TVR S Series - S2
Although some of the 50’s TVRs and Jomars were open topped, through the 60s and 70s all TVRs were fastbacks, apart from "specials" such as Martin Lilley’s one off M roadster in the mid 70s. Finally in 1978 the TVR Convertible was available – the 3000S, and even a turbo version. That Autocar test made a teenager's day. Only a few hundred were built, many going to the USA before the M series was dropped to be replaced by the Tasmin 280i FHC.
A change of owner and the move to “larger power plants, more luxury fitted items and a wider customer option list have seen the prices slowly rise”. TVR again needed a “entry level model that would be the introduction to the TVR line up.” A statement in the Handbook that is as true now as it was 16 years ago. The entry model was inspired by the 3000S but with mechanics inspired by the outgoing 280i. The roof was a split panel version of the Tasmin and real wind up windows in-place of the removable side screens in the 3000S. The other major difference to the driver was the fitting of a 5-speed box and the first TVR essay in curved dashes.
TVR S2 dashboard
TVR S2 interior
The choice of the 2.8 engine was based on knowledge with the 280i, however the writing was on the wall, the Capri 2.8 Injection was dropped and the XR4 and Granada moved to the 2.9. TVR had to act. Press releases talking about various options came to nothing and the 2.9 was offered, continuing a line back with Ford V6 power twenty years to the V6 Tuscan. About this time the specification started to improve – customer wanted more, so chrome on the bumpers and restyled wheels joined electric windows. However there was a transition between the 280S (S1) and the 290S (S2) cars, sometimes these are called S1.5 cars, also each car was individually built to a customer, or dealer specification, so that no two will be totally the same.
The S3 followed this trend with larger doors, a more traditional dash arrangement and yet more trailing arm tweaks. A catalyser was offered on the S3c cars with the added attraction of fog lights – but of course these were an option on the S3 cars too….
The series didn’t develop in a vacuum at Blackpool and at the time V8 powered Wedge cars were also being built on the same “line”. TVR having been banned from production car racing, decided to start a one make race series. The Rover derived 4.5 litre Tuscans were unleashed on the circuits. The ingredients were in place for the success of the 90’s. The 1990 Motorshow allowed the customers to decide the direction TVR would take, on offer was a the smart Speed 8 based on the Tasmin cars or the Griffith a styling exercise on the S series, but with Rover power.
The customers voted with their deposits for the V8 Griffith. TVR returned to Blackpool to make a few improvements. These take time and almost as a spin off from the development the V8S was delivered with an improved chassis and a bonnet hump. The new chassis found its way in to the last of the V6 cars – the S4, which also had a new bonnet with side vents similar to the Chimaera.
Andy Hills immaculate TVR V8S engine
The emergence of the Chimaera really meant the end of the S series with the factory busy and the 4.0 Chimaera becoming the entry-level model.
They are still a fantastic drive, though, and the plaudits of the press at the time were well deserved - they are beautiful, great fun to drive, sound fantastic, and are relatively easy to maintain. Even the newest ones are now getting on for 20 years old, though, so many are now starting to show signs of rust in the chassis, particularly the outriggers under the sills, and also the rear trailing arms. Of course, old electrics in fibreglass cars are also always "interesting".
A very good "buyers guide" is available on Pies' site (see link below) so you can see what to look out for. Many existing owners will also be only to pleased to look over a car with you, if you are interested in buying, and point out any known problems.
But how did the motoring press see the S in its day?
Well Fastlane magazine reported on an S1 in June 1988, saying that "There are fewer nitpicks to this car than, frankly, we were expecting. We were all ready to set off dynamic abilities against inevitable shortcomings in finish and reliability, but we haven't had to do that. Dynamically, it is indeed excellent, alive and friendly without being difficult. It's not happy on the motorway or when fully loaded, and it's rather noisy, but you could sensibly use one as everyday transport." They concluded that "so far, the future looks bright for TVR".
In August 1989, What Car tested an S2 against a Toyota MR2, noting that "the wonderfully purposeful exhaust note alone is probably enough to satissfy the enthusiast, but the way the TVR simply goes in any gear at any speed whenever you floor the throttle ensures a full five-star score". In comparing the two, their verdict was a split decision, saying that "these two cars appeal to two very different sorts of drivers... but in the specialist sports car world, the more audacious, soul-stirring TVR pips the conservative choice, the Toyota MR2."
In September 1991, Autocar tested the new V8S, and said that "It will remain, as TVR has always been, a weekend event of monumental proportion, something to blast away the cobwebs of a working week, return you to raw motoring pleasure and remind you that Deutchmarks, Yen and Cray computers alone cannot make driving materially more fun than this. And that cannot be a bad thing."
Performance Car tested the same V8S (same registration and everything!) in that same month, and said that "We were reluctant to let the V8S go back to TVR. It's dazzlingly quick, astonishingly tractable, terrifically rewarding to drive quickly, and it looks just great. And that exhaust note... it's still echoing along our favourite roads."
Sue Callands TVR S2
Thoroughbred and Classic Car published a supplement in 1997 (unfortunately I am not sure which month it was produced) to find "The Best British Sports Car Ever". In the "from the 1980's" section the TVR S1 was compared with the AC Cobra, the Lotus Elan, the Marcos Mantula and the Reliant SS1. ON the TVR, they said that "This is surely getting close to the essence of sports car motoring". In their verdict on the 1980's models, they concluded that the TVR came out tops, saying "So, almost by default that leaves the excellent TVR which lurks in the middle ground of high practicality good value easy maintenance and straightforward fun. In other words it's a true sports car."
In their overall verdict, the TVR came second only to the Jaguar E-Type - no mean feat! They said "Marking TVR's return to good looks and the resurgence of this marque towards the incredibly strong position it holds now, the TVR S is quite a landmark car." Who can argue?
Even now, the TVR S Series still get good reviews. Classic and Sports Car in their July 2011 issue, carries out a feature where "Open-top icons and their budget rivals go head-to-head", pitting an S3 agains a Triumph TR4. They said "The only criticism of the wood 'n' leather interior is that the gearlever is a bit too far back on the transmission tunnel, but you soon adapt". The article goes on to say that "past 3000 and then 4000 rpm, the 2.9 Ford Cologn V6 is note-perfect in its impression of a V8". They said that "there really is only one way to drive a TVR, because that addictive howling exhaust goads you on..."
TVR S2 convertible
A few months later, in September 2001, Octane magazine included an S-Series buying guide, with the help of Fenhursts. They said that "The success of those later cars (the Griffith and Chimaera) has left the S as something of a forgotten gem in the company's line-up. And that makes it a conspicuous "now is the time to buy" classic car bargain." Although their estimates of current values seemed to me to be on the high side (they are TVR dealers after all!) the article concluded that "the S is a hoot to drive, and fundamentally solid, with the odd annoying foible. Despite common wisdom suggesting that the V8S is the more desirable car, the Octane choice would be for a well-cared for S3C with low mileage and an enthusiast seller."
It seems that lots of people are catching on to what a great car the S Series was, and still is. This can't be bad for future values!