TVR TUSCAN REVIEW

TVR’s long overdue replacement for the historically rather parts-bin Grantura finally broke cover in 1967, and instantly caused quite a stir. Previous models had never packed anything more powerful than a Coventry Climax, Ford Kent or BMC B-Series four-cylinder engine, but opening the bonnet of the first of the TVR Tuscans revealed a 4.7-litre V8 that packed 195bhp (over 270bhp on some US-market cars) and could push the little car all the way to 155mph.

Later models made do with a ‘mere’ V6 that mustered 136bhp and could top 125mph, but the car proved too much of a handful for buyers, and the Vixen that replaced it reverted to four-cylinder power.

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine 2994cc/6-cyl/OHV

Power 134bhp@4750rpm

Torque 173lb/ft@3000rpm

Top speed 125mph               

0-60mph 8.3sec

Economy N/A

Gearbox 4-speed manual

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK

The Tuscan uses a GRP body that is obviously impervious to rust, but crazing or cracking in the gelcoat is a sure sign of previous accident damage that hasn’t been repaired properly – quite a common problem on these often tricky handling little cars, and especially the V8. The tubular steel chassis can rot with the best of them, though, so make sure you take a peek underneath.

Build quality was never a strong point on these cars, and while most survivors are likely have been subjected to a proper restoration by now, check for mile-wide panel gaps and missing trim. This latter isn’t quite so much of a problem, as many trim items are shared with other, more mainstream cars – rear lights are shared with the Mk2 Ford Cortina, for example.

ENGINE

Tuscan power may have come courtesy of some seriously potent engines, but both the V6 and V8 are extremely tough units that can withstand big mileages with proper maintenance.

The 4.7-litre (289ci) Windsor V8 is closely related to the engine used in early Mustangs, and is as bullet-proof as any other small-block V8. The V6, meanwhile, is Ford’s familiar and easy to work on 3.0-litre Essex, as seen in both the Zodiac and Capri, among many other models. Both engines have plenty of tuning potential and huge parts back-up.

Common faults on maltreated cars include worn valve guides and/or piston rings (look out for oily exhaust smoke). Poor or erratic idling is often as a result of a damaged distributor or damaged contact breaker points, while excessive under-bonnet heat can cause fuel vaporisation, making an aftermarket electric fan a wise investment.

RUNNING GEAR

One area where the V6 and V8 cars do differ noticeably is in terms of their brakes. Where the V6 used front discs and rear drums, the V8’s greater power warranted better stopping power in the guise of all-round disc brakes.

Make sure the suspension is up to scratch, too: even the rare longer wheelbase models can oversteer seemingly at will in unpractised hands, so tired dampers and worn track-rod ends will simply make matters worse. Get any prospective purchase up onto a lift and have a good poke around. Better still, get a marque expert to do it for you.

Gearboxes have proved strong over the years, although any car that has seen hillclimb or trackday use may well be suffering from weakened synchromesh by now, with the upshift into second particularly prone to related crunching.

INTERIOR

This is where you need to be particularly vigilant when assessing a prospective purchase, as TVR trim build quality has never entirely inspired confidence.

One of the biggest issues concerns cab ventilation, which can be average to poor on both models, but particularly problematic on the V8s, which generate an enormous amount of heat. It was a problem when the cars were new, and short of expensive and/or Heath Robinson attempts to remedy the situation by previous owners, you’ll probably just have to put up with it.

Similarly, these cars are very popular with the motorsport fraternity, so cars in wholly original condition aren’t always easy to find, especially given the cars’ general rarity. If a car has spent time on-track, then bucket seats, re-trimmed dashboards, different steering wheels and so on may compromise an already cosy cockpit, especially on non-long-wheelbase cars, so do make sure you fit inside!

OUR VERDICT

This era of Tuscan was still under the remit of TVR legend, Martin Lilley, so they’re considered among the very best of the breed by marque aficionados. They’re also very rare (just 174 models in total sold between 1967 and 1971), extremely pretty and pack a ferocious punch when you put your foot down. The thunderous V8s in particular are almost absurdly fast, although the V6s aren’t that far behind. Take care with that oversteer-prone handling, though!

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