The TVR Tuscan line had trouble escaping the poor opinion of its ancestor, the Griffith.
The Tuscan, one of TVR's first truly successful automobiles, came about as a result of one of TVR's many restructurings as a company.
As a result of its 1965 liquidation, TVR was acquired by Martin Lilley and his father Arthur, who reconstituted the firm as TVR Engineering, Ltd., and set it on a path to prosperity. Among the assets they inherited was a sound basic chassis that could accept MG four-cylinder and Ford V-8 engines. Martin decided to develop this further, and over the next four years created several variations on the original model theme.
For a time, Blackpool concentrated solely on the MGB-powered Grantura 1800S, for which demand remained steady in Britain. Compared with cars built under the previous, rather discredited regime, it had distinctly higher-quality fittings, especially the “Mark IV” model that took over in the autumn of ’66.
The following year, Lilley revived the Griffith 400 in spirit, if not name, with the Mark IV as a starring point. Called Tuscan V-8, it was newly distributed in the U.S. by Gerry Sagerman but couldn’t escape the Griffith’s poor reputation. Only 28 were built, some with the 195-horsepower Ford 289, some with the “hi-po” 271-bhp engine. All but four were sold in America.
The V-6 Tuscan fared best out of all of the Tuscan models, though only a few made it to America.
Lilley’s next salvage effort was a stretched, 90-inch-wheelbase TVR Tuscan, achieved by lengthening the floorpan to make all the extra space available inside. Identified by different taillamps (from the British Ford Cortina Mk II) and a revised hood, this Tuscan V-8 SE was built in 1967-68 and fared even worse than its predecessor: just 24 built, half of which went to the States.
Undaunted, Lilley announced yet another TVR Tuscan at the 1968 New York Auto Show. This time, however, the familiar chassis was covered with a longer, wider, and much smoother body, a step toward the definitive M-Series design of 1972. Alas, it sold no better than previous Tuscans: a mere 21 were built between April 1968 and August 1970 (two had right hand drive). At this point, TVR belatedly gave up on a Ford V-8 model.
Somewhat more successful was an “in-between” TVR that neatly bridged the price-and-performance gap between the V-8s and the Cortina-powered Vixen. Introduced in October 1969 as the Tuscan V-6, it was basically a Vixen with Ford Britain’s fine 60-degree 3.0-liter “Essex” V-6 and 4-speed gearbox (a drivetrain already seen in such diverse places as the British Ford Capri “ponycar” and Zephyr/Zodiac sedans, the Reliant Scimitar GTE sportswagon, and the odd-looking Marcos GT). The V-6 delivered 136 bhp (versus the Vixen’s 88) and had a very lusty torque curve.
Still, there must have been something about these vee-engine TVRs that turned off potential buyers, for the V-6 didn’t sell as well as it deserved. Yet magazine road tests showed a top speed of near 125 mph, brisk acceleration, and surprising fuel economy (about 28 mpg U.S.). Nevertheless, production stopped in early 1971 at just 101 units, most of which remained in Britain.
To learn more about TVR and other sports cars, see:
- How Sports Cars Work
- Sports Cars of the 1960s
- Sports Cars of the 1970s
- New Sports Car Reviews
- Used Sports Car Reviews
- Muscle Cars
- How Ferrari Works
- How the Ford Mustang Works