1976 TVR Taimar
Ex-RAF man John Purcell knows Britain’s quick jets inside-out – and his automotive tastes favour fast flag-fliers too. Will a 1976 TVR Taimar be his top gun?
Words EMMA WOODCOCK
Photos JONNY FLEETWOOD
‘I’ve gone to heaven. It’s a real pinch-me moment!’
The List Did a TVR Taimar convince a lifelong MG enthusiast to defect to Blackpool?
Good enough to follow just to stare at it? A reader indulges in a TVR
It all goes back to the branch manager at my local bank when I was growing up,’ says John Purcell as he takes in the 1976 TVR Taimar. ‘His Grantura left an imprint that I’ve never been able to erase. “Gosh,” I remember thinking. “He must really love his cars.” It’s the shape that TVRs had in that era that really sticks with me, and the Taimar was even more stunning than the rest. That tailgate with its huge, curving window looked like nothing else – Jensen Interceptor aside – and just seeing it catapults me back to my youth. But I’ve never driven one. Or any TVR for that matter.’
Today that changes. John is about to transform his Blackpool dream into reality. ‘I’ve died and gone to heaven – this really is a pinch-me moment!’ He beams as we wander the workshops of Gloucestershire marque specialist Amoré Autos, every turn met with a Skittles bag of luridly-hued Tamoras and Tuscans, Cerberas and Chimaeras. John eagerly examines them, but won’t be swayed in his affections for their ancestor. ‘It’s such a treat to see this big boys’ playground, but I’m still steadfast that the Taimar is the prettiest. Even among all these Wheeler-era cars, the M-Series styling stands out. It is dainty higher up, then fills out further down, with the thick blue sidestripe giving the whole thing a waistline that balances the shape perfectly.’
Amoré founder Mark Cosh is equally enamoured – this Taimar is part of his personal collection. ‘I got it in to sell, not to own – but it’s such a lovely little car that I ended up buying it myself. It’s such a quirky character, a complete step back in time – and so different from other TVRs. It always reminds me of collecting Matchbox cars as a kid. The Taimar was the one model I could never get – so I had to have the real thing! But I don’t keep cars for ever, so it’s now up for sale.’
‘Oh, I’m tempted,’ John laughs as the Ford Essex V6 echoes against the warehouse walls. ‘The £20,000 a good Taimar costs really doesn’t feel like much given what you get, especially in the current classic car market. You never know… if it drives as marvellously as it looks, I may well end up asking Mark to take my money.’ Rumbling into the daylight, the TVR reveals another aspect of its rear styling. ‘Just look at that exhaust, with its pipes sweeping up to follow the lines of the car, staying parallel with the body the whole way. Now that’s attention to detail! ‘The back window is still the star of the show, of course; it really sets the Taimar apart. Think back to the Seventies and it was the era of the Austin 1100 and its ilk wherever you looked. On the rare occasion you did see a sports car, it would always be something more traditional like a Midget or an MGB. I’m lucky enough to own a B Roadster – it’s my very own dream car – but contrast that with what we were watching on the TV. With shows like Joe 90, Captain Scarlet and UFO, everyone was looking forward to a futuristic age of streamlined advancement, and the Taimar fits these aspirations perfectly.’
Now he just needs to drop behind the wheel, which is easier said than done. ‘Oh no, what am I doing here? I’ve got to double myself up to even attempt climbing aboard and the aperture has clearly been designed for sprightly, bendy 20-year-olds more than my 60-year-old self. I’m a little worried I won’t be able to get in at all! The A-pillar is very intrusive, like it’s in the wrong place, so it’s all about bending my legs into the right shapes.’ With a final flick of his right ankle, John finally slots into place. ‘You know, it’s a nice place to be now I’ve made it inside.
Everything falls straight to hand, so I really get a sense that [former TVR owner Martin] Lilley and his team designed the space for keen drivers. The transmission tunnel is so huge and so TVR, which is makes it perfect for resting my arm, while the gearlever sits exactly where my hand naturally falls from the wheel. The rim is lovely itself, its size striking a perfect balance between the car’s dinky size and its lack of power assistance. Yet I’m still most impressed by the hatchback, which makes the cabin so light and airy.
‘I’m bracing for a harsh, brutish drive,’ John confesses as we burble away down a farm track. ‘I’ve got a creeping suspicion that we’re going to spend the whole day shouting at each other over the noise, fighting heavy steering and a heavier clutch, before getting soaked in sweat, without a single filling left in our teeth. “Difficult”, that’s the word for what I’m expecting.’ His impressions last for less than a mile before he has to reassess. ‘All the controls are really nicely balanced. The steering and the clutch have a little weight, but they’re nowhere near the extremes I feared, so I’m getting pretty comfortable. Having such a well-shaped pedal box helps. It’s nothing like a Lotus, where everything is heavily offset and I’d need ballet pumps to drive; I’m perfectly fine in ordinary shoes. Seeing out is just as easy. Despite that long bonnet, my view is unobstructed wherever I look. Add in the gigantic boot space and I can see myself taking the TVR to the supermarket. I could get the whole weekly shop in there – try that with any other classic sports car!’
Practicality can only impress him for so long. Shifting back and forth through the four-speed transmission, carving space in the morning rush, John is soon hunting up ahead for his first chance to extend the 3.0-litre V6. ‘The Essex has potential, but compared to the distinct and very period tickover of my MG it sounds like something in disguise. It’s like a choir warming up, making a little sound but nothing like the full chorus. I can’t wait to really get going and turn up the volume…
‘Here it is!’ The traffic falls away outside Thornbury and the road sign’s diagonal black stripe grants permission to push a little harder. ‘My foot has just gone down and I’m already grinning fit to hit my ears. It’s all coming together, with the intake, engine and exhaust all melding into a beautifully balanced song. There’s no rumble at the bottom end, but equally no tappety top-end chatter as I keep on pushing. I had no prior conception of the noise but I really like what I hear.
‘If ever a car needed a smile switch mounted to the dashboard, this is it. The sound weaves in with the smell and just the whole feeling of the thing to make it an absolute classic. It really speaks to me in a way I reckon any petrolhead would understand. I don’t mind confessing that I’m clinging on for a grim death, though. It’s a big engine up front in a very light car – and I don’t much know what to expect yet, so caution is my watchword.
‘These first few B-road miles are just a toe in the water. I’m braking long before each corner, and changing down in plenty of time, then not even thinking of the right pedal until the car is all but out the other side.’ We ribbon between hedgerows and John goes quiet with concentration, only breaking the silence once the road straightens out. ‘Ha! What a noise! The engine has never been what attracted me to the Taimar – but now I’ve heard it I’d never get sick of the soundtrack, though an aftermarket induction kit wouldn’t go amiss, just to balance the intake against the booming exhaust.’
He’s less impressed with the view beneath the bonnet. ‘I used to be an RAF avionics technician, fixing F3 Tornadoes around the world, and would you believe the Taimar reminds me of a quick jet? Fighters are built to go fast and be dangerous, with everything else just crammed in afterwards. It feels like TVR did the same, concentrating on getting the right engine in place but not really planning the rest. The clamshell bonnet limits access to just two sides, and accessing the spare wheel would send me to A&E. I bet they finished the body before they realised it wouldn’t fit in the boot!
‘I didn’t expect to be so cosseted,’ he adds a few miles later, his confidence growing. ‘The suspension is really well set up for these roads and the controls are all very forgiving, with none of them threatening to tip the balance. I love the drum-tight throttle – it’s so responsive – and the smooth gearshift helps me keep the engine fizzing. It’s a transmission of its time – maybe not rifle-bolt sharp, but it clicks straight in to ratios that sit just where I expect to find them. Second and third are both quite leggy, which is ideal for these roads.
‘The brakes aren’t up to 21st century standards, but they still do exactly what I ask. The pedal acts quickly and progressively with lots of feedback, so it just adds to the faith I’m building in the car.’ When the tarmac zig-zags ahead, he doesn’t need asking twice. ‘This is so much fun! I’m turning in and there’s no body roll or dead zone in the steering, just a sense that it’s getting into corners nice and flat, so I can make the most of that sharp accelerator. I’m starting to really trust the Taimar, and – with my arse basically on the tarmac – it feels so, so fast.’
Roaring towards Olbury, John glances at the dials to check our pace. ‘Oh. Well, I guess all the sensations have had me fooled – the Taimar is making far more sound than speed! But what a noise, eh? The Essex isn’t a soprano, it’s not quite a baritone, and it somehow strikes this evocative tone exactly in between a high-strung four and a big V8. It’s like music and just as subjective, but they’re exactly the right notes for me.
‘I can’t believe today’s almost over,’ John sighs on the short drive back. ‘The whole TVR experience is intoxicating. I’ve loved getting wrapped up in Blackpool plastic and being bombarded by that soundtrack, though the rear window is still my favourite feature. I’d love one of my own, if only I had the garage space for it. But that would mean evicting my MGB and I don’t think we could ever part.’ He twists the key and the engine falls silent, leaving a final question. ‘Now… just how am I going to get out?’
TECHNICAL DATA 1976 TVR Taimar
- Engine 2994cc V6, OHV, Weber 38 DGAS twin-choke downdraught carburettor
- Max Power 142bhp @ 5000rpm
- Max Torque 172lb ft @ 3000rpm
- Transmission Four-speed manual with synchromesh, rear-wheel drive
- Steering Rack and pinion
- Suspension Front: independent by wishbones with coil springs, telescopic dampers and anti-roll bar. Rear: independent by wishbones with coil springs and telescopic dampers
- Brakes Servoassisted. Front: discs, rear: drums
- Acceleration Performance 0-60mph: 8.0sec
- Max speed: 125mph
- Weight 965kg (2128lb)
- Cost new £6233
- Classic Cars guide price £8750-20,500
‘Just look at that exhaust, its pipes sweeping up to follow the car’s lines, parallel to the body’
Essex V6 is good, accessibility isn’t so great.
Steering weight is just right, according to John Purcell.
A struggle to get in, but John soon settled in the driver’s seat.Spaceframe chassis dictates transmission tunnel height.
‘Now I’ve heard the engine, I’d never get sick of the soundtrack’