With rumblings of a new TVR sports car arriving in 2017, the turbulent history of this fascinating company may indeed have a few more chapters left to unfold. Amidst the takeovers and financial woes that continuously threatened to put an end to it, a number of very special cars were somehow produced, and quite possibly the best was left till last. We’re of course talking about the unhinged Sagaris, produced under Nikolai Smolensky’s ownership.
Whereas most previous TVRs had a well-deserved reputation for mechanical and electrical fragility, under that new swooping machete slashed bodywork, the Sagaris used a development of underpinnings from the Tuscan and T350, giving improved reliability due to some much needed development. The lack of driver aids, super light overall weight and aggressive naturally aspirated power made for a unique offering, now even rarer in today’s digital deluge of electronically aided supercars.
Values continue to head upwards as the true merits of these cars remain to be appreciated by a select few, so read on through our buying guide to see what to look for.
Which one to buy?
One model, in any garish colour you like. As was the case with most TVR products, the Sagaris was continuously developed throughout production, in a more analogue version of Microsoft Windows ‘would you like to send an error report’, Sagaris customers would become an integral part of the car’s development.
Exhaust systems were redesigned three times, suspension settings changed and various other modifications made as either TVR engineers or owners found issues with them. This is the long way of saying that while all are good; the later models are the most sorted. In the end the Sagaris has proven itself to be one of the most reliable TVRs ever built, and many upgrades can be retrofitted. You can’t afford to be too picky as production numbers were low and with values rising many owners prefer to hold on to their cars.
Nowadays the combination of rear wheel drive, 380bhp and one ton kerb weight would have manufactures throwing so many electronic aids at the car that it would basically become autonomous. Eschewing even ABS, TVR thought that the driver’s right foot would be more than enough to keep things pointing in the right direction. Thankfully the Sagaris has a very biddable chassis (based on the already decent T350) but driver skill plays a very important role in the formula. Power steering, electric windows, a CD loader and leather interior are about as luxurious as it gets.
A five-speed manual gearbox was the only transmission choice available; the extra cog is not missed though thanks to the featherweight body and torquey engine. The in-house Speed Six motor had by this point been developed into a reliable power plant, and TVR’s famously vague power claims ranged between 406bhp and 375bhp. It remained a ballistic missile regardless. The commitment to development despite the threat of imminent closure can be seen in the plans to introduce a face-lifted Sagaris 2. Sadly this was not to be, and we are left with just a handful of these mad, yet utterly desirable machines.
Performance and specs
Engine 3996cc, 24 valve DOHC I6
Power 380bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 349lb ft torque @ 5000rpm
Top speed 185mph (claimed)
Fuel consumption n/a
Gearbox Five-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1078kg
Traditionally, this section is where TVR owners would start sweating. Thanks to using developments of tried and tested technologies the Sagaris suffers from precious few major issues and smaller ones are generally easily resolved.
• Early Speed Six engines had a reputation for valve gear wear but this was fixed before Sagaris production started. Things to watch out for are documented evidence of regular servicing, especially tappet adjustment as this is a pricey job that requires specialist attention. Engine stuttering could be worn throttle bodies at low revs or HT leads if occurring higher up the rev range.
• Watch for oil pressure sensors leaking, a tell-tale sign is the pressure not rising as the revs increase. Engine mounts can crack, especially the ones situated next to the exhaust manifold. A refusal to start could be as simple as a blown ignition coil fuse. Later cars had 20amp fuses upgrade from 15amps.
• The five-speed Borg Warner transmission is robust however the clutch can give problems so check for a heavy action or stickiness. Uprated slave cylinder seals can aid in reducing the common issue of leaking.
• Early cars had thinner walled alloys prone to damage; bent rims can be felt as vibrations through the steering wheel or pedals. The ride is predictably hard and some owners have changed the standard dampers to improve bump absorption somewhat.
• Rust is not a common issue just yet but as the chassis is powder coated, wherever it has chipped off corrosion is likely to set in. Keeping the bodywork and undercarriage clean is the best way to spot early the early signs before major rusting can occur.
• The car is low and the front splitter is prone to damage so expect some chips and scratches.
• The dashboard can suffer from wiring issues so check that all gauges and instrument lights work as they should.
• The rear side glass can pop out due to a poor bonding process at the factory.
2004: TVR Sagaris launched with 380bhp 4.0l inline six Speed Six engine. Available exclusively with 5-speed manual gearbox in Coupe body style
2005: Numerous detail changes carried out including exhaust redesign and sturdier alloys
2006: Ride height raised and suspension softened to alleviate bottoming out on bumpy roads. Last Sagaris rolls off the line signalling the end of TVR production for 11 years and counting
Owners cubs, forums and websites
• www.tvr-car-club.co.uk – TVR enthusiast site
• www.str8six.co.uk – TVR specialist
• www.tvrownersclub.com – TVR owners club
• www.tvr-parts.com – TVR parts supplier
Summary and prices
One sure sign that a car is destined to become a classic is when used values surpass the original purchase price. At up to £80,000 now being asked for delivery mileage examples, the Sagaris has undoubtedly stepped into this category, as a new one in 2004 was just a fiver short of £50k. Colour and year of manufacture don’t seem to affect prices much, and with just two years of production, supply is very limited. Prices start at £40,000 for higher-mileage cars. With contemporary performance and looks combined with a pleasingly analogue driving feel, the Sagaris was a fitting swansong to the TVR legacy, and has become a desirable modern classic today.
Words: John Tallodi