TVR's New Tasmin

After nearly 25 years, the familiar, aluminium-framed side windows, shallow, broad screen and high scuttle of the stumpy, TreVoR Wilkinson-originated TVR have made way for a brand-new shape. Martin Lilley is celebrating his 15th year of ownership of this resilient, Blackpool sports car manufacturer with a totally redesigned, two-seater, glassfibre, fixed-head, hatchback model for the ‘80s, the 2.8-litre, 160 b.h.p., fuel-injected, electronic ignition, Ford V6-engined Tasmin, which made its debut at the Brussels Motor Show in January.

The wedge-shaped Tasmin replaces all the existing models, including the Turbo, and initially will be sold in only one version, priced at £12,800 with a four-speed, manual Granada gearbox. Lilley confidently predicts that it will take sales from potential Lotus, Porsche and AC customers as well as TVR clients.

The move up market is accompanied by a high standard of luxury trim, incorporating a hand-polished burr walnut facia and interior door pulls, electric window operation, a National Panasonic auto reverse stereo radio/tape player and a high standard of carpeting throughout. The radio aerial is incorporated in the heating element of the Triplex, lift-up, self-supporting rear window. The high tail features a Lamborghini Espada-like glass panel to help with parking. A new system of glazing for the laminated windscreen and fixed rear quarter-windows is hidden under a black, printed edge to remove the necessity for a glass finisher. Halogen headlamps are retractable and the attractive, 7” alloy wheels, carrying 205/60 VR 14 Dunlop SP Sport Supper tyres, are designed for ease of cleaning. Twin, interconnected fuel tanks of 14 gallon total capacity have individual fillers on each side of the car, though both tanks can be filled from either filler. A single wiper clears the big screen.

TVR tradition continues in the use of a corrosion-proofed tubular steel, backbone chassis and all-round independent suspension made up largely of proprietary components. Front uprights, wheel-bearing and calipers are Granada, the Cortina provides the upper and lower links and brake reaction arms (facing rearwards, on compression instead of tension, along with the anti-roll bar) and steering rack. The cradle-mounted, 3.07:1, Salisbury axle, inboard rear disc brakes and handbrake are all Jaguar XJ6 type. Short driveshafts run to Granada hub bearings and TVR’s own cast hub carrier with fixed-length lower links, boxed steel radius arms and co-axial coil spring/damper units.

The engine is mounted well back in the chassis, its fan pulley in line with the front axle so the gear lever is “cut and shut” to move it forwards 85mm. An interesting feature in the transmission is the conversion of the Granada’s cable clutch actuation to hydraulic operation, using a Broadspeed-built system of co-axial slave cylinder acting directly on the clutch thrust bearing, as used on Leyland’s racing XJ 5.3C.

I travelled by Porsche 924 Turbo to TVR’s new Research and Development Department at Bamber Bridge, Preston, governed by Tasmin’s designer, ex-Lotus man, Oliver Winterbottom, to try a prototype of this interesting TVR. This was as production mechanically, but the interior lacked some of the finer details of the production car; I gained the “creature comfort” impressions from the Brussels Show car, awaiting despatch. The standard of trim is most impressive, the rich walnut supported by opulent suede velour and ambla trim and good quality carpeting. Comprehensive instrumentation is by Stuart Warner. The cockpit is bisected by the high backbone chassis, on which sits a binnacle to bring the secondary switch gear, radio and heater controls closer to the driver. The uncovered luggage area is flat and commodious, with the spare wheel secured vertically in the tail.

TVR have gone for relatively long suspension travel to provide a good rise and the Tasmin impressed with its stability, comfort and very high levels of road-holding over slippery, bumpy, undulating and ill-cambered moorland roads; I suspect that it could outrun most sports cars in such conditions. The steering wasn’t quite up to Porsche standards, but not at all bad and braking performance first rate. Good visibility and relative narrowness made it a very “handleable” car in country lanes and it proved a reassuring car to drive very fast over winding main roads. The gruff 2.8 V6 felt to have less torque, but was easier revving than its Essex predecessor and gave a fine turn of performance, the less-craned-back gear lever easier to use than on the old model. In all, quite an inspiring British newcomer. – C.R.