Now, I'm no nationalist - I don't have a problem with Johnny foreigner and, to me, an immigrant is just a person who used to be over there who is now here - but I am partial to a spot of mild-mannered patriotism. And heck, which car is more qualified to pour petrol on your flag-waving wick than the TVR Cerbera? This one, full restored and in Sunset Pearl Yellow, is a blow torch to my national pride. After all, what other country could've produced Peter Wheeler and TVR?
The Cerbera is, to me, the zenith of that partnership and of TVR's Anglo-Saxon greatness: without doubt mad but not completely unhinged like the last series of models to come out of Blackpool. Beautiful and brutish, you might say. There is a classic elegance to sweep of its bonnet into the A-pillars and the roofline down to the boot. And underneath the bonnet was that AJP8. Those initials are from Al Melling and John Ravenscroft, it's designers, and, of course, Peter Wheeler, who commissioned it.
The plan was to build a road-car engine with race-car potential. One the company could sell to other manufacturers and make a return on its investment. The result was a 4.2-litre, 75-degree flat-plane-crank V8 that weighed in at 121kg. It used high-grade components, such as forged pistons and connecting rods and a solid billet camshaft and its character was in total contrast to the old, lazy Rover V8. The AJP8 was intense, sharp and angry and the Cerbera gained a reputation quickly as a car to respect.
Two tales of the Cerbera legend spring to mind. The first was of a friend of mine, Steve, who was a salesman at the TVR Centre in Arkley, Hertfordshire. This was a big TVR dealer and they'd been itching for their first Cerbera demonstrator to arrive. Cerberas were in high demand and short supply at that point, but eventually the car was delivered and Steve was getting potential customers behind the wheel. One of those prospective buyers came up behind dawdling driver doing 45mph in a 60mph with a long straight ahead. Steve said "feel free to overtake if you want."
Naturally he didn't bank on the Z3-owner's lack of helmsmanship and inability to predict the AJP8's savagery. Instead of pulling out then getting the car straight, this fella gave it the beans as he steered right to make the overtake. He never made it past the slower-moving Peugeot. He hit the Armco barrier at the side of the road with such determination that the Cerbera never ran again. And funnily enough, he never bought one, either.
The second recollection is of a rather more skilful driver at the wheel. I was standing at the side of the A41 in Mill Hill, which was unusually deserted at the time because it was wet and late. It's a stretch of dual carriageway punctuated by a roundabout called Apex Corner. I could hear this high-pitched snarl in the distance that almost certainly had to be a contemporary Ferrari or TVR and, sure enough, a Cerbera came into view. This guy was clearly on it and, as he flew past me, began braking heavily for the roundabout ahead. As he made his way around it and back up to speed the other side, I marvelled at the Cerbera twitching and its staccato revs flaring and dropping as he tried to match the power with the available traction. It was a joy to behold.
If you want to enjoy a classic that looks great, sounds fantastic and has a lack of driving aids that will give you an education, there are few better to stick on your short list. Admittedly, this also counts as a companion piece to last week's Brave Pill, so make sure you buy a well-sorted car that's had money spent on it - which this one appears to be following a long spell in storage. But few modern alternatives come close to equalling its risk vs reward ratio - or its capacity for generating anecdotes.
SPECIFICATION | TVR CERBERA 4.2
Engine: 4,185cc, V8, naturally aspirated
Transmission: 5-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 360@6500 rpm
Torque (lb ft): 320@4500rpm
Top speed: 180mph
Year registered: 1998
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £34,995
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