WHAT TO LOOK FOR
A SOUND CHASSIS?
Check the tubular steel chassis for rot in the front and rear outriggers and the tubes that run along the sills. Suspension mounting points will need careful scrutiny too, and look for cracks around the engine mounts. Expect a bill for around £5000 for a specialist to replace the chassis, and bear in mind that it was bonded to the bodywork on Series 1 cars – so replacement is more involved. The square-tube chassis used on the rare Series 4 is more susceptible to corrosion, so tread carefully.
RUNNING GEAR CHECKS
Most steering, brake and suspension parts are Triumph-derived (although the wishbones are TVR’s own) so you’ll have no trouble when it comes to replacement or upgrades. The lightweight four-cylinder engines means the steering on a Vixen should be easily manageable even at low speeds, so unexpected heft or notchiness needs to be investigated.
THE ENGINE ROOM
Both models used a wide variety of engines, though none presents major problems. Look for oil leaks, exhaust smoke, dirty cooling systems and compromised head gaskets. All are easy to repair/rebuild but amateur tinkering can do more harm than good so check for a lumpy idle or rough running. One final point is to watch out for V8 Vixens masquerading as more valuable Tuscans – get owners’ club advice about how to distinguish between a genuine car and one that’s been converted. The front suspension needs lubricating with EP140 oil (not grease), so look for a conscientious maintenance regime. Also check the condition of the rear uprights and hubs – the latter can suffer from cracking of the quill shaft (or stub axle), so get it checked and budget for replacement if you’re unsure of the condition. Tired joints, bushes and dampers are the only other checkpoints.
Aside from being on the cramped side, the cabin is simple and easy to retrim in vinyl if it’s looking a bit scruffy. However, it’s worth checking that the dials and switches work, because some original parts can be hard to source; some examples have ended up with mismatched replacements to cut costs. Motorsport modifications may mean the original seats and steering wheel have been replaced, so check that the originals come with the car. Crusty insulation and corroded earths can cause all manner of electrical issues, while damp carpets and a musty smell point to perished window rubbers or ill-fitting doors.
The four-speed gearbox is essentially robust, but regular track day or hill climb heroics inevitably accelerate wear so listen out for signs of tired bearings and worn synchromesh. It’s not especially oil-tight, though, and neither is the differential; check both for leaking seals. You’ll also need to ensure that tuned examples haven’t put extra strain on the differential or clutch – the former whines as it wears, while the latter slips.
CHECK THE TRIM
Make sure that the glass and exterior trim aren’t damaged or missing. Rear screens could be glass or Perspex, but finding a glass replacement is neither easy nor cheap so many opt for the latter. Bumpers are expensive, even secondhand. Tracking down original replacement light units isn’t always easy either, though rears are commonly shared with the Ford Cortina MkII, which makes life a little easier.
Check the GRP body for stress cracks, star crazing and signs of old accident damage. Don’t expect panel gaps to be millimetre-perfect but anything too out of kilter should ring alarm bells about the state of the chassis. Repairing and repainting GRP bodywork is a specialist skill, so look for amateur bodges done on a shoestring budget. Complete body mouldings are still available but cost in the region of £3500.
Snug cabin is a tight fit for taller drivers.