Once I've mastered the procedure, I'm rewarded instantly with a new-millennium bark from the Ford Zetec motor. Some change is good. This jewel, a 1796cc, 16-valve, dohc unit is fed by twin Weber 45 DCOEs or Ford EFI, depending on your preference. This example is injected, which although it does little to soothe my retro-grouch longing for the way-cool look of multiple Webers, provides flawless, bulletproof performance. Engine options enable tailoring zoom-factor to your tastes, with a 2-liter 200-bhp Zetec available for you track junkies. And that's one of the great things about ordering from a small-volume manufacturer. You can practically specify the car yourself if you're so inclined.

As the Zetec settles into high-idle, I try to get a clue as to what's happening at the end of the horizontal mineshaft that is the Ginetta's footwell. I can feel three pedals down there. That's good. No kinky surprises. There seems to be adequate space between them, too. One source of moderate dismay, however, is that there's no dead pedal for my left foot. No heel block, either. This leaves one with the option of suspending that foot in space after a shift, or using the clutch pedal as a resting place, an absolute no-no.

Note to Ivor: When I order my Ginetta, please put a 1-in. high, vestigial, heel block on the floor in the clutch section of the footwell. Other than that, the controls are where I expect them to be, and as light and direct as endurance racing would dictate. The seat is actually almost comfortable, though I feel as if, with the semi-laid-back seating position, I will find myself sliding into the footwell in the event of a panic stop.

Note Two: Ivor, please replace the four-point harness with a full six-pointer in my car. I want that anti-sub strap.

Once buckled in, I feel snuggled-down in the best Sports Car Club of America fashion. It's a good feeling. Snick the gear lever very slightly forward and to the left...what? That's right. I said "snick." There are very few transmission/shift linkage combos in the world that deserve the verb "snick" used to describe the act of selecting a gear. This is one of those. The only thing I've driven recently that comes close was a Hewland six-speed, if that's any indication. The Ford five-speed on this Ginetta with associated custom linkage is, thus, a revelation. It adds loads to the Ginetta's image as a race car for the road. Clutch action is light and direct (once you master the Zen of the Floating Foot), and I'm on my way.

In spite of the intuitive ease and lovely, precise feel of the Ginetta's controls, this car has a learning curve. For one thing, other traffic of any sort presents a fearsome menace. The Ginetta cowers beneath the bulk of mighty behemoths like the Toyota Camry. Even a chance encounter with a pedestrian would be a total wreck. So I find myself giving the rest of the world a huge margin for error. This is in spite of the Ginetta's performance envelope, one that would enable me to use everything on the road as a mobile traffic cone. In some regards, driving the Ginetta in traffic is akin to piloting a Japanese superbike: I know that I'm invisible to the drivers in their Land Crushers, and I'd damn well better drive that way.

But away from traffic in the deserted rural twisties north of Atlanta, the driving experience is total bliss. I find myself using the first few miles merely running up through the gears to experience the Zetec's punch in the spine and that wonderful five-speed, then whacking the brakes to get the brick-wall stopping jolt. Steering on this little rocket is so light and so direct that I find myself unintentionally pointed toward the boonies with just a smidge too much input. Then the synapses begin to recall my classic Mini, sitting in the driveway at home, and I learn to modulate movement of the fat Mountney wheel. It is right that the Ginetta should put me in mind of my Mini, because, as Ivor said later, "Of course the rack and pinion is taken from the Mini." Duh.

By Dan Erwin
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