Many Griffiths had standard 4.0-litre engines, which still provided decent performance for their 240bhp, but when I contacted Graham Munt, who has been selling TVRs at Fernhurst Motor Co in Surrey since 1983, he offered me this beautiful, 27,000-mile 5.0-litre Griffith 500 – and I was not about to say no.
The 500 turned out to be the ultimate Griff because, while plans to put TVR’s home-grown straight six engine under the bonnet didn’t quite come to nothing, by the time the car did come out, it was rather different and called a Tuscan. The 500’s engine makes 340bhp and a beautiful sound, albeit slightly sanitised by the presence of catalytic converters. The camshaft, which should be quite spiky, can go a little soft after many tens of thousands of miles, but otherwise, if accorded the courtesy of thorough routine maintenance, these engines are strong. So, too, are their mightily constructed Borg Warner gearboxes – although not the sweeter but more fragile Rover transmissions used by early Griffs.
You sit low in the car and try to refamiliarise yourself. This is one of TVR’s saner cabins, but you can still struggle with the basics, such as finding the door handle, which is actually on the transmission tunnel. The heating and ventilation and many unmarked buttons remain as mysteries to me to this day. The dials are hard to read and very yellow. The fit and finish would elicit gales of laughter and gasps of horror if tried today, but with the slightly baggy leather chair and off-the-peg steering wheel, it kind of fits the car’s bluecollar character.
The engine doesn’t howl, growl, roar, thunder, scream, shriek or wail. It woofles. As you pull out onto the public road for the first time in such a car in very many years, all sorts of things occur, some as rekindled memories, others for the very first time. The speed of the steering is familiar. You get just one complete turn of the wheel in each direction, which I guess was done to make the car feel agile. But the softness of the ride is not so easily recalled. I know TVR always made its cars soft at the back in order to provide the traction required for decent – and all-important – 0-60mph times (4.1sec, as you’re asking), but this thing positively floats.
This should make the car feel horrible, but it doesn’t. Instead, it fits perfectly the surprisingly vintage narrative now emerging. It makes the car comfortable, switches your vision for it from an urge to go screaming around a race track to a desire simply to sit back, relax and watch the world go by, safe in the knowledge that if you do get held up, parked under your right foot there’s still 340bhp in a car weighing little more than a tonne. That should, in theory, make it Mercedes-AMG GT fast, but in reality it doesn’t feel close to that level.