Remembering the brilliance of TVR through eight of its greatest …

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Remembering the brilliance of TVR through of its greatest road cars

30 Oct

For any other company it would disaster. The news on 18 October that, after 59 years in TVR would be moving production should threaten the very of this most individual of But TVR thrives on bombshells and its Blitz has seen it though a factory bankruptcy and ownership changes – the in ’04, taking it out of British for the first time.

And you get the feeling if its new owner remembers what’s it’ll get through this, Because with TVR it’s as about the people as the cars. The who love them in spite of the foibles.

The people who build with a passion – if perhaps not a level of quality – matched by the craftsmen of Malvern or Newport And, above all, the who have steered the good TVR through often choppy injecting the cars with a character that comes as strongly as the whiff of resin and

To celebrate 60 years since Wilkinson lopped three from his unglamorous Christian to form TVR Engineering in 1947, CSC selected highlights from the eventful history. It began – you soon find that TVR there’s always more one truth – with an Alvis constructed in an old wheelwright’s workshop in Wilkinson’s first chassis in 1949, with sidevalve power and clothed in simple panels.

TVRs 2 and 3 followed a formula, before Wilkinson glassfibre and mated an RGS Atalanta to his revised chassis to create the TVR Saloon.

A new, all-independently chassis came in 1955 and found the backers to fund move into a former on nearby Hoo Hill Industrial An open sports car came with both front and bodywork taken from a rear-end mould, followed by a GT that evolved into the true ‘production’ TVR in 1958: the

Brett Langford’s Grantura MkI a precedent that survived the new millennium: hand-laid, lightweight body; multi-tubular steel with independent suspension; volume-production engine driving the wheels. Get past the tiny aperture and, once squeezed into the bucket behind the big, thin-rimmed and tall dash, it’s roomy. Langford’s car is powered by a B-series MG engine but Granturas came with Ford or Climax power, giving up to for minimal outlay in kit form.

to an MG-sourced gearbox with short throw and tight the B-series offers lively response and lots of torque by a rasping, slightly flatulent note.

The inverted steering box far sharper response than its Anglia donor and the tiny gives an agile feel: the TVR darts into tight and squirms its way out. On skinny (later radials replace the crossplies), the Grantura likes to from the rear – thank the mounts for the Beetle-sourced trailing arm for that – but is hugely entertaining a tight Curborough Sprint Fortunately the surface here is even the smallest bumps its firm springing, giving a feel compared to the Lotus that appeared just years later.

After a name-change to Layton Cars, and later to TVR Cars the firm continued to evolve the but its increasingly marginalised founder in 1962 and by the end of the year the factory had closed. Reborn as Grantura TVR production was restarted and an approach US-based dealer Jack in 1963 instigated its most car yet: the Griffith. With a in Ford V8 shoehorned into a MkIII chassis it yielded up to and 160mph. But shipping strikes exports – and the collapse of the stunning Fiore-designed Trident project – the company dear.

By the summer of the receivers had been called in again.

This time would prove a blessing in because it put enthusiasts back in – automotive engineer and Griffith Martin Lilley plus his and financial backer Arthur – and a return to the old TVR Engineering name. The first job was to improve quality the MkIV 1800S and Cortina-powered When revival of the Trident impossible, and the rear-engined (also Tina foundered, Lilley to the Griffith formula with the luxurious Tuscan V8 in 1967.

A wheelbase stretch (to 7ft 6in) months later, which hopping aboard the Ian Massey-Cross a doddle.

With small, fat wheel and a whopping great V8 sat the front wheels, piloting the isn’t the fingertip operation of the but some of that car’s remains, plus a dose of from the new rack-and-pinion set-up. But are always dominated by the sledgehammer-in-the-back by a prod of the throttle. There’s a cackling rumble – notably to later TVR V8s – at low revs, but drop a cog in the Toploader gearbox, let the revs and the performance is staggering – at 13.8 for 0-100mph the Tuscan was the fastest-accelerating car had tested.

Add the still hyper-sharp short wheelbase and Triumph-derived brakes that are truly by the overwhelming pace, and it makes for a drive – but an incredibly rewarding


Adding 4in to the width of the Tuscan for the US plus a Ford ‘Essex’ V6 for buyers in 1969, laid the for the firm’s most significant new launch in 1972. The M-series was in the new Bristol Avenue works, TVR had moved into two years and boasted a new chassis designed by Bigland for comfort, rigidity and of production, fresh bodywork from the wide-body Tuscan and a of engine options: Ford Triumph 2500 and Ford V6 for the 3000M.

After a few sweaty-palmed laps in the V8, Pietro Abate’s beautiful comes as something of a relief. Its though low-geared, seems and fluid; the timber-faced dash – with familiar-looking borrowed – and small, three-spoke wheel a familiar British feel and the seats are comfortable. It’s not spacious though and there is ergonomic unpleasantness – it’s to heel-and-toe and the gearlever cranks forward making it hard to ’changes through the four-speed ’box.

With half the of the Tuscan, performance was always to be rather down on its fire-breathing but there are no complaints about the way the 2994cc V6 delivers its 192lb ft of The revised chassis is a gem too, tending towards oversteer but the power to make that a state.

For red-blooded males, the and its spin-offs – the spectacular 230bhp (which was a British car first), the Martin (built to celebrate ten of Lilley TVRs), the hatchback-equipped and the 3000S (the first TVR convertible) – will always be linked with barely Men Only models. An idea up by playboy Lilley to ensure his Motor Show cars maximum column inches in the the bonnet-mounted nude proved a successful ’70s marketing But for 1979 the cars created of a stir on their own. by Oliver Winterbottom, the stylist for the ’70s Lotus Elite and with an all-new chassis by Lotus man Ian Jones, the Tasmin was something of an anomaly as the only car – SM Zante prototype aside – to from TVR’s traditional

It was an anomaly that would 2618 ‘wedges’ were over 12 years before the 400SE left the Bristol works in ’91.

Launched as a coupé, Tasmin convertible and Two versions soon followed – the the firm’s first four-seater, a different bodyshell with nose and longer tail was soon adopted for the fixed-head The familiar TVR recipe was unchanged, but the skin the chassis had been redesigned and there were new – Ford ‘Cologne’ 2.8-litre V6 and ‘Pinto’ 2.0-litre – and an automatic for the first time. Unfortunately the new rumoured £500,000 development – and the lack of immediate sales – would plumb the depths of the pockets and late in 1981 the duo control to another marque Peter Wheeler.

The chain-smoking, Wheeler somehow epitomised the politically incorrect image as it through the 1980s and ’90s, and he become its longest-serving and most custodian.

Wheeler’s influence was immediate and had an impact. First came a to the American market, followed by a for more performance. Abandoning Tasmin Turbo concept, turned to the tried and tested Rover-built all-aluminium V8. In fuel-injected SD1 form the compact unit 190bhp (later 197bhp) and the 1983 Tasmin 350i the to live up to the junior supercar And, as Dan Rogers’ two-tone proves, it sounded fantastic: a of cylinders, pushrods and valves by convoluted exhaust systems.

The V8 spins more freely bigger, torquier applications, its song accompanied by genuinely acceleration – try 0-60mph in just 6.6

The introduction of the 275bhp, 150mph in 1984 signalled the start of the evolution into ever extreme incarnations – culminating in the bespoilered 420SEAC – but the 350i the sweet-spot of wedge production. All too detractors focus on the door-stop looks rather than its with a longer (7ft chassis and 3in wider track the M-series the 350i feels planted and its wishbone front/trailing arm set-up is better-damped than its – remember, this chassis to cope with more 300bhp in later life. the optional overlight power robs some of the confidence the imbues: albeit heavy, the Cortina rack makes the car to place and trust.

But the wedge’s cabin is a disaster. The innovative design (removable panel and roll bar) that survive until the Chimaera useful stowage space aft of the but the ceiling is low, the driver’s are pinched, the wheel sits on his thighs and the footwell is surprisingly for such a large car.

the wedge sold well, in 350i form, even its styling was always an acquired and its price tag hefty. What needed to boost sales was an car, and it arrived in 1986 in the of the S. Pre-dating by a decade the modern for nostalgia-trip styling, the S mated a drivetrain to the late-’70s 3000S and a bargain sticker price. was some cost-cutting – manual drum rear brakes, trim – but buyers weren’t put off and TVR doubled to meet demand.

into Sam Moody’s S3 and you find not just the styling that’s The revised dashboard is more than that of the S/S2 a traditional but slightly unfinished – corner enthusiastically and your starts adjusting the electric via a switch mounted on the inside of the tunnel. But fire up the ‘Cologne’ V6 – to 2.9 litres for the S2 – and any doubts are cast

This was created as a classic car in the then-defunct TR/MG mould: good-looking and a riot to drive. The gives an ideal balance weight and response, making it light and chuckable. Like the before it, the S chassis with its link rear end allows for a amount of tail-out hooliganism, but time there’s the power to it should you feel so inclined – all the accompanied by a cultured V6 thrum.

And, again like the you imagine it must be great to with and travel long in: without the fear factor of the V8 but also losing some of thrill.

Attempts to restore excitement were made the Tuscan, which never hit the but spawned a successful race and the 1991 V8S. A 3.9-litre, Rover V8 and disc brakes all were enough to ensure the V8S effectively killed off the last V8 and paved the way for the forthcoming new generation of spearheaded by the gorgeous Griffith. shown at the 1990 motor the Griffith caused a sensation and a flurry of orders.

But customers had a wait while the model was the show car’s V8S underpinnings in favour of a heavily modified racer chassis.

Available as 240bhp 4.0-litre or 280bhp the Griffith was joined after a year by the Chimaera which slightly softer suspension and a boot to appeal to a wider The more civilised car soon a best-seller, but never achieved the that the Griffith generates fans. And that’s why we asked Rob to bring his car. It’s not any old but the ultimate incarnation: the 340bhp, run-out 500. Few will that the Griff was the best-looking TVR yet – (myself included) reckon it has yet to be – its voluptuous shape uncluttered by practicalities as door handles or

The curves continued within, swooping lines and quirky dominate a cabin that British craftsmanship without cheesily retro.

Not that notice: you’ll be too busy Like the Tuscan, this demands full attention at all and delivers dollops of terror and in tandem. Grip and braking a massive leap forward as you expect, but the Griffith also heavier and more physical its potent ancestor. There’s a of understeer on turn-in, but this TVR is set up to wag its at every opportunity and you need to be to wind on opposite lock if you doing anything with the mid-corner – no wonder they’re a handful on a circuit. Performance is and the fat twin tailpipes provide a epic soundtrack – a stirring overlaid as the revs rise by an that would drown out all tenors in full cry.

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certainly a wearing day-to-day the Griffith nevertheless remains a involving and joyful machine. If are all about drama, noise and then surely the Griffith the marque.

But, with the 500, TVR the limit of economically viable boosts for the pushrod Rover V8, so in Peter Wheeler revealed the for the firm’s first engine: the Designed by Al Melling, whose joins those of John and Peter Wheeler in the motor’s the new unit was planned for launch in the

So when TVR announced its new Cerbera in 1993, it was supposed to appear Rover power. Yet by the time the new reached buyers in 1996 – extensive running in the Tuscan in an effort to dispel reliability – the plans had been swapped: the got a bored-out Rover unit and 4.2-litre V8 was slotted into the And the all-alloy, dry-sump unit is a

Nicky Thompson’s brooding grey Cerbera needs more than a whiff of in any gear to dispatch Curborough’s straights, yet this engine its incredibly elastic punch resorting to clever valve (there’s just two per cylinder) or (there’s a single cam per bank).

modern Ferrari V8s the AJP8 a flat-plane crank and, of a classic V8 burble, acceleration is by a deafening, obnoxious blare – hardly pretty, but seriously The Cerbera’s big boot and kid-friendly seats make it a car you could using, but as usual there are The steering is super-light and terrifyingly – yet the lock is awful.

Only you stand beside a Cerbera do you just how low it is – which makes and exit a singularly inelegant – and, despite the long the handling is very senior Relax behind the odd two-spoke at your peril.

Having got its own motor to market TVR didn’t sit to see how it performed, but instead raced with further engine First the V8 was stretched to 4.5 litres, another four cylinders added for the simply barking 12. One bank of the V12 became the Speed now the sole engine option in the TVR The second revival of the Tuscan in 1999 signalled the dawn of a new TVR language, and remains the staple TVR experiments with a bewildering of variants based around the six-pot powerplant.

But it is the Sagaris has made the breakthrough as far as the motoring is concerned: finally, the road eulogies have begun to their ‘for a TVR’

Mating the T350 chassis the Tuscan’s 4-litre engine, the still requires a firm but allows the driver to take once turned into a that would send you off the scenery in a Cerbera or Griffith. And you deny it’s distinctive. In Midas gold, Ray and Pauline Sagaris stands out even in spectacular company. Inside just as dramatic.

Some 85% of the Sagaris is made and the controls look to have from NASA’s parts bin than that of Ford or

With 406bhp propelling 1078kg, performance is brutal, the straight-six needs working harder than the Cerbera’s V8 to that pace, plus the and balance are leagues ahead of its and inspire real confidence. persistent refusal to accept assistance and ABS means a brake that – though hugely – feels near-solid on first Thankfully the steering geometry has revised to account for road and it’s exceptionally accurate, if But perhaps the biggest disappointment is the

The soul-stirring mechanical cacophony of cars’ V6s and V8s has been replaced by an soundtrack seemingly created by exhaust tuning. Nonetheless, the must surely banish reputation for ‘so nearly great’ Get used to the looks – a not entirely task – and you’ll discover a car of exceptional competence.

Just TVR was founded by a Lancashire lad called rather than an Italian Enzo, favours raw performance practicality, and lacks the race-winning of its similarly unglamorous Norfolk the marque lurks on the periphery of the car mainstream into which Porsche and Lotus are readily Though respected for their and aural and visual drama, have long been at best as an individual or ‘brave’ at worst as the brunt of jokes. the latest rumours emerging the mill that future and Sagaris will be assembled by in Turin, with powertrains in Britain, perhaps those suits will give TVR of the credibility it deserves while its continues to beat in Blackpool.

hope so. The world would be a less colourful place it.

The vital statistics

1959 1489cc MG in-line four, 77lb ft, 0-60mph in 11 secs,

1967 Tuscan V8 4727cc V8, 271bhp, 314lb ft, 0-60mph in 5 160mph

1979 3000M Ford V6, 142bhp, 192lb ft, in 7.6 secs, 124mph

1986 convertible 3528cc Rover V8, 220lb ft, 0-60mph in 6.6 secs,

1990 S3 2935cc Ford V6, 172lb ft, 0-60mph in 7.1 secs,

Brilliance Electric Cars
Brilliance Electric Cars
Brilliance Electric Cars
Brilliance Electric Cars
Brilliance Electric Cars

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