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Chip Butty

TVR Chimaera 4.0

Haven't driven one of these for ages - managed to have a cracking drive this morning before the weather turned shitty.

This particular car had been bought for £6k and was just back from £1ks worth of fettling.

It's a tiny little thing but huge inside once you drop into it (even with the roof still on). As an early model, it has no power steering which is comically heavy when parking, but pleasantly weighty on the move. The gearchange and pedal weightings follow suit - all very meaty, but a pleasure to use.

The 4.0 was the entry level model – 240 bhp and 260 lbs ft, but even these meagre outputs were good enough to push it to 60 in 5.2 seconds and 100 in 13.2 seconds (Autocar road test). It doesn’t feel quite that fast on the road and it’s not as beefy from lower revs as you would expect – but it has a nice step up at 4000 rpm and then runs enthusiatically up to 6000 rpm.

Best bit though, is the noise – no doubt this is a bit of a cliché now, but I don’t care. The soundtrack accompanying every tickle of the pedal, from the snuffle it makes as you pootle through a car park to the ferocious wail when you ring it’s neck – is truly epic. I have never, ever heard a V8 that sounds as good, or as characterful as this, the car just wouldn’t be the same without it and it’s a fucking travesty that cars will never sound like this again.

Such is the quality and volume of the exhaust note, the better you drive it, the better it sounds – after 10 minutes I managed a few perfect flat out changes from 2nd through 3rd into 4th  and I was the shit !!. However, if you fluff a change or don’t engage the clutch cleanly you can hear it and you curse yourself as that glorious howl is interrupted by your ham fistery and plebitude. Everyone else can hear it too – and they just know it isn’t your car.

The pleasure to be had from mastering a car like this must be immense – it’s such a completely different experience from current performance cars that are like wheeled neutron bombs by comparison. I’ve no doubt the Chimaera wouldn’t see which way the latest 5.0 XK went in a straight line (never mind corners), but after a couple of full throttle upshifts into hero land, I wouldn’t give a toss.
TreVoR

Lucky bugger.  Driving a TVR is on the to do before I die list!
scamper

Is this really you GZ?

My old man ran a S plate 4.5 with optional LSD, and it was a great car with sound core mechanicals.  The interior was nice  - deep pile carpets and what felt like inch thick hide on the dash.  The driving position was spot on too. I loved its over taking ability - pull out, wait to make sure its completely safe, and just mash the throttle.  My overriding memory apart from the noise was one xmas day taking it out for spin and coming up behind the latest Viper.  Off a roundabout and with a passenger, it kept pace on a deserted straight road until the Viper pulled away once well past three figures.  No doubt minus a passenger, and with the 5.0 version things would have been much closer.

One thing i never did was push it round the corners - not with my two left hands.  I did manage to get the rear end out on the roundabout once, and scarily  downhill on a slight bend while accelerating - but it recovered itself.

Oh, and pretty big practical boot too!


Issues were the shite dealers and shite Head Office.  I once rang TVR to complain about being given a ropey ford Ka when in for a service.  The arrogant PR boss basically said its up to the dealers, and why do you expect something better?  Because i'd get something better with a 40k porsche, came my reply.

When he purchased it in what 1998, TVR was at its peak with strong sales and residuals.  Three years later and the bubble already burst.  With options a £44k well specced car struggled to sell for £17500 with 18k up.
franki68

As a 17 year old the tvr 420 seac was my dream car,still never recovered from a ride in one though,never seen a car that had so much stuff on it that didn't work.
If they had actually put any build quility into their product tvr might have survived.
Such a shame.
nice write up though ,you cannot say they lacked character (although I am becoming increasingly confused as to what that means)
Blarno

Bastard. I love Chims and Griffs. Proper old skool Rover V8s that sound like V8s should.
Chip Butty

Blarno - I'm surprised you haven't bought one yourself by now.

Note how the one I drove was purchased for £6k and not £16k. Apart from a slightly tatty interior (nothing that a weekend with some leather restorer and a bit of new carpet couldn't sort out), it was bodily and mechanically superb.

Parts are cheap (just mention SD1 V8 when purchasing) and they are mechanically simple - (brawny V8, T5 gearbox, sierra axle, and lots of bent tubing - even brake parts are off something mass produced - IIRC).

Considering the car's age - I thought the quality was very good, it felt very solid, rattles were minimal, everything worked and nothing was hanging off. If I was ever going to buy a second car, this would be it and I would aim to do much of the spannering myself. Having to stick a bit of carpet back on, or a piece of trim is not really an issue on your pocket money weekend sports car - although I appreciate it's bang out of order on a new one that owes you £44k

Another major plus is the fact that the your going to get all of your money back come resale time - can you ever see a nice Chimaera going for less than £5k ??
Blarno

If I wasn't a family man, it would be really tempting. Maybe in a few years time once little un is in school! As far as I'm aware, the brakes are from an Escort XR3i, although I may be wrong.
Mark

Blarno wrote:
If I wasn't a family man, it would be really tempting. Maybe in a few years time once little un is in school! As far as I'm aware, the brakes are from an Escort XR3i, although I may be wrong.


I think it's Sierra bits here and there.
Blarno

Most Ford discs are interchangeable. I remember seeing a twin turbo Griff in the paddock at Oulton Park back in 2003- 550 bhp on standard brakes! It was the owner who said they were XR3i jobbies. Mental!
Twelfth Monkey

A colleague had a Chimaera for a couple of years, having fallen head over hells in love in a test drive on a balmy summer's evening.

It was a shitbox to live with, and his ownership experience was the stereotypical will-it-won't-it nightmare.  (The will it question was clearly 'will it go wrong' and the won't it was equally clearly 'won't it start?')

When he chopped it in for a Boxster, the sound of a heavy weight being lifted could be heard in four counties.
Mark

Twelfth Monkey wrote:
It was a shitbox to live with, and his ownership experience was the stereotypical will-it-won't-it nightmare.  (The will it question was clearly 'will it go wrong' and the won't it was equally clearly 'won't it start?')


It's a shame. A girl at work has had 3 - she loves them that much - but had similar problems. Never anything really major, though - it was stuff like wipers and other electrics not working when they were needed, leaks etc. But, it does take the shine off the experience.

She eventually gave up and went all mainstream with a Mini Cooper S JC Works.

She still hankers after another one, though.

I'd love to try and live with a Cerbera at some point...


I wonder what state this is in:

http://www.pistonheads.com/sales/1485922.htm
scamper

As GZ says, never recall any interior rattles, and the materials were of good quality especially with the full leather interior, and i've just remembered, carpet upgrades.  Not always screwed together properly, mind.  Paint was prone to chipping too.

All forgotten when you were driving something which would blow most things into the weeds at the traffic lights in the 90's.
Matt

What a fantastic cover. Really like the old Autocar logo, too.


DarthBalls

I've posted before about how much I disliked the Classic Car Club Scotland's Chimaera 400. Maybe a Marmite type of situation?

Fantastic looking cars though.
Chip Butty

Not really - I don't understand what is not to like about Chimaeras

Enlighten us.
DarthBalls

The main thing was the steering, 'comically heavy' at parking speed as you posted but the one I drove was still fairly heavy at speed but the car felt very light and skittish at the same time. A combination I just couldn't get used to it. The bonnet banging up and down in a cross wind on the coastal section of the A1 in Berwickshire didn't inspire confidence.

It didn't feel as fast as I'd expected either or sound as good as I'd expected either. Maybe I'd built it up too much in my head?

 I asked if there was anything wrong with it when I returned it to the Club but apparently not. Apart from the randomly illuminating warning lights on he dash and the door realase buttons not always working. Apparently it was well liked at The Club. Maybe it was just me then?

I much preferred my father in law's TR6.

Never got a chance to drive their 350C.
scamper

Don't forget the C400 was the entry car to TVR power.

External and Internal Door release failure is called character especially when they come off in your hand  
..

I've had a good luck at these twice but bought something else each time.

They're fast in a straight line but I'm convinced that my little MX5 will be faster A to B on East Cleveland, Notrh Yorkshire and Durham roads for anyone except a total hero.
Gurney

When I came back from the Isle of Man last week on the Heysham ferry the Pistonheads TVR boys were coming home after a play on the TT circuit.

Everything from Cerbera to T350's all in a big convoy.

The noise they made on startup as we docked in Heysham was epic

Always remember attending the Tatton Park classic car show when I had the Spider. It pissed it down. After the 5 seconds it took to put the Spiders hood up we all rushed over to the MG stand to watch the roadsters drown - and so did the Griffith boys whoose soft tops seemed as easy to put up as the Spider. I remember being amazed at the boot space in a Chimera, one of the owners had installed his young daughter in the boot complete with a big lego set, she played there happily all day.

She would have fallen through the floor in most Spiders...
PG

Guitar Zero wrote:
Parts are cheap (just mention SD1 V8 when purchasing) and they are mechanically simple - (brawny V8, T5 gearbox, sierra axle, and lots of bent tubing - even brake parts are off something mass produced - IIRC).


If TVR had stuck with that business model (maybe giving in and adding power steering, ABS and airbags along the way...) and just kept improving the quality, I reckon they'd still be in business today.
him

PG wrote:
If TVR had used LS V8's rather than the AJP8, I reckon they'd still be in business today.

FYP...
scamper

Gurney wrote:
When I came back from the Isle of Man last week on the Heysham ferry the Pistonheads TVR boys were coming home after a play on the TT circuit.

Everything from Cerbera to T350's all in a big convoy.

The noise they made on startup as we docked in Heysham was epic

Always remember attending the Tatton Park classic car show when I had the Spider. It pissed it down. After the 5 seconds it took to put the Spiders hood up we all rushed over to the MG stand to watch the roadsters drown - and so did the Griffith boys whoose soft tops seemed as easy to put up as the Spider. I remember being amazed at the boot space in a Chimera, one of the owners had installed his young daughter in the boot complete with a big lego set, she played there happily all day.

She would have fallen through the floor in most Spiders...


Yes, the boot was big enough to store the hood section, and yes was easy to put up - just two collapsable metal bars, if i recall.
Alf McQueef

I like the Chimaera, and absolutely love the sound the TVR versions of the old Rover V8 make, the only thing that would put me off would be a likely requirement of any second car of mine to be good on track on track. These things, like the V8 Westies, are only passable.

I know a few people who have had older TVR's. Some have even driven them. It seems to me that there are good ones and bad ones, but the mechanical simplicity is a real plus if you are handy with spanners and have the time (and patience, which I lack!).
TreVoR

It is amazing what you find when "Googling"!  Sorry for the resurrection.

I was looking for the Autocar roadtest of the Chimaera 450 out of interest which isn't in my TVR road test book. ( )

I am rather glad I bettered my original reply.  
Roadsterstu

TreVoR wrote:
Lucky bugger.  Driving a TVR is on the to do before I die list!


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