RE: The Brave Pill: TVR Chimaera

RE: The Brave Pill: TVR Chimaera

Saturday 23rd March

The Brave Pill: TVR Chimaera

Mean, green, no garage queen - keen?



Last week's Maserati 4200GT proved to be the most easily swallowed Pill so far, with much love for its combination of presence, performance and a four-figure price. With that in mind we're going to stick with the SAS's conflation of daring and winning with this one, a similarly inexpensive TVR.

I honestly can't remember the first time I saw a Ferrari or a Lamborghini in the wild. Youthful memories have blended with magazines, movies and the searing dramatic heights of Magnum PI. But I do vividly recall the first time I saw a TVR Chimera. It was the summer of 1993 and it did nothing more than drive past on an urban street, stop at a set of traffic lights and then burble off again. Even at low speeds it was the most V8-y V8 that I'd ever heard, and the rest of the car looked similarly outrageous.

TVRs became faster, louder and more outrageous as the 'nineties became the 'noughties, but the Chimaera's combination of brutish charm and an enticing price made it TVR's most successful model of all time, with around 6000 produced. Back in 1994 you could buy one for £26,250, pretty much exactly half the £53,995 of a base 911, with the Chimera being a half second quicker to 60mph. These days it is the cheapest way into the brand's post-wedge era with values substantially under those of the closely related Griffith.


But are you brave enough for this one? It's fair to say that TVRs of this era have never enjoyed a stellar reputation for turn key reliability and they can still fall victim to some expensive maladies. This week's pill gives a good indication of what the bottom of the market looks like these days, a privately-sold 1996 4.0-litre car with some visual imperfections and a bilious green interior with a price tag that just dips into four figures.

It certainly offers plenty of bang for your buck. The Rover-sourced 4.0-litre engine produced a relaxed 240hp as it left the factory and the advert reports this one has been given a few upgrades since. While the headline power output might not sound like much by modern standards the Chim's lightweight construction and glassfibre bodywork means that it weighs pretty much exactly the same as a current MX-5, while still accommodating a chunky V8. Okay, the Mazda would look after you much better in a crash - as in, at all - but the TVR is still properly rapid. Even in 2019 a sub-5 second 0-60mph time is nothing to be sneezed at; in 1992 it was one of the fastest cars on the road.

Handling sophistication will be more limited, of course. Wheeler-era TVRs drove well providing you arrived at them with realistic expectations, fundamentally a desire to experience the adjective stretching straight line performance more than an urge to chase hot hatches down country lanes. Power steering was an option on early Chimaeras - bizarrely a certain type of driver still regarded it as a bit sissy - but the under-bonnet shots show that this one does have the pump that indicates fitment. There's no ABS or traction control though; those really were for jessies.


But the Chimaera's appeal was never just about performance or even that NASCAR soundtrack. It pretty much exemplified the canny way that Peter Wheeler ran TVR at the time, a simple recipe that propelled the brand to unprecedented success. The company's cars had to be fast and enticingly priced, but they also had to look good - the detail that other low volume sportscar makers tended to neglect. The Chimaera's styling has aged remarkably well, muscular but much less extreme than the models that followed it. The scalloped leading door edges might have been because of the difficulty of creating a tight shutline with a conventional fit, but what a simple, clever solution it was.

It's the same story in the cabin. While most hand-built sportscars feel their flakiest inside, the Chimaera has proper trim, a couple of cows' worth of leather and a nicely angled wooden dashboard. The rotary heating controls still look good, as does the bulbous gear lever that barely rises from the fat centre console. Okay, our pill's interior has a greenish Kermit-and-biscuit scheme that only Miss Piggy could truly love. But even a hater couldn't claim it looks lashed-up or thrown together.

Mechanically the Chimaera is about as safe a bet as a TVR can be. The Rover engine is an entirely known quantity and parts availability is total. Although a pre-facelift car, this one is still late enough to have the beefier Borg-Warner gearbox in place of the earlier, and more chocolaty, Rover LT77. The vendor of our Pill reports various changes, including the fitment of coilovers and polybushes in the front suspension and ARB, but is also offering to return most of the original parts for anyone who wants to take it back to stock.


Despite glassfibre bodywork the big risk with any Chimaera is rust, specifically in the steel outriggers that hold the body to the chassis. Fixing these means lifting the body clear - welding and composite not really getting on - so it's not a simple task. Wishbones also fall prey to tinworm with this car's MOT history reporting that the fronts were "corroded but not seriously weakened" as an advisory last year. Anyone interested should take a torch and a screwdriver or, better still, a proper expert.

But even if it does need some sympathetic spend, the Chimaera looks like an solid bet. Values have long since stopped falling, indeed good ones seem to be creeping up. The Griffith from the same era is sleeker and sportier - but it's not twice as good, which is where the market is currently valuing it. As a long term investment this Chimaera could be a very clever Trevor.

See the original advert

Author
Discussion

Equus

Original Poster:

5,870 posts

42 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Relatively tame, compared to last week's Maserati.

It's basically a kit car, after all, so relatively easy to fix if when it breaks.

Of are we into a different kind of 'brave'? My Griffith was the most lethal handling car I've ever driven (and since that includes rear-engined Skodas, that's probably saying something).

If Neanderthals had built sports cars...

Turbobanana

1,337 posts

142 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
What's wrong with the interior?

I'd have ordered that, or something similar; I certainly wouldn't want it with a "safe" black or grey one. If I wanted that I would have bought a "safe" Z3 or something.

Big GT

601 posts

33 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Wonderful machines . Looks and sounds fantastic. If mechanically sound this would make a decent daily.

Didn't a chap drive one of these from the artic circle to the bottom of south America in one of these last year?

carinaman

13,413 posts

113 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
I like that interior too.

sjabrown

1,268 posts

101 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
That is the first green interior I’ve seen that looks not too bad!!
Advertisement

Augustus Windsock

1,673 posts

96 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
I had one of these, albeit the ‘facelift’ model in what looks exactly the same body colour, but with full magnolia (?) leather
It had been ordered new by a British Army Captain (great grandson of the famous war poet Wilfred owen iirc), taken over to his posing in Germany and then returned a few years later
It had graphite-coloured ‘Spider’ alloys which looked so much better than the items in the featured car, and also updated calipers, discs and pads.
Which were great but steadfastly refused to work until warm which resulted in an amusing/frightening moment the first time I went out in it, approaching the junction at the end of my road I applied the brakes and went sailing out onto the main road...
Loved the thing, the roof system was great, allowing it to be fully up, or to have the centre panel removed and the rear section up, or fully al fresco
The boot was commodious and as we all know, allowed the roof panel to be stored vertically
In fact the only thing I did it like was that the wipers were quite poor, they seemed to touch the screen wherever it suited them when in use and only coping with light-moderate rain
Mine also had a tremendous sound system fitted which made me chuckle, as I actually subscribed to the ‘who needs a stereo with an engine soundtrack like this’ crowd.
Not sure I’d agree to the description of them being a kit car, but agree that they are overlooked and underrrated...
My old one pictured below...


Edited by Augustus Windsock on Saturday 23 March 08:40


Edited by Augustus Windsock on Saturday 23 March 08:41


Edited by Augustus Windsock on Saturday 23 March 08:42

Esceptico

1,667 posts

50 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Equus said:
Relatively tame, compared to last week's Maserati.

It's basically a kit car, after all, so relatively easy to fix if when it breaks.

Of are we into a different kind of 'brave'? My Griffith was the most lethal handling car I've ever driven (and since that includes rear-engined Skodas, that's probably saying something).

If Neanderthals had built sports cars...
I agree with the handling. Had a 944 Turbo at the time when I had a test drive in a Griffith 500. Test route took me onto the A1 just south of Hatfield. Coming onto the A1 even with a light throttle the back stepped out. Came across a clear stretch and gave it full acceleration. As there was some traffic far ahead and I was already going a bit too quickly I came off the throttle and brushed the brakes. Bloody thing went from lane 3 to lane 2! Fortunately the road was empty. The salesperson said I had upset the car by the “sudden” shift of weight from full throttle to braking. Strange that I’ve never experienced that again in any road car.

Krikkit

15,065 posts

122 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
I like the colours of that car, ten grand seems like a decent price these days!

TVR_Steve

2,557 posts

106 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Buy it, make 2,000 mates, enjoy it

crispian22

678 posts

133 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
I'm on my second,both 4ltrs,both a doddle to work on and maintain,cheap to run,a glorious soundtrack,not the fastest thing on four wheels but drop top motoring and 0-60 around the 5 second mark,what's not to like.

Xcore

328 posts

31 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Iv got a 4.6 and it’s great, just watch the throttle when it’s damp out. Defiantly more a GT car then a proper sports car though.

I had the choice of one of these or an early 996 911, and chose the tvr on the basis that the engine is tried and tested, and the thought of the ims shaft lunching the 911 scared me a little. And the greater sense of occasion. Ofcourse there are common issues like rust on the outriggers so choose wisely and you will be fine.

Most have had the riggers done or budget around 2k to have them done if not

Edited by Xcore on Saturday 23 March 09:26

Equus

Original Poster:

5,870 posts

42 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Esceptico said:
As there was some traffic far ahead and I was already going a bit too quickly I came off the throttle and brushed the brakes. Bloody thing went from lane 3 to lane 2! Fortunately the road was empty. The salesperson said I had upset the car by the “sudden” shift of weight from full throttle to braking. Strange that I’ve never experienced that again in any road car.
Every now and then - not often, and very unpredictably - mine would try to kill me under hard acceleration, as you crossed the crown of the road when pulling out to overtake.

I did a computer analysis of the rear suspension that showed, under certain circumstances, the rear roll geometric roll centre (which is one of the things that governs weight transfer characteristics) would jump from one side of the car, across and up to the other side. In terms of forces, it's a bit like a latching mechanism going over-centre, causing an instantaneous shift in the loads on the tyre contact patches.

TVR's look nice, make a lovely sound, and go well in a straight line, but their engineering would make Ralph Nader have a dicky fit.

vixen1700

11,138 posts

211 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all


Love my 500, and for a 25 year old car I reckon it's aged pretty well.

Sounds glorious, reasonably practical as five litre two seater sportscars go and bags of power on tap which you nowhere touch on the road.

Terrifies my wife when it accelerates.hehe

swisstoni

7,629 posts

220 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Equus said:
Esceptico said:
As there was some traffic far ahead and I was already going a bit too quickly I came off the throttle and brushed the brakes. Bloody thing went from lane 3 to lane 2! Fortunately the road was empty. The salesperson said I had upset the car by the “sudden” shift of weight from full throttle to braking. Strange that I’ve never experienced that again in any road car.
Every now and then - not often, and very unpredictably - mine would try to kill me under hard acceleration, as you crossed the crown of the road when pulling out to overtake.

I did a computer analysis of the rear suspension that showed, under certain circumstances, the rear roll geometric roll centre (which is one of the things that governs weight transfer characteristics) would jump from one side of the car, across and up to the other side. In terms of forces, it's a bit like a latching mechanism going over-centre, causing an instantaneous shift in the loads on the tyre contact patches.

TVR's look nice, make a lovely sound, and go well in a straight line, but their engineering would make Ralph Nader have a dicky fit.
Sounds like a long explanation of how you couldn’t drive it.

CarlosSainz100

56 posts

61 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Other than getting it on a lift at a garage is there any particular way of checking the outriggers on these to see if they're rusty or not?

Love these and love the interior on this one.

baconsarney

8,819 posts

102 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
^^ hehe

Equus

Original Poster:

5,870 posts

42 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
swisstoni said:
Sounds like a long explanation of how you couldn’t drive it.
You think?

Then you clearly don't understand what I wrote.

Gareth9702

183 posts

73 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
[quote] If Neanderthals had built sports cars...
[/quote]

... they would have put the engine behind the rear wheels. smile

soad

29,833 posts

117 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
Right now, I have £15k in savings earning fk all interest (which is expected). Making this article dangerous for my wallet! laugh
Do these leak?

I'd rather prefer a Cerbera, even if they cost more...

vixen1700

11,138 posts

211 months

Saturday 23rd March
quotequote all
soad said:
Right now, I have £15k in savings earning fk all interest (which is expected). Making this article dangerous for my wallet! laugh
Do these leak?

I'd rather prefer a Cerbera, even if they cost more...
Go for it, you'd luv it! biggrin

Yeah, they leak a bit mostly on your feet when it really pisses it down, but that's not really when you're out driving it.

Won't be that much longer these dinosaurs will be outlawed/extinct.

A Cerbera will cost an awful lot more to keep on the road.