I once bought a TVR, it was a rather special one, a 420 SE AC and it went like stink. It was, as usual, an impulse purchase and was mainly the fault of a friend, a local garage proprietor, who persuaded me to buy one when I showed him a magazine article about how fast it was going to be. He knew Peter Wheeler, the then owner of TVR, and arranged for me to purchase one of the early cars. Of course I paid too much, don’t I always when it comes to cars?
Crikey it was fast, and loud and bloody awful on a long journey. At the time I believe it was the fastest production car available, an incredible amount of bang per buck. It was however very badly built, the term Jerry Built would not do the workmanship justice. The wipers failed in their primary purpose, the windscreen washers had all the power of a geriatrics bladder, the heater just didn’t and I don’t think the horn ever worked. It did look pretty though
Of more pressing concern was the engine management electrics. They were fastened to a hatch in the nearside footwell, mounted on a rectangular piece of thin, sharp metal held in place above the passenger’s legs by a couple of catches. Under hard acceleration the catches would open and the entire caboodle would fall onto the legs of the passenger with the sharp edge threatening to lacerate the shins.
But it was chuffing quick; the noise of the cross plane V8 under load was awesome and the ability to thrash it down a winding country lane just intoxicating. For the first service the car was returned to Blackpool and I took the opportunity to apprise Mr Wheeler of some of the vehicle’s shortcomings. He listened to me in his office, wreathed in a cloud of cigarette smoke, paused to light another from the stub of the old one and then told me to eff off; I’d bought the car and it was tough. Great customer service I thought.
The car was left at Blackpool for a couple of days for some remedial work as well as its service and I received a phone call from a magazine, Performance Car. They were in Blackpool for an article on TVR and they asked if they could borrow mine for some photographs around the town. I was assured that the car would not leave town and would only be driven carefully so, after agreeing that I could have copies of the photos, I gave permission.
When I went to pick the car up a couple of days later it was buggered. The engine had started smoking a little, the rear tyres were well past their best and the diff seemed to have a slight whine. Mr Wheeler was noticeable by his absence and any calls to Performance Car were met with no knowledge of our agreement. When I later got a copy of the magazine there was what amounted to a full road test and through thrashing around the Lake District. I never even got the photos!
The time came a little while later to sell the car, it was a real ‘head turner’ and attracted small boys and petrol heads wherever it stopped. Should sell easily!
Meh! I advertised it far and wide at ever reducing prices and elicited zero interest until finally a dealer from Bristol offered a derisory £20K to which I reluctantly agreed. He arrived on the train at Harrogate, took a test drive and then proffered a bankers draft drawn against the Bank of Baroda. Never heard of them and this was long before the internet so anything Google was out of the question. I rang the number on the cheque and was assured by an earnest foreign sounding chap that the bank was indeed real and the account kosher.
Went like a bat out of hell!