As TVR entered the 1990's, the Wedges that had taken the company through the 1980's were nearing the limits of development. The humble Tasmin 280 had evolved into the awesome 450 SEAC. However TVR's order books were now dominated by the curvy 'S' series. Customers favouring the good looking 'S' were asking for a more powerful model.
Various prototypes were experimented with, including the ES and the Speed 8. Peter Wheeler wasn't happy with these development exercises and at the 1990 Motor Show TVR TVR unveiled the new model. They revived a famous name from their past and christened the model the 'Griffith'. The public loved it, and 350 deposits were taken immediately.
Based on a strengthened chassis from the 'S', it featured a 4 litre modified Rover V8 and a body that has become a design classic. With the engine sitting to the rear of the front axle it had almost perfect balance with a 51/49% weight distribution. The stlyish bonnet was also practical with heat being vented from the radiator which was placed flat in the nose.
A smoother car cannot be found. Creative ideas such as setting the door handles into a recess behind the door, back lighting the number plate and placing the fuel filler cap in the boot, created a very clean unfussed shape. The total lack of bumpers accentuates the curves.
Good, but not good enough
Peter Wheeler wasn't happy though. The 'S' chassis was good enough for up to around 270bhp but he planned on much more powerful Griffiths and therefore needed an even stronger chassis. The V8 and strengthened chassis were used to produce the V8S, whilst development work continued on the Griffith.
So by 1991 TVR had switched to using the chassis from the Tuscan Racer. Shortened by two inches, this was a stiffer chassis that could easily cope with the power requirements (Tuscans produce over 400 bhp!). By that time a few styling modifications had also been made.
With Mr Wheeler now happy with the car, production began in earnest and the first cars were delivered in 1992. 73% of production in 1992 was given over to the Griffith, a total of 604 cars. Launched at a price of £24,802 it was around £3000 cheaper than the 400SE effectively killing demand for the older Wedge.
More BHP please...
For an extra £2,404 customers could specify the 4.3 V8. By gas-flowing and polishing the heads, reprofiling the camshaft, upping the compression ratio, lightening and balancing the flywheel, and remapping the electronic engine management system and fuel injection output was 280bhp at 5500rpm and a formidable 305lb ft of torque at only 4000rpm. The majority of customers specified this engine over the four litre.
The car was received much acclaim in the motoring press. Here was a beautiful British built car, that was to be produced in reasonable numbers and with performance to embarrass most supercars at half the price of its foreign rivals. Almost the only criticism they could make was about nervousness in rear suspension. This was later addressed by changing the tyre size, spring rates and shock valving.
UK Production halted!?
Production of UK Griffiths was halted in December 1992. Time was needed to allow export orders to be fulfilled and Chimaera production was now in full swing. TVR's own engine - the AJP8 - was nearing readiness and was destined for the Griffith.
340 bhp enough?
Unfortunately the AJP slipped behind schedule and TVR were left with the dealers desperate for Griffiths. A five litre catalysed version of the Rover V8 was slipped into the Griffith producing the Griffith 500 - a car with truly awesome performance. Launched in August of 1993 Autocar magazine even accused it of having too much power.
The car received a mild facelift with the driving lamps now incorporated into the air intake recess. Oz wheels were used. Production of left hand drive Griffiths for European markets commenced in 1993.
Production of Griffiths dwindled over the years and particularly since the introduction of the Tuscan. A final 'Griffith 100' model was announced in 2000 to mark the end of production. One hundred models will be produced, identifiable by their unique rear lights and complete with more aluminium finishing for the interior.