||With TVRs almost exclusively powered by large
capacity, TVR designed engines these days it's easy to forget the many
engines that have found their way into the models over the years.
From straight four...
The cars from the late fifties were powered by Coventry Climax engines, MGA 4 cylinders or four cylinder Fords (some with Shorrock superchargers). Typical for British sports cars of the era, none was more than 2 litres in capacity and all produced less than 100bhp.
Anyone familiar with the TVR story will know what a major influence one man had on the history of the company. The quaint little TVRs were being exported to America during the early sixties when motor trader Jack Griffith decided it would be far more fun to have a 4.7 litre V8 from the AC Cobra shoehorned into the small Blackpool Grantura coupe. It was utter madness of course but it captured a lot of people's imaginations and was the start of the power excess that people now associate with the modern TVR.
The late sixties saw TVR turn back to Ford for a V6 Zodiac engine which was dropped into the Tuscan. At 2994cc, it wasn't up to American V8 power levels but it was still a good powerplant, producing 128bhp and a useful 173lb/ft of torque, giving the Tuscan a 0-60 time of 8.3 seconds, very respectable for the era.
The current Speed 6 engine isn't the first straight six engine to grace a TVR by any means. The TVR 2500 was introduced in 1971 making use of the Triumph 2.5 litre straight six as used in the TR6. The important factor in deciding to use the Triumph engine was that it was a 'clean' engine that would meet the US's ever stricter emissions regulations.
Straight Four, Six, V6
The seventies also saw a variety of engines used in the M series cars. From the Ford 1600, via the Triumph 2500 to the Ford Essex 3 litre, then to cap it all the Broadspeed developed turbocharged Essex V6. Developing 240bhp this is still a ferocious car today, with over 250bhp and capable of 130mph.
Different V6, Straight Four...
The introduction of the Wedges in the eighties saw the continued use of Ford engines. The Cologne built 2.8 litre V6 the engine of choice for the new car. A two litre Pinto version appeared in 1982, however being the least powerful car produced by TVR for some years, it didn't sell well and was dropped two years later.
The standard 2.8 litre V6 was good for 150-160bhp and more with tuning, but TVR was lacking a route to serious power for the radical looking Wedge range. To this end, experimentation with turbos was one route investigated in 1981 with a prototype convertible Tasmin Turbo.
A completed Tasmin Turbo coupe was shown the following year but it never went into production.
1983 saw the Wheeler-inspired Rover V8 powered Tasmin which was to set the scene for the next 15 years. Even in relatively unmodified form the 3.5 litre Rover was producing 190bhp with huge scope for more.
The eighties gradually saw the use of larger and larger V8s and the demise of the V6 Wedges. 3.9, 4, 4.2 and eventually a 4.5 litre version of the engine were all used as power hungry customers queued up for the extreme machines.
Ford V6 Again
TVR were doing well in the late eighties but the extreme machines they were building were too radical to sell in great numbers. Many of the larger engined models only sold in quantities of a few dozen or even less.
In order to maintain a healthy flow of orders a low budget model was required which resulted in the retro-styled S. Making use of an engine they were familiar with, TVR once again used the Ford Cologne. Initially in 2.8 litre form and then the 2.9 litre. They even tried a bored out 3.2 litre at one point, but that wasn't developed.
In the bizarre spiral that keeps affecting TVR, the madder of their customers would buy the cars and no matter what the power output, they'd demand more. It happened to the S and resulted in a variety of engines being considered.
A racing version of the S was built using a Cosworth powered 4 cylinder turbo good for between 450-520bhp and rumours at the time were that a 205bhp version would be built for the road. Sadly this didn't happen.
Eventually the Rover V8 was shoehorned under the bonnet of the S. A sleeved version of the Rover engine was used for a small number of cars exported to Italy. These were two litre turbos and are extremely rare.
Concerns about emissions forced TVR and other companies to consider the future of the Rover V8 although in fact it's lasted another ten years or so with modifications.
Holden V6 & V8
TVR looked around the world for inspiration including back to the US for one of the Ford Mustang V8's. A five litre, 225bhp unit was evaluated but the cast iron block meant it was just too heavy for the lightweight sportscars.
A series of discussions also took place with the General Motors subsidiary Holden, who had a 3.3 litre and 3.8 litre V6 and later a V8 which looked promising. A prototype was produced based on a 350i Coupe. With extended and rounded off bodywork, this was to be the testbed for a 5 litre Holden V8. The transplant worked well and was even tested by Autocar at the time. With the lifespan of the Rover V8 extended for a few years, the project fell by the wayside however as Rover was still the preferred solution.
As the saying goes "If you want a job doing properly do it yourself." That's exactly what TVR set about doing in the nineties. TVR Power (the engine producing arm of TVR) had produced all manner of modified Rover V8's, but it was time for TVR to do what many critics saw as folly for such a small company and to design their own V8. Together with engine Guru Al Melling TVR created the AJP8, a brand new design of lightweight alloy V8 - an incredible achievement for such a small company. It was originally destined for the Griffith and Chimaera but development took longer than expected and it finally hit the road in the Cerbera and the Tuscan race cars.
TVR Straight Six
TVR's desire to enter GT racing saw a number of routes explored with the Cerbera. A Cerbera GT car using the AJP8 was campaigned but the mandatory air restrictors choked the engine to the point where it wasn't competitive with the larger capacity and turbo charged cars that were beating it.
Research was carried out on the V8 to see if it could be made more powerful when fitted with the restrictors. Turbo charging was considered but would have generated extra cooling issues and a 5.3 litre V8 was tested that too showed problems with oil and heating issues. In order to bring power levels up to those exhibited by the other GT cars a large capacity engine was needed.
The crude idea of bolting together two straight sixes to produce a V12 was mooted and then attempted. A block was fabricated using the two straight six units and the basic principle was proven. Much development work was still needed but the basic design looked good for over 800bhp. Given the budget allocated to the project, this is an incredible feat.
They say that past performance is no indication of future results and in TVR's case that is certainly true, with the company constantly doing things that small car companies shouldn't be capable of.
With the Rover engined cars now on their way out, the future looks straight six shaped. Somehow though, that just seems too predictable for TVR.