RE: TVR Cerbera 4.0 | The Brave Pill

RE: TVR Cerbera 4.0 | The Brave Pill

Saturday 14th March

TVR Cerbera 4.0 | The Brave Pill

The cheapest example of one of TVR's most exciting cars is a four-wheeled custard test for courage



Your first reaction to a bright yellow Cerbera Speed Six being sold by a non-specialist dealer for a lowish price and with a minimally detailed advert will reveal your position on the optimist-pessimist scale. Those of a gloomier disposition will hold that the only real debate is how high the hill you should head for needs to be, and whether to run or sprint. Those with sunnier temperaments, or a more tolerant approach to risk, are likely to concentrate more on the near unbeatable amount of performance-per-pound offered by an 18 grand Cerbera.

Not only is our Pill the cheapest example currently listed in the classifieds, it also has one of the lowest odometer readings - having covered just 19,000 miles in the last 21 years. That would often be a sign that a car has spent a substantial amount of time off the road, but - despite obscured number plates - we've sneaked a peak at the MOT history which shows continuous certification from 2007, although the car has often only covered a few hundred miles between tests. Nor is there anything scary in the official record. The most recent pass included advisories for an oil leak and a handbrake that only just made the grade, or stopped the car from rolling down one. (The angle of the handle in the pictures suggests this hasn't been sorted yet.) The last MOT also ran out in October 2018, suggesting this Cerbera has been either SORN or in dealer stock for a while - but the next owner will doubtless get a full 12-months from the dealer selling it.

No question, any Cerbera is a very serious thing. Launched in 1996, this was the car that carried TVR into new territory. The Griffith and Chimera had already created plenty of stir as Peter Wheeler took the brand out of its wedge era, but as they still used Rover sourced V8s many cynics continued to view them as being only one step up from kit cars. The Cerbera was radically different and unarguably proper. It was bigger and more expensive, but it also had a fixed roof and the boost in practicality of a plus-two seating layout.


The big change was under the lengthy bonnet, with the arrival of a home-grown engine. At launch that meant a 4.2-litre V8 with 75 degrees between its cylinder banks, designed by the near-legendary Al Melling after Wheeler had decided he wanted to move performance to an altogether higher level. Officially the 4.2 made 360hp, but in truth that was only an intermediate step on its way to a considerably loftier peak, certainly in the factory demonstrator.

A brawnier 4.5-litre V8 followed, with the ultimate 'Red Rose' power packing boosting the output of this to 440hp, at a time when the Porsche 911 Turbo required a pair of compressors to make 420hp. With the Cerbera's steel frame and fibreglass bodywork giving it a 1,100kg kerb weight, the result was supercar-baiting performance: Autocar ran the 4.5 through the 0-60mph benchmark in 4.1 seconds, and from 0-100mph in just 8.9. For a measure of just how extraordinary those numbers were, consider both were in a tenth of the times the magazine extracted from the Ferrari 360 for the same increments.

Next, Wheeler determined to broaden the range by also offering the company's new home-grown Speed Six engine, a 4.0-litre 350hp version offered in the Cerbera from 1999. This was meant to understudy the V8, but many actually preferred its thanks to its more compliant suspension and a less frantically fast steering rack. I never got to drive a V8 Cerbera - at least not outside the original Gran Turismo. But I did get to try the Speed Six just after its introduction, and it was the quickest and lairiest thing I had experience up to that point. Memories of chasing a BMW Z3M Coupe around Lancashire in one included the hot leathery smell of the TVR's cabin, the engine's seemingly insatiable appetite for revs and the beautiful action of the gear lever marooned in the middle of the vast centre console. On the straights it had the BMW easily beaten, in corners the situation was reversed, and even by the more laid-back standards of the late 20th century, the lack of electronic safeguards took some getting used to - especially as I didn't realise the Cerbera lacked ABS until a spectacularly smoky lock-up somewhere in the Trough of Bowland.


Road testers and early owners might have loved it but, like its Tuscan sister, the Cerbera Speed Six soon developed a reputation for mechanical meltdowns and the sort of resulting bills that left vast, smoking craters in the ground. Many early buyers discovered that the natty new engine had a marked tendency for the sort of catastrophic failures that look like grenade explosion, mostly due to under-spec valvegear. But even when motors were swapped or rebuilt under warranty, it wasn't uncommon for the replacements to give up as well. The AJP V8 wasn't a paragon of reliability itself, but for the sort of brave souls who buy Cerberas later versions of the bigger engine are now regarded as the more sensible choice, a risk that the market seems to have reflected with (generally) lower prices for the six-cylinder.

All of the above makes the question of how well our Pill has been looked after a critically important one. The advert's promise of a full service history is reassuring, but is one that would need to be investigated in much greater detail by anyone seriously considering a purchase. The dealer also promises the car's next owner will enjoy the reassurance of a six-month warranty, which could turn out to be an expensive commitment on its part.

Cerbera prices have been rising slowly but steadily for some time and now any car under 20 grand looks cheap. It's not that long since it was possible to pick up less-loved versions for under half of that, but even at current valuations it's hard to think of anything that gets close to this Cerbera's quantity of bang per buck.


See the full ad here

Author
Discussion

Esceptico

Original Poster:

3,106 posts

67 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Brave Pill back on form. Although I thought that the engine could be worked on to make it reliable. I know it could be replaced by a Corvette engine, which objectively might be better, but having the home-grown and unique engine adds to the appeal to me.

Andy665

2,665 posts

186 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
The Speed Six engine only has two weak points that are easily rectified

A very small number of car have Indian manufactured conrods that stretch over time

Variable quality finger followers that break down over time

Most TVR specialists are more than capable of making the Speed Six engine as reliable as any other

popegregory

883 posts

92 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
I’m surprised the BMW destroyed it in the corners; mine changes direction beautifully and not just of its own choosing.

ruprechtmonkeyboy

984 posts

45 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Having owned a few TVRs I have to say this is possibly the bravest pill yet. Still love them though smile

Mouse Rat

953 posts

50 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
what a magic car

mmm speed 6 cloud9

solid engine once rebuilt and well looked after.

rockin

8,541 posts

203 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
5 owners in just 19,000 miles tells you everything you need to know.

GTiWILL

519 posts

36 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
rockin said:
5 owners in just 19,000 miles tells you everything you need to know.
Does it? Remember it’s 21 years old.

Jasandjules

65,034 posts

187 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Tiny bit concerned the tester did not realise there was no ABS......


richinlondon

215 posts

80 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
GTiWILL said:
Does it? Remember it’s 21 years old.
5 people that never truly got it to work properly.

V8fan

3,514 posts

226 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
If it has not had an engine rebuild, this speed 6 is most likely needing one shortly. They were fundamentally flawed from introduction. Leaving them idling to warm up hugely accelerates wear for example, and the oilways weren't ideal. Specialists such as str8six have improved the engines as they rebuild them. Long warranties after rebuild are provided, so I'd suggest this would need to be budgeted for.

And if the air con isn't working, you will cook inside in the summer. The heatsoak is incredible.

I had a 4.5 AJP V8 version for 12 months 2018-19. Huge performance, and an event when you drive one (people DO stare at you), and a supposedly more reliable engine but there's still plenty to go wrong. Due to the bespoke nature of the car as opposed to mostly Rover and Ford parts used on the Chimaera / Griffith brethren, wiring looms, electrical control boxes, engine parts, clutches etc are all hard to get and / or expensive. Internal clutch slave cylinder for the clutch requires gearbox removal for example.....

All is fixable but if the chassis is rusted through, that's the biggest problem.

The angle of the handbrake is about normal for a Cerbera. It has a hopeless action and in my experience was full on or full off.


Edited by V8fan on Saturday 14th March 09:28

Tyre Smoke

15,284 posts

219 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Handbrake on my 4.5 never worked properly.

Have to be very brave to take this on, even at £18k.

alorotom

8,338 posts

145 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
I’ve looked at this very car.

Never had a TVR and looking for something a bit interesting as a keeper with 4 seats (daughters only 5 so think the rears will be fine.

It’s nice other than the wheels.

A1VDY

3,115 posts

85 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
richinlondon said:
GTiWILL said:
Does it? Remember it’s 21 years old.
5 people that never truly got it to work properly.
Also 5 that had horrific bills in a short space of time so decided not to use it anymore..

jwwbowe

234 posts

130 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Good brave pill. Would love one of these, they are surprisingly small when you see one in the flesh (or should that be fibre!), fitting in a single garage nicely. You can’t beat the theatre of one this side of a fully fledged “supercar.”

I think TVR is one of the few manufacturers where you want to see mileage on the car as it’s evidence it’s a good one or it’s had cash thrown at it. The 19K on this one would ring my alarm bells but what an amazing piece of kit for the money, even having it put right would be much cheaper than a new Cerb, should it ever arrive

CharlieAlphaMike

638 posts

63 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
19,000 miles? That interior (especially the steering wheel) looks like it's done 190,000 miles scratchchin

Reciprocating mass

5,835 posts

199 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
rockin said:
5 owners in just 19,000 miles tells you everything you need to know.
Nah my Griffith is on 10 owners and I’ve owned it for over 15 years

AC43

8,283 posts

166 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
A mate of mine used to commute in his from roughly the same part of London to roughly the same stty business park near Heathrow.

It was forever breaking down in amusingly-random ways and leaving him stranded at one end of the commute or the other.

Electrical drains were common, meaning he couldn't get in. He also learned the hard way that he couldn't use the lower car park - the underside caught on the ramp and IIRC he smashed up the oil cooler or at least the pipework.

Utterly gorgeous, though Spectacular just sitting still. Incredible noise. Amazing to passenger in it.

Despite it's foibles he loved it and I could see why. It was quite unlike anything else.

V8 FOU

2,730 posts

105 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Always lusted after one of these. But, as raised here, those engines!!
anyway, flog the engine and fit an LS. If the original
engine is sound, that isn't going to be terribly expensive.......

BigChiefmuffinAgain

371 posts

56 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
Bought a new one in1997. A 4.2. Had an intense love/hate relationship with it but gave up after a year and 11,000 miles when the warranty ran out.

There's lots that can go wrong on these cars. Funnily enough, didn't have any problems with the engine but still wracked up something like £10k in (warranty funded) bills. In 12 months was back to HR Owen 7 times and some things like the a/c still didn't work ( and, as others have said, this car needs a/c - it gets really hot in there...). The heat combined with the glue smell is not great....

Every drive was an event, mainly as you didn't know if you would make it to your destination. Lovely when it worked and, imho, one of the finest designs, inside and out, ever.

In theory cars that have lasted this long may have had all the problems sorted but you do have to be truly brave. I sort of got the impression that Peter Wheeler didn't intend them to last this long....

ruprechtmonkeyboy

984 posts

45 months

Saturday 14th March
quotequote all
V8fan said:
And if the air con isn't working, you will cook inside in the summer. The heatsoak is incredible.

Edited by V8fan on Saturday 14th March 09:28
I can imagine. My Chimaera was bad in hot weather and that was with the roof off!