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“We were reluctant to let the V8S go back to TVR. It’s dazzlingly quick, astonishingly tractable, terrifically rewarding to drive quickly and it looks just great. And that exhaust note… it’s still echoing along our favourite roads” Performance Car, September 1991
Small scale car producers (if they brewed beer it would be ‘craft’) TVR played the ‘Lotus alternative’ roll throughout the 1960s and ‘70s with a range of pretty, curvaceous fiberglass coupe bodies sitting atop steel tube backbone chassis. Into the early 1980s and TVR caught up with the origami trend for more angular bodies and though still dynamically excellent machines, the uncompromising styling of the Tasmin and its brethren proved to have a relatively short shelf life. In 1986, long before the focus groups decided retro was the new new (yes Fiat and BMW, TiV were there first), Peter Wheeler’s freshly acquired TVR blew an airline over the old 3000S body moulds, gave them a tweak or two and out popped the ‘S’; curves were well and truly (as Brian Johnson nearly said) Back in Blackpool.
In the ‘wedge’ era, TVR’s engine boffins had decided the joy of six was all very well but after all, more is more and eight would be great; enter Rover’s ubiquitous V8. With an ethos of plenty of cylinders, power and volume (of both the capacity and decibel variety), they set up a spinoff company to look after TVR power called, quite brilliantly, “TVR Power”. For the V8 S they tweaked the engine up to 3.9 litres with a 10.5:1 compression ratio, popped on gas flowed heads with free breathing manifolds and inserted a high lift cam. The resultant 240 bhp and 270 lb/ft of torque propelled the roadster, via a Rover 5 speed gearbox and a limited slip differential, to 60 in 5 seconds and on to 150 mph while giving it real world 50 to 70 in top gear performance that was superior to an Aston Martin Virage or Ferrari Testarossa. “Boom”, as they say these days.
Just how useable is a TVR V8S I hear you ask. Well suffice it to say this particular example covered, on average, 15,000 miles a year for the first ten years of its life so we’d say it pretty much sets the standard for hand built, small-production open two seaters. With no fewer than seventeen old MOT certificates in the history file, the pattern of usage can be tracked and it is clear that since then the S has enjoyed well-earned semi-retirement , covering just under 6,000 miles – something that would have been dispatched in well under six months in its early life. Since its acquisition in 2010 by its last, long term owner, MOT tests have still been carried out religiously though the last time it had even an ‘advisory’ was way back in 2009 and that was only for a tyre approaching it legal limit. The 100-odd miles added each year demonstrate this has recently been a ‘special occasions’ only sort of car and the current mileage has now crept up to an impressive 157,000.
The V8S looks great in its classic Monza Red (Code 052); with consistent colour and finish throughout, we could find no major chips or scratches. The body is in similarly very good condition with no evidence of any crazing (so often an issue with fibreglass cars) and fine panel fit and gaps - certainly by TVR if not Audi standards. The offset bonnet bulge, originally designed to accommodate an Italian market supercharger but retained for its styling impact, adds further brawn and purpose to the S’s not exactly understated shape, as do a pair of generous driving lights up front while the subtle rear lip spoiler is probably not such a bad idea for a 150 mph car whose side profile is decidedly wing-esc.
With virtually no bright-work on the car, that is perhaps one less thing to worry about and the TVR branded door handles are in good condition, adding a nice ‘bespoke’ touch to the car. The fuel filler cap is the only other shinny bit and this has just the lightest of pitting to its surface.
Light lenses and glass are all in good condition with the exception of the front indicators which are slightly chipped and cracked.
The seats are trimmed in light grey leather nicely offset with darker piping and this is generally in very fair condition considering the car’s age and mileage. There is just a small area of wear on the side of the driver’ seat back bolster which has had a less than perfect repair made to it (please see photo gallery) but the passenger seat looks relatively unused. The carpeting is all in very good order but the various pieces of wood trim have aged to a greater or lesser extent with the lacquer starting to lift in one or two places, though this would be a relatively easy DIY ‘fix’. The dashboard houses a nice set of bespoke TVR instruments with the minor gauges covering water temperature, oil pressure, fuel level and electrical charge in the centre section, angled towards the driver. The larger speedometer and tachometer are clearly visible through the steering wheel and stylishly read from ’10 past to 10 to’ on the dial. A seemingly original Pioneer cassette player/radio is present but it is unlikely to have all that much of an impact on the TVR’s V8 soundtrack. The clever, part hard, part soft hood arrangement works very well offering most of the convenience of a traditional fold down roof combined with the civilising effect of a hard top plus the benefits of a targa option – three for the price of one. The split roof panels stow easily in the tidy, capacious boot along with a ‘space saver’ alloy spare wheel.
The V8S appears to be in mechanically very good order as suggested by the MOT history and the chassis and wishbones have recently been protected with a generous coat of fetching red paint though you really should be in the driver’s seat not messing around under the car! The engine bay is tidy if not detailed to within an inch of its life - see previous comment re driving the car – with plenty of room for the all-aluminium power plant (and its exhaust system, the first stages of which look as though they were sourced at a power station closing down sale).
On the road at parking speeds the steering is somewhat ‘robust’ but at even a jogging pace (Mo Farah jogging maybe), things lighten up considerably. The TVR is no MX5 but then that is sort of the point… The powerful all disc brake setup was rightly praised when the cars were new and it is still impressive today; reassuring given the car’s performance capabilities. Sporting essentially the mighty Griffith’s suspension hung off a developed S3 chassis (far more sophisticated than the early backbone versions) the car rides and grips really well. With the V8S possibly the first TVR not to habitually bottom its exhausts on what passes for normal roads in the UK, the sonorous twin pipe stainless steel system should last indefinitely. The beautiful and rare OZ Vega 15”, split rim, cross spoke wheels - a modern take on the classic wire wheel if you like - are in great condition with just the smallest of nicks in the finish in a couple of places and excellent unidirectional tyres courtesy of Avon are fitted all round. The shapely wood-rim steering wheel and matching gear knob are perfectly positioned and with a great driving position and comfortable seats, long runs in this generation of TVR are surprisingly undemanding; Berlinetta ticked off six hundred miles in a day a decade (or two) ago without any problem at all.
The V8S’ history file is well stocked with the cars original S Series TVR Handbook, Pioneer stereo instructions, alarm certificates and instructions along with the multiple MOT certificates as mentioned previously. A selection of bills, many from TVR specialists ‘Bespoke Performance’, for servicing and maintenance are also present, highlight of which covers a partial engine rebuild at accost of £2,890.50 to replace a faulty camshaft less than 3,000 miles ago. There is also a letter from TVR confirming the car’s free AA cover when it was new; there’s confidence for you…
The TVR V8S for us bridges the gap between the iron fist that was the 1990s Griffith and the velvet glove of the early cars. Its lineage to the 3000S and hence M Series, Vixen and Grantura is clear and yet it has the blistering performance of the road-rockets that have characterised the brand since Peter Wheeler took the helm for the company’s most successful period to date. With the marque firmly back in the public eye following the launch of the Gordon Murray engineered Griffith (a powerful, front engined, rear wheel drive, two seater sports car - sounds familiar), now might well be the time to buy into the TVR ethos.