Venturing Through Fog, Shadow, And Sunshine With The Tameless TVR Tuscan Speed Six
Photography by Virgiliu Andone
Fog cocoons us, laying a blanket of intrigue over the world, a barrier and igniter of what we can perceive. In the thickest of it, we can’t see beyond a few steps ahead, while our imagination fills in the obfuscated landscape with a more surreal one. I love existing in this suspended state, the eerie but also somehow cozy blurriness that reality takes on when it’s partially hidden from us.
It was in these circumstances, on the banks of a river, that I found myself face to face with a relatively modern and brash sports car transplanted into a primeval age, far from any traces of modern civilization, in a more primordial world. The calm flowing water surface is occasionally broken by bubbles from the unseen creatures below. It’s quiet, but not exactly serene. Drama hangs in the humidity, and I can’t help but indulge in some myself.
As I look to the bank of the river, a break in the fog reveals a different kind of animal. Just two bright lights at first, like finding the glowing eyes of a tiger that clocked you hours ago through the trees. Adjusting to the beams, the jaws and shoulders reveal themselves. If this was the opening sequence of a Hollywood film, the ducks that just floated between us would erupt in flight and noise as the beast leapt from cover towards the unlucky one who wasn’t so quick on the draw. But all monster movie tropes aside, this TVR is exactly the kind of car that can hurt—or at least embarrass—you if you forget your wits for a moment.
For this is a powerful and wicked little monster. It leaps from 0 to 60 in some 3.68 seconds, and if that doesn’t sound like much in today’s world of hybrids and tires, remember that this was from a car built over 20 years ago. This is a modified 2000 model year example of the Tuscan Speed Six, and is part of the roster of Str8six, the group of TVR specialists created by Jason Clegg, one of the original TVR engine builders from back in the day.
It’s part of a series of reimagined cars that they produce, incorporating every available factory upgrade and taking advantage of Str8six’s extensive racing experience. Its fully rebuilt “Red Rose”-spec 3996 inline-six now produces 380bhp and 345lb-ft torque. It’s painted in a shade appropriately called Caffeine. I can testify to its ability to wake people up for one thing, but puns aside it’s a beautiful shade of metallic purply brown that turns positively celestial in the right light.
As mostly metallic things created by mankind go, this has to rank among the more successful attempts at interpreting animal wilderness as a machine. Even the name of its birthplace, Blackpool, sounds like the ominous turf of predators. Its makers are set apart from most of the industry for their distaste of airbags, ABS, or any other systems that could interfere with a direct driving experience. Anything that gets in between the driver and the reaction of the car is, in their opinion, a waste of their resources.
Instead they have focused, over the past 75 years (with some inactive “blips,” for sure), on their trademark formula of lightweight sports cars with massive engines, and on continuously innovating, more often than not without attempting to perfect their existing products. They also seem to have an almost complete disregard towards what their competitors would do when faced with the same challenges. This ethos hasn’t led to TVR winning any sales competitions, but the company has earned something that’s arguably priceless: respect.
Emphatically going their own way, the people involved in with TVR over the years produced some of the most fearsome—but importantly, some of the most rewarding—sports and supercars in their class. And, despite a tumultuous history, somehow TVR is still here today. The headquarters moved a little South from where they used to be, but the spirit is still traceable to what made their older cars so intriguing.
There is a sense of the unrepeatable in the design of a TVR. They never copy anyone, to the acclaim and derision of the car-conscious in almost equal amounts. And nobody really copies them, either. It goes beyond the exoticism of the aesthetic side in the Tuscan Speed Six. The engine is situated incredibly far back into the chassis for one thing. And no, I can’t show it to you with a simple release in the cockpit. The hood is instead bolted down. This refusal to be easy continues into the doors. Only the initiated will find the way to open them with no handles. Not outside, and not inside. When did a door handle ever make a car faster or more fun to drive? Instead, you have buttons. Under the exterior mirrors and in the centre of the dash. Of course they are not labeled. Oh, and they don’t just open, you have to pull or push at just the right time to complete the process. It’s an electric system, so you must make sure you never run out of battery.
If you happen to get stuck inside the car and must wait for help to arrive, you will at least be entertained by what is an incredibly elaborate interior design, that made me think of a much more upmarket and lavish supercar, like something adjacent to the Pagani playbook. For all of TVR’s seriousness when it comes to engineering, the flair for design is a welcome contrast, another unique facet of these singular cars. With all this said, it’s of no surprise that TVR has its share of detractors—some of which, I must assume, were simply emasculated in the absence of driver aids provided by TVR’s easier-to-drive-fast contemporaries.
All the hate that TVR has received over the years fell on deaf ears for many. Yes, these are very different cars. When you park it next to a Porsche they look like they belong to different species altogether, elegance next to alien. And if you don’t get a proper introduction to the character of the Tuscan, you may discount it simply on the grounds of it being too unfamiliar.
But catch one devouring a hedge-lined British B-road, deep between the hills and far from the pomp and circumstance of the establishment and ticket-writing constabulary, and I think you will instantly get it. Its design comes alive under the dappled light, reflecting the vibrant wildflowers that line the road, with its surfaces mirroring the bulges of the surrounding hills. Most other cars would get dwarfed or swallowed by this landscape, but the TVR bluntly claims this territory as its own, as it does nearly everywhere else roads are made.