UK firm back on track with new model

FU­TURE MOD­ELS/ The TVR sports car brand is en­joy­ing a re­vival and the 2018 Grif­fith will mark its first in­stal­ment, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - COMMERCIAL NEWS -

The town of Black­pool is ar­guably most fa­mous for be­ing one of Bri­tain’s tourist at­trac­tions, hav­ing risen to promi­nence in 1870 as a hol­i­day re­sort, thanks to its 11km beach­front and theme parks.

How­ever, Black­pool is also known, per­haps to a lesser de­gree, as the home of the TVR sports car com­pany that al­ways prided it­self on build­ing cars for purists and en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ers.

Founded in 1946 by 23-yearold Trevor Wilkin­son, the com­pany started out as a car re­pair and en­gi­neer­ing busi­ness known as Trevcar Mo­tors. The com­pany changed its name a year later to TVR and built its first orig­i­nal chas­sis — the TVR One — three years af­ter the com­pany’s es­tab­lish­ment. It was pow­ered by a 1,172cc en­gine.

The com­pany went bank­rupt in 1962 and was res­cued by one of its as­so­ci­ates at the time, Gran­tura En­gi­neer­ing. Un­der that com­pany’s aus­pices, it built a few mod­els in­clud­ing the TVR Gran­tura, but it was the first gen­er­a­tion TVR Grif­fith that ar­guably put the com­pany on the sports car map. It was pow­ered by a 4.7l V8 and shared its name­sake with US im­porter Jack Grif­fith.

For the next decade and a bit, the com­pany changed own­er­ship, moved into big­ger premises and seemed on its way to earn­ing rel­e­vance as one of the more recog­nised Bri­tish sports car mak­ers. Be­tween 1981 and 2004, it built a num­ber of ve­hi­cles in­clud­ing the Chi­maera, Grif­fith (sec­ond gen­er­a­tion), Cer­bera, T350, Typhon and Sa­garis. The lat­ter model was in­tro­duced to a wider au­di­ence when it played a cameo role in the 2001 movie Sword­fish.

BUILD QUAL­ITY

In­ci­den­tally, it was also one of the cars I was priv­i­leged enough to be driven in as a cub mo­tor­ing in­tern at a now de­funct mo­tor­ing mag­a­zine. It was a blue spec­i­men that had a throaty ex­haust note, thanks to an in­line six and a cabin that had a pun­gent car­bon fi­bre odour, no thanks to its body be­ing made out of the ma­te­rial.

Build qual­ity was de­cid­edly dodgy even in the eyes of an in­ex­pe­ri­enced mo­tor­ing writer and it had a kit car de­meanour. It was also a tricky car to drive as it had no driver aids and with a short wheel­base, it had the abil­ity to snap over­steer, send­ing you rear-first into the hedges.

It’s been 10 years since TVR shut its doors, but now the com­pany has been res­ur­rected and its first new prod­uct in a decade, the new Grif­fith, was un­veiled at the Good­wood Re­vival in the UK re­cently.

Penned by ar­guably the most dec­o­rated and revered South African car de­signer, Gor­don Mur­ray, the new model will con­tinue the tem­plate of its pre­de­ces­sor — low weight, front en­gine, rear-wheel drive, a man­ual trans­mis­sion and no driver aids. It will be con­structed from alu­minium and car­bon fi­bre, bring­ing it right up to mod­ern sports car body stan­dards. The car is ru­moured to weigh just 1,250kg thanks to the light­weight con­struc­tion, which should make it some 300kg less than an equiv­a­lent Jaguar F-Type.

It will be pow­ered by a Ford­sourced 5.0l V8 that will be tin­kered by Cos­worth to yield around 373kW trans­ferred through a six-speed man­ual and limited-slip dif­fer­en­tial to the 20-inch rear wheels, wrapped in 275/30 tyres. This will give the model a power-to-weight ra­tio of 298kW/tonne, which should trans­late to some pretty de­cent per­for­mance.

Ac­cord­ing to TVR, the 2018 Grif­fith should be able to hit 96km/h from rest in un­der four sec­onds and top out at a su­per­car-like 321km/h. It will have an elec­tri­cally as­sisted steer­ing wheel, which breaks with the com­pany’s con­ven­tion of an unas­sisted wheel in the in­ter­ests of steer­ing feel and feed­back.

It utilises Mur­ray’s patented iStream con­struc­tion sys­tem, which in­cludes a car­bon fi­brelaced hon­ey­comb sec­tion us­ing F1 style tech­nol­ogy, which en­tails this be­ing bonded to steel and alu­minium to yield a high­strength but light­weight con­struc­tion. Mur­ray first used this con­struc­tion tech­nol­ogy with the Brab­ham BT49 F1 in 1979.

While the styling is per­haps not some­thing to write home about, it nonethe­less seems to adopt the form-fol­lows-func­tion pro­viso. It has a deep front air split­ter and an in­te­grated rear dif­fuser out back. Be­ing a TVR, it will also sound the part and the strate­gi­cally placed ex­hausts just be­hind the front wheels should give the driver a fron­trow V8 con­cert seat.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, the all-car­bon fi­bre bod­ied launch edi­tion mod­els will retail for £90,000 in the UK (about R1,534,527 in SA be­fore im­port du­ties). The car will be built at the com­pany’s new fa­cil­i­ties in the Ebbw Vale En­ter­prise Zone in South Wales, which is backed by the Welsh govern­ment.

While it has been a long time com­ing and the com­pany will likely con­tinue to be a niche sports car maker, bring­ing the de­sign ex­per­tise of Mur­ray who de­signed the iconic McLaren F1 su­per­car, we can only hope the build qual­ity and drive­abil­ity of the model will be right up there with some of the more revered sports cars.

While there is no word of the ve­hi­cle be­ing dis­trib­uted in SA, it is great news to see a brand like TVR make an em­phatic re­turn to the sports car fold.

The in­te­rior lacks some of the char­ac­ter of older TVR mod­els while the in­clu­sion of a kill switch shows its race car style in­tent.

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