Fantasy Friday (on Sunday) – TVR 3000M

What are the classic signs of insanity?

Hairy palms? Hallucinations? Violent mood swings? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Voting conservative?

I think it’s fairly safe to add ‘buying a TVR’ to that list. And yet here we are, collectively poised to lust after what is reputed to be one of the most unreliable and notoriously rusty cars that ever existed.

TVR280i-350iConvertible-3105_1TVR occupied the same mind-space as Ferrari and Lamborghini for me as I lounged around my teenage bedroom thumbing through CAR Magazine and Wheels magazine in the 1980’s. TVR was remote and exotic. The ‘Wedge’ models from the 1980’s looked a bit like a Lotus Esprit (the epitome of untouchable sports cars thanks to James Bond) and the performance figures backed up the exotic angularity.

Living on the other side of the world in those pre-internet days, I didn’t get to hear all the bad TVR stories here in Australia so the dream was allowed to linger untainted. Today, the stories woven by the malaise-era marketing mavens can be seen for what they were and it’s only the hardiest of punters who can stomach the idea of buying a TVR.

I’ll count myself as one of them.

In fact, when I was scouring England for a Lancia Fulvia a few months ago, I discovered TVR’s by the shedload available for sale and the idea of bringing one to Australia crossed my mind more than once. Maybe one day.

Is it that TVR was basically a cottage company making big, burly cars that compels people to cheer for them? The lure of the underdog combined with exotic styling, high speed and an engine note that’s more than capable of moving your middle bits.

I know a Saab-owning couple in the UK who had one and Sharon swore to me that her TVR was one of the most enjoyable cars she’s ever owned.

Perhaps owning a TVR is a bit like owning an Alfa, but even nuttier because of the odds. If you got a good one, I’m sure it’d be absolutely intoxicating. But the odds make it much more likely that you’ll get one that feels like it was built on a Friday afternoon after a long lunch.

Which one?

If money was no object I’d be opting for one of the modern TVR’s – a Tuscan or a Cerbera. The latter is swooping and elegant but brutal, while the former is totally uncompromising and looks as insane as it sounds.

Or if you want to go for true TVR exotica, there’s the Sagaris. I’m not sure there are words in the English language for this.

If I were to bring a TVR into Australia, however, I’d be restricted to a pre-1989 vehicle thanks to our rather ridiculous importation rules. That means either a 1980’s wedge model or something older and swoopier.

TVR3000MMy personal preference would be for one of TVR’s M-series models: the 3000M.

TVR’s M-Series cars were built in the 1970’s using a fibreglass body on a purpose-designed chassis. Weight was low, handling was nimble and power was more-than-adequate according to the standards of the day. There was a 1600M using a Ford ‘Kent’ engine and a 2500M using a Triumph straight-six engine. Then there was the 3000M, using the Ford ‘Essex’ V6 engine.

Even though the car only had around 140hp, the 0-100km/h sprint finished in less than 8 seconds thanks to its extremely low weight.

TVR_3000MThe 3000M is not particularly fast by modern standards and I’m sure it would be far from comfortable to drive. There’s a good chance it’s not very economical or reliable either (not that economy’s a priority with a car like this, anyway, but…). The TVR chassis is so prone to rusting that you can buy replacements ready-made. If you want to see the process for replacing a TVR chassis, Wheeler Dealers did it earlier this year. The video goes for around 45 minutes.

But…. despite all that, the TVR M-series cars, like all TVR’s, have presence. My guess is that you’ll rarely hear an exhaust note so intoxicating and you’ll never see another car like yours staring at you from the other side of an intersection. Get a good one and I have a funny feeling that a TVR like this will quite likely be the most engaging car you ever own.

For sale

A TVR 3000M can sell for as little as 4,000GBP in England. I’ve seen them for even less than that. Of course, you are taking your chances with any TVR so buying the cheapest one you can find means you’re really throwing caution to the wind.

There are only three 3000M’s for sale on my favourite British classifieds site and two of those are left-hand-drive, so let’s check out the best of them.

This car is available in Germany for a somewhat more hefty €22,900 but take a look at the photos and I think you’ll agree it presents as a nicely finished car. The colour scheme is classic British and a new Essex engine was fitted just last year. Work was done to tidy up the gearbox and brakes at the same time.

Nice! Click to enlarge.

And a little 3000M sound, albeit with a slightly modified car…..

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2 Comments

  1. Great post, Swade. Love the TVR brand because it’s so unabashedly optimistic. A tiny company with a crummy reputation still sticking it out against Jaguar, Aston Martin, Lotus and the rest.

    The only TVRs that have ever been visible in any quantity here in the US were the aforementioned wedge models. As a teenager, I thought they were modified Triumph TR7s for some time since they were a similar shape.

    I’d say any TVR would be a project car, yes. A candidate for an engine swap, even.

  2. The TVR is something else. Always loved them.

    When I was in high school, two friends (brothers) in my school had two unbelievable cars. Daddy owned a very successful business in town that they both worked at, when not in school.

    One was a 1965 289 cu.in. Shelby Cobra with the four Webbers, and the other one was a 1965 TVR Griffith, with an identical Ford 289 cu.in. engine. Both cars had had their engines balanced & blue printed, and I can tell you from first hand experience that BOTH of those cars were scary fast.

    Nearly 50 years on, I can still smell the racing fuel, & hear those glorious engines wailing at full song! Those were some fun days. 🙂

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