Those who know me, know that I have a bit of thing for TVRs. Maybe it’s the Rover connection – the way that in the Griffith, the faithful old V8 sounded exactly as it should – or perhaps it’s because they come from Blackpool, the town I was lucky enough to grow up in. Whatever the reason, TVRs have a special place in AROnline’s heart and it’s nice to be able to write a few words about them when the opportunity presents itself.
That’s just what happened at the weekend when I ended up driving to the TVR Car Club’s ‘Back to Blackpool’ event, which saw the town invaded by several hundred of its favourite cars – including me in James Agger‘s rather nice T350c. You can read the report and see the photo gallery on the Octane website but, needless to say, it was great getting back home and seeing some fledgling activity at the old factory. Indeed, it still baffles me that the Russian ownership of the company was prepared to put TVR on ice, when there’s such overwhelming love for the marque – and not just in the town where it was born. I guess it all came down to money, politics and sheer bloody mindedness…
The T350c was a perfect animal for the weekend, though. Admittedly, by the time this one was built in 2003, the Rover connection had been severed but its TVR Power/AJP Speed Six engine remains a perfect English sports car engine: throaty, guttural, powerful and torquey. However, unlike the Rover engine, torque doesn’t come at the expense of revs, as this banshee of an engine was capable of pulling manically to 7000rpm. Nice to know when you need to shed the odd annoying Audi from your rear bumper.
As for why the Rover V8 was dropped in the first place, it was great to hear what I hope was the right reason from one of the guys who worked at TVR back in the day. ‘They developed the AJPV8 following BMW’s takeover of Rover in 1996 because Peter Wheeler had said. “I don’t want them putting anything bloody German in my cars.” It wasn’t about supply or emissions, but because the boss decreed it.’ It’s hard not to like Peter Wheeler when you hear things like that.
Performance of the T350c was predictably rapid: 0-30mph in under 2 seconds, 0-60 in 4, and 0-100 in 9. Considering the car has a ‘mere’ 350bhp (that’s Blackpool Horse Power, so probably a little less) on tap, those are impressive figures. Mind you, the T350 pushes the scales at under 1100kg, and that tells you all you need to know about lightweight construction. The only ABS and traction control systems are moderated by the driver’s right foot, which is a doddle, as the floor-hinged pedals are beautifully weighted and linear in response. As for the steering, it might have – shock, horror – power assistance, but it’s heavy, delivers good road feel and is beautifully geared (if you can resist sneezing) at 1.7 turns from lock-to-lock. Delightful.
Were there any buts to the weekend, any drawbacks? Well, it’s not a car you’d use every day. For a start, refilling it is a faff (even if the filler looks lovely and is underpinned by a really simple idea), and you’d chew through fuel far too quickly. That’s not because it’s uneconomical – because it isn’t if you drive it gently. No, you’d have it drinking 99RON like there’s no tomorrow because resisting the temptation to floor it at every opportunity would be impossible.
Anyway, on my special weekend in Blackpool, where it seemed like every other car was a TVR, it was the perfect set of wheels. The noise from the straight through exhausts, the waves from fellow owners, the look of the thing and the impossibly quick acceleration added up to making this one of what I call my purple moments. Just to put this into context, I’d been driving a Ferrari F40 a couple of days earlier – but it was the TVR’s salty charms that will live with me for longer…