Buying Guide TVR Tuscan Speed Six

Peter Wheeler’s reign produced the finest TVRs by far, and the Tuscan was his apogee. He said it had to be an everyday car, with luggage space for two weeks’ touring for two people. Styled by Damian McTaggart, it had the AJP Speed Six 4.0-litre dry-sump all-alloy engine in a new chassis akin to a shortened Cerbera.

The styling was uncompromising, but also practical, with a boot capable of taking golf clubs and luggage, plus a removable Targa top and Perspex rear window. Steel roll hoops were built into the windscreen surround and B-pillars. There were no airbags or ABS (Wheeler believed they make drivers careless) and the minimal instrument panel moved in and out with the steering wheel, so visibility was unmarred.

Designed by independent engineer Al Melling (with John Ravenscroft and Peter Wheeler, hence AJP), the Speed Six is the most powerful normally aspirated six-cylinder engine yet, sharing many elements with Melling’s 1991 Suzuki GSX-R750M motorcycle engine.

Our photo car has reached 68,000 miles without any of the modifications that many people claim are essential to make these engines durable – it’s driven often and hard, including sprinting and hillclimbing. And it’s not unique – 95,000 miles without problems has been seen. But it is treated with the greatest care, always keeping revs from cold to around 2000rpm until thoroughly warm (both water and oil).

Frustrating at times, but a small price to pay for faultless reliability. Quality control, something TVR was always notorious for lacking, affected matters too – some engines (and cars) were definitely put together better than others – but now the biggest factor is how well owners have looked after them.


1. Engine

The Speed Six engine is the greatest source of fear and rumour. TVR acknowledged an issue with the ‘finger’ cam followers – these initially had a carbide pad brazed on to the main wear point that tended to work loose at around 10,000 miles. These were replaced with heat-treated iron followers: some of these worked indefinitely, others scuffed rapidly. A third material change cured the issue, but by then warranty claims had hit TVR hard – they rebuilt most engines at least once under warranty. Rebuilt engines rarely give trouble provided valve clearances are checked/adjusted at every other service, but should be carefully inspected – a cylinder leak-down test is recommended.

There should be no blue smoke on start-up and no tendency to run lumpily at tickover or (once warm) at higher revs. Oil pressure when warm should be at least 35psi at 2000rpm. The engine can only be seen by unbolting its cover – but it’s a fiveminute job (needing two people to lift it off over the back of the car) so insist on seeing the engine bay to look for damage or neglect – check the airbox for cracks/bulges caused by backfires, indicating engine problems. High mileage need not put you off – more issues occur on low-mileage cars with seals failing and rubbers perishing. A full service history with reputable specialists is more important.


2. Cooling

Ask if the coolant needs frequent topping up; some engines suffer cylinder head gasket failure. Fans failing to come on (one comes on first, then both) leads to overheating and it is advisable to replace/recore the radiator every 10 years, along with hoses and steel pipework. External oil pipes leak and corrode if not replaced at a similar interval.


3. Interior

Interior trim can be damaged by leaks from the roof, so check for damp carpets, warped door cards and signs of water entry especially at the front corners and top of the rear screen. Later cars had improved seals, often retro-fitted to earlier examples; the central front catch above the rear-view mirror was a vital later addition, essential for high-speed roof security. Seat bolsters get broken by heavyweight occupants.


4. Bodywork

Check the bodyshell for fit and condition on top and underneath, where grounding can be an issue. Check the main bonnet above the exhaust manifold for crazing caused by heat (removing the catalyst reduces heat there). Also check the condition and security of the windscreen, which can come unbonded; and the fit of the rear screen, which can fly out at speed if the roof is off.

Rot is beginning to affect some Tuscan chassis, which were powdercoated at the TVR factory. It’s still very rare to find outrigger rot, though you should certainly check for it. Likewise for accident damage, and check adjacent to the catalytic converters where heat burns the coating away, and ask to see inside the battery box behind the battery.


5. Gearbox

The gearbox is a Borg Warner T5, a reliable unit though hard-worked in the Tuscan and hot-running because of the proximity of the catalytic converters. Check that fifth gear engages cleanly and stays in.

While some last well, many clutches have failed by 20,000 miles (usually because of the pressure plate fingers breaking rather than the friction plate wearing out); weak slave cylinder seals exacerbate clutch issues. A new clutch is £750 fitted.


6. Wheels

Wheels are prone to damage; most early Raceline 18in alloys will have been replaced with reinforced versions by now, but some low-mileage cars may still have these weak originals. 16in with 225/50 and 255/55 ZR tyres were standard, 18in with 255/35 were optional at first, later standard. There’s no spare. Check for wobble/vibration at speed. Tyres wear rapidly (though check age on low-mileage cars), but decent replacements are not horrendously expensive.


7. Electrics

Electrics were always a TVR foible zone and while most should have been sorted by now, check that everything works, especially the windows, alarm, door mirrors, pod display functions, aircon, heater fan, lights and so on. You open the door by pushing a button under the mirror – the window should drop slightly and the door unlatch. Some electronic control units are not available and have to be repaired. The battery is not easily accessible without removing the left front wheel (unless the car has had a full lifting bonnet conversion), so a set of TVR jump leads that plug into a socket there is essential.


OUR EXPERTS

James Aggerwas on the Motor Show stand selling Tuscans when they were launched, and has been selling them ever since via James Agger Autosport. He preaches preventive maintenance and all Tuscans he sells are very thoroughly prepared.

James Birkby was responsible for most TVRs sold overseas in 1998-2004, so is very familiar with the Tuscan. He still sells them through TVR-MADS, ‘When I can find a good one,’ he explains.

Ian Wilson formed Track V Road with Craig Thompson in 2006 after the TVR factory closed, having worked on them for some years. A keen amateur racer, he has raced Tuscans as well as repairing them.


Electrics are a known dodgy area, so make sure everything works.

Checking the coolant level and how often it needs topping is extremely wise.


Removing or upgrading catalytic converters is common but may cause issues at MoT time.


MEET THE OWNERS

‘I couldn’t replace it – it’s my ideal TVR!’

Dr Ian Forrester, Lancashire

‘I bought my Tuscan in 2008 with 28,000 miles,’ says Ian, whose car is photographed here. ‘It had one previous owner and has covered 68,000 miles since it was built in October 2002. It’s completely original, just a new clutch at 51,000 miles – which was the original. I think I’ve been lucky, but I do look after the car – I keep it garaged and religiously adhere to the warm-up procedure.

‘It’s one of the few downsides. When a small boy asks, “Can you show me the engine,” I can’t – and if he then asks, “Can you rev it for me,” he has to wait seven minutes for it to warm up at 2000rpm!

‘I love the beauty of its lines, and the power: the thrill of putting your foot down. It’s a fabulous engine with instant response to the throttle: it’s like being in control of a sports motorbike. The noise – especially in tunnels – is fantastic.’


Tony Catling, Buckingham

‘When I first saw one in a car park I thought it was a stunning car,’ says 2003 Tuscan owner Tony. ‘It took me a couple of years to save up: I bought it privately in 2005 with 8000 miles on it, and the first owner taught me the warm-up procedure – I’ve followed it religiously ever since and have had no engine issues. It’s a fantastic car, I love the power too and comparatively it’s very cheap to run. ‘It’s up to 29,000 miles now and is serviced annually by a TVR specialist. It does eat tyres, but the Toyos are not that expensive. It’s not particularly comfortable – it’s a racing car on the road – and there’s so much power you have to be very careful. I spend around £1000-£1200 annually on servicing and consumables, plus around £550 on tax and insurance. When you consider what it can do, and the looks, the sound and the price, there’s nothing to match it.’


Peter Reid, York

‘In 2008 I’d just finished sorting engine issues with my Chimaera 450, my fourth TVR in 17 years, when I came across a 2006 Tuscan convertible,’ explains Peter. “It was exactly how I would have specced a car, BMW Estoril Blue with full leather on Ferrari seats, the late dash with proper analogue dials, leather-trimmed roll bar, everything, and it was £40,000. It was the 2006 Motor Show car when TVR was owned by Nikolai Smolenski, and was retained by TVR. I just had to have it. ‘At 17,000 miles it’s just getting its first new brake pads; it’s on Pirelli P-Zeros and has had new rears but the fronts are still fine.

‘I had the lifting bonnet conversion by Surface & Design after a throttle cable failed – my wife didn’t want to help lift the bonnet off again. It’s only cost me around £500 a year and I couldn’t replace it – it’s my ideal TVR!


IMPROVING

There’s no shortage of keen specialists offering Speed Six engine rebuilds and upgrades. Check their reputation and the warranty offered before buying. Among the most respected are TVR Power’s rebuilds taking the Speed Six (3.6 or 4.0) to 4.3-litre or even 4.5-litre high-torque with a five-year, unlimited-mileage warranty. Racing Green offers its well-developed FFF (Finger Follower Free) cylinder head and performance enhancing Syvecs engine management system that gives more power and has a healthy warranty. Engine mounts regularly fail and drop on the exhaust side; improved ones are available. De-catting or fitting uprated catalytic converters is popular, but may be an issue at MoT time. Converting to a hinged bonnet is popular; it’s best to get the Anderson connector for the jump leads moved to a clean and accessible inner wing position at the same time. Most cars’ original shock absorbers are getting weak by now; Nitron are considered the best upgrade and a definite improvement over the originals.


SPECIFICATIONS 1999-2006 TVR Tuscan Speed Six

Engine 3605/3996cc twin-ohc 24-valve 6-cylinder with electronic sequential multipoint fuel injection

Power & torque 350bhp @ 7200rpm, torque 290lb ft @ 5500rpm, to 440bhp @ 7600rpm, 350lb ft @ 6000rpm

Transmission BorgWarner T5 five-speed manual, rear-wheel drive

Brakes Ventilated discs 304/282mm (F/R), 322/298mm on S

Suspension Front/ rear: twin wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar Steering: Power-assisted variable-rate rack and pinion

Length 13ft 10.7in

Width 5ft 11in

Height 3ft 11in

Weight 2464lb (1120kg)

Performance Top speed: 180-195mph;

0-60mph: 4.2-3.8sec

Fuel consumption 16-23mpg

Cost new £39,750 (2000)


NEED TO KNOW

Engine top end rebuild £2500

Engine full refresh £5400

Engine rebuild 3.6 to 4.3 £8400 4.0 de-cat, sports silencers and eprom fitted £1200

Gearbox rebuild £1500

Body repair and repaint £6000

Full retrim £4000

Lifting bonnet conversion £384-£636

Full service inc tappet adjust £720

Who can help?

Track V Road trackvroad.co.uk

James Agger Autosport jamesagger.com

XWorks Service xworksservice.co.uk

TVR-MADS tvr-mads.co.uk

Str8six str8six.co.uk

TVR Power powersperformance.co.uk

Prestige Performance Cars ppctvr.co.uk

SurfaceDesign surfaceanddesign.com

Techniques TVR techniquestvr.co.uk

Neil Garner cotswoldtvr.co.uk

Sportmotive sportmotive.com

Kerridges kerridges.co.uk

CAR FOR SALE

Year-2000 model, engine rebuilt and guaranteed until February 2017. Rolex Blue paint with Portland Grey leather upholstery over mauve carpets. Full service history, two keys, 29,000 miles with last service at 27,000 miles. £19,990

Engine rebuilds can cost £8400

WHICH ONE?

Production numbers are debatable, TVR claiming 2500 MkIs but enthusiasts believing the truth to be nearer 1650, plus just 160 MkIIs, c105 of them convertibles. Only around 60 left-hand-drive cars were built, from late 2002.

Tuscan 4.0 The Tuscan pumped out 360bhp @ 7000rpm and 310lb ft @ 5250rpm. From the start, 10-15% were ordered in ‘Red Rose’ form, with 380bhp @ 7000rpm, 330lb ft @ 5250rpm, larger brakes and stiffer suspension; others have since been upgraded. Expect to pay £20-£30k for a tidy example, dependent on age and mileage.

Tuscan S 4.0 Launched in April 2001 for an extra £10k, the ‘S’ claimed 195mph with 3.8sec 0-60mph thanks to 390bhp @ 7000rpm, 310lb ft; from 2003 it had 400bhp, 315lb ft. It had bigger brakes, stiffer suspension and a close-ratio gearbox. Pay 20% more than a standard model.

Tuscan 3.6 From 2001 the Tuscan had the 3.6-litre engine giving 350bhp and 290lb ft. Prices are slightly lower than for the 4.0, though later, lower-mileage cars are worth more.

Tuscan MkII Introduced in May 2004, the MkII brought a facelift – faired-in headlights and curvaceous tail lights – plus less-sharp electric instead of mechanical power steering. The Red Rose version offered 380bhp, 310lb ft. MkIIs command 50% more than MkIs – 100% more for the S and Convertible.

Tuscan MkII S The Mk2 S got improved spoilers and tweaks to the chassis.

Tuscan MkII Convertible The solid targa panel lifted off to stow in the boot, while the rear hood section folded back flush, leaving twin roll hoops behind the seats for rollover protection.

Tuscan R to MkII T440R 4.2. At the 2000 Motor Show, TVR unveiled the 200mm-longer, wider-track, 450bhp Tuscan R 4.2-litre 2+2 road car or full-blown racer, with TVR’s own six-speed sequential gearbox. It evolved into the T400 with 400bhp and a Borg Warner T5 gearbox. The 2+2 concept evolved into the Typhon with 550bhp supercharged Speed Six, of which only a few were built.

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