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TVR Tuscan and T350

Broadcast dates : 22nd August 2004
26th August 2004

Unless you are an out and out sports car buff, or have spent some time in England recently, you probably wonít know what a TVR is.

But think of the seaside and carnival rides of Blackpool on a sunny day, and youíll be getting warmer.

The amazing thing about TVR is that it has been building sports car since 1949. And unlike countless other small manufacturers it has survived booms and recessions to the point where today production numbers well over one thousand units annually.

The name derives from the companyís founder Trevor Wilkinson, TVR being an abbreviation of ďTrevorĒ. Since the 1960s TVR has produced some of the fastest sports cars in the world.

But owing to their very basic construction they have often been overlooked by purists Ė except those who have sampled the delights of ultra low mass and ultra high horsepower.

The Tuscan and T350 we sampled were supplied to us by Classic Sports Cars of Randburg, which is the distributor of TVR in South Africa. And thanks to the carsí outlandish styling and riveting performance, itís likely that TVR will become an established name here in South Africa.

The evil-eyed Tuscan is currently TVRís best-selling model. It is available in two forms, the 3,6-litre and the four-litre.

This is the 3,6-litre model but it is still one of the fastest sports cars in the world with a 0-100 km/h time of 4,3 seconds, a 0 - 160 of 9,6 and a top speed of 288 km/h.

These are claimed figures, but when you add up the numbers in terms of power-to-weight you know they ring true.

Unlike just about every other small manufacturer Ė and some larger ones to such as MG Ė TVR manufacturers its own engines.

In this case the Tuscan uses a straight six-cylinder unit with four-valves per cylinder, dry sump lubrication and a capacity of 3 605 cc. Maximum power is a claimed 260 kW, produced at a bellowing 7 200 rpm. And there is 393 Nm of torque at 5 500 rpm.

When you consider that the car weighs just 1 100 kg, some 300 kg less than a BMW M3 CSL, youíll understand why the TVR is such a rocket.

The light weight is due to the classic sports car construction of the car that hasnít changed in essence since the late 1950s Ė a steel space-frame chassis clad with a fiberglass body.

It is a very rigid construction, but you pay a penalty in terms of refinement. There are more than a few creaks and groans associated with these TVRs and the dynamics are very basic.

Complementing its slightly higher ride-height and more road-orientated trim, the dramatic-looking Tuscan has an additional feature that will appeal to just about everybody.

The roof panel and rear window are removable, and can be stowed in the car in case the weather turns foul.

You donít expect a sports car to have a big boot, but the cavernous opening at the rear can hold more luggage than many hatch backs.

Part of the design brief was for the roof to be stowable in the car and itís a fairly easy task, as long as you take care to store the roof and glass carefully.

The glass is stored in a special cover supplied by TVR.

With the top down the car is even more fun, and with the heater turned on you can drive it top-down in cold weather too.

Buffeting protection is not in the SLK class, but itís not too bad. You can still shout at your traveling companion above the engine noise, which overrides everything else.

Turning to the T350, this is more of a competition-orientated model, but essentially very similar to its stable mate.

It has a lower ride height than the Tuscan, more down-force. These straight sixes rev to 8000 rpm, and, just in case you were wondering, there is a yearís guarantee on all the mechanicals of the car.

Like the Tuscan the TVR T350 features classic double-wishbone suspension front and rear, coil-over gas dampers and anti-roll bars.

Braking is via four-pot calipers on the front and single pot calipers at the rear on discs.

The wheels on both cars are 18-inches in diameter with 35-profile 225 rubber at the front, 235-40s on the rear.

Thanks to a slightly different throttle profile performance is listed as 4,5 seconds in the 0-100 run, but the 0- 160 takes 9,5 seconds.

Whereas the Tuscan features a very futuristic cockpit with digital engine diagnostics display, the T350 is more classic.

Apart from rather basic seat and steering wheel adjustment, an interesting item is that the pedal boxes are adjustable to suit each driver.

And the cockpits of both TVRs are a maze of odd solutions to simple operations like opening the doors Ė eccentric is the word.

Drivers of traditional sports cars will relish the fact that these TVRs come with absolutely no driver aids. There is no traction control, no brake-cornering assistance, no ABS braking on these cars.

Both TVR Tuscan and the T350 are priced at R695 000. Thatís some R200 000 less than a base-level Porsche 911. For this you get much more performance, much less sophistication.

Unlike a Porsche, itís definitely not an everyday ride.  Itís all seat-of-the-pants enjoyment. And driving one of these cars is an all-engrossing experience, every kilometer of every journey.

Even if itís just a trip to the corner cafť.

TVR Tuscan and T350

  • Engine: Straight-six , 3 605 cc, naturally-aspirated

  • Power: 260 kW @ 7 200 rpm

  • Torque: 393 Nm @ 5 500 rpm

  • Transmission: Five-speed manual gearbox, rear-wheel-drive

  • 0-100 km/h: 4,3 seconds (T350 4,5 seconds)

  • Top speed: 280 km/h

  • Fuel consumption: N/A

  • Price: 695 000 (both models)

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