By Paul Harris
Here's a question you probably thought you’d never have to ask: what happens when the world’s fastest cat meets the world’s slowest car?
Answer: it chases it, catches it – and eats it.
That was the result of a cat versus car challenge at Longleat safari park to discover if the latest incarnation of the reborn 1960s Peel Car could ever hack it in the 21st century urban jungle.
To be perfectly honest, there’s not much point trying to out-accelerate a cheetah when you’re driving a Peel Trident.
Intrepid Mail man Paul Harris drives a Trident Peel Electric Car around Longleat Safari and Adventure Park in Wiltshire.... and meets its inhabitants, up close and personal
Earlier that day...
One of the park's cheetahs spots supper in a strange red can
The battery-powered three-wheeler is no match for the awesome four-legged sprinter
Paul hopes the car's British engineering is strong enough to keep the big cat at bay
Paul: 'I try not to make eye contact, despite the fact that his big, amber eyes are almost burning a hole through the Trident's rather flimsy glass-fibre panels'
There must surely be few drivers who can boast that their windscreen has been licked clean by the rasping tongue of Acinonyx jubatus - which is useful, as it turns out, because the Peel boasts only a single, hand-operated wiper
Casey and Max, both three-year-old male residents of the 300-acre Wiltshire park, can do 0-70mph in a matter of seconds.
The Trident – a whining, three-wheel soap-bubble of a battery-powered car – struggles audibly when challenged by anything tougher than a gentle uphill slope.
CAT v CAR: Battle of the beasts
So the only thing to do when you find yourself face to face with two high-speed cheetahs clawing at the bodywork is to stop. And to keep very still.
And perhaps to pray that British engineering will prove robust enough against the visibly sharp teeth of two far from happy cats.
Not to mention their rather disconcerting determination to access the meat inside the curiously shaped can of cat food that has just trundled into their kingdom.
On the plus side, there must surely be few drivers who can boast that their windscreen has been licked clean by the rasping tongue of Acinonyx jubatus - which is useful, as it turns out, because the Peel boasts only a single, hand-operated wiper).
Casey and Max, both three-year-old male residents, are worryingly close to their potential feast
One has a top speed of 72mph - and the other is nowhere near that. Guess which is which...
Not so helpful is the fact that Max is trying to unpeel the Peel Car by biting the lip of its Perspex dome roof, the perilously fragile barrier that separates me from his open jaw.
‘Good pussycat,’ I say in reassuring tones, as Casey gets up on his hind legs to peer down at me.
He stands more than 6ft tall and towers over the car with his paws spread out on the roof.
I try not to make eye contact, despite the fact that his big, amber eyes are almost burning a hole through the Trident’s rather flimsy glass-fibre panels. Inside, the windscreen is quickly steaming up (can’t think why).
Outside, meanwhile, the big cats at last appear to be losing interest and are loping off to shelter from the rain.
Time to go. I turn on the ignition,floor the stop/go pedal and take off at dodgem-car speed across the grass.
Max gives me a disparaging glance. But where’s Casey? Fifty yards away, I spot him running parallel with me. It’s that long, low canter that you usually see only on David Attenborough documentaries as a cheetah prepares to run down its prey.
Suddenly there is a massive thud from behind. Casey has clearly had enough of this nonsense and has raced up in my blind spot to attack.
The Peel Trident is a newly developed sibling of the P50, a Postman Pat-style oddity first seen on British roads in 1962, and rarely since. Bet the cheetah didn't know that
Had I been a gazelle, it would be lunchtime right now. With the car somehow surviving, however, he gives one tyre a casual chew and wanders off.
The Peel Trident is a newly developed sibling of the P50, a Postman Pat-style oddity first seen on British roads in 1962, and rarely since.
Only 50 were ever produced. Now Peel Engineering is remanufacturing them after backing from Dragons’ Den entrepreneur James Caan, and has added the equally bizarre Trident to the range.
It has two seats (just) instead of one; plus an all-over bubble roof, which, by coincidence, is perfect for wildlife spectating.
Longleat doesn’t normally encourage its 1million annual visitors to get this close to the big cats, of course – but you’re welcome to get your car dismantled in the monkey enclosure if you wish, the Safari Park equivalent of taking it to Kwik-Fit.
The Trident proved a big hit with about 20 of them. Elsewhere, wolves encircled it; the zebras didn’t bother crossing the road to see it; and the giraffes simply took the long view.
And the cheetahs? ‘They were only being inquisitive,’ said Ian Turner, Longleat’s deputy head warden. ‘If they really wanted to get in, they would.’
And as for the other animals...
While the wolves just encircled it...
... the monkeys tried - and failed - to dismantle it
And as for the giraffes, they took the long view before sauntering off
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Meals on wheels! The moment cheetahs try to peel open a three-wheel bubble car as it trundles along 'on safari'
By Paul Harris