TVR CHIMAERA REVIEW

The Chimaera was produced by TVR for nine years, between 1992 and 2003. Those who remember Greek myths and legends from school will be familiar with the cars name Chimaera was a creature composed of several different animal parts. The two seater was equipped with various sized engines throughout its production lifespan, ranging from a 4.0l V8 to a 5.0l V8.

It's an affordable route into TVR ownership, and you'll never tire of the looks or the exhaust note. Here's how to pick up some Blackpool thunder.

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine 4495cc/V8/OHV

Power 285bhp @ 5500rpm

Torque 300lb ft @ 4250rpm

Top Speed 158mph

0-60mph 4.6sec

Consumption 20mpg

Gearbox 5-speed manual

Values £6000-22,000

IMPRESSIONS

The Chimaera is one smooth car. Free of door handles, fuel filler cap and even number plate lights, it has an unadorned beauty. Yet that chiselled snout hints at the menace that lurks below the sculpted bonnet while air vents allow a glimpse of the beast below.

Open the bonnet and the big V8 looks very snug in there.  The exhaust manifold sweeps forward into a huge downpipe that looks rather like an anaconda that's swallowed a small deer. Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into this installation.

Slip inside, and the work of Peter Wheeler, the man behind TVR in the Nineties and responsible for the Chimaera, becomes apparent. He was keen to move away from the parts-bin feel that typified earlier TVRs, and the bespoke switchgear is a clear indication of that. Ok, so the Vauxhall ignition barrel would be perfectly at home in a Mk2 Cavalier, but the column stalks, most of the switchgear and the gear knob are beautifully hewn out of aluminium. It's also very apparent that this is a quality place to sit, with lots of leather and visible stitching which is beautiful to behold. The seats are supremely comfortable too, a reminder that the Chimaera was meant to be a bit softer than the all-out Griffith sibling. All things are relative though – it’s a bit like saying that the Tiger is the least dangerous of the big cats.

If you're wondering what the control on the centre console does – the one that's not a gearshift or handbrake – it opens the doors, which use electric solenoids. All part of the drama and a reminder that this is definitely not the mainstream.

ON THE ROAD

The big V8 fires up seemingly with all the enthusiasm of a schoolboy with an early morning test. It's lumpy and sort of gurgles away up front sounding like an out of tune American pick-up. It's still very pleasant, but it doesn't really sound sporting, though the exhaust note has a thunderous beat to it.

Undaunted, I select first with the stubby shifter – which has a delightfully mechanical action – and ease up the clutch. Of course, there's oodles of torque, so barely any throttle is needed as I manoeuvre away. With the engine cold, I keep the changes coming and burble off down the road. This gives a chance to take in my surroundings. It's immediately apparent that the steering is geared to be very direct, but power assistance takes the effort out of it at low speeds. However, it takes a little getting used to, with the steering feeling a bit nervous as I get used to quickness of it.

Ride comfort is impressive, especially for a car that also feels so raw. Even Fenland roads cannot upset the composure, though really broken surfaces to cause the plastic panels to rattle slightly. However, comfort isn’t really what this car is about, so now the engine's nice and warm, let's see what she'll do.

At 50mph in fifth, a brutal application of throttle soon has speed picking up, but if anything, it feels a bit tame for something that's got as much power as this. A junction gives a chance to slot down to second and this time, it's a very different story. That V8, which had seemed so truculent and even, dare I say it, a bit lazy, screams like a startled mare and once 3000rpm is reached, the power comes thick and fast. Keep the pedal down and the exhaust goes from a burble to a full-blooded roar as the engine rapidly heads towards peak power at 5500rpm. The gate is short and I snick the lever to third for a brief burst before thing get a touch on the speedy side, so I slot into fifth. And smile a lot.

As the road twists and curves, the handling comes alive. The enormous tyres tame the power, and provide plenty of grip. The direct steering is perfectly weighted at speed and with practise, you can aim the nose with uncanny precision. Ease the power in for balance and once heading straight (and only when doing so) the right-pedal can be lowered once more and we're off to the next one.

The brakes need a good shove to give their best, but that feels right. They're certainly up to the task and give me the confidence that yes, I will be going at a sensible speed when I reach my turn-in point. It's all incredible exciting yet, when you decide to calm things down and head back to the main roads, the car changes character once more, and becomes relatively docile and gentle. However, if you keep pottering around a village for too long, the car develops a brooding impatience to get moving again, feeling distinctly lumpy if you bimble around for too long.

It certainly delivers an entertaining driving experience, and it's most odd to recall that production of the Chimaera only ended five years ago. It's even more incredible to realise that Chimaeras do not cost the earth to buy. The one I'm driving has a value of £11,995 – that's Merc SL or Triumph Stag money. The Chimaera has left me feeling utterly thrilled, demonstrating that the Great British sportscar traditions were alive well into the 21stCentury

OUR VERDICT

The Chimaera is great to drive, and shouldn't prove difficult to look after if you buy a sound example; and there's excellent club and specialist support. The addictive noise and performance is worth every penny in our book.

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