TVR Griffith | The Brave Pill
The nights are drawing in – anyone fancy a bargain TVR for the winter?
By Mike Duff / Saturday, October 23, 2021 / Loading comments
You can set your watch by some of the regular stories about used car buying that pop up, and not just the ones about demanding to call the vendor on their landline or taking a magnet to check for filler in the sills. Spring inevitably brings a crop singing the praises of summer-friendly roadsters, while the onset of autumn creates an equally predictable wave about the virtues of winter-appropriate all-wheel drivers and SUVs. Of course, it is possible to enjoy something close to depreciation-free motoring by doing the exact opposite, presuming you can stand the bracing thrills of open-topped adventures when the weather is cold and the roads are slippery.
Which is why, although this is a non-obvious time of the year to buy a TVR Griffith, it may also be the perfect opportunity to do so. It’s certainly hard to imagine this one being worth less than the £19,995 currently being asked for it once spring has sprung and thoughts turn to open roads and country pubs.
Brave Pill has featured most of TVR’s other Wheeler-era offerings at least once, but this is the first Griffith to appear here. That may seem an oversight given the high level of love hereabouts for such classic-era Trevors (should that be Trevi?), but it is largely down to the fact the mechanically identical (and twice-featured) Chimaera is generally far cheaper. That’s true even with this outlier; the buy-in for a respectable looking Chimp is not much more than half as much as it is for the car you’re looking at here – the cheapest Griffith in the classifieds at the time of writing.
On one level the size of this supplement has always felt odd. Underneath both cars use the same chassis and Rover-sourced V8 engines, with power outputs for both having been progressively upgraded in lockstep during their parallel lifespans. The mechanical commonality has led some to see them as being basically the same car, but that argument definitely doesn’t account for taste. The Griffith was always more expensive and rarer, TVR made more than twice as many Chimaeras during their identical 11-year lifespans. It’s a subjective call, obviously – but the shorter, more tightly wrapped Griffith looks more classically elegant than its bigger and more practical sister. The Griff’s more ardent fans would argue that no glassfibre bodied car has ever looked better.
Although I’ve never driven a Griffith, I did have a formative automotive experience in one. Back in 1997 a friend and I went to Germany for the Oldtimer weekend at the Nurburgring, making the journey in his aged MG Maestro. Once out there we met up with another of his (considerably more affluent) friends, who had made the trip in a nearly-new 993-generation Porsche 911, and also a friend-of-this-friend, who had come in his TVR Griffith 500.
The weekend was memorable, marking my introduction to no-holds-barred historic racing on the GP circuit, and also weissbier. The Nordschliefe was open for Touristenfahrten sessions for most of the time – in those days you paid at the gate in cash – leading to the chance to experience the famous track firstly in the Maestro, my mate even letting me drive a lap, and then with passenger rides in both Porsche and TVR. The 911 felt thrillingly fast, the TVR was slower overall but louder and definitely capable of generating greater longitudinal G-forces.
Yet the Green Hell wasn’t the highlight. For some long-forgotten reason, likely hangover related, I ended up getting a lift back to Calais in the Griffith, with what seemed like an impossibly short amount of time to make the booked ferry. It was a glorious summers’ day, the roads were mercifully quiet and the TVR’s owner was keen to discover what his car was capable of. We touched an indicated 160mph on a derestricted stretch of Autobahn, the fastest I’d travelled on the ground to that point, but even crossing the German border and entering the world of speed limits didn’t slow us down much as we battled to make the rendezvous. Belgium passed in a three-figure blur to the glorious soundtrack of the bellowing V8. We made the ferry with minutes to spare, and the Griffith had proved itself a very serious performance car.
Being a 500 that car had the later 5.0-litre engine and 340hp; Autocar’s road testers proving its potency by blasting it from 0-60mph in a supercar-beating 4.1-seconds. But no Griffith was ever slow, and even though our Pill is early enough to be one of the few 4.0-litre cars built without catalytic converters, its lazier lump still makes 250hp – with barely 1,000kg sitting on the other side of the power-to-weight ratio. By popular acclaim the pre-catalyst cars also sound better when worked hard.
Our Pill definitely isn’t in the first flush of youth, the oxblood leather wearing patina that brings Mick Jagger’s face to mind and the pale carpets showing the wear of nearly three decades. But the selling dealer is promises an extensive history file and the MOT history is both reassuringly green – the last failure or advisory in 2013 for a misplaced brake line and loose suspension bracket – and also suggests the advert’s claim of 61,000 miles is a typo; the most recent pass in February this year was with just 51,113 miles.
Any use of the word brave in conjunction with a TVR of this era will create dissent from the gallery, they are fundamentally simple beasts and there is plenty of expertise to keep them in fettle. But they do suffer from some well documented issues, from rusting chassis outriggers requiring body-off restoration to cracked panels, less-than-oil-tight engines and perplexing electrical faults often down to water leaks or worn wires. For some hardy souls, such challenges will be part of the appeal and an invitation to DIY, but the costs of professional sorting-out can stack up quickly.
But more courageous would be buying a Griffith to act as transport through the damp and chill of a British winter. With the continuing wait for new TVR’s new Griffith to turn up, here’s one you can be enjoying – respectfully – right now.
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