Liftback versatility adds to the appeal
The biggest drawback to the stylish, Fibreglass TVR, ever since its conception by TreVoR Wilkinson, has been the impracticality occasioned by difficult access to the luggage compartment behind the seats. In my road test of the TVR 3000M in September 1973, I forecast that a hatchback version would answer that criticism by the end of that year. In fact, development problems and the need to cosset capital through the .economic crisis caused TVR’s Managing Director Martin LiIley to hold tire on his liftback model until the 1976 Motor Show. The result was the Taimar, identical mechanically to the cheaper fixed-back model, which continues.
Both liftand fixed-back cars have the option of the Ford 3-litre Essex V6 engine, in normally-aspirated “cooking” form or turbocharged by Broadspeed. By all accounts the 230-b.h.p. Turbo is an indecently rapid machine with acceleration quicker than the Porsche Turbo; as this cheapest supercar (£9,241, 0-60 m.p.h. in under 6 sec., over 140 m.p.h.) has so far eluded me, as a result of the accidents or disorganisation of others, I cannot vouch for that. However, a standard 3-litre TVR is no slouch and, as second best, I was pleased to spend a week with a Taimar version, discovering its increased versatility in a test which encompassed mixed use, including shopping. From behind the wheel there isn’t much difference between the Taimar and the fixed-back 3000.M, but the Taimar’s advantage was certainly pressed home on the weekly Saturday shopping trip. Those who have tried to pass boxes of groceries through the obstacle course into the tail of a fixed-back TVR will realise why!
Lilley’s development time on the lift-up tailgate has been very well spent. The outcome is a particularly neat job which hasn’t changed the TVR lines at all. The traditional large rear window, now in a separate Fibreglass frame and braced by two thin metal strips, swings upwards on two hinges fitted flush into the roof and is self-supporting on twin hydraulic struts. I particularly liked the electrical operation of the tailgate catch, by a little black button in the driver’s door-shut-face. Occasionally the button needed pushing twice to stir the catch, which sometimes wouldn’t release until pressure had been exerted on the tailgate.
The luggage area is fully carpeted and includes an almost full-width, shallow locker under a carpeted lid. The spare wheel is kept out of the way under the bonnet. There is need for a ledge on top of the high console between the scats to Prevent luggage ploughing through the gap; on several occasions a corner of my heavy briefcasethumped my gear-changing arm as I braked and changed down. Another criticism which the Taimar has inherited from its forebears is the absence of door-keeps.
As well as the lift-up tailgate, the Taimar enjoys a couple of other advantages over the 3000M, the major one being the incorporation of an air-blender heater and through-flow ventilation. The lack of effective ventilation in the TVR’s cockpit confines has always provoked criticism, which Lilley has silenced by adopting perhaps the best ventilation system in the massproduction business that of Ford. Air enters through eyeball vents at each end of the facia and exits through vents in the tailgate. Very effective the ventilation part of this system seems (in winter test conditions, however), though maximum heating is lukewarm and might benefit from changing the engine’s thermostat. Unfortunately it has an uncomfortable draw-back: to accommodate the bulky Ford equipment has necessitated a new moulding for the passengerside front bulkhead. The whole shebang, in the form of a big, carpeted square box section, intrudes into the passenger footwell at leg level, so that my wife complained that she could not cross her legs and I wasn’t driving that fast!
To accommodate the Ford horizontal quadrant heater controls and two-speed fan switch, the four auxiliary instruments, previously in a row above the radio in the centre of the facia, have been regroured into two pairs, staggered on each side of the heater controls and radio. The effect is more attractive.
Between the padded, leather-grained vinyl facia and the huge transmission tunnel over the backbone chassis is a very useful cubby-hole, capacious enough for a 1976 Motor Sport hound volume (rather larger than a Rolleiflex!), a London A to Z and a small tape-recorder. A row of rocker switches below this confounds contemporary thoughts on ergonomics, though clear labelling enables their positions to be learned swiftly. A lidded cubby-hole in the left of the facia ought to be made lockable, for there is nowhere to secure valuables. Tools stow in a well by the passenger’s left foot. I liked the small, three-spoke steering wheel, its thick rim trimmed with real leather, but thoroughly disliked the dreadful Triumph steering column lock mounted out of reach, half-way down the column. Plans are in hand to change that. The column also retains Triumph stalk controls, with main beam, dip and flash on the left and winkers on the right.
The last TVR 3000M I drove (not the 1973 road test car) had uncomfortably-spaced pedals. On the Taimar test car the Triumph clutch and brake pedals had been bent towards the throttle for much improved comfort. Heeling and toeing was just possible.
The finish of the road test car, particularly of the all-black interior, deserves high praise and the non-standard, acrylic paintwork combination of metallic silver with a maroon roof and side stripe was most tasteful. Customers can order non-standard colours for this hand-made car at will, though at extra cost. The Webasto sun-roof was an £87 extra and rewarded with additional ventilation almost totally free from buffeting and draughts at up to three-figure speeds. Amongst other options are electric windows and leather seats, neither of which were fitted to the test car. Sundym glass and alloy wheels are standard. I was impressed by another optional extra, the latest National Panasonic model CQ 7300N stereo radio and cassette player, with automatic and manual reverse facility, though there was some disturbance on the UHF frequency. The test car’s handbrake sprouted.experimentally to the right of the high centre console rather than through it, as is standard; it pulled back conveniently to vertical, Aston Martin-like, but lacked the Aston’s fly-off device.
In general driving terms the Taimar feels little different to the 3000M of ’73, although the years have showed up its handling in a less pleasurable light. It is quieter from within, possibly because of better sound-proofing, certainly helped by much stiffer window frames, which no longer flap, whistle and let in draughts. But the enthusiastic, rorty magic from the twin exhausts remains to stir a sporting owner’s blood. The comfortable seats have been raised, so that the scuttle no longer feels so high and old-fashioned. A lack of elbow room remains, noticed most when feeding back the wheel quickly, for it needs some help in self-centering. The test car’s steering rack was a trifle stiff they do seem to vary in this – and the steering a touch dead in the straight-ahead position. If the handling isn’t amongst the World’s best, itis more than adequate and interesting enough to provide fun and excitement. The tail soon lets go in slippery conditions, in which the 185 X 14 Pirelli CN365 are never at their best anyhow, but this TVR sits down flat and square on its all-round double-wishbone suspension, and is a very stable car at high speed a good motorway cruiser. A little bit more positiveness to the overall feel, possibly through revisions to steering geometry, would add to the enjoyment. The ride of this short wheelbase sports car is choppy over bumps and a bit harsh, as might be expected, but I never find this TVR aspect particularly disturbing. The TR6 disc/drum brakes are excellent in this lighter car application and although a Cortina servo has replaced the out-of-production TR6 unit, the firm; progressive feel is unspoilt.
I am sorry to report that the performance has deteriorated slightly, Ford’s fault, not TVR’s. The current 3-litre Essex unit is about 15 b.h.p. down on the old units (blame European emission regulations) and this results in a noticeable blunting of the bite. But don’t get me wrong: this remains a quick car, capable of 0-60 m.p.h. in just over 8 sec. -and over 125 m.p.h. The torquey engine will happily take high gearing, to give very useful 6,000 r.p.m. maxima of 41 m.p.h., 66 m.p.h. and 91 m.p.h. in the gears on the current 3.45-to-1 final drive. Strangely, it feels and sounds low-geared when cruising quickly, the V6’s buzziness revealing its dislike of high revs, although 4,000 r.p.m. in top equals over 86 m.p.h. Future production cars will receive a higher, 3.31-to-1 final drive to alleviate this. I hope this won’t spoil the splendid top gear performance and flexibility. Overdrive is no longer available. The gearbox action is less pleasant than in its Ford application, because of the shorter lever, but requires only a wrist-flick through the gate. The test car recorded just under 20 m.p.g. commuting into London and in the mid-twenties out of town; the tank holds 12 gall.
I rather liked this handsome TVR Taimar, so full of character and exciting thanks to the willing, rorty, Ford V6. Maybe it is not the World’s best handling sports car, but it does retain that feeling of brutishness, performance and air of handbuilt individuality coupled now with additional sophistication and versatility which are needed to justify a price of £6,223. The similarly-powered Capri 3-litre S may be much better value at more than £2,000 less, but would a lady be seen in rabbit fur in preference to mink? –C.R.