Just because an engine lives under the hood doesn't mean it can't be beautiful.
Ouch! The Juniper Pearlescent paintwork on this TVR is even brighter in the sunshine than it appears in these photographs.
Ouch! The Juniper Pearlescent paintwork on this TVR is even brighter in the sunshine than it appears in these photographs. But that’s TVR for you: not a marque for shrinking violets, that’s for sure. Assistant editor Keith Adams collected this example from Hi-Törq Cars in North London before the photoshoot, and we hear him coming quite a long time before the TVR actually arrives.
TVR styling has long been different, and this ‘wedge’ is very much an example of the folded-paper school of design. Like Marmite, you either love it or loathe it. Squatting on its fat OZ Racing alloy rims, with a large front spoiler, rear spoiler and diffuser, the 450SE certainly exudes presence. Wide and wedgy, it looks fast and sounds it. The TVR-developed Rover V8 is stretched to 4.5 litres with fuel injection. This example has a bespoke exhaust system fitted as well as an ECU re-chip and… a four-speed automatic ’box. With left-hand drive the spec is a bit scatological, but the car was reputedly built for a member of the Bahrain Royal Family so it is pretty certain TVR boss Peter Wheeler did as requested.
The OTT styling continues with the interior, where every surface is covered in magnolia hide or walnut. The overstuffed seats are very comfortable and the bespoke instrument binnacle is mounted high. Sitting in the driver’s seat you can’t actually see anything further forward than the base of the huge windscreen. Crank the TVR Power V8 into life and the exhaust note is deafening but curious because, with the twin system exiting under each door, you can only really hear one bank of four cylinders firing. Add some revs and the other side comes into play.
Yank the auto shifter into Drive and the big TVR wanders off. Give it some boot: the shifter drops a cog and the sports car hunkers down. Then it ignites. All 325bhp and 320lb ft hit the tarmac and the fat 225/50x15 rear tires drive the power into the road.
The brakes are man enough for this onslaught of raw power because the fiberglass TVR is lighter than you might think. The bodywork does move around a bit but you feel that the superstructure underneath is rock-solid. The independent suspension is also impressive, as it handles corners and road irregularities with confidence.
With so much torque on hand the auto ’box is effective but a manual would be a whole lot better. Also, the width of the TVR combined with an inability to see much forward makes it difficult to place with confidence in tighter corners. The large tires offer plenty of grip in the dry yet the whole ensemble would be a real handful in the wet.
With challenging looks, outrageous paintwork, auto transmission, air conditioning and a boudoir of an interior, the TVR is best suited to being a dragstrip boulevardier. It’s a car of its time and, although the registration plate may say 1992, this is a model with its heart firmly anchored in the 1980s. It is certainly fast, with a well-developed chassis hidden underneath all the glitz, but it doesn’t really do it for this writer.
Keith Adams, on the other hand, loves TVRs – especially Tasmins. ‘I grew up in Blackpool quite close to the TVR factory on Bristol Avenue, and I regularly used to hear the V8-powered Oliver Winterbottom-styled wedges burbling around on test drives. Today, I still hanker after one, and my drive in this 450SE has merely reaffirmed my love for these cars. Yes, the steering column wobbles and there’s the worry of breaking down on every journey, but what the hell… the noise from the exhaust and engine makes it worth the hassle.'
TVR specialist James Agger lives and breathes these Blackpool sports cars. ‘Values of these once-unloved Tasmin-based models are on the up, but they are very condition, colour and specification sensitive. The Granada V6-powered models are slightly limp-wristed for those looking for old-school thrills, so seem to have been left behind,’ he says.
The 350i now looks like the understated choice compared with the fire-breathing SE and SEAC models, and, despite being a less accomplished all-rounder than the later machines, it’s still a lot of sports car for the £6000 that gets you an excellent example. The SEAC is the cult choice of the 1980s cars, and is exceptionally rare. Watch values head north of their £12,000 book price in the near future.
Unsurprisingly, it is build quality and the electrics that really need to be monitored closely. Check that the interior is in one piece – although it’s cheap and relatively simple to re-trim – and that all of the electrics work as they should. Don’t worry too much about rattles and creaks: ‘They all do that!’ James says. The same is true of the wobbling steering column when you hit bumps. The Rover-based TVR Power engines are incredibly fussy about cooling, so make sure the electric fans cut in as they should and the water temperature needle doesn’t wander anywhere far from the mid-section of the gauge.
Engine: 4546cc V8, OHV, fuel injection Power: 325bhp @ 5500rpm Torque: 320lb f t @ 4000rpm Transmission: Four-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive Suspension: Front and rear: independent by coils and wishbones, anti-roll bars Brakes: Front ventilated discs, rear discs Weight: 1060kg Performance: Top speed 160mph. 0-60mph 4.7sec