We've rated nearly six decades’ worth of hairy-chested home-grown sports cars from the much-loved Blackpool car maker of yesteryear
Andrew Frankel Autocar
28 January 2017

TVR is soon to be reborn, starting a second chapter in the British car maker's 70-year history.

Before we meet the first new model later this year, we look into TVR's back catalogue and remember 10 iconic classic models you can pick up on the classifieds today.

Which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

1. Chimaera

A silly name for the closest thing to a sensible TVR you’ll find. A spacious body conceals a vast boot and exactly the same running gear as you’ll find in the Griffith. Low prices in the past mean many have not been maintained properly and plastic bodies are brilliant at concealing horrors. Check the chassis and suspension in particular. Fernhurst TVR’s Graham Munt says the 5.0-litre Chimaera is his favourite TVR. Plentiful supply means prices for a nice one start from £12,500. 

2. Tasmin, 350i, 420SEAC and all other Wedges

As 1980s as Linda Evans’s shoulder pads, these TVRs need to be categorised as those made before and after Peter Wheeler’s arrival. Early cars, like the 2.0-litre four-cylinder Tasmin and even the 2.8-litre V6 version, offered only limited performance. Then Wheeler arrived, put the Rover V8 under the bonnet and created the 350i – and all was well again. If you can live with the looks, the 350i, 390SE and crazy 420SEAC are genuinely underrated. Prices from £8000 for scruffy 350s.

3. Sagaris

This was the final TVR and, some will tell you, the best – although that depends very much on your definition of ‘best’. The Sagaris is possibly the maddest-looking of all the ‘standard’ production TVRs, and with a 400bhp version of TVR’s homegrown straight six, it was certainly very fast. The engine was appallingly unreliable when new, although most will have had their issues fixed by now. Complicated and uncompromising but always involving, the Sagaris is an expensive car to run. Their scarcity now means it’s expensive to buy, too. Prices for nice examples start at £50,000.

4. Grantura

An odd name for an even odder-looking car, but the Grantura set the template to which TVR subscribed until its last days: simple chassis, short wheelbase, front engine, rear drive, glassfibre body panels and somewhat sub-Porsche construction standards. Early Granturas allowed owners to choose which engine to slot under the bonnet, but later cars were increasingly MG-powered. Surprisingly fast thanks to their extreme light weight, good fun and less scary to drive than they look, Granturas make excellent recreational road cars and even quite competitive historic racers. Pay from £30,000.

5. M-Series

Too many to mention by name individually, cars such as the 2500M, 3000M and Taimar provided TVR with a new direction and added a much-needed dash of practicality to the TVR product offering. The cars were better built and more spacious and civilised than any that had gone before, yet with very little deterioration in driver appeal. The series was notable for the introduction of the Taimar Turbo in 1976. Britain’s first production turbocharged car offered a 230bhp hit from its 3.0-litre V6 and a top speed of more than 140mph. Pay from £4500.

6. Tamora

The Tam-what? Despite being one of the later TVRs, the Tamora is also one of the more obscure. Designed as a more affordable and – whisper it – sensible alternative to the Tuscan, it still featured a 360bhp version of TVR’s own straight six engine in a car weighing less than a diesel Ford Fiesta. Engine issues aside, its biggest problem was that it looked odd. It was okay from the front but positively weird at the back, representing a rare off day for TVR’s designers. On the road, it was perhaps the nicest of all the later TVRs to drive, thanks to almost sensible suspension and a power output somewhere close to the capabilities of the chassis. Pay from £19,000.

7. Cerbera

Brave for those who bought one, braver still for TVR, which decided that what it needed most in order to establish credibility in the marketplace was to abandon the strong, powerful, sweetsounding Rover V8s, which had provided such splendid service for so long, in favour of a new V8 designed exclusively for TVR by the somewhat eccentric Al Melling. The new engine, dubbed AJP8, was as long on power as it was short on manners. It was an engine designed according to racing principles, and while it provided the Cerbera with outstanding performance in both 4.2 and 4.5-litre guises, it is at least arguable whether it was a more suitable motor for a road car than the Rover unit. Construction issues aside, the rest of the Cerbera was great. Pay from £16,000.

8. Griffith 200/400

During the 1960s, Jack Griffith, who ran a tuning shop in the US, persuaded TVR to supply him with chassis in order to satisfy his desire to perpetuate the tradition, started by the AC Cobra, of powering very small British sports cars with very large American V8s. Like the Cobra, the Griffith gained its power from Ford and in race trim could provide close to GT40 outputs in a car with the wheelbase of a supermarket trolley. Prized by historic racers today and a devastating weapon on road or track, original Griffiths are probably the most desirable TVR production cars.We could find just one for sale at the moment in the UK: an FIA-approved racer priced at a cool £150,000.

9. Tuscan

One of TVR’s most successful cars wasn’t even road legal. Instead, the Tuscan racer was the subject of an extremely well-supported, highly regarded one-make race series that lasted for 16 years in its original form. Early Tuscans were powered by Rover V8s, but later cars featured TVR’s own AJP engines. Tuscans weren’t easy to drive in the dry and could be notoriously unforgiving in the wet, but a tight set of regulations meant you couldn’t buy speed or disguise a lack of talent; good drivers did well, journeymen did not. Today, and even if just used on track days, a Tuscan racer is ferocious and potent and suffers fools not at all. Pay from £25,000.

10. Griffith

Great-looking, simple, delightful to drive and these days even wholly reliable, any well-maintained Griffith is not only a great TVR but also, as is explained on p44, one of the great British sports cars of its or, indeed, any other era. Pay from £18,000 – and you’ll be glad that you did.

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Comments
7

28 January 2017
£15-20k for a well sorted Chimaera, Griffith or Tamora looks like a solid investment - so long as you can cope with a high maintenance partner! Autocar used car guides often gloss over major issues, such as TVRs do not like living outside or damp conditions.

289

28 January 2017
....the first time I met you face to face was at Mira.....I think it was on the occasion of the outer circuit nutters in their Bentleys, ERA's Maser's etc roaring around the banked circuit.....you were driving a then new model in the TVR range, which had blown its rear window out on the motorway on the way to Mira...must have been a hell of a shock for any following cars!
Can you remember which model TVR it was Andrew?

29 January 2017
the T350. TVR should make that one available again. And of course with a Straight Six, the engine that is as quintessentially British as the Big Ben, fish & chips and calling tourists "bloody foreigners". The Grantura I'll keep in the garage, only taken out on sunny days.

29 January 2017
Just because it was ludicrous it deserves a mention. TVR's designers are sorely missed, nothing currently available looks as great as their offerings, especially later cars like the Griffith, Tuscan, Sagaris etc. Not a car I will ever be able to afford but more of an event to see one than seeing a modern Ferrari or Porsche.

29 January 2017
Where's the Tuscan or Tuscan S? Surely an iconic shape that made its way into films and a few Top Gear features! Oh and I owned one and it was brilliant and reliable until I sold it at 6,000 miles.

30 January 2017
My first TVR was a midnight blue 350. It sounded great and was quite quick for the time, but unfortunately it also suffered from the issues which earned the company a partly deserved reputation for poor quality and reliability. Leaky roof, melting electrics, failing gauges, etc. I still loved it, though.

Next up I had a rare 4.3 big valve Chimaera, which was so much better, you wouldn't think it was even built in the same factory. Quick, practical and utterly reliable.

The only thing that I wasn't so keen about with the Chimare was the catalytic converters. So I went backwards a few months in production terms, and bought a 4.3 BV pre-cat Griffith, which I enjoyed so much, I kept it for 8 years. It was properly fast, reliable, and very journey was an event. When driving in the dark, the gentle flicker of flames spitting from both tailpipes on the overrun never gets old.

After 12 years with TVRs I sadly abandoned TVR for good because they took away the thing I cared about most - a conventional V8. Fragile and temperamental flat plane crank engines were not what I wanted to buy, so my money switched to AMG instead (and a '65 Mustang, but that's another story).

It will be interesting to see how quickly (assuming things go well) the relaunched TVR can get over the complete loss of the historic factory and staff that were such a big part of the "brand" in current parlance. The club weekends every year in Blackpool were legendary and will be missed for a long time, I suspect. The cars are still around in reasonable numbers, but ithere's no real link with the past apart from the logo.

3 February 2017
I always liked TVRs, they have that bit of something special in their appearance. Best of all is the Griffith, which is so smooth and pure, unsullied by lines or creases or unnecessary detailing. It is just fuss-free elegance, and it's gorgeous.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

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