As TVR entered the 1990’s, the Wedges that had taken the company through the 1980’s were nearing the limits of development. The humble Tasmin 280 had evolved into the awesome 450 SEAC. TVR found itself with two product lines, the wedge-shaped Tasmin-based cars and the newer, but retro-styled ‘S’ models. As tastes changed, the wedge shaped cars were starting to date badly, and the more rounded ‘S’ models were starting to outsell them.However TVR’s order books were now dominated by the curvy ‘S’ series. Customers favouring the good looking ‘S’ were asking for a more powerful model.
Various prototypes were experimented with, including the ES and the Speed 8.
Peter Wheeler wasn’t happy though. The ‘S’ chassis was good enough for up to around 270bhp but he planned on much more powerful Griffiths and therefore needed an even stronger chassis. The V8 and strengthened chassis were used to produce the V8S, whilst development work continued on the Griffith. The only problem was that even in this form, the ‘S’ chassis was only ever going to be able to handle around 270bhp, so TVR had to go back to the drawing board and use a two inche shortened chassis from the Tuscan racer, a car which produced well in excess of 400bhp. At the 1990 Motor Show TVR unveiled the new model. They revived a famous name from their past and christened the model the ‘Griffith’. The public loved it, and 350 deposits were taken immediately.
Based on the Tuscan racer chassis, it featured a 4 litre modified Rover V8 and a body that became a design classic. With the engine sitting to the rear of the front axle it had almost perfect balance with a 51/49% weight distribution. The stlyish bonnet was also practical with heat being vented from the radiator which was placed flat in the nose.
A smoother car cannot be found. Creative ideas such as setting the door handles into a recess behind the door, back lighting the number plate and placing the fuel filler cap in the boot, created a very clean unfussed shape. The total lack of bumpers accentuates the curves.
Demand for the Griffith dictated that over 70% of the Blackpool factory’s production capacity was instantly devoted to Griffith construction, the fact that the Griffith 4.0 was over £2,500 cheaper than the outgoing 400SE ‘wedge’ effectively sounding the death knell for the older car.
With Mr Wheeler now happy with the car, production began in earnest and the first cars were delivered in 1992. 73% of production in 1992 was given over to the Griffith, a total of 604 cars. Launched at a price of £24,802 it was around £3000 cheaper than the 400SE effectively killing demand for the older Wedge.
For about the price of a 400SE, customers could order the Griffith 4.3, again using the Rover V8 but this time with a bored and tuned version which developed 280bhp. Over seventy percent of Griffith customers opted for the larger engined car.
Production of UK Griffiths was temporarily suspended in November 1992 to allow the factory to clear the foreign orders backlog and ramp up production of the new Chimaera model line.
In 1993, TVR launched the Griffith 500. Originally due to use the AJP8 engine of TVR’s own design, the Griffith again relied on the Rover V8, due in no small part to the development of the AJP8 falling behind schedule. The car received a facelift with driving lamps mounted low in the front air intake, and OZ wheels were fitted as standard. AT the same time tyre sizes, spring rates and shock absorber settings were adjusted across the range to calm the rear suspension’s inherent jitteriness. The 4.0 and 4.3-litre cars were axed in 1993, leaving the Griffith 500 the sole model carrying the flag. With the arrival of the Tuscan Speed Six in 1999, the Griffith’s days look numbered.