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The TVR Chimaera
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TVR Chimaera 400The TVR Chimaera was built as a two–seater roadster and was introduced to the TVR range in 1993, less than a complete year following the launch of the TVR Griffith. This car used the same chassis as the Griffith, but had a slightly larger body.

It was normal practice for TVR to make pre–production mock–ups of the car bodies from expanded foam, which then could be sculptured to shape.

It is alleged that after the foam pattern for the TVR Chimaera was made that a dog, whose master was TVR company owner, Peter Wheeler, took a bite out of the front corner of the model. This is supposed to have inspired Peter Wheeler to instruct his design team to make the dog bite into a recess for the front indicators lamps.

The Rover V8 Engine

The TVR Chimaera also used the same engine as fitted to the Griffith, initially in 4–litre form. This was a V8 Rover unit modified by TVR’s engine development plant, TVR Power.

The origins of the V8 engine are that it was designed and built by General Motors in the United States in 1960 and first appeared in the Buick 215, launched in 1961. Other American cars, such as Pontiac and Oldsmobile used the engine too.

Unlike other engines of that era this one was made out of aluminium instead of cast iron. What wasn’t completely understood at the time was that aluminium engines required a special coolant that did not react with the metal casting.


Engine Discontinued by
General Motors

As a consequence, in the US, there were issues with leaking coolant seals and clogging of water galleries. This apparent fault caused the US car maker to discontinue use of the Buick V8 in 1964.

That same year, Rover’s head of American operations, J Bruce McWilliams, was tasked with seeking out a small block engine for Rover cars in the UK and first came upon the Buick V8 at an American boat yard owned by Mercury Marine. This company is well known today for its manufacture and sales of outboard motors.


Engine Acquired by Rover

Then began the process of convincing General Motors to sell the tooling and the rights to the engine, and this was finally agreed in January 1965. Retiring Buick engineer, Joe Turley, moved to the UK to act as engine consultant to Rover.

In the UK the Buick V8 was used in the production of the Rover P5 and P6 saloons. Later, it was powered the then futuristic Rover SD1, the Land Rover and Range Rover, the MGB V8, the MG RV8 and Triumph TR8.

Other manufacturers were soon using it too, such as Morgan and Marcos, taking advantage of the engine’s light weight design. TVR first acquired a supply of what became affectionately known as the Rover V8 in 1980 for the TVR 350i.

  TVR Chimaera Rover V8 engine
 

Technical Specification 4.0–litre

90 degree alloy V8 engine
Capacity 3950cc
Bore⁄stroke 94x71mm
Compression ratio 9.8:1
Max rpm 6,250
Max power 235 bhp @ 5,500rpm
Max torque 260 ft lbs @ 4,500rpm
0 to 60 mph 4.8 secs
0 to 100 mph 12.2 secs
Maximum speed 152mph
Rear wheel drive


Technical Specification 4.5–litre

90 degree alloy V8 engine
Capacity 4546cc
Bore⁄stroke 94x82mm
Compression ratio 9.5:1
Max rpm 6,250
Max power 285bhp @5,500rpm
Max torque 300 ft lbs @ 4,500rpm
0 to 60 mph 4.7 secs
0 to 100 mph 11.2 secs
Maximum speed 160 mph
Rear wheel drive


Technical Specification 5.0–litre

90 degree alloy V8 engine
Capacity 4988cc
Bore⁄stroke 94x90mm
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Max rpm 6,000
Max power 320bhp @ 5,500rpm
Max torque 320 ft lbs @ 4,000rpm
0 to 60mph 4.1 secs
0 to 100 mph 10.5 secs
Maximum speed 167mph
Rear wheel drive

Chimaera Easier to Live With

Whilst being a fast sports car, the TVR Chimaera was a little easier to live with than the Griffith, being more of an everyday sports car. The model attracted enough orders to put TVR production through the 1,000 units per year Leather interior of the TVR Chimaerabarrier for the first time and became the most popular TVR sports car ever built.

In December 1993, production of the TVR Griffith for the UK market was actually halted to allow time for orders for the Chimaera to catch up, such was the high demand for the car. This was definitely a car that gave TVR a big surge in popularity, as well as prosperity.

Over the course of its production life the TVR Chimaera was made available in 4–litre, 4.3–litre, 4.5–litre and 5–litre form. The 4.3–litre car was dropped at an early stage in the production run and is now actually quite rare.

Badges relating to engine size would be found on the 4.5 and 5.0–litre models, these displaying the digits 450 or 500 within the Chimaera name plate mounted on the body rear. The 4–litre car displayed a plain badge with no engine demarcation.


What, No Door Handles?

The TVR Griffith and Chimaera brought something new to TVR sports cars, this being the concept of having no visible door handles. This applied to both inside and outside the car. The Griffith always used a mechanical James Agger Autosport advertisementmethod of door release, as did the Chimaera from conception through to 1997.

The original method of entry to the Chimaera from outside was that of pressing a silver coloured disc positioned at the base of the hood on the top of the rear wing.

Once inside the car a gnarled twist knob, positioned in the car’s centre and to the rear of the handbrake lever, provided the means by which to open the doors from the inside. This would need to be twisted clockwise to open the driver’s door and anti–clockwise to open the passenger door.

From 1997 to the end of production, the TVR Chimaera had a method of entry that would become the standard system for all TVR models through to the end of production. A small nipple electronic push–button, located as if a drip of rainwater hanging from the underside of the door mirrors, provided the method of entry from the outside.

The interior twist knob, however, for opening the doors remained as the method of exit from the car. There was no visible fuel filler cap either, as this was hidden away in a small recess beneath the boot lid. TVR wanted the exterior of the cars to be as smooth as possible and achieved that well with the two models.


Body Styling That Set a TVR Trend

There was another tradition these two cars began for TVR models and this was in the body styling on the flanks of the car. Where the trailing edge of the front wings met with the leading edge (hinge end) of the doors there appeared to be an aperture that resembled a vent of some kind.

The wings overlapped the end of the doors, in effect, and this was a feature on all TVR’s from the Griffith⁄Chimaera until the demise of TVR in 2007. The reason for it was due to the body of the cars being moulded from fibreglass.

Panel fit, for GRP built cars, was always an issue, as it was very difficult to get a good match. The fluting of the front wings, and the rounding of the door edges to fit inside them, avoided the usual pitfalls. As well as having a practical purpose, it improved the looks of the cars too.


End of TVR Chimaera Production

In 2003, the TVR Chimaera was officially dropped from the TVR model range, but there was no special edition model for this car to see it out. The Chimaera 450 (4.5–litre) was the only engine variant being made at the end Last edition of the TVR Chimaeraof production.

There have been a few rumours as to why TVR discontinued the Griffith and the Chimaera. One story is that Peter Wheeler, being anti–German, refused to use the Rover V8 once Rover had been sold to BMW.

Whilst this did coincide with the demise of the two TVR models, another coincidence was that of the completion in the development of TVR’s own AJP Speed–Six engine, which then appeared in the TVR Tamora, the replacement for the Chimaera.

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