DRIVEN: THE LAST-EVER TVR GRIFFITH
The Griff marked the end of an era for TVR, and we get to take the last-ever one for a spin
Look at the car in these pictures and, if you have more than a passing acquaintance with the TVR Griffith, you'll notice something's slightly amiss.
The registration plate bears the number '02' in its midst, marking it out as a late Griffith (as do the rear lights), and yet the oh-so-shiny cross-spoke alloy wheels look like they belong on a much earlier car.
As a TVR textbook (TVR - Ever The Extrovert, hand-delivered to me by Garlick and transported, appropriately, via his own Chimaera) explains: "After ten years of production, this Griffith 500 was the last off the line and only distinguishable from earlier models by its clear indicator lenses and different wheel design. It was a hard act to follow and its subtlety was not repeated."
And very much is a TVR of the 90s. Where the TVRs of the early 21st-century became increasingly outrageous and extreme, the Griffith remained true to that British hot-rod spirit that made TVR such an appealing brand in the first place. Simple attractive lines, hiding a simple rear-drive chassis and a plain ol' honest-to-goodness V8 up front.
It feels like a deeply traditional car when you fire up that big 5.0-litre V8 and get the car on the move, too. The driving position is hardly the last word in adjustability, but once you've wedged the seat into the right position you should find that it's actually quite comfy. The steering, gearchange and clutch pedal, meanwhile, are perhaps most politely described as 'positive' (and less politely as downright agricultural), but again this is key to the Griffith's simple, no-nonsense appeal: this is a car you have to manhandle to get the best from.
But objective competency is not the point of cars like the Griffith - subjective enjoyment is. And the Griffith delivers bucketfuls of that. The chassis was developed from the Tuscan race car, so it feels sharp, engaged, alive, while the 320bhp V8 is raw, visceral and very powerful. Whether or not it is possessed of that full claimed compliment of horses is beside the point - it feels fast, and that is surely what counts above all.
But the Griffith is no monster; it treads the fine line between scary and satisfying with true delicacy. Sure, it won't suffer fools, but nor do you feel it is going to bite you provided you treat it with sufficient respect. In fact, if you're used to that particular breed of modern performance car that eats up cross-country miles faster than a hungry fat man devours chips in McDonald's (you know, the Subarishi GT-R type car), you will be more than a little surprised by a drive in a Griffith.
The Griffith is, one might argue, everything that made TVR such a great brand distilled into one mouthwatering package: brutal, beautiful, no-nonsense, and fast. It's often said that they don't make 'em like this anymore. In this case, it's sadly genuinely true.
A massive thanks to The Fernhurst Motor Company for lending us their (very lovely) car.
Pics: Steve Hall