Then let me recycle an oldie from 9 months or so back. Because I still want an answer....
Who Will Delight Us With Insanity?
Now that TVR is gone.
I know, it'not exactly news that TVR's gone. They stopped making cars almost in 2006, and Peter Wheeler's been dead since 2009. There's been persistent rumours they're about to pop back into life (they even have a VERY brief website that says so). But let's face it, not gonna happen.
I was at a car show the other day and the TVR owners club were there. And it brought it home to me what a great loss TVR has been. There's nobody else left who does rip-your-clothes-off-and-howl-at-the-moon raving lunacy, just for the joy of it. And certainly not in a way vaguely accessible to the ordinary guy. Yes, you can go get Saleen to build you something if you're mega-rich. And if you're just ordinary rich, Lambo will sell you some German-calculated outrageousness. And in their own quiet way, the Japanese Big Four have been known to open a can of WTF occasionally for the home market, which means the rest of us eventually get to sample it. But TVRs were in the sort of probably-not-but-I-can dream price range of Corvettes and Caymans, and you could just go into a dealer and buy one. OK, not if you lived in the US, but that just serves you right for having silly regulations, I have no sympathy. And even you could wait for the 25 years to pass. Except that there'll be no TVRs left by then, they'll all have died with their owners in bizarre murder-suicides.
TVR were around for ever as a niche maker of kitcars and sportscars, but for one brief glorious decade under Peter Wheeler, they went totally, gloriously, postal. Their business model involved targeting the "Hairy chested men who aren't James Bond or stupidly rich, but still want to die horribly while making love to a punk supermodel psychokiller assassin" market - a niche so slim that even Audi hasn't found it (although Oppo has). And the amazing thing is, they almost made a go of it.
Their cars defied the rules of aesthetics, manufacturing, engineering, physics, economics, and plain old common sense. Their consistency in making gratuitously "different"decisions is, I contend, unmatched by any other car maker before or since.
Their styling was exotic and extrovert. When everyone else was going for taught curves in reaction to the jellymould shapes of the 80s, TVR doubled down on the voluptuous look. When everyone else was working on tightening panel gaps, TVR made a feature out of gaping holes between panels. When in the 2000s styling fashion moved to more organic shapes, TVR gave up on curves and headed off into baroque and steampunk.
They even let the boss's dog do some of the styling on the Chimaera, on the famous spotlight recesses.
Under the hood was the same - when everyone else was covering engines in plastic, TVR were shoving theirs back into the dashboard, hiding the front with an exhaust header made from steam pipes stolen from a nuclear power station, and piling random spaghetti on what was left.
Their engineering was equally, um, "exotic". When everyone else was filling their cars with electronics, TVR didn't even offer ABS or airbags. Not because they couldn't afford to develop them (though that was probably true too), but because Wheeler thought, in defiance of all logic and evidence, that they were unsafe. Instead, they went for superdirect steering, so that when it got all crossed up on you, you had a better chance of catching it. Which was lucky, because with gobs of power, no weight, short wheelbase, and twitchy throttles, a TVR WAS going to get all crossed up on you. Probably when you were daydreaming as you cruised along a dead straight road. The early Griffiths didn't even have power steering. Think about that - a 90s era front engined V8 car with no PAS. When everyone else was focussing on quality, faults per vehicle, lean, six sigma and the like, TVR were still bashing things together in a shed in Blackpool, using glue all over everything, manufacturing techniques from Blue Peter and
QC processes from the oh, get real, what QC processes? And instead, putting all their effort into being faster, louder, and more outrageous than the next guy.
Then we have engines. When their engine supplier (Rover, although there wasn't much Rover left in the V8 once TVR had finished with it) was sold and they got worried about engine supply, did they do what any sensible kitcar manufacturer would do and hop on a plane to the US for some crate engines? They did not. Did they do what any sensible bespoke supercar manufacturer would do, and go talk toze Germans? They did not. Instead, they developed their own engine. And not just any engine, a narrow-angle flat-plane-crank V8 based on a mashup of F1 and motorbike geometry, but BIGGER. And with a specific output Honda would have been proud of. And when that went down well, they developed a straight six. Right when everyone else was moving away from straight sixes. And they made it the most powerful production straight six evah (at least according to wikipedia, so it must be true). And then they cut costs all over the place, which is obviously the sensible thing to do when you're making ultra-high-output bespoke engines. And when that didn't work out so good, did they fall back on the V8 and content themselves with being a single-engine-platform company? Oh no, way too sensible. Instead, they doubled down and turned the unreliable six into a truly barking mad V12. That would be a 7.7 litre 48V V12, making the thick end of 1000hp. Which they then stuffed into a car with the usual TVR "interesting" handling and lack of electronic aids. At which point even Peter Wheeler said "no, that's unusable".
How mad does a car need to be before PETER WHEELER thinks it's over the top?
Then there were the sound effects. Not for TVR electric bypass valves, oh no. They just went for LOUD. God knows how much they had to lay out in bribes to get through the driveby noise regs back in the day, but whoever the inspector was, I bet he has a nice house. And they made their engines pop and bang on the over-run like a fireworks incident in a machine-gun factory. Fifteen years before Jag thought of it. And not to add some excitement to a modern sterile sportsclone - because God knows if you're jaded enough to need more excitement in your TVR, it's time you considered cutting back on the cocaine, hookers, and base jumping - but just because that's how the fuel map came out. And they thought it sounded cool, so they left it that way. And they were right.
Even when they were being sensible, they couldn't be sensible. Take the Cerbera. This was TVR's first go at an "everyday" car. With 2+2 layout and a roof, you could in theory drive it to the office and the shops. Except that it was faster in a straight line than just about anything else on the planet, had the aforementioned lack of driver aids, and handling which would occasionally throw you at the scenery for no apparent reason. Plus chopped-and-channelled styling, a range of psychedelic pearlescent colours, and the most out-there interior this side of Doc Brown's DeLorean, with dials below the steering wheel so your great big stainless steel balls could know what time it was and how much gas you had left, and a dashboard clearly made to store Alien eggs. Oh, and a helmet holder between the back seats. Y'know, for those everyday moments when your route to the convenience store involves cutting around the 'Ring.
Now they're gone, and with regs getting tighter, and tech getting more expensive, I just can't see anybody else being able to step up to the "everyday nutcase" plate, for all Les Edgar's big talk (though seriously dude, good luck, I'm rooting for you). And I believe we NEED somebody doing that, to remind the makers and buyers of beige that they have souls, and to give the rest of us something to lighten our days.
TVR expressed the pure unadulterated joy of cars. I miss them. And even though my taste runs more to Scarlett Johanssen than Noomi Rapace, my bucket list has me buying one, one of these days. And I'm going to drive it carefully in straight lines from tunnel to tunnel, gun hell out of it in the dark, and then go cruise through suburban neighbourhoods at the weekend, terrifying the neighbours and turning little boys into instant petrolheads.
What's your take? Is there a new TVR? And does anyone really care?