I remember sitting at my desk at The Telegraph 12 years ago, and a box landing on my desk. I opened it and pulled out a gleaming ruby-red Sagaris from TVR. What a sexy sportscar it was. I took it out to admire it, and the rear spoiler fell off. “Ah, a true TVR”, laughed a colleague.
SEP 10th 2017
Gordon Murray and Les Edgar on making TVR's return permanent
Les Edgar, new owner of TVR, has something of a mixed chalice on his hands, as he launches the new TVR model. Former and future TVR customers wait with bated breath: will this be the start of a glorious, profitable future for the British sportscar brand, building reliable, high-quality models that everyone wants to own from its factory in Wales? Or will it stutter and stumble on for a few years, lose a shedload of cash, and die quietly once more?
Talk to Les Edgar, and the man he has charged with engineering and designing the new models – none other than Gordon Murray – and you’d hope that this really is the start of something beautiful.
“We all know that the modern sportscar can’t survive in the way that previous TVRs survived”, Edgar says. “The company couldn’t have survived if it had continued in that way; you have to be building a modern car that has broader appeal, there’s no question about that. We have to have volumes that enable us to survive through the next 20 years so therefore you can’t be completely outrageous with every car, but we fully intend to surprise people with the offering that we produce and each iteration of that.”
This is the first new car in more than a decade, but what exactly does the brand stand for these days? “A TVR is a sportscar but in my mind, it’s also it’s a muscle car”, says Edgar. “It’s a luxury GT, so it kind of sits in a sport GT position, where I’d expect to be able to drive it to the south of France in comfort, with luggage, fast, noisy and I’d expect not to see too many more on the road as I do that.”
Edgar and John Chasey, his competent Operations Director, benchmark TVR against Porsche, Aston, Ferrari, Lamborghini and Lotus but, says Edgar, “We see the Griffith as very different and so do the existing owners, who are very vocal. We constantly check ourselves – every time we look at the car we say, if you took the badge off the front, would that be a TVR?”
That’s the DNA sorted then, but what about the overbearing issue of poor build-quality and reliability that dogged Noughties cars and allowed the Porsche Boxster to take so many sales?
“Of course you can’t build a sportscar these days without it having fantastic quality and reliability, says Edgar, “so our strategy on that front has been the iStream process, which lends itself to producing inherently very high quality construction.
“It’s very, very torsionally rigid, for example, so the thing’s not going to be shaking itself to bits as you drive down a bumpy road. Typically it’s probably seven to 10 times more torsionally rigid than any other TVR.
“[As for] reliability – the ethos is to take proven components where possible and bespoke them for TVR, which is why we’ve gone for a Ford base engine and then given it Cosworth to sprinkle the magic on it to make it special.”
The car is shorn of electronic aids, to cut weight and cost, but also the number of things that might go wrong. It happily also fits Edgar’s vision for a purebred sportscar. If owners were searching for further proof about the quality of the production process, they’d only have to talk with Gordon Murray at his Surrey HQ, as we did. “Happily we only have one sort of standard at GMD [Gordon Murray Design]”, says Murray. “No matter whether it’s high volume or low volume, the cars are all engineered really, really well and by the time we get to production design, it will be designed very well so yes, it will be well engineered and reliable… which will be a change.”
Murray is offering two versions of his iStream manufacturing process for TVR customers: iStream Carbon and iStream 3. “The customers choose the fundamental architecture materials which is either iStream Carbon [multi-tubular frame with steel components and carbon-fibre bonded panels] or iStream 3 [which replaces the steel tubes with aluminium sections]”, explains Murray, “then they also have the choice of body materials, because with iStream the body is not structural, unlike all the cars that you and I drive”.
That’s quite a point of differentiation for a sportscar costing £90,000, and you begin to sense that TVR is going to offer a wholly new ownership experience.
Then there’s the racing side of the business: Edgar’s aim to bring TVR to the GT Pro grid at Le Mans is on track: the new car has been designed with a wider track than normal to accommodate ACO demands. And then there’s the single-make series, “which we hope to bring back”, says Edgar. “TVR pretty much was the fore-runner of all the one-make series with the Tuscan Challenge. We’re going to bring that back, so I hope to see our equivalent of the modern Tuscan Challenge at Goodwood in the not-too-distant future.”
When can we drive it?
Photography by James Lynch