This roadster looks great, sounds even better, and the sledgehammer performance is hard to resist.
If you’re not instantly smitten by the looks, then you almost certainly will be by the driving experience. Dominated by the bellowing V8 engines, the noise and performance are seriously addictive and it takes only a matter of yards to realise why the Griffith is so popular. Unashamedly macho in design and execution, lack of traction control or ABS means a degree of caution is needed in slippery conditions.
The well-judged suspension set-up and strong brakes inspire confidence though and there’s real enjoyment to be had on the right road. The Griffith’s cabin is a fine place to spend time, and there is plenty of equipment too. A sound driving position with plenty of adjustment and supportive seats make for a fine long-distance companion, so this really is a performance car to use every day.
Power (bhp@rpm) 340bhp@5500rpm
Torque (lb ft@rpm) 350lb ft@4000rpm
Top speed 167mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
There are no particular issues with the high quality GRP bodywork, although the low-slung nose is susceptible to stone-chips and it’s worth checking for cracks or minor damage that can be tricky to repair. A surfeit of power, no electronic driver aids, and popularity as a track day tool mean accident damage is a real possibility, so iffy panel alignment should ring alarm bells. Impacts won’t do much for chassis alignment either so get a professional inspection if you’re unsure. Make sure the lift-out targa panel and rear screen are undamaged as neither are a cheap fix, while some exterior parts (the Cavalier GSi-sourced smoked tail lights for instance) are hard to find.
Checking the state of the chassis is absolutely vital on a Griffith. The steel spaceframe was powder-coated to (unsuccessfully) prevent corrosion, and the safest approach is to assume it will be rotten. Outriggers are usually first to go, and while repairs may be possible without removing the body, a £2000 bill from a specialist beckons. The chassis tubes are visible in the wheelarches at the end of the sill and if the coating has chipped away and rust is visible here, assume the worst and get the car on a ramp. However, removing the body is often the only way of being certain.
The Rover-derived V8s were 4.0, 4.3, and 5.0-litre units (with a tiny number of 4.5s built), all with Lucas engine management. Don’t worry too much about oil leaks – the sump joint and rocker cover are the likely culprits and easy to sort – but failed camshafts were a known weakness so check for evidence of replacement. Leaking radiators can cause overheating so keep an eye on the dials during the test drive – fitting an uprated aluminium item is a worthwhile modification. Cracked exhaust manifolds aren’t unheard of either.
Gearboxes were either the LT-77 Rover unit (early models) or the Borg Warner T5 (500 and all models from 1994). Both are strong with the T5 considered almost indestructible in normal use, although a graunch when selecting reverse is normal on these – selecting a forward gear first avoids the problem. Clutches last well considering the performance – usually 30,000 miles or so – while a slight whine from the limited slip differential isn’t a worry. The GKN unit in early cars was swapped for a Salisbury from 1994.
The brakes are more than up to handling the performance but watch for juddery warped discs. Uneven tyre wear or knocking over bumps is likely to mean suspension bushes and ball-joints in need of attention, and make sure you examine the chassis where the wishbones attach, as it’s a common rot-spot. Power steering was a desirable option when new, though bear in mind new powered racks aren’t available.
Top-quality cabin materials mean you’ll be facing a substantial four-figure bill for a complete re-trim, so make sure the wood and leather are undamaged and there is no evidence of water leaks. Substantial heat-soak means air-conditioning is desirable so make sure it blows cold and check all the electrics work as intended. Any signs of bodged wiring on a Griff’ should have you running a mile.
For sheer looks and drama, a well-sorted Griffith is a car many of us would find hard to resist. Admittedly, the shouty attitude won’t suit everyone and it isn’t a car for shrinking violets, but if it’s performance you want and a car that turns every journey into an occasion, then this TVR is for you. We’d take the full-fat 500.