It doesn’t happen often, but just occasionally journalists find themselves writing stories in the sure and certain knowledge that they know less about their subject than those reading it. This is one such occasion and for that, you have my apologies.
SEP 07th 2017
Thank Frankel it's... Thursday: Can the new TVR save traditional British sportscars?
By the time your eyes fall on these words, full details of the new TVR supercar will be in the public domain. But as I write them the day before, I don’t even know its name. But if I wait you’ll read about it elsewhere first because by Friday morning when the news breaks, every single member of Goodwood staff and all its contributors – myself included – will be up to their ears in the Revival at which the car is being launched.
This is what we know. Insofar as it is a two seat, front-engined, rear drive sportscar, lightweight and immensely powerful, it follows the template of not only the most recent of TVRs but indeed that of the traditional British sportscar to the letter. Where it diverts completely from the past is the way it is built. Designed and engineered by Gordon Murray Design it has a hybrid steel and carbon structure over which a carbon fibre body is laid. It will be built in a new factory in the Welsh Valleys and, being realistic, full production is unlikely to begin until 2019.
The car is powered by a normally aspirated 5-litre Ford V8, tuned by Cosworth to give around 480bhp which, if the car can come close to its suggested 1,200kg dry weight, will provide for explosive performance. You may already know the figures by now but traction issues are likely to hold back the 0-60mph time to around 3.4 seconds, but in the same time again (and so long as the manual Tremec gearbox can be persuaded to shift cogs as fast as the hand can move), it should be well past the 100mph mark. With that power, there’s no reason why the car shouldn’t be capable of 200mph in theory, though in practice it’s likely that downforce-enhancing bodywork will trade meaningless top speed for meaningful high-speed stability.
As for its market positioning, prices are likely to start at around £90,000 for a car that can be expected to be a lot more raw and recreational than a Porsche 911 but a lot more usable than a top of the range Caterham or Ariel – just like TVRs in the past. Its closest conceptual rival is likely to be the just announced Lotus Evora GT430 Sport which will likely have 50 fewer horsepower, similar weight but costs £104,500. That said, Lotus chassis wizardry and the Evora’s mid-engined design means you’d be bold to rule out the Lotus in a straight fight around a quick track.
Will it work? Well, it’s certainly bold. Low volume British sportscars have often struggled in this part of the market and you need only look at the TVRs that were being made when the company went to wall in 2006 to know it. Lee Noble couldn’t sell enough of his super sportscars to keep going either, and it’s no secret that selling the Evora has been a long term struggle for Lotus. You can do all the statistical analysis you like and convince yourself it will work because, for instance, a McLaren 570S is unlikely to offer substantially better performance yet costs over half as much again, but that’s not the way this market works. The name is everything. Besides, by the time it comes to market the TVR will be up against the new Porsche Cayman GT4 and if what I am told about that is true (sadly off the record), any car like the TVR is going to have its work cut out.
But there are several unknowns here including how much it will cost to build, and one of the key appeals of Gordon Murray’s manufacturing process is that it’s a lot more efficient and therefore affordable than traditional methods. And then there is the man himself: Gordon Murray is the most clear-thinking, inspirational, innovative car designer I’ve ever met and to own any car designed by him will be a massive draw. As a result, the new TVR will hit the ground with a degree of credibility the old company could not have imagined. The simple idea of owning a car, any car, designed by the man behind the Brabham fan car, who led the team that created Senna’s record-smashing McLaren MP4/4, who engineered the McLaren F1 and the Light Car Company Rocket is enough to make me consider refinancing my life.
Ultimately I know no better than you what future awaits the reborn TVR but I can tell you this: if fortune really does favour the brave as it should, we are now witnessing the start of a new era for British sportscar production.
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