Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The TVR Griffith 500 - a car worth being owned twice

Only once in my life I have bought the same car twice, it's the TVR Griffith 500.
When TVR presented the Griffith in the year 2000 at the Birmingham Motor Show the car was an instant sensation. According to some rumors TVR signed a new order every 8 minutes. As a matter of fact the car wasn’t by far finished at that point. It had been based on the V8S. What clearly differentiated it from any other car was its shape and the impressive design. The promised performance and the comparably low price made the car very attractive.
It took TVR another 2 years until 1992 to make the car production ready. Different to the prototype the production car was based on the chassis of the Tuscan racer to cope with the power. Also some adjustments were made to the design and the interior. Already in 1992 TVR was able to deliver more than 600 cars to mainly UK based buyers. The gear box was sourced from the Rover SD1, as was the engine, here in 4 and 4.3 liter version.
In 1993 the Griffith 500 was presented, now with a 5 liter engine and a Borg Warner T5 transmission on board. In parallel TVR had introduced a more moderate model as a sister car, the Chimaera. This car was very similar from a technical point of view, though had a different and more daily live ready body with bumpers. It was very successful and was produced in bigger numbers than the Griffith. Despite of this the Griffith 500 was a huge success for TVR, they built more than 1’700 cars. In total almost 2’500 Griffith left the Blackpool production facilities.
It’s assumed that roughly 10-15% were LHD for export, so 250-360 in total. Definitely a low number. Production figures were not really recorded properly, so a lot of this is guess work.
The TVR Griffith 500 was a typical TVR from an engineering point of view. The body shape was created by Peter Wheeler together with a young designer using a 1:1 model. Many elements of the shape were formed the way they were to compensate weaknesses in the production process, i.e. tolerances. The selection of the Rover engine was natural, had it already been the base of previous TVRs. With some targeted tuning measures (by TVR Powers) the engine delivered almost 340 HP.
The cylinder heads showed the tuning in various colors, for example violet. For a small production car the Griffith 500 was produced for quite long time (8 years), only smaller changes were done, for example on the cockpit. The shape wasn’t changed, except new rear lights to replace the Opel/Vauxhall Vectra sourced units at the end of the nineties. The front had been redesigned during the change from the 400/430 to the 500 and interestingly many 400/430 show the new front after some accident repairs, as only these were available as spare parts.
"My" car was built after my specification between February and May 1996. As its first owner went to see the factory during the production of his car, there is a picture (above) showing the car in half finished state and displaying the “Griffith”, kind of a cartoon, on the uncovered body (see picture below).
The specification was “brookland racing green”, “irish mist” full hide interior, black Wilton carpers with green piping, a black roof and magnolia colored instruments.
During its life with me the Griffith created no problems, was continuously and regularly maintained and did some 1’500 to 3’000 km every year on salt free streets mainly through the March-November months. It was never used for racing or track days and almost exclusively run on Swiss streets. Even after 13 years of usage the car feels almost new and all pieces and tools are still with the car as it left the factory.
And as said I owned it twice, from 1996 to 1998 and from 2004 to 2009. It really was a nice piece of engineering, great to drive, economical and really really fast. It's one of the instant classic cars and I probably will regret it soon having sold it a second time.

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