Excited by the new TVR Griffith? So were we when it was officially unveiled at this year’s Goodwood Revival. It’s got the sort of specification that’ll make most car fans squeak with excitement – underpinnings masterminded by McLaren F1 creator Gordon Murray, a 5.0-litre V8 that’s been breathed on by Cosworth, and a name that pays homage to the first of Blackpool’s big-engined beasts.
So we’ll understand entirely if it’s earned a prominent spot in your petrolhead dream garage. But if you really want to get under the skin of what makes TVR special then we’d thoroughly recommend its Nineties forebear.
The last Griffith, originally introduced at the Birmingham Motor Show way back in 1990, really is the TVR that made all the carmakers sit up and take note of the blokes in Blackpool. More than 15 years after it went out of production it’s as captivating and characterful as ever.
And noisy. Very noisy. From the moment you open those curvaceous doors (no handles, of course), position yourself into its low-slung driving position and flick the key you’re treated to a gloriously baritone rumble from the TVR’s 4.3-litre twist on the otherwise familiar Rover V8. It’s an engine note that filters through into the cabin and is ever-present, but otherwise you feel delightfully cocooned by the high transmission tunnel, the lashings of leather on the seats and centre console and the beautifully finished wood trimmings. It’s a wonderfully inviting place to be – just try not to spot the Vauxhall Cavalier-sourced switchgear!
The V8’s easygoing nature means you can take a very laid-back attitude as you point its swoopy GRP snout onto Britain’s roads – most of the torque flows in below 4000rpm and there’s plenty of it coming from beneath that curvaceous bonnet, so overtaking slower traffic and flowing up hills is a remarkably relaxed affair. But it’s when you poke your right foot into the Griffith’s plush-carpeted footwell for the first time that you really get a sense of why it won so many friends back in the days of Britpop records and The Big Breakfast; once you change down a cog and push it past 3500rpm the car charges towards the horizon like a frenzied animal.
The howl the V8 makes when you really wake a Nineties TVR up and let it off the leash is truly wonderful, and it’s in the Griffith where the rush is at its least diluted. The car’s basic underpinnings are shared with the later Chimaera but here the set-up’s sharper and more involving, and there’s no ABS, traction control or electronic trickery between you and the action. There’s just the Griff’s quick but delightfully communicative steering helping you to translate 305lb ft of torque into the rapid progress you’ll be making. Take liberties and it will bite back.
Not that it should put you off, because for all the TVR’s Brit muscle car bravado it’s a neat, composed companion that rewards skilled driving. Nor is it the reliability nightmare armchair critics might have had you believe when these cars were new; no, it might not have Honda NSX levels of precision in its interior finish but the Rover-derived mechanicals will go on forever as long as you look after them. Nor should you worry about keeping a Griff looking and sounding its best, either; there are plenty of specialists across the UK, and it’s worth joining the TVR Car Club to hook up with likeminded marque devotees who’ll be able to share their top tips on keeping these beasts performing at their best.
But more than anything the Griffith is the car that transformed TVR’s reputation from being a maker of curious sports cars with wraparound rear windows to being a Porsche-troubling upstart known for offering supercar shove at saloon prices. At one point during the Griffith’s motorshow launch TVR took an order every seven minutes from excitable buyers, and its John Ravenscroft-penned curves went on to earn the manufacturer a British Design Council award. It also paved the way for a whole generation of cars to roll out of the Bristol Avenue – the Griffith’s success paved the way for the Chimaera, the best-selling TVR of the lot so far, and the Cerbera, which introduced the concept of TVR making its own engines.
The newly revived TVR wants its new Griffith to become a ‘proper classic’ deserving of its place at the nation’s car shows. But it’ll have a heck of a job topping its 1990s predecessor in our book.