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Hammond drives the icons: TVR Tuscan S

  1. It still gets me every time - there are no doorhandles! Amazing. We live in a time when a family car can have radar-assisted cruise control, dual-zone aircon, seats that massage your buns, and night vision, but I still get a little James-Bond-spy thrill every time I reach under the door mirror of a Tuscan to press the discreet little button that opens the door.

    It’s there, ex-TVR boss Peter Wheeler would tell you, to leave the car’s sculpted lines clean and uncluttered by door-opening furniture. But I think it’s there largely ‘cos it’s cool if you know where to find the little secret button and your passenger doesn’t and has to ask you, all doe-eyed and helpless, how to get in.

    This feature first appeared in the December 2011 issue of Top Gear magazine

    Words: Richard Hammond
    Pictures: Justin Leighton

  2. This will appeal to the TVR Tuscan Speed Six driver because they will be a man of a certain type. If their testosterone levels weren’t already backed up so far you could see the stuff swilling around behind their eyeballs, they will be by the time they’ve owned the car for six minutes.

    This is a car for the kind of chap who can wear a cardigan and not look like your grandad, the kind of chap who shaves his palms. It was, as were all TVRs, the automotive equivalent of an Elizabethan wearing a codpiece he could rest his chin on.

  3. Peter Wheeler would also tell you that it featured so many swoops and bends because he believed “a curved panel is stronger than a flat panel”. Possibly true, though it probably rather depends on to just what that panel, curved or flat, is anchored.

    In this case, it’s a steel chassis, and the whole assembly, reinforced glass body or not, feels satisfyingly rigid and inflexible. But, of course, I’m getting ahead of myself here, because the defining characteristic of a TVR is the noise.

  4. This one does not benefit from a V8’s bellow; it features, as the name suggests, a six-cylinder engine. Specifically, a straight-six, half of the V12 featured in the Cerbera Speed 12. While the straight-six is the quintessential British sports car engine format, it had fallen out of favour through the Nineties because they couldn’t be mounted sideways without ending up with a car 20 feet wide.

    TVR stuck with the straight-six format, though mounted longitudinally, because it allows for perfect balance. It also sounds wonderful. Maybe precisely because it isn’t the predictable V8 burble and roar, the straight-six’s mechanical clatter suggests a pragmatism and sincerity that might be lacking in the more flamboyant Vs, be they eight or 12 in number.

  5. This is not a precision tool, though it was and still is successfully campaigned in many an amateur race series. It’s about the experience, more than the absolute results. It simply feels great, perched towards the back of a big, British sports car, complete with authentically British straight-six acoustic accompaniment.

    Of course, along with a lot of body hair and some not entirely New Age views on sexism, the average TVR driver was always assumed to have very comprehensive and up-to-date membership of a recovery service, as their cars enjoyed a reputation for breaking down. All the time.

  6. I set off round the TopGear Test Track keeping half an eye always on where I’d started from, because I figured I’d be walking back at any moment soon and didn’t want to get too far away. But I must confess that I was cheating rather. The one I’m in has been extensively tweaked by Racing Green Cars, with modified cylinder head, suspension, differential, steering and gearbox.

    Essentially, then, this is RGC’s view of how the Tuscan should have been in the first place. And it does feel, straightaway, really rather brilliant. Power is up from the original 350bhp to 436bhp, but, most importantly, reliability is up from the original none to some.

  7. The key modification it carries out - as far as the buyer is concerned - is the replacement of the finger followers with traditional buckets. The easy translation for normal humans being that they’ve done away with the engine’s weak point. But if it results in an old-school British hairy-chester that you can charge about in regularly without risking ending up at the side of the road in a cloud of steam and shame, then that might just be a price worth paying.

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