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TVR S Series

S Series Model Area Editor; Andy Winfield

I am Andy Winfield the S-series editor since early 2013 and I have been interested in classic British sports cars for many years.
I originally got into TVRs more or less by accident when a friend asked me to garage his S1 for a while as he was emigrating and to keep it in good working order he also asked that I should drive it occasionally:
Wow, what a car, what a noise – a V6 with virtually straight-through pipes – I had to have one. The S gave the pure thrills of a TVR, whilst being one of the most economic to buy and own. In fact many TVR owners start with an S and move on, but ironically they then hark back to the instinctive driving pleasure of this model.

The S series has a strong community of owners who are amongst the friendliest, providing technical support and organising events and our famous Euro-Tours where the cars are appreciated for what they were designed for - driving.

The following detailed summary was produced by Andrew Carrie, who actively supported this model in the role of S series editor from 2008 to 2013 who in his introduction tells us a little about his history as a TVR fan.

I remember seeing my first TVR, a burgundy Grantura, leaving a motor racing event in around 1970. It was beautiful, and even at 14, I wanted one. When I decided, in 2003, that I was in a position at last to be able to buy a "weekend toy", it had to be a TVR, and what's more, one with that classic traditional look! An S Series came up for sale locally, I went to see it and bought it there and then - so much for the advice that you should look at several before deciding! At the time, I was teaching myself how to write web sites, and I started a "blog" web site even before I paid for and collected the car, and now, 9 years later, both the car and the web site are still going!

The original S1 Handbook described the S as an “entry level model that would be the introduction to the TVR line up.” A statement in that is as true now as it was 24 years ago.

Discussion ForumHistoryTechnical InfoEventsLinks

TVR S Series
TVR S Series - S2

Although some of the 50’s TVRs and Jomars were open topped, through the 60s and 70s all TVRs were fastbacks, apart from "specials" such as Martin Lilley’s one off M roadster in the mid 70s. Finally in 1978 the TVR Convertible was available – the 3000S, and even a turbo version. That Autocar test made a teenager's day. Only a few hundred were built, many going to the USA before the M series was dropped to be replaced by the Tasmin 280i FHC.

A change of owner and the move to “larger power plants, more luxury fitted items and a wider customer option list have seen the prices slowly rise”. TVR again needed a “entry level model that would be the introduction to the TVR line up.” A statement in the Handbook that is as true now as it was 16 years ago. The entry model was inspired by the 3000S but with mechanics inspired by the outgoing 280i. The roof was a split panel version of the Tasmin and real wind up windows in-place of the removable side screens in the 3000S. The other major difference to the driver was the fitting of a 5-speed box and the first TVR essay in curved dashes.

TVR S2 dashboard
TVR S2 dashboard

TVR S2 interior
TVR S2 interior

The choice of the 2.8 engine was based on knowledge with the 280i, however the writing was on the wall, the Capri 2.8 Injection was dropped and the XR4 and Granada moved to the 2.9. TVR had to act. Press releases talking about various options came to nothing and the 2.9 was offered, continuing a line back with Ford V6 power twenty years to the V6 Tuscan. About this time the specification started to improve – customer wanted more, so chrome on the bumpers and restyled wheels joined electric windows. However there was a transition between the 280S (S1) and the 290S (S2) cars, sometimes these are called S1.5 cars, also each car was individually built to a customer, or dealer specification, so that no two will be totally the same.

The S3 followed this trend with larger doors, a more traditional dash arrangement and yet more trailing arm tweaks. A catalyser was offered on the S3c cars with the added attraction of fog lights – but of course these were an option on the S3 cars too….

The series didn’t develop in a vacuum at Blackpool and at the time V8 powered Wedge cars were also being built on the same “line”. TVR having been banned from production car racing, decided to start a one make race series. The Rover derived 4.5 litre Tuscans were unleashed on the circuits. The ingredients were in place for the success of the 90’s. The 1990 Motorshow allowed the customers to decide the direction TVR would take, on offer was a the smart Speed 8 based on the Tasmin cars or the Griffith a styling exercise on the S series, but with Rover power.

The customers voted with their deposits for the V8 Griffith. TVR returned to Blackpool to make a few improvements. These take time and almost as a spin off from the development the V8S was delivered with an improved chassis and a bonnet hump. The new chassis found its way in to the last of the V6 cars – the S4, which also had a new bonnet with side vents similar to the Chimaera.

Andy Hills immaculate TVR V8S engine
Andy Hills immaculate TVR V8S engine

The emergence of the Chimaera really meant the end of the S series with the factory busy and the 4.0 Chimaera becoming the entry-level model.

They are still a fantastic drive, though, and the plaudits of the press at the time were well deserved - they are beautiful, great fun to drive, sound fantastic, and are relatively easy to maintain. Even the newest ones are now getting on for 20 years old, though, so many are now starting to show signs of rust in the chassis, particularly the outriggers under the sills, and also the rear trailing arms. Of course, old electrics in fibreglass cars are also always "interesting".

A very good "buyers guide" is available on Pies' site (see link below) so you can see what to look out for. Many existing owners will also be only to pleased to look over a car with you, if you are interested in buying, and point out any known problems.

But how did the motoring press see the S in its day?

Well Fastlane magazine reported on an S1 in June 1988, saying that "There are fewer nitpicks to this car than, frankly, we were expecting. We were all ready to set off dynamic abilities against inevitable shortcomings in finish and reliability, but we haven't had to do that. Dynamically, it is indeed excellent, alive and friendly without being difficult. It's not happy on the motorway or when fully loaded, and it's rather noisy, but you could sensibly use one as everyday transport." They concluded that "so far, the future looks bright for TVR".

In August 1989, What Car tested an S2 against a Toyota MR2, noting that "the wonderfully purposeful exhaust note alone is probably enough to satissfy the enthusiast, but the way the TVR simply goes in any gear at any speed whenever you floor the throttle ensures a full five-star score". In comparing the two, their verdict was a split decision, saying that "these two cars appeal to two very different sorts of drivers... but in the specialist sports car world, the more audacious, soul-stirring TVR pips the conservative choice, the Toyota MR2."

In September 1991, Autocar tested the new V8S, and said that "It will remain, as TVR has always been, a weekend event of monumental proportion, something to blast away the cobwebs of a working week, return you to raw motoring pleasure and remind you that Deutchmarks, Yen and Cray computers alone cannot make driving materially more fun than this. And that cannot be a bad thing."

Performance Car tested the same V8S (same registration and everything!) in that same month, and said that "We were reluctant to let the V8S go back to TVR. It's dazzlingly quick, astonishingly tractable, terrifically rewarding to drive quickly, and it looks just great. And that exhaust note... it's still echoing along our favourite roads."

Sue Callands TVR S2

Thoroughbred and Classic Car published a supplement in 1997 (unfortunately I am not sure which month it was produced) to find "The Best British Sports Car Ever". In the "from the 1980's" section the TVR S1 was compared with the AC Cobra, the Lotus Elan, the Marcos Mantula and the Reliant SS1. ON the TVR, they said that "This is surely getting close to the essence of sports car motoring". In their verdict on the 1980's models, they concluded that the TVR came out tops, saying "So, almost by default that leaves the excellent TVR which lurks in the middle ground of high practicality good value easy maintenance and straightforward fun. In other words it's a true sports car."

In their overall verdict, the TVR came second only to the Jaguar E-Type - no mean feat! They said "Marking TVR's return to good looks and the resurgence of this marque towards the incredibly strong position it holds now, the TVR S is quite a landmark car." Who can argue?

Even now, the TVR S Series still get good reviews. Classic and Sports Car in their July 2011 issue, carries out a feature where "Open-top icons and their budget rivals go head-to-head", pitting an S3 agains a Triumph TR4. They said "The only criticism of the wood 'n' leather interior is that the gearlever is a bit too far back on the transmission tunnel, but you soon adapt". The article goes on to say that "past 3000 and then 4000 rpm, the 2.9 Ford Cologn V6 is note-perfect in its impression of a V8". They said that "there really is only one way to drive a TVR, because that addictive howling exhaust goads you on..."

TVR S Series - S2
TVR S2 convertible

A few months later, in September 2001, Octane magazine included an S-Series buying guide, with the help of Fenhursts. They said that "The success of those later cars (the Griffith and Chimaera) has left the S as something of a forgotten gem in the company's line-up. And that makes it a conspicuous "now is the time to buy" classic car bargain." Although their estimates of current values seemed to me to be on the high side (they are TVR dealers after all!) the article concluded that "the S is a hoot to drive, and fundamentally solid, with the odd annoying foible. Despite common wisdom suggesting that the V8S is the more desirable car, the Octane choice would be for a well-cared for S3C with low mileage and an enthusiast seller."

It seems that lots of people are catching on to what a great car the S Series was, and still is. This can't be bad for future values!

Technical Specifications

The good thing about the S Series is that lots of servicing and maintainance jobs are easy to do at home, if you know which way round to hold a spanner.

There have been a number of articles in Sprint over the last few years, and a number of owners, including me, have diary or blog sites which explain how to we have done many jobs. See the links below for examples. Most owners, either on the S forum here. or over at pistonheads, are very good at giving advice to help those starting out on trickier jobs.

A Haynes Manual for a Ford Sierra 2.9 will help on most jobs on the engine and transmission, steering, wheelbearings, etc, and a Land Rover Manual is handy for the V8 models.

Steve Heath wrote the first of his technical quides on the S Series, now in second edition - get your copy from the club office.

Pies' site has a very good buying guide, plus specifications, torque settings etc for all models.

Finally, Pistonheads has a long list of links for information on just about anything, at PH Links

Remember that these are fast sports cars, so if you are in any doubt whatsoever about starting any job, speak to a specialist.

Date Description
Useful Links
Description Link
Pie's Site
Steve Heath - inc Sample Chassis Chapter
Pistonheads S Pages
"Official" Parts for S
My S Owner's Site
Mark's S Series Site and details of SCH2011
Jed-S S Series Blog
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