There’s no denying that the Rover V8 has lots of character, but it has to be acknowledged that much of the character is a result of its shortcomings. I remain a big fan of the engine though – the throaty burble they eminate still sends a chill up my spine each time I hear one.
Compared to modern equivalents however, it’s soon apparent just how dated the motor is. Millions of cars around the world now use the Chevrolet V8 and whilst lacking in the rough edged character of the Rover, it’s smooth power delivery, easy breathing and omnipresent torque make it an endearing power plant.
Chevy into TVR
In TVR Land there has been debate for year after year about the merits of fitting Chevy V8’s to the V8 TVRs. I’ve never been a fan of the idea, convinced that a TVR without the unique TVR sound would just not stack up – it would feel wrong somehow, like a nun wearing jeans.
I’ve been converted however – as has Jon Ellison’s Chimaera. He and his father set about the project that everyone else talked about. The end result is neat, tidy and without fuss or drama – you’d be forgiven for thinking it was easy.
As with all projects of this nature though, the tidy execution is the result of meticulous planning and research. Father and son measured, researched, measured, researched and measured again.
The conversion included a full body off clean-up of the chassis to ensure it was sound and would resist rust for a good few years to come.
Thanks to that research, the end result is very unlike may engine conversions which resort to compromise, hacking of engine bays and general untidiness. The engine bay of Jon’s Chimaera looks as good as new – better in fact, with some tidier exhaust pipes, bespoke propshaft, neatly plumbed in cooling system (new alloy radiator) and not a bodge visible. The Tremec T5 gearbox was ditched in place of a more robust Tremec TKO600.
As you’d expect the wiring presented a considerable challenge. Salvation was found in a drawer – an old business card picked up at a race meeting a couple of years before. On that card were the contact details for a wiring specialist who had the knowledge to know which part of the existing loom to remove and how to connect a one-off custom loom that Jon had had made for the car.
Jon estimates this could be reduced to below £10,000 but it would be a compromise with maybe an LS1 (350bhp version of the engine), T5 and somehow using parts of the existing exhaust – Jon just want to go the hole hog!
Jon and his father completed the project in a relatively quick 5 months – after enormous amounts of planning which saved much time at the point of assembly. The actual build once all the right bits were in one place was more like 6 – 8 weeks.
So how does an American V8 affect the character of this most British of sports cars? In a manner that I didn’t expect. The LS6 powered car drives sooo smoothly. I was expecting an angry Steve McQueen Bullet style car that rocked like a boat when revved. The reality is actually a relatively quiet, incredibly smooth engine that suits the relatively softly sprung Chimaera beautifully. Cruising about in the Chimaera is easy – few gear changes are required thanks to the torquey motor and the modern feel fits surprisingly well with the simple TVR.
It becomes a beautiful cruiser with real muscle. You could imagine crossing continents in this car with utter ease.
Making use of up to 300bhp is easy – on the lengthy drive that Jon granted me I planted my foot a few times, overtook a couple of cars and generally enjoyed the ease with which more motion could be attained. Power delivery is incredibly smooth and predictable and weight is a little down on the Rover unit. The engine is also placed a few inches further back than in the standard car.
When Jon took the wheel he demonstrated what happens when that last 100bhp is woken up – and what an evil bunch of horses they are. The Chimaera squirmed and reeled as 400 angry stallions attempted to hurl the car up the road. There was little chance of achieving that in a straight line thanks to the basic suspension setup of the Chimaera. This is the point at which the current chassis setup (standard springs, dampers and bushes) can’t ‘cope’ with the power – it’s not a matter of strength, but of sophistication. With Jon’s experience of the car he revels in the wayward nature of the car at the extremes, taming it, riding it, keeping it in check as the car hits light speed in an instant. Jon intends to uprate the suspension over the winter.
If a manufacturer was to make a car like this, they’d sensibly limit it 300 bhp – Jon’s pursuit of extreme power is quite understandable though and if he achieves his goal of 440bhp, give that purple beauty a wide berth. You can bet it’ll be wagging its tail wildly up the road with Jon grinning at the wheel.