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TVR 400SE Published: 13th Jul 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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The TVR 400SE really is a Big Bad Wedge – but not just that; it’s the archetypal TVR

Few car companies have the ability to conjure up a mental picture purely by name alone. MG might, were it not for the more recent Chinese influx. Perhaps you could cite Lotus – but would you think of the supercar-chasing Esprit or the more delicate small sports cars? Arguably only one creates a consistent mental picture – simple British engineering with lots of power and a tendency to bite the uninitiated. TVR, and the V8-engined Wedge is the stereotypical TVR: dubbed the big bad wedge, its Etch-a-Sketch styling hides one of the scariest sports cars of its day.

And yet in 2017, when even family saloons routinely create in excess of the 275bhp our TVR is pushing out, perhaps it’s a little tame? Does the old dog still have the bite to match its bark?

On the move

Approach the Wedge and it’s easy to find yourself intimidated by its uncompromising lines. Nowhere on this car is there any concession to style; it’s a brutal shape that lets people know it means business. The delicate Oliver Winterbottom-penned Tasmin has been firmed up, given a large spoiler and a deep chin, and the overall effect is rather more brutish than pretty. The interior is similarly rectilinear too, with a big, craggy dash filled with walnut and instruments in equal measure, but there’s lots of space among the BL parts-bin trim items for a stocky six footer, in a comfortable chair – and the passenger is content.

You might think he’s in a different time-zone, mind – the wide centre console makes a mockery of all others. Were it absent, there might almost be enough space to mount a third seat – and yet it’s almost reassuring; a large strengthening structure in the centre of the car makes you feel better about the sheer mite this car can put out – because it can be big. 275bhp in a car which weighs just 1160kg means 60 in just 5.6 seconds and a top speed of 145mph. With figures like that it’s a good job that visibility is excellent – with little in the way of blind spots, your speed isn’t going to get you into too much trouble. That pointy nose can be difficult to judge in traffic though, so be careful taking your Trevor through town centres.

But once through those town centres you can put your foot down – and suddenly you’ll understand how TVR earned its reputation for menacing cars. The acceleration, after all those years remains supersonic. Plus like any adrenaline rush, you’ll find yourself revisiting the 400SE’s loud pedal again and again.

Round the corners

Despite the muscle-car performance figures, the TVR doesn’t handle like a Detroit special. You have to be man enough to manoeuvre it, yes, but provided you take care you can actually make a Wedge corner quite nicely. In fact, when the Wedge was launched with a 2.8-litre Ford V6 in 1980 CAR reported that there were few cars that could be considered as confidenceinspiring, and not even Jaguars were as comfortable and secure on undulating surfaces. The monthly’s description of the Wedge as “One of the finest cars we’ve ever encountered” is only bolstered by the extra grunt of this; the penultimate performance Wedge. Take a good chassis and shoehorn a lot of power into it; it’s a traditional British recipe, and we should consider the 400SE in the same manner as the original Cobra, and the Sunbeam Tiger. When it tested the first V8 Wedge, the 350i, Motor decided its rivals included the vastly more pricey Lotus Esprit S3 and Lamborghini Jalpa.

The one flaw created by the convertible roof and revised rear suspension of later cars is alarming scuttle shake – with shaking over road imperfections that can knock the car off course if you aren’t careful. Motor said that the ride could hardly be described as supple, but the direct and quick steering was a boon when it came to controlling the car. Yes it’s weighty unless assisted – but isn’t a TVR meant to be a bit meaty? The steering is just part of the experience – and the effort you put in means you get more out of it when you judge a corner just right, clip the apex, and perhaps kick the back end out on the exit.

So while there’s a good chassis underneath it, the stiffness and the power means you can’t afford to get blasé about the TVR Wedge. Like a big dog, it has the ability to bite you hard if you abuse it. Yet once you see eye to eye it will be one of the best cars you ever drive… A Wedge is not for the foolhardy or the uninitiated – but if you’re up to it, it’s an experience to savour.

Go or no go

For those seeking a hit of the genuine TVR experience, a 400SE is exactly that. It’s fierce, loud, aggressive, and a little intimidating for newcomers to the world of TVR. If you’re looking to try a TVR for a bit of a thrill, we recommend a later Chimaera – softer and more usable than the Wedge – but if you’re prepared to treat a Wedge with respect you’ll find it a rewarding car to own. And remember, Wedges come in other flavours too, from the original 200bhp 350i right up to the insanely brutish SEAC models with prices from only ten grand!

Quick spin


You won’t find any model exactly wanting!


With a TVR, you’d rather put your foot down…


Wide, but you get used to it, a real driver’s car that demands respect and appreciation – rather than fear


Ample but can do with modern uprating

Ease of use

Are you brave enough to take one on?

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