Friday, 9 November 2007

TVR Sagaris



Blackpool. Jolly old Blackpool, default holiday destination for the unimaginative masses. ‘It’s got a huge tower,’ they pointlessly opine, ‘and a pleasure beach.’ These people are to be ignored; the grim seaside outcast has little to offer – visitblackpool.com tries to make it look exciting by being bright pink (Christ, they must be wacky and interesting), but have a look at their ‘fun stuff’ section. An aptly sparse metaphor for the locale itself.

I actually like Blackpool, for one important reason: TVR. Ever since Trevor Wilkinson set up shop there making fibreglass kit cars in the fifties, those three evocative letters (rather less sexy when you realise it’s an abbreviation of the founder’s first name) have represented originality, quirkiness, good old honest-to-goodness British engineering. Using a selection of domestically-sourced engines over the decades – MGA units, Ford crossflows and Essex V6s, Rover V8s – shoehorned into lightweight bodies over tubular chassis, TVRs are no-compromise machines for enthusiasts. Current models shun the Euro-imposed guidelines of fitting ABS and front airbags to all new cars… why would a TreVoR need all that? It adds weight. Just make sure you don’t wang it into a tree.

The nineties were good to TVR, the launch of the Griffith in 1992 heralding a new era of outlandish design. With good public reactions to the styling, combined with the knowledge that you can do anything with fibreglass, they charged headfirst down the ‘let’s make it look like a spaceship’ route with the Cerbera, the Tuscan, the Tamora and the Typhon among others. 2004 saw the release of the most extreme yet, the Sagaris - the first car released under the reign of Nikolai Smolenski.

Depending on perspective, Smolenski is either the company’s saviour or an utter bastard. He brought much-needed cash to the company as well as stringent and rigorous quality control, keen to exorcise the appalling-build-quality-demons of, well, every TVR ever built. (TVR ownership before Smolenski involved a lot of sitting on hard shoulders and grumbling.) He did also, however, sack loads of old-timer employees and move production out of Blackpool, having sincerely promised that he wouldn’t. Well, honestly.

So the Sagaris… one of the most brutal-looking cars on the road today, but it’s by no means all show. Under the bonnet is TVR’s bespoke Speed Six engine, which is mounted as far back as possible to achieve a front-mid engined layout akin to the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Its outrageous roar is backed up by 400 staggering horsepower which carry it to 60mph in 3.7 seconds. That’s very quick. And it’ll do 100mph in second gear.

In appearance it is genuinely scary up-close; the series of chunks that have been slashed out of the front wings, the perspex rear spoiler, the gargantuan exhausts that poke sideways out of the back – this car has surely been styled by somebody who swats at imaginary flies and doesn’t own any matching shoes. This is a car that wants to eat your soul.

In short, the Sagaris is the quintessential TVR. It stays true to the founding ideals of the company – lightweight, uncluttered, straightforward engineering, staggering performance – yet leads the charge in terms of what modern sports cars should look like. The most astonishing thing is that a new Sagaris costs under fifty grand. It baffles me why there aren’t more of them on the road.

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