2 June 2004

The Germans might have dismissed the motor show, but the bulldog spirit was alive and well at the NEC with the latest home-grown sports cars from Noble, Morgan, Marcos and TVR.

Noble

The undoubted star of the show was Noble’s jaw-dropping 400bhp M14, featured exclusively in last week’s Autocar, but the Leicestershire-based company also gave a world debut to a second new car at the NEC.

The M12 GTC will go on sale at the end of the year for £44,950, £3k less than the GTO 3. Although you ‘only’ get a single-turbo 290bhp V6 instead of the 3’s twin-turbo 352bhp lump, that still means a 0-60mph time of around 4.5 seconds.

Otherwise, the open-top shares the same engineering as the coupé – Noble deemed the car rigid enough not to need extra strengthening.

The GTC gets two removable composite roof panels that stow behind the seats, and the rear section of the roof can also be taken off, although this can’t be stored in the car. The GTC is also the first M12 to get a rear luggage compartment.

Morgan

Morgan showed off a trio of new cars at the NEC, led by the new Roadster, making its world debut. It replaces the Plus Eight, whose Rover V8 engine has ceased production. In its place arrives a Ford-sourced 3.0-litre V6, but the rest of the package is carried over largely unchanged.

The new Roadster costs £34,992 for a standard car, although Morgan also unveiled a lightweight version for track use costing £29,374.

It was also the UK debut for the revised Aero 8, which borrows the changes made for the American-market model, including the fitment of anti-lock brakes, EBD and airbags.

Between them, the new cars – and soaring demand in the American market – will swell Morgan sales by 15 per cent next year. Morgan calls itself ‘the world’s oldest independently owned car company’ and it looks as if its fortunes will continue to prosper.

Marcos

The British Motor Show was graced by the world premiere of the all-new Marcos TSO, the company’s latest flagship two-seater.

The entry-level 350bhp TSO comes in at £39,950, while the more potent £44,950 R/T version gets 400bhp, a six-speed gearbox, sports suspension and 18-inch rear wheels instead of the 17s on the standard version.

Both are powered by the 5.7-litre V8 from the Corvette. The car weighs 1090kg and has 420lb ft, which means the R/T hits 60mph in a claimed 4.0sec and tops out at 185mph.

The hints of TVR in the frontal design are understandable, given that the TSO was penned by Damian McTaggart, responsible for the Cerbera, Tuscan and T350 during his time at TVR.

Marcos has struck a deal with Prodrive to work on the chassis design, analysis and testing of the TSO.

TVR

As expected, TVR produced a world premiere at Birmingham – but it wasn’t the all-new model most people had anticipated. The Blackpool firm unveiled a new-look Tuscan, and this time it is available as a roadster or coupé.

Chief among the changes are new front and rear styling – claimed to improve aerodynamics – revised steering and suspension for better handling, a funkier dashboard and more supportive seats.

The Speed Six engine continues in two versions: the standard 350bhp unit or a tuned version developing 400bhp.

The £39,750 Tuscan 2 is expected to become the most popular TVR on sale, with anticipated sales of 500 a year, accounting for around 50 per cent of production.

Also unveiled at Birmingham were a series of tweaks to the Tuscan Speed Six and revised suspension geometry on all T350s and Tamoras.

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