The Brave Pill | TVR Tuscan Speed Six


As the sun continues to shine, so Pill continues with the theme of courageous convertibles started with last week's Mercedes SL. That car was plucky but this one has the potential to be truly heroic; it's no exaggeration to say it might be our bravest Pill so far. Yes, it's a TVR Tuscan, but one that is being sold for a substantial discount over any similar cars. At this point you should be hearing a jangling noise from the mental alarm bell. Read on.

When the idea of Brave Pill was first floated the discussion at HQ quickly turned to just how much risk we planned to celebrate. While we had faith that the PH massive would be tolerant of a fair amount - especially when considering cars likely to be bought with other people's money - we also recognised it would be possible to go too far. While nobody actually said "Cat C Tuscan" at the time, I now realise that pretty much perfectly sums up this outer edge of Pillness.

Yet does it need to? The insurance industry's write-off markers have become shorthand for the dodgy and the bodged, but what happens when a car has been properly rebuilt and proved itself through years of use? According to the vendor this 3.6-litre Tuscan was registered as a Category C write-off as long ago as 2008, and has obviously enjoyed years of second life since then with plenty of evidence of having been well looked after. The only cheaper Tuscan in the classifieds is another Cat C car; but for the mark of shame on its V5 our Pill would probably be worth at least £5,000 more than the £17,995 that's being asked for it.


The Tuscan has always been one of those cars that required the care and attention of a diligent owner to thrive. Let's be honest, it's not like they all left the factory in Talbot Road in the finest of fettle; PH originated as a forum where TVR owners compared tales and war wounds. But the Tuscan has always been special enough to get a serious amount of leeway on such dull matters as reliability.

Before the Tuscan had arrived, Peter Wheeler had driven TVR to unprecedented levels of success by combining big performance, outrageous design and attractive prices. The Tuscan broke new ground in all of these areas with styling more phallic than many actual phalli and a front end that seemed to be all bonnet. Power came from a 4.0-litre version of TVR's straight-six engine - a 3.6-litre version followed shortly after - and pricing undercut anything that offered a vaguely comparable level of performance by tens of thousands of pounds. In 2002 the 3.6 was £40,005 before options, the 390hp 4.0-litre S £48,955. A base 911 Carrera 2 had 300hp and cost £56,130.

The Tuscan was huge news when it launched. Magazines put it on their covers and subjected the car to the sort of lavish pagination more normally given to Italian supercars. I was sent to Blackpool to pick one of the first examples up for a test to be shot in the Trough of Bowland. Getting the car meant a tense interview with Wheeler himself in an office that seemed to be entirely painted in the corporate purple colour scheme - he had been displeased by some of the things we'd said about earlier cars. My reassurances must have been sufficiently reassuring as I was soon outside trying to work out the Tuscan's handle-less door, eventually finding the release on the bottom of the mirror. Then I had to try and work out which milled metal switch did what; TVR was never big on labelling.

It was a memorable day. The hard-edged straight-six sounded incredible and had a seemingly insatiable appetite for revs. The gearchange was as manly as a beach near Sydney, with the weight and heft of a work-out machine. I remember most the face-flattening performance of the 4.0-litre engine, the super-fast steering and the frequent terror engendered by the ABS-free brakes on damp surfaces. Our test car came in a colour shifting paint that varied between purple and green depending on the angle the light hit it. I can't remember how much this was, but it was a hugely expensive option. I can remember taking a broad swathe of it off the bonnet under the pressure of a jet wash lance. From that point on, all the pictures were from the side or rear.


Barring lesser TVRs, the Tuscan was unlike anything else, and it enjoyed several years of sales success during which the company was selling everyone it could build. There was even some unlikely product placement in the otherwise unmemorable John Travolta action flick Swordfish, one that got the company seriously considering a return to the 'States. But as Wheeler sold control of the company to Nicolai Smolensky, so the Tuscan's fortunes faded, despite several heavy revisions and the arrival of brawnier engines. The last one was produced in 2006.

Bringing us back to our Pill, a 2003 car with the less powerful 3.6-litre engine and the decent combination of black metallic paint and a grey interior. Since whatever unfortunate incident claimed it back in 2008, it seems to have been looked after well with the current owner having had it for four years and having also been an active member of the TVR Car Club in the North East. It has got a full service history, newly installed coilovers and what are promised to be fresh Toyo tyres all-round. It also has air-con, something that all Tuscans didn't get, but a useful addition given the temperatures that can build up with the targa roof on.

There are still plenty of risks, of course. Read our comprehensive Tuscan buying guide for a run-down on the better-known ones, but suffice to say that even an apparently immaculate TVR of this era should be bought carefully and ideally with expert guidance. But should the fact something bad once happened to it have to be a deal-breaker? To forgive is divine, and although our Pill will never become an investment-grade garage ornament, it does look like a thoroughly usable example of what remains one of the most exciting British sports cars of this century.


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Comments (68) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Howrare 29 Jun 2019

    Bucket loads of want. I see nothing wrong with saving money on cat cars when they look and drive right. Plenty of clean title vehicles that have issues. As long as the repairs are done properly, It's the recent care and history that matters.

  • cerb4.5lee 29 Jun 2019

    I love the noise these make! cloud9

    I do love a TVR in Black and this looks very nice for sure.

  • soad 29 Jun 2019

    Crikey, that’s within my budget!! biggrin

    I remember seeing those on the road when they first came out...hardly ever will spot one now.

  • macky17 29 Jun 2019

    No need for bravery at that price. This requires only parachute jump courage - it’s all perceived risk, the reality is thrills you’ll be happy to pay for. If it’s had a rebuild, buy it someone fast.

  • Turbobanana 29 Jun 2019

    Agree with the above: no pill needed.

    But...

    For me, these need to be in a lairy colour combination and black / grey just doesn't work. It's a great buy for someone though.



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