The TVR Tuscan

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TVR Tuscan Challenge history and car


First inaugurated in 1989, the TVR Tuscan Challenge was throughout the 1990s the UK’s premier one make race series and has proved to a natural stepping off point for many of the leading British drivers in sports car racing around the world. With names like Jamie Campbell Walter, Bobby Verdon-Roe, Martin Short and Michael Caine all serving their racing apprenticeships in Tuscans, all are now well known competitors in LMES. FIA GT and Le Mans.  Even former F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell has been known to try his hand in Tuscans although his outing at Donington in “Red 5” is probably something he’d probably prefer to forget!

Originally seen at the 1988 Motor Show as a prototype road car based around the TVR S Series chassis and a supposed replacement for the TVR ES, 3.8 litre Holden engined car that had appeared the previous year, the Tuscan rapidly developed into a dedicated race car with its own custom designed fully rose jointed chassis using the 4.45 litre version of the Rover V8 engine producing in excess of 400bhp.  This, coupled to an extremely lightweight body and Borg Warner T5 gearbox meant that the car would hit 60mph in 4.0 seconds dead, 100mph in under 9 seconds and power onto a top speed of close on 160mph.  In that inaugural season, the price was just £16000…provided that the driver competed in at least 6 races with a commitment to pay an additional £16000 if they didn’t.  This meant that grids rapidly filled up.  1989 also included the famous Birmingham Super Prix with Tuscans racing through a street circuit in England’s second city.  Wahay!

In the 1995 season, company owner Peter Wheeler, who was a regular competitor in the series was seen sporting a new engine in his car, the AJP that ultimately would power the road going Cerbera.  By the start of the following season, all Tuscans were running his new engine which was hired from TVR.  In this way, not only were the race cars updated, but highly important development miles were completed before the engine appeared in customer cars for road use: perhaps the ultimate in “race-proven technology”!  This engine in Tuscan specification produces in excess of 450bhp/380lbs/ft and in a car weighing just over 800kg, this is equivalent to close on 550bhp per tonne which gives 0-100mph in under 7 seconds and a top speed in excess of 190mph

At the start of the 21st century, the Tuscans joined forces with the Best of British Motorsport and were often seen supporting the British GTs which was ideal for TVR fans who now could cheer for their favourite TVR teams in both classes at the same venue.  At the end of 2003, a new TVR was announced, the Sagaris, which it was explained, was destined to take over from the Tuscans in TVR’s own race series.  However, this failed to materialise, and thus 2004 saw the Tuscans continue but in a reducing grid size.  Sadly at the beginning of the 2005 season, it was announced that the Tuscan Challenge would no longer be officially supported by the Factory and thus throughout 2005, the Tuscans were reduced to fielding grids of no more than 7 cars, and thus were shuffled around the races in support of other series.  After a highly successful “open class” double header all TVR’s raced at Snetterton over the weekend of 22/23 October 2005 combining the Tuscans and TVRCC Challenge Cup cars, the two series came together for 2006 and have stayed that way upto 2011 and most likely on

USA Sales brochure from 1989

 

A little article on a converted Tuscan,the pricing is a little off now as the cars have climbed some what but you will get an idea about the road converted Tuscan

ROAD-LEGAL TVR TUSCAN

PetrolTed reports on Shane Antill’s road-legal TVR Tuscan

Road-legal TVR Tuscan
Road-legal TVR Tuscan

 

I’ve always been a fan of the Tuscan race car. Not only because of the spectacular on track action that I’ve yet to see bettered, but because it was a beautiful car in its own right.

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Originally planned as a road going car, TVR instigated the TVR Tuscan Challenge to stimulate sales. The first cars were offered at a discount to those who committed to racing for a season. Typically of TVR though, the goalposts moved and the road version never made it beyond a motor show prototype.

Pictures of that prototype show a neatly trimmed, smooth lined car, which boasted a hot Rover V8 under the bonnet. Personally I still think it would have sold like the proverbial cakes had TVR pursued the project.

Dazzled by the immense performance on track, a number of people have set about converting the race cars into road and track cars. Whilst the Tuscan race car shares the same build principles of TVR’s road cars — space frame chassis underpinning GRP bodywork — the task of making a Tuscan road-legal is all too often underestimated.

I’ve seen a number of these cars now and most are thinly disguised race cars, with none achieving the level of comfort and quality of trim that a factory produced road car would have achieved.

Recently I met Shane Antill who’s just finished building his Tuscan road/track car. Having toyed with various performance cars, he wanted a track car that he could push hard on track yet could drive on the road too.

He took a slightly different approach from those who’ve converted cars in the past. Having purchased a chassis and bodywork, he and Insane Racing built the car from the ground up.

The end result is the best example I’ve yet to see of a road legal Tuscan. Make no mistake, this is still a road legal racing car, but it’s very tidy indeed. A lot of work went into making the interior both usable and tidy. Neatly trimmed with full carpet, comfortable seats and — unlike most conversions — a dashboard that doesn’t look like it’s been retrieved from a skip.

The doors are still hollow, the indicators are operated by a switch on the dashboard, the boot still requires an Allen key to access it, but short of spending tens of thousands or more, it gets close to perfect.

Shane’s circumstances now dictate that he needs to sell the car and when I quizzed him about price, a wry smile crossed his face. He’ll be making a loss if he gets the £30,000 that he’s looking for he told me.

Frustratingly for Shane, conversations about price with people all too often lead to the “Well I saw a race car for sale for £15,000 and it will cost less than £10,000 to convert it”.

Ask any of the specialists who’ve converted these cars and you’ll soon find out that it’s not the simple process it might appear and you’ll need deep pockets to make it happen, and deeper pockets if it’s not going to be an expensive shed.

Many of the race cars have had hard lives and there’s not a single car out there that hasn’t been battered on track at some point. Bent, rusting and welded chassis are all out there waiting for the careless purchaser.

Shane bought his from ex-racer Rod Barrett and having ensured its rigidity he had it powder-coated. To the chassis were fixed new, race-spec Penske dampers, AP callipers and discs. A full fire extinguisher system has been plumbed in.  Fuel tanks in the racing cars are located to the left of the driver so a two-seat conversion requires it to be moved to the rear of the car – no small job. Protecting the fuel tank was also a concern so Shane had the already substantial roll cage extended to provide more rear protection.

Locating an engine for these conversions is extremely difficult. Quite a few Cerberas make it to scrap yards sadly but the AJP V8s rescued from them are a bit of an unknown quantity to salvage merchants. They know they’re rare and sought after but will rarely provide any sort of guarantee that the engines will run or are undamaged.

Shane held out for a long time until a 4.2 came along that came with a week’s guarantee – if it didn’t run then he could return it.  To buy the engine, have some new parts fabricated and to fit it to the car cost in excess of £10,000 alone. The AJPs fitted to road-going TVRs featured different ancillaries from the race Tuscan so there are dozens of frustrations to be overcome when fitting them. Road cars also require cooling systems that cool in all conditions, not just 50mph+, so that all has to be constructed too.

After much work with the DVLA Shane succeeded in getting the car fully registered as a TVR Tuscan, complete with V5 and all the necessary documentation – no small task given the curious history of the model.

What’s it like to drive? Trusting enough to let me behind the wheel, we set off for a blat around the countryside around Racing Green TVR. This may be an obvious statement, but it feels just like a race Tuscan! It’s a little more compliant in the suspension department so not every undulation shakes your teeth out, but it is a firm ride accompanied by a few race car like rattles.

The steering is very direct and requires a firm grip and strong arms – again just like the race cars. If sustained road use were intended then I’d certainly recommend looking at the brakes which are clearly set up for track use. When cold they require an immense shove to provoke retardation. The throttle too is also pretty stiff on this particular car, but again that’s something easily sorted.

Guiding the car through traffic and around town you might wonder – apart from the spectacle – why you’d bother with a conversion like this. Get near some twisty open roads though and the steering lightens slightly, the torquey engine lets you balance the car with your right foot and when in the groove it’s a very rewarding car to drive.

At the end of the day though, this remains a track car and that’s where it would deliver the biggest thrills. Being road legal is a bonus, being well trimmed and looking pretty is great, but the one place I’d want to take this car more than anywhere is on a track. It needs to be taken by the scruff of the neck and give it a damn good thrashing!

Time to re-mortgage…