Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 2009 Dream Car of the Month - TVR Sagaris

When I think of small, independent British motor car companies, I can't help but think of TVR. Over the years they have made some of the most outrageous and beautiful cars I've ever seen. The company was started in 1947 as TVR Engineering with the TVR coming from the first name of the company founder, Trevor Wilkinson. At first he started out repairing cars but he soon moved to design and manufacturing of cars of his own. Along with partner, Jack Picard, they designed and build various different models throughout the 50's into the 60's. By 1965, the original founders, Wilkinson and Picard, had left the business and the company then changed hands a few times over the next 30 years.

The 1980's saw the company owned by Peter Wheeler who was the most influential owner the company had seen since it's founder had left. Under Wheeler, the company moved to the Rover V8 and then finally to an all aluminum V8 of their own design called the AJP8. Under his management the company produced some of their most well known models culminating in the outrageous Sagaris.

TVRs from the Wheeler era have become well known for their wild nature. The Sagaris is no exception. They are described as being very challenging to drive to the point of being dangerous in the hands of an inexperienced driver. High power and light weight mixed with a lack of any driver safety nets make TVRs the hairy chested beasts they are. TVRs were imported to the US in the 1980s with the 280 model but there has been nothing from TVR here since then. Being such a small company it did not make sense to attempt to meet the all the safety and emissions regulations here in the states. Too bad for us.

The Sagaris debuted in 2003 and was based on the beautiful T350. It was powered by the now famous TVR Speed-Six engine which is a straight 6 cylinder derivative of the AJP8 V8. In the Sagaris, the 4.0L Speed-Six engine produces 380HP/349TQ without the help of any type of forced induction. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5 speed manual transmission and the car makes due without anti-lock brakes, air bags, or traction control. The aluminum and fiberglass construction of the car help keep the weight down at 2,371 lbs allowing for a 0-60 time of 3.7 seconds and a top speed of 190MPH.

The Sagaris was initially designed as a track car that could be driven on the street. The car features various vents and aero additions meant to help on the track. The vents on the fenders of the car were originally open to alloy cooling and as a place where high pressure air could escape from under the front of the car during high speed runs. TVR ran into a problem while testing though when they discovered that these vents allowed mud and other debris to be kicked up from the tires onto the windshield. Therefore they were closed. The car still is quite striking though. Some would say not in a good way either. Design characteristics like the clear plastic rear spoiler and the sideways exhaust certainly make the car unique looking.

TVR began to run into problems in 2004 when the company was sold to 24 year old Nicolay Smolensky, the son of a very wealthy Russian businessman. His original intent was to keep the company as a British institution but with demand waning he announced in 2006 that some production would move to Italy with only engine manufacturing remaining in England. By the end of 2006 TVR had been broken up into several smaller companies and some of those went into the British equivalent of bankruptcy. Then in 2007 Smolensky had re-acquired the company and announced plans to sell it to a group of investors who had plans to revive the company and even begin importing into the US. This sale apparently never happened and Smolensky stated in October 2007 that he hoped to restart production with a target of 2,000 cars annually. In July 2008, the Sagaris was relaunched as the Sagaris 2.

Who knows what the future holds for TVR. Hopefully, this great company that has lasted for over 60 years will continue to produce the stunning and outrageous cars they have come to be known for.

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