PH Fleet: TVR Chimaera and Mazda MX-5


Not many miles have been travelled in the cabrio duo due to my new passion for cycling to the office (don't hate me), busy weekends, the unwell TVR and the odd loan car. The latter included a glorious supercharged XJ for BTaP, but that doesn't mean it's been an uneventful month for the Garlick fleet!

Not an ideal start to the trip to Fernhurst
Not an ideal start to the trip to Fernhurst
Last time I mentioned how the TVR wasn't behaving quite right, steaming from the expansion tank and with an ineffective heater. Enough to put it on the subs bench until the issue was rectified. When I did start it the temperature was maintaining a safe level so it was booked to return to (you've guessed it) Fernhurst TVR to have the problem investigated as well as having the annual service and MOT. I arrived at PHHQ and all was well, leaving early to avoid traffic on the A3 but getting all of two miles before admitting defeat. The gauge was climbing (within safe levels) but I was concerned enough to kill the engine and call Adrian Flux Breakdown to get recovered the rest of the way.

After a 40-minute wait Andy arrived in his truck and loaded the Chimaera onto the back with the comment of "nice cars, but they always break..." The cheek! Turns out Andy was an Escort Cosworth owning PHer so we had a good chat for the next hour or so as we made our way into deepest Sussex. The car was dropped off and I returned home in the waiting Mini Cooper D loan car wondering how bad my wallet injury would be.

It was an expensive trip to Susex this time
It was an expensive trip to Susex this time
The next day I got the call. The radiator was holed and while it was still holding water it wasn't holding enough. It makes sense now as I was transfixed by the steam venting from the expansion tank on the upper right side of the engine, but the drip was coming from the bottom left. It also explains why I had to top the water up and (because it was still holding water) why the temp level was OK until the night I needed recovery.

I am a massive worrier when it comes to mechanicals and I'm pleased I am. The fact that I turned the engine off as soon as the temp started to creep meant absolutely no damage was done to the engine and once a new (recon) radiator was fixed the issue was resolved. The last time the car was at Fernhurst I mentioned the lack of heating and was told it was fine - maybe this problem could have been diagnosed earlier with a bit of investigation but at least we got there in the end.

Cats on to keep the neighbours quiet
Cats on to keep the neighbours quiet
That's not the end of the TVR tale. Once the radiator issue was described to me on the phone we got to the MOT and what it needed to pass. A lot. Despite only travelling 4,000 miles since the last test I needed to replace two upper ball joints, lots of gaiters and metres of fuel hoses amongst a host of other bits and bobs. The driveshaft needed to come out to fix things, the fuel pipes were quite a big job too and that's before the service was carried out and the catalysts replaced for the MOT. In the end I faced a bill into four figures but now have a freshly serviced and MOT'd TVR with no running problems whatsoever and the nuclear furnace heater has made a welcome return too. This time around I decided to leave the cats on after the MOT and while it's still loud it is less harsh-sounding and has a more refined V8 burble which I'm rather enjoying.

Meanwhile, in Mazdaworld
The Mazda is proving to be a great car and one both me and the Mrs enjoy using whenever we can. The new roof is leak free and the recently-fitted leather chairs add a level of thigh support that was missing with the original cloth seats. This was welcomed when I recently undertook a 400-mile motorway run without an ounce of discomfort and the little 1.8 surprised me with its competent motorway manners. What's next for the MX? Lots more miles over Christmas visiting friends and family and I'd like to get a bit of Waxoyl on the underside to protect my newly rust free sills too, but otherwise it will continue to be used as turn-key transport until the MOT is due in March 2013. Until then it will sit patiently on the street awaiting its next drive.

For less than the cost of a service on the TVR...
For less than the cost of a service on the TVR...
The Lexus refuses to leave my memory as it is now owned by a friend of mine and I see Facebook posts exclaiming how good it is, how comfy it is and (oddly) how frugal it is. Comments like this do nothing to ease my loss and what I should have done is sold it to a stranger and tried to forget. It was a good car, maybe when my mate is done with it I could buy it back ... maybe.

With winter firmly in place TVR miles will only take place on crisp sunny winter days, but I will be using it where I can to keep things running smoothly. In the meantime it's either the MX or the pushbike but I'll tell you more about that next time.


Fact Sheet:
Car:
 1999 TVR Chimaera 4.0
Run by: Garlick
Bought: December 2009
Purchase price: £12,995
Last month at a glance: Recovery, radiators, rather expensive

Fact Sheet:
Car:
 1997 Mazda MX-5 1.8is
Run by: Garlick
Bought: November 2012
Purchase price: £600
Last month at a glance: Reliable, much loved, needs protection



 

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Comments (88) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Gaz. 08 Dec 2012

    julian64 said:
    Nope its not. I firmly believe that TVR would still have a viable business model, and still be around if the owners bought the car signing a piece of paper to say they understood the kit car nature of the vehicle, and a list of kit car like failures that they wouldn't bring it back to the factory for.
    What mushrooms are they putting on your pizza Julian?

    TVR would have gone under even faster if you were in charge. Smolenski couldn't sell enough cars to keep things afloat as it was, never mind turning away a good percentage of any customers. TVR employees spent most of 2006 playing cards as the order books completely dried up and suppliers refused to provide any more goods until they were paid for monies owed so I can't see your plan reversing this.



  • heebeegeetee 08 Dec 2012

    julian64 said:
    Nope its not. I firmly believe that TVR would still have a viable business model, and still be around if the owners bought the car signing a piece of paper to say they understood the kit car nature of the vehicle, and a list of kit car like failures that they wouldn't bring it back to the factory for.

    At about the same time people were prepared to say they they never touched a spanner and were proud of that, TVR went under.

    I remember a conversation I once had where the same argument was being used by the head engineer in west malling TVR. He told me of a Tuscan customer who bought a tuscan back thirteen times in the first year, mainly because a corner of the carpet had come away. Each time they sprayed a bit of adhesive at it and stuck it back, each time he came back because he wasn't satisfied, even wrote them a letter to say the car was not fit for purpose because of the poor repair on the carpet and seemed aghast when he was told the whole carpet was secured that way.
    Fairly tongue in cheek they actually presented him with a can of spray free, and eventually offered to take the car back off his hands.

    Now that buyers indignation would be entirely justified had he had bought an MX5. Its a great little car designed to be reliable for the money. TVR was however a car designed for performance, not reliability. Anyone whos owned a TVR for any length of time has a toolkit in the back. Even the warranty companies became far and few between for TVRs because they didn't want to take them on.

    In garlicks case, top up the radiator, and get it home. If the water pours out the bottom of the car as soon as you put it in a hose has gone and you either get underneath and secure the clip back on or you're buggered, but more than likely if its a small hole and you monitor the temp, you can continue to top up the radiator and get home. Getting the radiator our takes about an hour and doesn't require much in the way of tools. Getting a raditor repaired cost about 50-100 quid.

    TVR marketed a put together KIT car, which gave maximum performance for minimum buck, but the downside was that the owner had to be understanding of this.

    Smolenski didn't kill TVR, he inherited a business model that the previous owner of TVR watched dissapear because people liked the idea of a TVR but actually needed an MX5.

    I'm not really trying to get at Garlick. I just see red when an article has both cars in and trys any sort of compare and contrast
    If they can't sort out carpet, what make you think they can sort anything else?

    I don't think the general public should put up with performance cars with kit car failures on the road. What on earth stopped TVR from building cars properly in the first place?

  • Russell B 08 Dec 2012

    If TVR hadnt started putting roofs on cars and using engines that can be problematic i reckon they would be here today. LS engines must be the best way to go and its sad the factory saw that too late.

  • julian64 07 Dec 2012

    TheLastPost said:
    julian64 said:
    I firmly believe that TVR would still have a viable business model, and still be around if the owners bought the car signing a piece of paper to say they understood the kit car nature of the vehicle, and a list of kit car like failures that they wouldn't bring it back to the factory for.
    Are you serious?!

    Quite apart from being illegal, such a disclaimer would destroy any company's credibility instantly and turn them into a complet laughing stock!

    'We are incapable of building an acceptable product and we expect you to sign this disclaimer acknowledging such before we are prepared to sell it to you. And oh, by the way, our intermediate service intervals consist of checking the brake pad thickness, fluid levels, bulbs, and a replacement for the chocolate engine we're about to sell you, you mug'.

    Yeah, right. I'll have two, please.
    I think you've just proved my point. No longer acceptable to buy that sort of car because of general attitudes like yours and subsequent legislation. But if a company like that was around I'd buy from them because I'd know that all the money I'd paid went into the engine or dynamics, not into a comittee of people designing carpet fasteners. I'd expect the sort of comittment to the car that TVRs needed.

  • smartypants 07 Dec 2012

    I suspect it's more your middle paragraph about petrol heads that pissed people off more.

    As for kit car and reliability, my boss bought a brand new Alfa 156 and was back to the garage nearly every week for gearbox problems. He eventually got his money back

    We all have stories to tell that can paint a picture we want to paint

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