We don’t have anything quite like the Tuscan today, although the results of the new Gordon Murray-designed, Cosworth-powered New TVR are yet to be seen. This was a reasonably priced, properly powerful rear-drive coupe/convertible with a serious power-to-weight ratio, and nothing to get you out of trouble if you louse it up. ‘Hairy arsed’ used to be the term for cars like this, and over the years plenty of Tuscan drivers have discovered just how hairy.
Of course, that very lack of driver aids, along with the swooping bodywork, mad interiors and bellowing naturally aspirated engines, is part of what makes Wheeler-era TVRs so appealing. But it’s as well to know what you’re getting into.
If you can find your way into the cabin (there’s a neat trick to open the doors), you will have to get used to the rather unique interior. Moving on from the Cerbera’s already wacky cockpit, the Tuscan simplified things to dramatic effect, featuring a large central speedometer, with a digital rev counter and central LCD display that showed various readings – cutting down on unnecessary gauges. Somehow, all this actually worked a lot better than the Cerbera, and it still feels surprisingly special to this day.
Which one to buy?
The Tuscan, initially with a 360bhp 4-litre version of TVR’s own straight-six, went on sale in 1999. The early cars were a curious mixture of ultra-pointy steering and disconcertingly soft suspension (Wheeler’s idea to make it more of a GT), though by the end of the year the damping had been improved. That was typical TVR: constant evolution. Which, of course, means the later the car, generally the better it is.
In the early days there was a ‘Red Rose’ upgrade with an extra 20-30bhp, better brakes and tauter damping. That then formed the basis for the Tuscan S, which added front and rear spoilers to aid high-speed stability. Following Nikolai Smolensky’s buyout, the Tuscan Mk2 arrived in 2005 with a new front grille and fared lights. Underneath, the changes included revised suspension, a close-ratio gearbox, bigger brakes and – crucially – better-quality engine components. Best of the lot is the Convertible (and its Mk3 targa-roof equivalent), which arrived in 2006 and saw the quality ramped up again, taking the dash and wiring loom from the Sagaris as well as its Bilstein suspension.
Performance and specs
Engine In-line 6-cyl, 3996cc
Power 360bhp @ 7000rpm
Torque 310lb ft @ 5250rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual, rear-drive, limited-slip differential
0-60mph 4.4sec tested (4.0 claimed)
Top speed 180mph
Fuel consumption 28mpg (claimed…)
Insurance group 20
Dimensions and weight
Kerb weight 1100kg
• Early Speed Six engines suffered valvegear wear, oil starvation and other woes, some caused by design flaws, more by poor quality components. Many went back to TVR for rebuilds. Problem was, the replacement parts were still poor, so more engines went bang. By 2003 TVR was getting a grip on quality control, and, after Smolensky bought the company in 2004, real improvements were made.
• By 2005/06 the engine was pretty well sorted, and it’s since been further developed by specialists. So the later the car or – or the more recent the engine rebuild – the better the outlook. But the engine still needs meticulous servicing – every 6000 miles, with tappet clearances set every 12,000. A full inspection by a specialist is advisable.
• Check for oil leaks and signs of overheating, that it’s not excessively noisy on start-up, and is smooth at idle. The engine is far from refined, and depending on the ‘loudness’ of the exhaust, it might be difficult to hear any issues.
• Check the fans kick in: the first at about 92deg, the second a few degrees higher.
• The Borg Warner T5 ’box is generally sound, but needs regular oil changes, as does the diff. And beware clutch slip or judder – replacement takes five hours.
• There’s considerable disparity in handling between cars, so try to experience a few. From 2003 the handling was improved by a change in king pin inclination that made it less ‘twitchy’.
• Damping on early cars wasn’t great: Nitrons and Bilsteins are popular upgrades.
• If it tramlines badly, ask if it’s had the geometry checked. Expect to replace suspension bushes every six or seven years (budget a grand).
• Early wheels were prone to spokes bending; vibration could mean a bent spoke.
• The steel chassis resists rot better than many, but it’s still worth checking the usual areas like the outriggers and looking for accident damage. As the years go on, chassis rust will inevitably become a larger issue, so be cautious.
• For the GRP body, check panel fit, including the roof, and that the doors and boot open and close cleanly.
• Check the rear screen is the later, bigger item – early ones were prone to popping out at speed! Also check the roof catch above the rear-view mirror for similar reasons.
• Obviously, check all the electrics. Wires and connectors in the battery compartment are vulnerable to corrosion and chafing. In bad cases this can result in shorting-out, which could lead to a fire.
1998: The original Tuscan concept car is shown at the Birmingham International motor show.
1999: First Tuscans go on sale in the UK after a huge number of deposits the following year.
2001: Tuscan R offered from TVR’s motorsport division, in either fast road car or full-blown track racer. TVR offered up to 450bhp which was apparently enough to push it over 200mph.
2002: The 390bhp Tuscan S is launched – effectively a better developed version of the earlier Rad Rose cars.
2005: Tuscan Mk2 arrives on the scene, bringing with it numerous tweaks. Power was pushed to 400bhp, with top speed apparently pushing more than 190mph. A full convertible model was also offered for the first time.
December 2006: TVR goes into administration, and production is stopped.
Owners clubs, forums and websites
- tvr-car-club.co.uk (owners’ club)
- mytuscan.co.uk (in-depth model guide)
- str8six.co.uk (sales, servicing)
- tvr-parts.com (original-spec parts)
- powersperformance.co.uk (servicing, parts)
- fernhurst-tvr.co.uk (sales, servicing)
- racinggreentvr.com (servicing, sales)
Summary and prices
You can find tidy-looking early cars for around £15k-16k, but don’t buy without getting a specialist inspection. £17k-20k throws up plenty more, both private and trade, but again tread carefully. For a properly sorted car with a good history and (probably) a rebuilt engine, you’re currently looking mid to high-20s (and rising too).
Generally add at least a couple of grand for an S in equivalent condition. Late Ss and Tuscan 2s are now c£30k+. Exceptional Mk2s are high-30s, while Mk3s and Convertibles are £40k+. Values remain strong for a reason, and it’s difficult to think of any rival that offers the raw and untainted thrill of a well sorted Tuscan. Choose wisely, and you will have an amazing B-road blaster.