Zertec Development Car
Wednesday 5th September 2001
We try Zertec's 4.3 Griffith - can such a classic be improved on?
The TVR Griffith is without doubt a design classic. Only recently looking dated thanks to the release of the Tuscan, you'd think that this was a car not to be messed with aesthetically. However, Clive Reed of Zertec is undaunted by such trivialities, as can be seen from the Zertec development car.
Barely any aspect of the car remains untouched. Front to back, inside outside and underneath are a raft of enhancements that have individualised the car.
Front the front, the most obvious change is the lights. Opinion is divided on this one with as many people loving the look of the twin units as hating them. The installation can't be faulted whatever you might think of the looks. Perfectly blended in, they look like standard equipment to the uninitiated. What's more impressive though is seeing them in action. Even just a quick flash of the lights gives an effect more like a camera flash with the high intensity units sparking into life and dying again in a fraction of a second. The light emitted is obviously far superior to old style halogen units too.
The rear lights haven't escaped a makeover either. TVR have been known to cast their eye over the Zertec car from time to time with certain features making it onto production cars. Lets hope that the innovative approach to lighting is such a feature. Whilst Zertec's 'Afterburners' might be too much for Mr Wheeler, some of the ideas could certainly improve unimaginative lighting solutions currently being used on production cars.
The most obvious accessory on the car is the 'Monaco' hood cover. The main purpose of this two piece accessory is to reduce wind noise when cruising. It's certainly effective with chatter still possible on a 120mph test.
It's colour coded with your body work to give the original equipment look, but we weren't convinced that the proportions were that flattering to elegant lines of the Griff.
TVR seats have improved over the years with the latest designs providing good lateral support. The same can't be said of earlier designs which although comfortable weren't so practical when it came to track days and extreme driving. Zertec are about to release two styles of replacement seats as can be seen in the pictures. The prototypes fitted to the development car proved a tad narrow for my pie-enhanced rear but wider seats will be available.
They're trimmed to match your interior including some nice 'carbon-fibre' effect leather. Two styles are available - Racing and Sports - depending on your requirements regarding slots for harnesses etc. A range of features is available including adjustable height squabs, different headrests, lumbar support, heating etc. Constructed of GRP or composites they feel extremely rigid in the car, providing both the much needed lateral support and the proper seat of your pants feedback required when driving the car near the limit.
The interior of the Zertec Griff is a homage to chrome. No part of the instrumentation or switchgear has escaped untouched with a Cerbera Style instrument pod below the steering wheel and chrome switchgear everywhere. It's quite a sight.
Driving the car brings home to you what 'Zertec'ing' is all about. The standard 4.3 Griffith is a classic car which Clive has honed. Aside from the cosmetic enhancements, he's had the suspension aligned by an expert who spends his days tuning Colin McRae's rally cars and the difference is startling. The standard suspension components remain in place as Clive believes TVR were spot on with their original set up. What was lacking - particularly in an eight year old car - was the precise geometry that fully exploits the setup. The difference is startling. Drive an older Griff back to back with the Zertec Griff and you'll be amazed at the poise and precision communicated back through the steering and the rigid seats. It's an absolute dream. For someone who doesn't drive a Griffith very often, the confidence inspired by the sure-footedness of this car is unique. And that's all with the original suspension components still in place!
As I toyed with the car along the country roads of Essex my first experience with the uprated brakes came as quite a shock. Dabbing the middle pedal as I headed towards an easy right hander, I obviously applied a tad too much eagerness. All four wheels locked until I eased up a little and then car then just slowed dramatically. Although such braking ability was a little disconcerting it was a joy to use the middle pedal once I'd got the measure of it. The stopping power of the huge front mounted dinner plates was just phenomenal. The Brembo units - grooved 300mm fully floating discs with 4 pot calipers - make braking a race-car like experience.
The final under body modification that Clive thought necessary was in the exhaust department. Four burbling tailpipes poke out from the back of the car making a noise that is just pure music to any petrolhead. Give the car some welly and the the roar made as you depart cannot fail to bring a broad smile to your face. You'll need to be thick-skinned to go for the exhaust mod however, as in this day of politically correct namby pamby noise abatement you'll be the subject of many a frown as you blip the throttle in the High Street.
I left Zertec with renewed enthusiasm for what could be achieved from my own older TVR. I was massively impressed by a car of similar age that had tweaked to a level of competence possibly above that of when it was originally made. Best of all it was done with simple modifications and an intelligent approach that exploited the original design features of the car rather than just replacing them en-masse.
Now what can you do with my tired old shed of an 'S' Clive...?