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S Club Heaven Published: 25th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


Fast Facts

  • Best model: V8S
  • Worst model: Any ratty example
  • Budget buy: V6 S2
  • OK for unleaded?: Probably
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L 3962 x W 1448
  • Spares situation: Okay
  • DIY ease?: It’s a glorifi ed kit car really
  • Club support: Good
  • Appreciating asset?: Not yet but should become one
  • Good buy or good-bye?: One of our favourite TVRs
Looks very plush but only the best cars will remain so inviting. As with all soft tops, look for hood leaks and resultant damage to trim Looks very plush but only the best cars will remain so inviting. As with all soft tops, look for hood leaks and resultant damage to trim
Lights etc best sourced from their donor cars Lights etc best sourced from their donor cars
Nice alloys Nice alloys
Rover V8 is the best performer and easy to maintain although Ford V6 is okay Rover V8 is the best performer and easy to maintain although Ford V6 is okay
Unlike many later TVRs, being based on the old 3000M, the S looks subtle and classy. S3 model benefi tted from larger doors to aid entry/egress. GRP body fairly durable, but check hinged bonnet Unlike many later TVRs, being based on the old 3000M, the S looks subtle and classy. S3 model benefi tted from larger doors to aid entry/egress. GRP body fairly durable, but check hinged bonnet
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If you like your TVRs more traditional looking, then this retro roadster is the ideal modern classic

Pros & Cons

Retro looks, performance, driver appeal, easy Ford/Rover spares, value, lovely engine notes
A bit heavy-handed to drive, ride, lack of body and trim stamina, many tatty ones around

Not half as poseur-like as the medallion man Tasmin wedge and the later TVRs of course, the subtle S series looks like a TVR should – and goes like one too. Best of all, because this car has slipped out of fashion, prices are really tempting right now, and this classic is ideal for those after their fi rst TVR. As a quicker, cheaper alternative to the more antique MGC or big Healey, and certainly not as showy as the later Chimaeras, it is worth a look. So, why not become a convert to S club heaven?


The S was introduced in the mid 1980s to run alongside the wedge-shaped Tasmin, sharing many common parts, including the chassis, but priced more cheaply. If the shape looked familiar, then it’s because it was a more modern take on the 3000M of the 1970s, which has weatheredwell, we reckon. Initially, the TVR S used faithful Ford 2.8-litre V6 power for 160bhp – good enough to propel it to almost 130mph and a 0-60 skit in under eight seconds. In 1988, just two years after launch, the S2 was introduced featuring some styling tweaks, OZ alloy wheels and a special ‘Penthouse S’ edition in honour of that famous men’s mag! But the most important change the S2 brought was the adoption of the revised Ford 2.9-litre V6 which, apart from being rated at a healthier 170bhp, was also less asthmatic than the earlier 2.8. Performance was dramatically improved, slicing a second off the time-honoured standstill to sixty sprint. Two years later came – you guessed it – the S3! Apart from another styling refresh, the doors were lengthened by three inches to aid entry and egress. The independent suspension was retuned and, if enthusiasts opted for the S3C, a catalytic converter was fi tted. The ultimate S is the V8S, a 240bhp TVR-tweaked 3.9-litre Rover-powered monster that provided Ferrari-beating pace when it hit the streets in 1991. Only 410 were made out of a total production run of over 2600 cars. A year later an improved V6 S4C was announced, which, apart from more styling changes, also benefi ted from the V8’s superior all-disc brake set up. The S Series bowed out in 1994, replaced by a new wave of TVRs such as Chimaera and Griffi th.


The lovely thing about any TVR is that they arefull-on drivers’ cars. There’s nothing meek or mildabout them and they demand a lot from owners – but the rewards are more than worth it.The S Series cars, for all their cheapness, are no exception. A good one, even the original 2.8 V6, will bring a smile to anybody’s face, with its brawny performance. One magazine thought that TVR had tuned the car to make that wheezy old engine sound like a NASCAR racer. Add classic rear-wheel drive handling, which is great in the dry thanks to a near perfect weight distribution (although it demands respect, especially in the wet), and a no compromise ride and you have a classic sports car of the Big Healey mould; one you must master to get the best from it. Of course, the Rover-engined models are the best of the lot. The sound of the V8-tuned TVR exhausts will have you burying the throttle at every opportunity, to puncture bystanders’ eardrums! The TVR S isn’t refi ned and tired ones will invariably feel loose (scuttle shake was a problem,even on new ones), but they are fairly practical and civilised for touring work. As Car magazine put it, when speaking about the TVR’s kit-car make up, in a group test squaring up to the M100 Elan, MX-5 and BMW’s Z1 (remember those?), “If thissuggests crudity then so be it – the TVR is an old school roadster.” However, the magazine did admit, “The TVR delivers what none of the othersin this quartet can – instant urgent action when you press the pedal.”


This is the best bit! You can buy a TVR S for little under £2000. Okay, it will be a ratty one, in need of lots of TLC, but what other performance classic can you buy for that money? That said, it is still better to buy the best TVR S you can afford, as their lowly values negate any costly and involved restoration work, and slipshod servicing is pretty common. Expect to pay a not unreasonable £4-5000 for a decent example that could be used in its present state without too much worry. As a rule, the V8s command around £2-3000 over a V6, all things being equal. If you have the cash then you can buy a truly top V8 for £10,000, after some haggling; for the performance and style this roadster offers, that’s nothing less than a performance car bargain but we can’t see prices staying so cheap for much longer.


As with all specialist cars, just ensuring that it is running okay and up to spec, especially the chassis geometry, can improve things enormously (most won’t be). Suspensions do get tired, but are easy to tweak and upgrade with new dampers and springs. Generally speaking, the V8s already feature worthy upgrades (such as disc brakes all round) that can be transplanted onto V6 cars. If you want more power, then you could hardly wish for two easier engines to tune and the horsepower limit is really only governed by your budget.

What To Look For

  • Tough, Vigorous, Reliable – so said the adverts in the late 1960s, but remember it’s a TVR so expect kit-car build quality levels that will have deteriorated over the years. If the car is exceptional, then suspect either a very caring owner (with a TVR/specialist service history to back it up) or a recent rebuild.
  • You won’t see a rusty TVR, of course, because the shells are made of glass-fi bre, but the steel chassis rots with the best of them! It’s the same design taken from the Tasmin, albeit a format that dates back to the original TVRs. When new, the S and V8s had the frames powder-coated for protection, but this will have eroded over the decades. Look for serious corrosion at the front, which is the least well protected.
  • Apart from corrosion, you need to check the chassis for patch repairs, both for rot and accident damage. If dodgy, a new chassis may be the only sensible option but since the demise of TVR there’s no new shells of such.
  • Ok, so the shell looks decent, but inspect it further for ‘spider’s web’ crazing of the fi nish and resultant cracking. Remember that GRP repairs can be pretty complex; a dollop of fi ller isn’t good enough. Check panel fi t (especiallythe forward-hinging bonnet) which, if poor, may point to sub-standard accident repair.
  • Engine-wise these cars are simple to maintain. The Granada-sourced German Ford V6 unit is robust. Watch for low oil pressure (around 50lb is the ideal), rumbling cranks and bearings and tappet noise, which may actually be cam wear and is not unknown.
  • The Rover V8 is well known and liked. Chief concerns are caused by proper care; the engine demands regular oil changes with decent lube to prevent sludging and subsequent hydraulic tappet problems. Oil pressure should be a lowly 30lb at normal driving conditions.
  • The biggest worries on both engines are hard use, cheapskate servicing and overheating; the latter caused by marginal cooling. Look for signs of overheating, rusty stains caused by overfl ow and a worrying temperature gauge reading. Ideally, the radiator and the whole system need periodical fl ushing and the correct anti-freeze concentration at all times. Is the electric cooling fan working properly – or permanently wired-on to mask problems?
  • The transmissions (Ford and Rover) are hardy but remember they may have been used hard, so expect failing synchros and tired clutches.
  • The Tasmin-based chassis suffers the same suspension faults. Watch for tired shocks and dampers and shot suspension bushes. A squeaky steering column isn’t unknown, due to its universal joints drying out.
  • Brakes are disc/drum on most V6 cars and an all-disc affair on V8s. Apart from usual deterioration caused by hard use (such as worn discs), there’s nothing to be concerned about. Best of all, most spares are freely available via high street motorist centres, if you can quote their respective part numbers and cross match with the matching Ford/Rover component.
  • The interiors looked pretty plush when new, withhalf or full-leather trim, but they may not be so inviting now, due to age and leaky hoods and door seals. Check for damp and lift the carpets. Does the cockpit smell musty? Most of the switchgear was BL/Rover sourced from that era. As with all plastic-bodied cars, wayward electrics are common, although usually due to poor connections and less than perfect earths.

Three Of A Kind

A car not dissimilar to the TVR in its concept and make up, although it doesn’t feel quite as crude and is certainly nicer to tour in. Goes well with the Rover V8, although TVR feels sportier. Antiquated but we reckon the MG a modern classic to watch, even if it’s far dearer to run than a normal MGB GT V8. See our feature elsewhere in this issue.
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Last of the real TR line, the TR6 is in some ways the spiritual successor to the Big Healey. That said, compared to the TVR it feels its age, especially with the creaks and groans, thanks to chassis fl ex, but the 2.5 ‘six’ is nice. Where the Triumph scores over the TVR is the brilliant back-up from the owners’ clubs and army of specialists.
Lotus Elan M100
Lotus Elan M100
In production the same time as the TVR, the M100 Elan couldn’t be more different in style and character, relying upon effi ciency of design and fi nesse behind the wheel. Frumpy Isuzu engine lacks character, if not performance and durability. One of Hethel’s best ever models, yet prices remain amazingly reasonable considering badge and pedigree.


In many ways, the overlooked S is the best TVR to buy out of the lot. It has all the looks, style and charisma of classic older TVRs but twinned with more modern running gear and added durability. It’s not half as nafflooking as the power-dressed Tasmin or the ‘sexually challenged ‘I’m all bloke, really’ Chimaera and Tuscan ranges – and cheaper than the lot of them. So, what’s the catch? Only that you need to buy a good one and there aren’t that many around, due to their lack of popularity among the TVR fraternity.

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