BY ANDY ENRIGHT
TVR owners tend to be rabidly partisan types but there's one car that seems singularly unable to get them particularly excited and that model is the Tamora. Perhaps it's the underwhelming styling in comparison to the jaw-dropping shapes boasted by the Griffith, the Cerbera and, latterly, the Tuscan and Sagaris models. Or perhaps because it knew its place as an entry level model, the Tamora never gained a big following. Used examples aren't too hard to find and you won't need much more than middling hot hatch money to snag one.
Models Covered: (2 dr roadster 3.6 petrol)
Even by today's standards, Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus is a pretty racy read. Rape, mutilation, murder - it's all there in the sort of grotesque detail that would make James Ellroy wince. Tamora, the Queen of the Goths, even ends up unwittingly eating her own sons who'd been baked into a pie. The TVR Tamora, while not quite so murderous in its intent, is still made of rather stern stuff. At its launch at the Birmingham Motor Show in 2000, TVR claimed the Tamora was "less extreme, more accessible, more conservative." Bullish sales figures were bandied about, projections that the Tamora would, ultimately, fail to fulfil. TVR priced the car too close to the far more spectacular Tuscan and by the time the company imploded in 2006, sales had slowed to a trickle.
What You Get
Sharing the platform and engine with the entry-level Tuscan, the Tamora targeted cars like the Porsche Boxster S or Mercedes SLK32AMG. Taking up the reins from the modern classic that was the TVR Griffith is a big ask, and the Tamora needed to be good to fill those particular boots. It started at an apparent disadvantage, its Speed Six engine already two cylinders down on the Griffith's thunderous V8, but anybody who's heard a Speed Six used in anger won't worry unduly. The engine is a work of art, a bafflingly magnificent achievement from a company that fifteen years ago wasn't a great deal more technically advanced than the organisation down the road making plastic sand pits. The Tamora's mohair hood flips down to expose a typically inventive TVR cabin to the elements. An analogue speedo and rev counter vie for the driver's attention with a multifunction digital display with winking shift lights and whilst it doesn't rival the Tuscan in terms of sheer design exuberance, it still looks the part. Broad swathes of leather and the trademark TVR metallic pastille controls are very much in evidence as well as a steering wheel with a conspicuous lack of dirigible protection. The starkly elegant pedal set is probably the most noteworthy piece of styling, and alongside the cosmetics there's also function. The Tamora features central locking, electric windows, an electrically operated boot release, electrically adjustable door mirrors and an electric alarm system with engine immobiliser which may well raise a shudder from those with a passing knowledge of past TVR electrical reliability. You also get a removable face stereo and tinted glass, although luxury touches aren't what the Tamora is all about. The folding roof is neatly simple, echoing the design we've become used to in the Griffith and the Chimaera. There's a one-piece removable roof panel which stores neatly in the boot, and a folding rear header rail. Nothing flashy, but it goes up and down easily, although do think twice before you wheel out the pressure washer. Most TVRs are about as waterproof as the General Belgrano.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
Although the Tamora is a relatively simple car, there were some quite severe teething problems with the 3.6-litre Speed Six engine. Quality notably improved after 2003 and these are the cars to look at if you want to reduce your chances of a costly rebuild. Electrical items are notoriously flaky with temperature and speedo sensors liable to go on the fritz. A dashboardError Code 26 is a possible air conditioning fault. This could be caused by either a faulty sensor or an ECU fault whereas anError Code 24 is a heater flap that has stopped functioning. Either the flap has come loose or there is, again, an ECU fault. TVR owners recommend that you inspect the service book carefully and telephone any independent specialists who you see in the book as they may well recall the car and give you a steer on whether it was a sound example or a Friday afternoon special. The low sticker price of the Tamora is misleading as many owners specified their cars with optional wheels/paint/leather and some also insisted on the rather temperamental (and not wholly effective at the best of times) air conditioning system. The gearchange to reverse often crunches on the Tamora but slotting fifth and then moving straight back through the gate to reverse will avoid this.
Trying to establish definitive parts prices for the Tamora is tricky, due in no small part to the fact that the vehicle has undergone a series of tiny ad-hoc improvements and changes throughout its lifetime and there is no recognised dealer network. A replacement clutch is around £475 plus fitting while a favourite after market upgrade is to replace the Tamora's rather weedy headlights with xenon units which will total £275. Budget around £1,500 per year for routine servicing and also consider a third party warranty.
On the Road
That Speed Six engine, designed completely in house, is no thud and blunder anachronism. It's an all-alloy unit with four valves per cylinder and a fully mapped engine management system with some genuinely sophisticated engineering built into the manifolds and catalysts. Power assisted steering could be construed as evidence of TVR going soft in its old age, but customers find their TVRs marginally less uncontrollable with a bit of help from a subservient servo, so there it is. In order to warn you when conditions are decidedly Tamora-unfriendly, the car is fitted with an ice detector which, if other TVRs are anything to go by, should immobilise the car for the driver's safety, but in this instance merely blinks up a warning light. The company's engineering bent is evident in the attention paid to the oily bits. All round independent suspension comprising double wishbones and coil over dampers is assisted by chunky anti roll bars to give what promises to be a very firm ride. Likewise, the brakes don't leave much to the imagination, with 304mm ventilated front discs using four pot callipers, whilst the rear brakes are only slightly less beefy at 282mm. Drive naturally goes to the rear wheels, the only form of traction control being the weight of your right foot. Expect a maximum speed of around 160mph (a good deal less than the factory claimed 175mph in other words) and 60mph will come and go in just over 4 seconds.
The Tamora won't be remembered as the greatest car TVR ever built but it remains the marque's most accessible product. Had it been a little more sweetly styled, who knows what would have happened? As it stands, it's a car that makes an intriguing used proposition, offering genuine supercar drama for the price of a new Mazda MX-5.