2001 TVR Cerbera 4.5 Speed Eight AJP8 V8
Andy and Mandy Tanner have enjoyed this Cerbera for a long time, and it’s been quite a job keeping it running well, as Andy reports.
TVR CERBERA AJP V8 KEEPING A UNIQUE MACHINE RUNNING
If you own a TVR for 20 years you’ll need to rebuild it and fix design faults
We have had the Cerbera 20 years now. It was getting on for three years old when my better half got it for half the price of a new one, but it’s back to being worth a bit more now I’ve rebuilt it. You just need to ignore all the money spent on it over the years.
We went to the TVR dealer when looking, seeing a lady they sent her out for a test drive in a Chimera 4.0 (Rover V8) but it was wasn’t as fast as my mildly tuned E34 535i, so I found a 4.5 Cerbera with the AJP V8 from a private seller, it scared the pants of both of us on the first drive.
‘I USED THE SAME LINKAGE AS WILL HAD ON HIS CAPRI’
We did a lot of track days with the TVR Car Club in the early years, there were a few surprised looks in the beginning as she got out W of the drivers side flicking long hair from off the helmet as guys realised it was a lady who’d done that last flying lap. The instructors loved her as ladies actually do what they are told on track, being a bloke I obviously didn’t need any instruction, I came flying off in cloud of tyre smoke first time out. Luckily Snetterton had big gravel traps.
We did get a bit better so I had to make some ducting from the hole next to the indicators to the back of the discs after Mandy boiled the fluid on a wet trackday.
Other than that Nitron shocks were the only other change, the 4.5 Cerbera came with huge AP racing brakes, and after their extra cooling it didn’t need anything else on track.
I changed the rear lights very early on as I didn’t like the idea of it having Fiesta ones. They were just a straight swap but the front lights needed a jigsaw taking to it to on the side of the street, to fit the later style twin pods. I think I prefer the look of the originals again now, but the newer projector lenses do work much better and can take LED bulbs. The wheels got changed to the later spider 18in as the 17in RL7s had issues with the power coating and losing air pressure. The SP back box was later addition.
The powder coating started to peel off the chassis very quickly, it lived on the street outside our flat for the first couple of years so as soon as we got a house with a drive I got it up in the air and gave it a good Waxoyl. It didn’t last though and giving it a top up was a very messy pain. The garage was too short to fit the Cerbera in so it got extended with a pit added at the end of house renovations, and the Cerb came in for a good check and ended up getting a full body off rebuild. That was 11 years ago now, our son was a few months old, he was four by the time I got it running again.
The garage was still very narrow so I hung the body from the roof to work on the chassis below. The glassfibre body makes restoration easy really, but the chassis still rusts. I didn’t need to weld in much new metal and shipping it off for blasting and powder coating should have made an easy job. However, they didn’t blast it properly so rust started to show back through in places where they hadn’t rotated the chassis to blast every angle.
Luckily I found that before putting it back together so had to re-do a lot of it myself. The engine hadn’t done many miles but the inlet valves stretch on them and they had done so much that I couldn’t get thin enough shims, so as the engine was out it made sense to take the heads off. The engine has to be out to get the front cover off before taking the heads off. I found the exhaust guides had melted so had to send them off to a TVR specialist, they recommended cast iron guides as they would last longer. I wanted to reuse my original valves as they were fine, the TVR machine shop advised against it but couldn’t remember why. I found out on the first test drive as my old valves stuck in the new guide, of course everyone then remembers stainless valves and cast guides don’t mix. So, engine out again just as we were trying to get ready to move house.
I got it back in just in time but the cam had clearly been damaged judging by the noises coming from it after the 200 mile trip. After a non start attempt with used cams we gave in and bought some new ones with new followers, I was very adept at setting the clearances by the end and now have just about the full set of top hat shims.
‘DAVE WALKER SAID TVR HAD GOT THE THROTTLE SETUP ALL WRONG’
The engine has been fine since, but I spent the best part of two years thinking it had head gasket problems chasing water leaks, damp carpets ended in pulling the heater out to fi t new pipes on as the originals had got squashed out of round. Some how the copper pipe on the heater wasn’t 15mm or the old close imperial size, so I flared out the heater pipe by whacking in a suitably sized socket, that let me solder some 15mm pipe on, with olives soldered too acting as flares, they also gave a bit more strength.
The original MBE ECU was getting on for 20 years old by now and I was having issues getting the throttle pots synced when setting idle. So I spoke to MBE, they knew what the issue was and said I could send it in but it was unlikely they could get parts as it was a custom build for TVR. So an Emerald K6 seemed a better option, it was a lot less than the latest MBE ECU too.
I bought it through Joolz at Kits and Classics, he had already fitted quite a few to Cerbs so had a few maps to send me too, that went with his short induction pipe that I’d already fitted. I was keen to try the K6 adaptive mapping feature that needs a wide band sensor. Joolz advised fitting it in the link pipe so it could see both sides of the engine. You set the AFR you want for all the map sites then as long as you can hold a steady throttle it will build up a map of the corrections needed to the base map. It’s only possible with the wide band sensor, normal ones don’t have the range.
I was having a bit of trouble trying to work out when to apply the corrections to the main map (that’s the difference to normal adaptives). Dave Walker said as long as you’re careful to save everything just try it and see what happens. His three map switch comes in very handy there as you can try different maps very easily and instantly switch back if it’s rubbish.
It was fun to try but it can’t help with setting timing, so a trip to Dave’s was needed. It was one of those few occasions when nothing broke so Jono could concentrate on the mapping, he did give me the fear at one point, stopping to say there a problem. However it was with the acceleration settings, he said it felt like the throttle body’s weren’t balanced properly or not opening correctly, we double checked but they were set correctly. Dave popped in to see how we were getting on towards the end, he had the answer immediately: TVR had got it wrong – the butterflies opened the same way on each bank of the V8, when they should have been a mirror image.
The penny dropped then. It had always had issues with sudden acceleration, hesitating, you tend to just take it as normal till someone with lots experience with many different engines tells you it’s not right. So I decided to correct them. I’d had the butterflies out before to correct machining errors that left big steps in the bodies, so I knew I could get them back in the other way round. I just needed a linkage that would open them the correct way. A certain PPC editor had throttle bodies on the V8 in his Capri, he directed me to Jenvey. Their linkage was lovely, but is designed for their bodies so took a bit of grafting on with return springs and adjustable stops etc, but it worked very well and has been fi ne ever since.
It was much better on the first drive – much more responsive, then better still after I’d used the adaptive mapping to correct the fuelling. It could do with going back to the rolling road. The original MBE ECU had twin normal adaptives for each side of the engine with it having a flat plain crank. Dave said he’s never seen it on any other engine, you don’t need it if both side are running the same.
I’m very lucky it hasn’t gone the way of Will Capri with the numerous petrol puddles I found under it. I got a new set of R6 rated pipe 10 years ago but they were a few years old by the time I’d finished the rebuild, so I had to pull them all off and replace them with the newer R9 pipes, that should be resistant to the ethanol content in modern petrol. So I was shocked to see the state of those a year or so later, high pressure fuel spraying out of the cracks. Apparently there was a bad batch of those R9 pipes a few years ago. The latest Gates Barricade pipe seems to be okay, as long as I can stop squirrels chewing through it – don’t ask.
On track at
Rockingham. You’ve gotta love TVR’s balls to release this. Bringing in an auto-electrical expert. Good numberplate. Dave Wlker’s rolling road. Early days of Cerbera ownership. The whole family.
Butterflies used to open the same way. New butterflys open in opposite direction. Revised throttle setup has transformed car.
Lots of smiles on track. Heat shielding the chassis and engine bay. TVR AJP flat plane V8. Body going back on.
An uplifting experience. Repainted chassis… ...second time around.
TVR got the Cerb’s throttle arrangement all wrong. Andy has been around this car a long time. 18in replacement wheels. Cerbera interior is kinda Jules Verne meets 1970s Top of The Pops.
As bought with original headlights. Andy was very young when he first started rebuilding the TVR. Not much room to work.