Before TVR collapsed indefinitely in 2006, leaving some 300 workers unemployed and a factory abandoned and dilapidated, during the 1990s and the early 2000s they were on a roll. It seemed that every week the boys in Blackpool were churning out a different two-seater road rocket with a huge engine and mad paint scheme. Cars such as the Chimaera, the Cerbera and later the Tamora and the insane Sagaris, they thrust a gleeful middle finger in the face of the mainstream sensiblities of other sports car makers such as MG and Mazda by clearly straying from the straight and narrow. Whether this decision killed the company or not (and it probably did) you have to admire their audacity to continue producing these extreme motors, even when faced with dwindling sales, poor market share and low demand, that eventually led them to close their doors. However, with the revival of the TVR marque in recent years, their cars have started gaining more attention, however there is one car which has been brushed aside in favour of the more notable models: the original TVR Griffith 500, the car that laid the foundations for TVR's new insane direction.
Yet when opening the door and getting into the car, there's nothing that suggests "sleek roadster with an engine to rattle most sports cars". Instead, I'm plunged into a world reminiscent of my grandfather's living room. Lashings of wood and leather accompany dials that wouldn't look out of place on a classic locomotive, yet here they are affixed to a mid-nineties roadster. It's a sharp contrast to the exterior of the car, where a round, trim rear end flows gracefully into a cleverly designed aerodynamic bonnet, before sinking into a beak-shaped front end. There's no huge air intakes or scalloped design features, but I know that this car is a quick one without a doubt. Turning the key in the ignition, I'm met with a throaty bark from the 5.0 litre Rover V8 housed inside the front end. The interior may be eligible for a bus pass soon, but all is forgiven when you slip it into first and get going.
0nce the car is on the road, it's not anything I was expecting it to be. Usually when I've driven cars of a similar calibre in the past (such as the Alfa Romeo Spider or BMW Z3 M) I found that they were light, agile creatures, changing paces and directions with ease and speed. However, despite this car being of a similar design and era, it feels totally different. It feels solid. Instead of the agility I was expecting, this car feels planted, firm and totally stable on the road. The steering responds well and when rounding some particularly tricky corners, it does so with minimal body roll, the rear end kicking out ever so slightly to take you around the bend. I have 340 bhp to play with all underneath my foot, which means I could take on an older Porsche 911 or a Nissan 350Z if I wanted to. But this car feels more like a cruiser than a bruiser to me. I find myself taking in more of the aspects of the ride and handling rather than the performance. But I couldn't finish a review without putting my foot down at least once, so I plant my foot on the accelerator and set off.
Going fast in a Griff is akin to going down a hill in a shopping trolley- you have to just stay in control, or else you're in for a bit of a wrestle. 0-60 in this car is rapid to say the least-4.1 seconds from a standstill. The Rover V8 gurgles in agreement when you push the throttle down, and it's a great sound when accompanied with the transmission, which works best when pushing the car up to the red line, before rising up and charging off. It isn't the sort of experience that pins you back in your seat, but rather one that makes your draw in a quick breath while the engine tone rises in tandem with your heart rate. It's a world away from the TVRs I had grown up adoring. This car seems more refined and sane, and it makes you feel relaxed and in control, while also being aware of the power and speed you have at your service.
On top of that, second hand prices are still low, at least compared to other TVRs, which have seen a sharp price increase in recent years. Buy a well-maintained and attractive Griffith on the second hand market today and you'll find yourself paying about £19,000- so it's either this or a Volkswagen Golf-which would you choose? Anyway, onto the verdict!
TVR Griffith- the verdict
Overall, this car changed what I thought about TVRs. It showed a different side to them, a more relaxed, cruising type of car, rather than the insane speed machines they later became. This is a roadster that shows that agility and nippiness isn't everything, and one that challenges what they can be. That's why it is a roadster to beat them all.
Thanks for reading guys, I really appreciate the support. See you soon!