Today’s blog is about a manufacturer that I hold dear. TVR or “Trevor’s”, The “Blackpool Bath Tub” or whatever nick name you wish to use. Like every single person who has had anything to do with TVR’s I have a love-hate relationship with them. Huge highs and desperate low’s. They are desperately flawed, unreliable, electrically retarded and they will break your heart. With all this then why oh why do we love them so!? I will explain as best I can.
My first experience of a TVR was an early Cerbera and therefore it was equipped with the V8 and not the glass backed “Speed 6” but we will get into that later. When you climb into a Cerbera you feel like your sat in a giant powered penis. The car is so shamelessly phallic its hilarious. Its low, its loud and like all TVR’s operating the controls is an exercise in guesswork. You need to think of the logical place for whatever control you require and then look in the opposite place and normally there it is!
The Cerbera really does feel very flimsy in my opinion and on first drive you are left wondering why people have such love affairs with them. Best comparison I can think of is walk into Curry’s or Dixons and find the cheapest TV in the shop. Now pick up the remote control. Light, flimsy, breakable if you sneeze? That’s how all the controls feel….. that is until you use the throttle pedal. ALL TVR’s are savagely fast, end of. The Cerbera would eat cars ten times its price tag for breakfast and this working-class hero niche was something TVR made their own. If anything, their flaws humanised them and made people love them more. Who can love German perfection when it is so soul-less!? Yawn….. We need a bit of drama and a bit of uncertainty to keep us interested! With the V8 powered cars it was always electrics that was their downfall. If you have ever taken the dash out of one, then you will know why. I have done this a few times and on one car TVR must have run out of all the different coloured wires they would normally use to identify one system from another so on this car every single wire was brown. The WHOLE car done with one colour of wire. The guy still signed it too as was the tradition despite knowing he had royally stitched someone up further down the line. I know I still sound mad because that person was me.
The Cerbera and the Tuscan were great cars. Pendulums with wheels on mind you but amazing! They were brave too at TVR. They never shied away from being left field. They painted the cars weird flip colours and their interiors really were works of art. The stitched leather flowed like water around your body and across the dash and the instrument clusters were so space age the whole occasion of driving felt so special. I think these factors are why people love TVR so, but like a lot of love affairs it can end in tears.
TVR decided they wanted to produce their own engine and stop using the Land Rover V8. This engine was to be called the “Speed 6” and when it worked it was a peach. Sadly, however they key word there is “when”. In their enthusiasm to get the engine out into the world they rushed it. The engine simply wasn’t ready when they introduced it to the later Cerbera’s and then on into the Tuscan, Tamora etc etc. The car used a dry sump system which meant those owners who thought they were being dutiful by starting the car cold and leaving it to tick over and warm up were causing harm. Without being under load the car couldn’t send oil up to the top of the engine. This meant you ended up with a warm and oily bottom end and a stone cold and bone dry top end. Not what you want!! The trick is to start the car, drive gently to warm it up and get the oil circulating then you can enjoy yourself! The finger followers in the engine were forever failing often resulting in the requirement of a full engine rebuild. These rebuilds cost around £8k and were needed on 90% of the cars I came across before 10,000 miles. Once rebuilt and weaknesses remedied they were generally much better. A TVR will always find a new and inventive way of breaking your heart though.
All this said there really is nothing quite like a TVR on song when the sun is out. The patriot in you is smiling and the child in you is about to burst as they just sound so bloody good! TVR have pantomime in spades, they are the car embodiment of the British eccentricity we all cherish about our great nation and its people.
A few years down the line the “Sagaris” came along. By this point the engine issues were long gone and TVR had finally had the money to properly develop a car instead of the owners being the guinea pigs. The Sagaris will always be one of my favourite cars of all time. It wasn’t too long like the Cerbera which meant the handling was light years ahead. The performance was biblical. It was fast in a way that felt savage and raw. Despite its flaws the Speed 6 engine was effectively a race engine and in the Sagaris it really feels like it. One big plus is it looks like the bat mobile that has been attacked by a Werewolf. The dramatic slashes in the bodywork were something I loved about it! All TVR’s have pedals that hinge from the floor which again is just one of those small touches that adds to the race car feel. The Sagaris should have saved TVR but sadly the damage was done.
TVR’s were always about rawness. No traction control, no ABS, the recipe was simple. Lightweight body with big power administered through a 6-speed manual box to the rear wheels. There’s NOTHING wrong there!!!
This rawness and therefore lack of driver aids for those with experience or ability means a driving experience you simply couldn’t find outside of building a kit car in your garage. The catch though is just because you could afford one didn’t mean you had the skill to keep one. So many got smashed up sadly by drivers who were used to being baby sat. An educated chimp could do a ten-minute Nurburgring lap in an R35 GTR but a TVR requires skill. If respected a TVR will teach you, it will nurture you into becoming a better driver but if disrespected it won’t think twice about biting your head off and spitting it out.
If you choose the TVR path buy from a specialist, buy with a proven history, be prepared for heart ache but KNOW you will love it like no other.
THE AUTO VIP.