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TVR Griffith is Your Chance to Own a Legend

November 26, 2013
TVR Griffith is Your Chance to Own a Legend

Across seven decades of turbulent motoring history, the small British firm of TVR developed from little more than a kit car into one of the most revered names in British motoring. Along the way, money problems, territorial squabbling by company principals and a somewhat schizophrenic search for a company identity on track and road have made for a sometimes-difficult ride for enthusiasts of the company’s products.

 

During its original incarnation under Trevor Wilkinson, the Grantura was the first design that really set TVR apart from the competition as a true enthusiast’s car. TVR’s lightweight sporting cars had a good performance reputation, but build quality and sporadic production hovered as continual threats to the firm’s existence. The Grantura put those days in the rear view mirror for a while at least, generating the reputation and sales needed to generate the next surprise. In true TVR style, the next model to see the light of day was seemingly as much of a surprise to management as it was to a generation of exotic car enthusiasts. 

 

In the early 1960s, nothing ruled the track like the AC Cobra. The combination of a small, lightweight British sports car with the sledgehammer brutality of an American V8 was proving unstoppable on the road tracks of the time. Anybody who drove one and lived to tell the tale came back wild-eyed, weak-kneed and nearly speechless from adrenaline expenditure. This was the primal spirit of the muscular sports car, distilled and concentrated into little more than a screaming exhaust note, underlined by copious quantities of rubber smoke and a confusing blur of g-forces pummeling the driver. The craze was on. At locations all over the globe, small shops everywhere were trying to reproduce the results of Carroll Shelby’s nightmarish experiment on the AC Ace. The Sunbeam Tiger, Jensen Interceptor and other mystical beasts of prey began to prowl the streets looking for victims to eat.

 

Jack Griffith was a New York Ford dealer and TVR distributor that looked at the Grantura, looked at the AC Cobra and began to get some ideas. In 1963, he began experimenting by stuffing a 289 Ford V8 into the tiny Grantura. While the results were less than satisfactory, there was enough promise in the idea for Griffith to special order a few Grantura chassis reworked to take the 289.

 

In 1965, with less than a year in production, disaster struck in the form of a dock strike on the east coast, which cut off the supply of TVR bodies and chassis destined for Jack Griffith’s skunk works to receive their Ford implants. Griffith was unable to pay for his custom chassis from Blackpool, and TVR went under, unable to survive the loss of its largest customer. The company underwent the first of several reorganisations and the original Griffith was dead after only a couple years of production with three models, the Griffith 200, the Griffith 400 and the short-lived Griffith 600, which was based on an original body design and Chrysler power. The original Griffith with the Ford engine remains highly sought after even in remote corners of the globe, according to Kloster Ford, Australia’s largest Ford performance dealer.

 

The next decades and changes in ownership kept TVR in a holding pattern as the company sought to distinguish itself in the market. These years were full of uninspired wedge-shaped styling accompanied by good performance, but not much of real inspiration available in the TVR showroom. Then Peter Wheeler stepped to the helm of the neglected orphan and began to create magic. The 1990s were glory years for TVR, with imaginative styling, innovative design and blistering performance on display to separate the Blackpool bombers from the rest of the market.

 

The mouth-watering Damien McTaggart body styles now associated with the TVR look began to flow from the mouth of the beast, and TVR established itself firmly as a desirable supercar marque. Among these new designs was the resurrected Griffith, now appearing as a roadster. The TVR Griffith 500 is handsome, retains the classic style of the AC and Jaguar British look and is devastating in its acceleration, handling and sheer adrenaline-fuelled, frantic animal magnetism. This car is the perfect target for anyone looking to chip off a piece of the TVR legend before things get out of hand. Currently, market prices for a nice TVR are all over the map from affordable to outrageous, and nowhere is this more in evidence than with the Griffith 500.

 

With the recent announcement by Les Edgar, the new owner of TVR, that production is slated to resume in 2015 with a model based on the Griffith and Cerbera, a new golden era seems about to commence. It might be wise to snap up an affordable Griffith, Chimaera or Cerbera now while the getting is good. Ask anyone who has tried to chase a Griffith, and you will find that taillights are the usual view of this car. If you want to see the view from the cockpit, acting now may be your only chance to do so.

Displayed: TVR Griffith 500, Image courtesy of Hilary Gaunt.


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