Wish-list Wednesday: TVR Chimaera

Blackpool’s fire-spitting legend is far less problematic to own than you might think; here’s your chance to buy a great example of old-school British muscle

TVR has always had a penchant for picking fabulously flamboyant names from the library of Greek mythology. The Chimaera is no exception; its name refers to a fabled lion with a goat’s head erupting from its back, and a snake for a tail. Almost like a cabinet politician.

That’s intriguing symbolism for a car made in a shed somewhere near Blackpool… Although Homer probably wasn’t planning on screaming through Troy in his trusty 5.0 V8 steed. They certainly wouldn’t have lost Troy with a sound like that.

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The Chimaera was launched 25 years ago in 1993, and we all adored it. Gone were the outdated wedge designs of the 1980s, and in came a car that felt genuinely custom made. The switchgear, dials, ancillaries… all were custom made for the Chimaera, unlike other limited-production cars or even mass-produced models that stole as much as they could from other manufacturers’ parts bins.

TVR had always been unique without being clichéd; it favoured bold styling, noise and genuinely terrifying power, and poo-pooed the larger manufacturers’ restrained, ergonomic and safe products.

What was under the hood earned another round of applause upon the car’s release; the Rover V8. As with Churchill re-taking his desk in Downing Street on the second lap, the quintessentially British engine was the perfect partner to the rest of the car.

TVR being TVR, it wanted to offer the public as many options for the car as possible, so a 4.0, 4.3, 4.5 and 5.0 version of the trusty Rover ticker were offered, making for pretty hair-raising statistics. The papier-mâché bodywork, bolstered only by a dead tree and a herd of cows inside, made the TVR incredibly light, at 1060kg.

The high-compression 5.0 unit, borrowed from the also-new Griffith 500, developed 340 warbling, fire-spitting horses, translating into a 0-60mph time of 4.1 seconds. Remember, this was in 1994, when Austin Rover told us that its Montego 1.6 ‘didn’t hang about’ by getting to 60 in 11.5 seconds, and the fastest car in the world was the McLaren F1 that was just nine-tenths quicker than the TVR to 60mph. A vast canyon, I hear you cry – but perhaps not, when you consider the TVR could be bought for less than £35,000 new, compared with £540,000.

The Chimaera was also one of TVR’s most popular models, selling more during its production run than all the TVRs ever made in the preceding 25 years. The quirks and features would be enough to give YouTuber Doug Demuro a stroke, but they were pretty darned cool.

Many journalists of yesteryear laughed at the ridiculous procedures involved with accessing your TVR, let alone firing it up, but let’s assume this was down to jealousy. There were ‘secret’ buttons underneath the door mirrors, buttons and levers beneath the steering column to engage the ignition and starter, and knobs with a range of motion to open the doors from the cabin… Machined from blocks of aluminium, this was the coolest-looking switchgear this side of a Pagani Zonda, and obviously it was all unlabelled.

Yes, many chuckled at TVR models’ classical, almost charming build-quality woes. Today, however, the marque is in resurgence thanks to the recent unveiling of the all-new Griffith. So perhaps the public is eying up the older 1990s rockets in anticipation of the latest model.

So, what’s this one like?

The for-sale example pictured here is a fine specimen to showcase all that’s been described above. Merlot-coloured leather is trimmed to perfection around areas that are typically plastic, even on the likes of a Series 1 E-type. There are magnolia-coloured instruments, custom made of course, and a wonderfully stubby aluminium shifter encased with yet more luxurious British cowhide. Power-assisted steering makes parking a doddle; this can be a rare option as TVR, with its hairy-chested approach, assumed most customers resembled Popeye.

Details on the notorious outriggers are omitted from the classified ad’s description, but the photos would suggest a fine bill of health. This particular example could be yours for £14,495, with a rather relaxed 67,500 miles on the clock. Some quick fag-packet calculus to bolster this lenient price point suggests that, including fuel, you could drive this TVR for 10,000 miles and it would cost £1,497 less than a new boggo-spec Astra.

Best of all, it might even be more reliable than your rep-mobile Vauxhall; AutoClassics’ very own Ben Coombs drove one 20,000 miles from the North Pole to South America last year, and it didn’t break down once – hear, hear!

Read the AutoClassics’ classified ad for yourself here

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