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TVR Tasmin

Well, it happened again. Somehow awesome old British cars that need loving find me, and of course who am I to turn them down?

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This car has a bit of a weird story, but I guess it adds to the history of it all. It all started when I had the M328i listed on Trademe, back in March, and in amongst all the useless time-wasters asking me dumb questions, I got asked if I wanted to swap the black leather vaders for white leather seats from another M3. Of course this was a no, white leather is one of the worst wearing colours in the E36.

The fellow wasn’t done there though, he wanted my seats. The next question he asked on my listing immediately had my ears perk up, and suddenly I was intrigued.

Yes, that’s right, a TVR.

After a bit of googling I worked out an 80s TVR would be a Wedge. Not the most loved TVR, but I like them, and any TVR is a good TVR in my books. It’s 80s, it’s British, how bad can it be?

Of course I was interested, and let him know. Later that night I get a call and discuss the car. Its been off the road for a few years getting some work done at the “local” TVR specialist, in Auckland. Ok, no problem, except the owner is down in Christchurch (about 1000km and a large body of water away from each other, and I’m somewhere in the middle of that). It turns out that he wanted my car, because he was buying a convertible E36 M3, and wanted to swap my black leather into it. He also had thoughts of “Trevors last drive” by flying up to Auckland, picking up the TVR, driving it down to me, swapping to the M3 and for him to continue on his way down south. As I found out later, this would’ve been a big ask for the TVR.

We discuss the ins and outs, and I’m recommended to contact the specialist and discuss the car.

I give the specialist a call and discuss the car. Apparently it’s all sorted, and basically ready to “fly through” a WOF and to hit the road. Its had various work done, including most of the hard work like suspension. He noted it does have an issue starting, which is possibly down to a failed fuel accumulator, but does run and could be driven onto a truck. His description of the car was that its a good solid, tidy car, but may need some carpets as they are a bit worn. I was very interested, but needed photos to see what condition it was in. Ok he said, he will try and sort some for me.

To cut a long story short, I tried for months to get photos of the car, with every reason under the sun for not getting them from the specialist. On the other side of it, the seller of the TVR decided not to buy that M3, and couldn’t find one he wanted, so no longer had a need or want for my car. I let him know I was still interested in outright purchasing the car but would need photos. Both him and myself followed up with the specialist, to no avail.

Just before I went on holiday at the end of June, the BMW sold, but I still had no proof of life that the TVR even existed, so just left it hanging whilst I chilled out in the UK (more on that in a later post).

When I returned, I already had a list of cars on Trademe I wanted to look at. I had basically given up on the TVR at this point, as during the month I was away, still no photos had been sent.

I looked at a couple of cars, including an Evo 4 (which I came very close to buying, but the second viewing showed too many issues, and the unmistakable smell of weed inside) and a C55 AMG (nice car, if a bit dull). I wasn’t quite set on them, but noticed that the TVR specialists website had been updated, with new photos, and what happened to be dead center in the photos, but a silver Wedge!

Well, there was my proof of life I guess; the car did exist!

I contacted the owner and confirmed the car was still for sale, and then did the stupid thing; making an offer for the car as it sits, without so much as a real photo. Offer was accepted, and a call was made to the specialist to make sure no money was owing, that the car could come with the spare parts, and that it would drive onto the truck…. oh wait, what’s that, it suddenly doesn’t run but you will “try to get it going”…

I pushed forward anyway, sending my hard-earned money to the seller, and booking my preferred transport, letting him know that the car doesn’t run but the specialist will “try” to get it running.

After a long week of waiting, this showed up this morning.

Yes, that’s the proper good fella Brent from Classic Towing dropping off yet another project to me. Can’t recommend him enough, as even when things go a bit pear shaped, he has it all under control, and he loves weird cars almost as much as I do.

My first question to him was “did it run?” to which he replied with a no, and tightened the winch ready for laying the bed flat. Such a cool truck, it lowers the bed right off onto the ground. This is half way down

Brent pushed the car whilst I jumped in and steered it carefully into the garage. This was harder than you would think, being that it was raining on the outside, and inside of the windscreen, and the wiper didn’t work (well, it’s not even fitted). We made it safely into the garage though. The brakes work, which is something.

So, what is this weird little thing?

A 1980 TVR Tasmin 280i

It’s more or less a Ford Capri in a fibreglass body with tube-frame chassis and some weird and bespoke parts.

Powered by a 2.8l V6 Ford Cologne engine topped with Bosch K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection, backed by the latest (for the 70s) in Ford 4 speed manual gearbox technology, and driven via the rear wheels through a Jaguar XJS diff with spiffy inboard disc brakes. The pinnacle of technology, and a real parts bin special.

On the plus side it does get some pretty advanced gear for something that is the same age as my green Mini. Independent rear suspension, four wheel disc brakes, fuel injection, electric windows, bonded windscreen and a targa top convertible.

It does have a lot of known quirks though, such as a multitude of wiring issues, a wiring loom that consists of only black wires (seriously), diabolical K-Jet fuel injection, and a dual fuel tank system that is no end of troubles.

Anyway, this car is the 106th Tasmin off the line, and appears to be the 4th DHC (Drop Head Convertible) made (1st was a concept made from a chopped up FHC). Before the DHC was in production, the FHC (Fixed Head Coupe) was the TVR to have. The FHC was soon phased out though and only the DHC survived until the end of production, albeit with some big changes.

Being a very early car, my one has some specific early only “features”. The first, and most obvious, is that its a TVR Tasmin, not a TVR 280i. TVR dropped the Tasmin name later on and left the names to just be the displacement of the engine (280i – 2.8 V6, 350i – 3.5 V8 etc).

A couple of other early features are the weird little mirrors hanging off the doors. Later cars changed to pods in front of the side windows, like a normal car. One of my favourite really early features though, has to be the gorgeous Stewart Warner gauges

The later cars got boring, but arguably more readable (and probably reliable), VDO gauges. There is just something about the way the SW gauges are clocked, and the vertical odometer.

So, now that the car has been delivered, how is it? Did i win the blind buying game, or get screwed?

It’s not as tidy as described, and it doesn’t currently run. The battery was completely dead (to the point my ctek charger won’t even detect it), but with a replacement battery the electrics are slowly coming to life again. Unfortunately, it leaks like a sieve and is full of water. I tried to dry as much as I could out, but the dehumidifer will have to do the rest. The roof seals will be the major contributor to this, as they are well buggered. The water ingress is what has ruined the carpet, it’s literally rotting away. The boot, once I got it open, wasn’t much better, with the lid being full of water and covered in condensation on the inside.

The seats are in good condition, with no obvious rips or tears, as is the rest of the general interior. The wood grain has some cracks, but overall for a car I suspect spent a lot of time sitting outside, its in good shape. Apparently blue velour and vinyl stand the test of time.

Bodywork is very good, with only some stone chips on the front. The rest of the paint appears to be good and will come up well with a polish. The top is also in good condition, with only some damage to the fabric on the removable section, and the rear window is very cloudy. Hopefully, I can polish that out, but it may need replacement.

I don’t know how the car is mechanically as it does not run. The previous owner advised (only after I had paid for it) that there is a strong fuel smell from the tanks when sitting, but it drove well otherwise. The fuel in the tanks smells like varnish, but cannot be smelt without opening one of the two fuel caps. I will need to drain this out and throw some new fuel in before trying to start. The starting issues could be a few things, but I will get to that in due course.

One cool thing about TVRs is the convertible roof with a removable targa section. You can either have the roof up, down, or the rear section up but without the targa section, which fits into the boot (roof isn’t locked in this photo, so looks a bit baggy)

So that’s the TVR. The plan is to get get it running, get a WOF on it and then take it to the British Car Day show in Feb. In between that, just take it out for some top-down Summer cruising. Oh, and keep fixing it. Can’t forget that.

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