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TVR Chimaera

TVR Chimaera Published: 9th Apr 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 4.5/5.0 with leather, and PAS
  • Worst model: Anything in neglected condition
  • Budget buy: 4.0 (240bhp)
  • OK for unleaded?: Yes, timing adjustment
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): mm L4015 x W1865
  • Spares situation: Clubs help with rarer items
  • DIY ease?: Some aspects are
  • Club support: Pretty good
  • Appreciating asset?: Only the best
  • Good buy or good-bye?: The ‘modern’ Healey?
Unlike later TVRs, the Chimaera at least boasts acceptable looks and not too showy. Build quality isn’t bad, the problem is chassis rust say specialists and you need to inspect all cars with extreme care - or have an expert do it Unlike later TVRs, the Chimaera at least boasts acceptable looks and not too showy. Build quality isn’t bad, the problem is chassis rust say specialists and you need to inspect all cars with extreme care - or have an expert do it
Evergreen Rover V8 is tuned by TVR to monster levels. Even base 4.0 is rapid enough… Evergreen Rover V8 is tuned by TVR to monster levels. Even base 4.0 is rapid enough…
Interior looks plush and not kit car although it doesn’t age very well, so check it out Interior looks plush and not kit car although it doesn’t age very well, so check it out
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A TVR that takes its name from ancient mythology, but there’s nothing ancient about the Chimaera with its blistering road performance and driving satisfaction. It’s the modern and more convenient equivalent of the Hairy Healey but much cheaper to buy

It sounds like a bit of a paradox but the Chimaera, a thoroughly modern TVR is becoming particularly attractive to older classic car enthusiasts and the reason is simple. With its beefy looks and ‘hairy’ image, they are much reminded of the Big Healeys they used to run back in the swinging 1960s and 70s. And what’s wrong with that? The TVR enjoys a similar ‘man’s car’ character and image that marked the Healey out, even though the Chimaera is actually a softer take on the brutal Griffi th. Shorn of driver aids like traction control, the Chimaera can rightly be called a ‘driver’s car’ of the old school yet comes with modern conveniences which even the most die-hard enthusiast would appreciate for today’s roads.
If this sounds like your type of serious classic sports car, then don’t delay as Chimaeras are rising in value, because firstly they are being appreciated for what they are, and secondly the fact that really good ones are becoming increasingly thinner on the ground.

HISTORY

1989 The Griffith concept car was aired at the Motor Show, prompting over a hundred orders even though the car took two years to finally surface.
1993 TVR boss and true-blue enthusiast Peter Wheeler quickly identifi ed a market for a ‘softer’, more practical version of the Griff and so launched the Chimaera, with modifi ed 4.0 (240bhp) and 4.3-litre (280bhp) versions of the Rover V8, tuned by TVR’s performance arm TVR Power although the original intention was to use TVR’s own all new AJP V8 which eventually surfaced in the fi xed-headed Cerbera. The rest of the running gear was Griffi th but the suspension was made softer using Bilstein instead of Koni damping.
1994 This was a big year for the Chimaera. A much tougher Borg Warner T5 gearbox replaced the weaker Rover unit by June. Two months later, the new ‘Serpentine’ engine which used a single poly-vee belt driving a new alternator, power steering and water pumps was standardised. At the tail end of the year a 5-litre (325bhp) engine became optional, meaning that a choice of 4.0, 4.3, 4.5 and 5-litre power was available. Power steering became a welcome option, and soon a standard fit.
1996 Slight but welcome improvements were dialed in during production, such as the door opening buttons, which were moved to the door mirrors, the boot lip was lengthened to ease opening while stylingwise, the rear panel became colour-keyed and the grille was blended in.
1998 Further changes saw the number plate lights changed while for 1999, the boot hinges were hidden, fuel tank changed and uprated seat adjusters installed.
2001 This was the final fling; the headlights were faired in and the seats were changed using Cerbera times which were narrower.

DRIVING AND PRESS COMMENTS

Make no mistake these cars are blisteringly quick, whatever engine is fi tted and even the owner’s handbook gives details on how to drive the car best – and that’s with respect but not fear. Even the ‘base’ 240bhp (some question TVR’s optimistic power outputs, incidentally) 4-litre blasts to 60 in fi ve seconds or so. Yes, the larger-engined versions are even faster but the difference is fractions; 0-60 in the 4.3 in 4.7 and the magic ton in 11.1 seconds, for example. The 325bhp 5.0 monster has more of an edge but, unless you’re into track days (something the Chimaera is totally ideal for it has to be said), you have to question whether you need anything larger than the 4.3-litre although 4.5’s added torque is welcome. Even more important than the stopwatch stuff is the sheer usability of this evergreen V8, which provides masses of power, in any gear, for easypeasy overtaking.

With all this grunt on tap and the car deviod of modern driver aids, you’d think that the Chimaera would be a handful. Well – you’re right, it is – but only in ham-fi sted hands. Yet by adopting the recommended and time-honoured Police practice ‘slow in-fast out’ driving technique, the TVR reverts to placid and easily controlled understeer which can be balanced on the throttle at whim and trimmed by a delightfully direct steering; the PAS set up is geared at just 2.2 turns lock-to-lock, but without undue over-sensitivity. Chimaeras without power steering on the other hand are much harder work, like a Healey, and not so nice, even for traditionalists! The TVR’s ride is amazingly compliant for such a car; this is no boneshaker like an old Healey or a modern MGR V8, for example. The Ford Sierra brakes are up to the task in hand, too unles the car is track driven.

For all its brutish nature, the Chimaera is astonishingly well suited for relaxed touring thanks to that aforementioned Lotus-like compliant ride and a plush cockpit that’s as comfy as it is commodious. It’s quite easy on the pocket too with 20-25mpg being the base fi gure and as much as 30mpg would you credit if you’re careful on the loud pedal, so say many owners. As you’d expect, being true blue car fans, the press raved about the heroic Chimaera. Car did it in rather sound-bite terms, “A Rover powered TVR that does 150+ mph and 0-60mph in under five”, adding that the “handling is predictably hairy” but admitted that a “large boot makes Chimaera surprisingly practical. Overall, “complete, a complete hoot”.

PRICES

Mike Luck of David Gerald TVR stresses that old maxim of buyer beware because while some 6000 were made, the majority of cars that exist now require a signifi cant amount of work to make good, usually to the chassis where rust can be hidden to such an extent that only a full body removal will reveal the horrors. This is true of perhaps nine out of 10 cars, says Luck although James Agger reckons on a more lenient 50 per cent. He adds that around £15,000 is needed to buy really good warranted models as even immaculate looking examples, many priced at under 10 grand are penny-to-a-pound liabilities. Also parts supplies is becoming an issue with power steering systems being a case example. Mike Luck also feels that, for a variety of reasons, owners are starting to lay up their cars rather than use them like they used to do only a couple of years back. On the other hand, such is the growing interest from abroad that David Gerald TVR developed a left-hand drive conversion. What will happen, feels Mike, is that good, honest UK cars will diminish, although values will rise as a result, meaning they are unlikely to get any cheaper. David Gerald has looked at the feasibility of marketing fully reconditioned cars several times but Luck says the cost of restoration would push screen prices to around £30,000 to make it worthwhile and there’s not many enthusiasts ready to pay that amount for a Chimaera. Yet.

IMPROVEMENTS

Let’s be honest here, any Chimaera is quick enough for today’s roads and rather than trying to tune and improve this already pretty well sorted sports car, simply ensuring that the basics, such as suspension geometry, are up to spec. This, along with a good session at a TVR specialist, may be all that you need to make a Chimaera good again. Assuming that the chassis is sound and its geometry spot on, poly bushing is a sensible fi rst step although unless we’re talking about track days, many TVR experts believe that the original spec ones provide the best compromise. New dampers come next and the likes of of Gaz, Gold Pros, AVO and Nitron are the top choices but the last type cost a cool £1000 a set. The Ford brakes are adequate but there’s also a host of brake upgrades to opt for, such as the Alcon four piston brake kit that require no adaptors to fi t. With Ferodo DS pads, 13 per cent reduced pedal travel and fi ve per cent less pedal effort are claimed along with improved feel. More speed wanted? You can take two of the three cats out of the exhaust, put in a more extreme camshaft, add a better, mappable ECU system of which there are several types – but all are expensive mods.

There is also a complete engine upgrade at £3250 plus VAT which involves driving your car into TVR Power who will strip, inspect and overhaul the unit plus also uprate the cam, port the cylinder heads, and so on before issuing an impressive three year unlimited mileage warranty as you revel in an extra 20bhp with much better driveability and fuel consumption: http://www.tvrpower.co.uk. The standard cooling system is just about up to the job when new so it’s well worth fitting an uprated one, even on standard cars.

What To Look For

  • Stout chassis but despite powder coating can badly rot says David Gerald TVR. The worst areas are the outriggers; repairing properly can cost the thick end of £2000. Check for bodging to save costs.
  • Experts say even MoT examiners can fail to spot the rot. If that bad perhaps a new chassis is best, even at almost £4000 fi tted (around £1700 bare).
  • Even if sound, look for patchwork repairs, signalling bodged shunt repairs. Check for rust at the suspension points as the front is prone to this. If you’re in doubt have a TVR specialist examine the car; TVRCC has details of specialists that members have recommended providing a nationwide inspection or car sourcing service.
  • Shell is fairly durable. Stone chip damage to the snout is common, as are poorly repaired prangs. Rosso Pearl is prone to fading so if too good it may well have been resprayed.
  • li>Fitting later bomb-proof BW unit to an early car isn’t straightforward as chassis needs to be altered.
  • T5s can jump out of fi rst gear. Poor change only due to nylon cup breaking up at base of the lever.
  • Axle is tough. Check for the usual; GKN units fitted up to 1997 are virtually unobtainable now. A thudding going on/off the power suggests the rear mount bushes are shot.
  • Check the front wishbones for corrosion. Void bush wear is another easy to fix weak spot.
  • Power-steering is worth having, even if it does suffer oil leaks. As the braking system is essentially Ford Sierra 2.0, parts availability is not a worry and there’s good potential to uprate.

Verdict

The Chimaera is arguably the last of its kind, and certainly from TVR; this being a conventional, straight talking ‘driver’s car’ of the Big Healey kind but with a modern twist and conveniences. Thankfully, unlike later TVRs, the Chimaera’s styling is restrained and subtle enough to have some class about it and so will turn heads for the right reasons. If this sounds like your sort of sports car classic then buy one while prices remain reasonable although don’t just fi xate on the screen price and buy the best your budget can possibly run to because it will pay dividends in the long run. Car magazine summed up the car saying it “clears the head”. Clear thinking here means that you should also see the pure logic of owning this modern classic.



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