The Coronavirus, Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, T’Rona or whatever you want to call it has affected us all. It has permanently changed the way we live and those who lived through it will bear the scars of its effects for decades, a poignant reminder of just how quickly our liberty, personality, social life and our health can be changed. I don’t believe for a second that anyone can say they’ve not had any difficulty with the virus, its impact on work, our friends and family and in time it’ll be a thing to look back on and recognise the strength it gave us when ‘the end’ was as close as it’s been since World War II or perhaps the Cold War. The human mind is a curious thing because like a physical wound, it knows how to heal you emotionally. In time, the pain of loss or suffering will be gone, only a memory of how it hurt at that time will stay. We will grow numb to the negative and begin to thrive on the positive. Every moment of success no matter how small will be a joy to savour for a lifetime, seeing a friend for the first time in two years, holding a new-born again, finally going on a honeymoon or simply enjoying your favourite drink at your local bar.
I honestly believe now, at the tail-end of this disaster we’ll be better for it. In the time of peace and complacency that we grew accustomed to we recognised how little of life we had experienced. The things we put off for months or years like a weekend break or a trip to a theme park have become burning desires, at this point now within the best possible reach we have we must enjoy life and do the things we promised ourselves. We owe it ourselves now to do everything we’ve dreamed before we can’t, and I don’t mean because another disaster could be looming but why wait?
Which is how I ended up buying my childhood dream car, a TVR Chimaera. Something you can trace back to 1999 where I first drove it as a ten-year-old on Gran Turismo 2. The desire to own one has been firmly in place since I started driving in 2008, I can’t remember a time where I hadn’t browsed eBay or Autotrader just to look at them. I vividly remember a 450 for sale in about 2015 with low miles, new outriggers and chassis, retrimmed full leather interior and it was only £7,000. How I regretted paying £800 more for a twin-turbo Supra a few weeks prior. Yet time goes on and so does requirements or taste, the TVR Chimaera still sitting in the back of my head waiting for the right time. It finally came during 2020, first wave of the pandemic. I was after a XK150 model XKR in black with ivory leather but through a series of unfortunate events it never came to fruition, either dealerships afraid of delivering a car, being unable to travel due to restrictions or the monumental number of fake/scam listings for XKRs.
Eventually I toyed with the idea of another mk4 Supra and through sheer chance, a TVR Chimaera popped up on Facebook marketplace. Long story short I bought it December 2020 without driving it or agreeing a price. It was what I’d wanted since 1999 and now it was mine. You’ll be pleased to know that a used TVR is very reliable, the common faults such as hot-starting issues or worn camshaft have been remedied so you get to enjoy a TVR at its prime. However, on day 1 of ownership I saw the PAS pipes leaking and it cost £300 to repair… And now the speedo has stopped working, which should be relatively inexpensive if it’s just the speed sensor on the driveshaft/diff. I’ve spent a few pennies on tidying it up, a full polish to restore the paint, the worn/cracked seats getting fixed and re-dyed and to preserve the interior further, full roof seal set.
Happily, none of which has been expensive or needed doing, just something to make it perfect as the owner was on top of maintenance but spent more time driving it than polishing it. You may see the mileage is quite high for an old sportscar at 80,000 but honestly the TVR is better for it. TVRs like many cars need to be driven to stay healthy, leaving them to marinate in a garage is a sure-fire way to let electrical gremlins develop, batteries to die and for the chassis to corrode. There are little foibles like I mentioned with roof seals, speed sensors et al. The interior is sturdy and well-made but at twenty years old glue is beginning to fail and some bits are wearing as expected, luckily all easily fixed with a Pritt stick or creative stitching for the carpet. Servicing looks to be expensive but since the car is predominately mainstream parts there’s ways around it. Parts are extremely common and cheap if you avoid places fond of TVR tax. Garages/specialists are plentiful and if you live near a good one, you’ll have nothing to worry about no matter how old your TVR is.
I’m 6 months into ownership now and the honeymoon period hasn’t worn off, every turn of the key promises fun and excitement and every drive lets me learn more about the way the car drives which is like nothing else on the road – unless you can somehow marry the best bits of a Caterham 7, an Elise, a Mustang and an old 308 Ferrari. The noise is a tidal wave that floods whatever space you occupy, pulling the magnificent gearbox from third to second is like reloading a rifle after a successful kill and busying the steering wheel feels as natural swimming naked in the Black Sea.
I’ve always been keen on the left-field choices because they’re just so much more interesting, loaded with quirks and features as Doug DeMuro would say and the TVR has plenty. Only now have I learned what two anonymous black buttons under the dashboard do and there’s a handy jump-start port thing under the bonnet. It’s always fun letting friends and family try to work out how to open doors. Even more fun seeing them begin to panic when they realise, they can’t get out…
All in, it’s a great car and ownership hasn’t been as terrifying as the forums and Top Gear promised, I’m looking forward to taking it to France and Spain or even Scotland depending on the ol’ Covid restrictions. It’s fully reignited the love of driving fast I lost at the peak of lockdowns and has altered my belief that “to be a true petrolhead you must own an Alfa Romeo” to “If you have any love for the souls that cars bare, you must own an Alfa Romeo and a TVR”