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TVR Tasmin/350/390

TVR Tasmin/350/390 Published: 4th Apr 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

TVR Tasmin/350/390
TVR Tasmin/350/390
TVR Tasmin/350/390
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TVR was best noted for traditional sports cars but in the 1980s ditched the old theme and went upmarket with its sharp suited, power dressed Tasmin. Designed and developed by ex Lotus engineers, that wedge-like appearance takes its cues from the Lotus Elite and Eclat of the previous decade. These days the medallion man Tasmin range provides good, cheap fun.


As with all old TVRs, Tasmins are pleasingly straightforward, uncomplicated big power fun merchants. Forget the mild not wild Cortina-powered 200 model as the 280i serves up very useful GTi bashing performance and decent enough economy as it is. That said, the real stars are the Rover V8-powered wonders – they’ll all crack 60mph in less than seven seconds and can truck on to well over 160mph, as in the case of the brutal 420 SEAC. The then new all independent suspension, that was the work of ex Lotus engineers, also went on to serve the Chimaera and TVR S so few quarrels there. Despite their plush cabins, these cars are fairly raw and unrefined but the cockpits are roomy and the boot is sizeable, so making fair tourers.


Without question the top Tasmins come Rover powered and the 390SE shows this TVR at its considerable best. The ‘Tasmin’ strain reached its peak in 1985 when the fearsome SEAC was introduced; Special Equipment Aramid Composite, which basically meant that the car was made from a mix of Kevlar and carbon fibre – materials extensively used in Formula One at the time. Using that trusty Rover V8 engine now stretched to 4.2-litres, it was tuned to a useful 300bhp, the 450 spelt 4.5-litres and 324bhp. In total some 2600 Tasmins were made of which around half survive. The most popular was the 280i of which 1120 were made, 258 being rare coupés (forget those did you?). The fixedheads come in two-seater and 2+2 configurations but you see scant few of them.


All used to be as cheap as chips but this has all changed and the top 400/450SEs can exceed £15,000 with little difficulty – cheap when the rare SEAC (56 made) models can sell for £40,000. This doesn’t mean to say that bargains aren’t around; the Capri-engined 280i and the Rover 350i remain easy ten grand buys and you’ll regularly see average ones a lot cheaper.


These are hand-made cars and standards do vary so test drive as many as possible. After a SEAC? Then beware! Very few cars were made from that special material anyway – because TVR just didn’t have the know-how to make it durable. Also, many were crashed and repaired using conventional GRP methods – so there are quite a few mongrels out there as a result. Check panel fit; has it suffered poor repairs? See that the pop-up headlamps work as they should as a wonky operation usually indicates poor accident repairs.

The chassis rusts so check thoroughly the sills and outriggers, side rails and the front cross member. Has the gearbox been removed? Technically, it can’t be dropped from underneath due to a beam that runs across the car, but some ‘mechanics’ cut this away to gain access to the ‘box.

However, according to Tasmin experts, this can really ruin the car’s geometry for good – even if it has been welded back into place. On the test drive, check for a loose feel suggesting worn bushes and dampers. The brakes are standard Ford (front) and Jaguar (rear) and they’re fairly worry-free, although the Jag inboard rear disc set up does mean that any service work can be challenging and expensive.

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