body just tilted very slightly. As my confidence grew I started to give the car a bit more power. The Carver is powered by a 660 cc engine with a turbo intercooler and despite being two up, was not short of power and easily left other road users standing at most junctions.
I should perhaps explain that the Carver has a Dynamic Vehicle Control (DVC) system that turns car type steering wheel input into an optimal motorcycle type tilt of the vehicle’s chassis. With the exception of the rear two wheels, the whole car will tilt like a motorcycle as you turn into a corner. Now I have to confess, as I have never driven a “tilting” 3-wheeler before, I was a bit worried that when the car tilted I would feel uneasy and lean the opposite way. I needn’t have worried. The Carver feels so safe that no matter the tilt angle, you never feel you are going to tilt to far, even more so it feels totally natural. Being a biker for many years the Carver was like riding a bike and that you lean into corners as you do on a bike. The big difference is though that as you have two wheels at the back, you have to totally rethink your driving line on the road to avoid clipping the curb on any sharp corners.
Inside the Carver, the dashboard is superb, with the arc of the dash following the Momo steering wheel so that everything is clearly visible. The dash clocks are set against an eye catching aluminium dashboard whilst the rest of the interior is upholstered with leather and alcantara. Electric windows and a CD player help compliment the setting, whilst the roof can be detached for those who want to feel the wind through their hair.
For a one man wide vehicle, the pedals are all well spaced apart and so even with someone like myself with size 13 monster feet, movement around the pedals was swift and easy. Driving along the sound of the lusty engine fills the cockpit, whilst the whine of the turbo is delightful to hear. The seating arrangements with the passenger sitting behind the driver works really well and conversations can still take place without the need to shout at each other .. unless of course you are having an argument with a loved one, then you can just make out you can’t hear them or turn the CD player up.
The Carver has a tilt sensor that its linked to the DVC system and a bank of lights on the dashboard. The further you lean in any one direction will illuminate a light and the more lights that light up means that you are tilting more. In addition, after a certain angle an alarm starts to sound. Whilst I drove the Carver, I illuminated one green light, but whilst Harry was driving, he must have illuminated all of them and continued to do so, as the tilt alarm sounded.
After a couple of miles we came upon a real TV moment that I wish could have been filmed. At a pedestrian crossing, I noticed two elderly ladies, a younger lady and two children waiting to cross the road so I stopped to let them go. As I did they just stared at the Carver in sheer amazement, whilst one of the children started waving. I then looked at the lady driving the car on the opposite side of the road and she was looking at us with a smile on her face and in the car behind her, they were all staring at us. In fact, no matter who you seem to pass in a Carver they all just stop and stare. As I started moving again, I accidently noticed that the Carver will pull away just as smoothly in second gear as it will in first - which was handy with so many people stairing at me.
After a few miles we pulled onto a motorway and up until now I had been obeying all the speed limits. As we pulled onto the motorway, Harry said, “You can put you foot down now if you like as the speed limit is 120kph” (70mph). I pressed down on the accelerator and without question the car shot up to 120kph and even had the cheek to tease me to go faster. I asked Harry, “How fast will this go?”. “180kph” (120mph) he said. “Wow I replied - that’s fast!” At 120kph, the Carver was solid and just stuck to the road like glue. My problem now was that people were starting to slow down. The Carver it seems is like driving a Police car as other drivers slow down to have a look at it.
As we pulled off the motorway, we headed towards the Carver manufacturing plant. Upon reaching it, we stopped for a coffee and Harry kindly gave me a tour of the facility. As we wrapped up, Harry asked if I wanted to drive back to the railway station. I figured if I did, it would be very gingerly, but if Harry did, then I’d get to see what the Carver can really do.
So I clambered back into the back seat following the set routine. Right leg in, body in, driver in and then left leg in and close the door. Harry fired up the Carver and within seconds, the tilt alarm was sounding as the Carver flew through a corner. The Carver web site states that a Carver makes you “fly the road” and that’s what exactly what it does. Imagine being in a jet fighter and driving in and out of the traffic - that’s what the Carver is like. The Carver by now felt quite literally as though it was flying along and we entered a few sharp corners at break neck speed. I’m sure many 3-wheelers would have backed off, but the Carver entered the corner and we were tilting so low that I had time to inspect the road surface - it seemed fine to me. The amazing thing about the Carver was that despite the high speed and the 45 degree angle in fast corners you always feel 100% safe. We suddenly changed lanes and braked behind a large lorry and it was like going from Warp factor 9 to impulse power and within a second or so we were at half the speed. Each wheel has ventilated discs on all wheels and boy do they work well.
In conclusion, therefore, no matter what sports car you buy, whether it be a Ferrari, Maserati or a Porsche none of them will be as much fun to drive as the Carver and I’m pretty sure the Carver would get more attention too. The Carver only has a parcel shelf behind the rear seat so when you are two up it isn’t great for luggage. So if you want something fast to go shopping in, buy a Ferrari ... if you want something fast and fun, then it just has to be a Carver.