For the most part I would relate sensuality – or sex – with curves. And just to be precise, yes I’m talking about cars. But lately I’ve found myself getting rather turned on by TVR’s famous wedge, where every line was created using a ruler.
I’m not entirely sure where it all started, but it might have been with the purchase of my wife’s Rover 3500. That little Buick/Rover 3.5-litre V8 is sensational. And so is the crisp SD1 shape created by David Baches. From there, slowly but surely, something started to develop within me – perhaps there were other beautifully sharp designs, other than the big Rover saloon, which utilises the aurally pleasing V8.
One example could easily be the equally British TVR. The companies most successful period was virtually based around the use of the aging Rover engine. They also utilised it in their nineties Griffith which arguably turned out to be TVR’s biggest success to date – rightly so, as it in my humble opinion is one of the sexiest cars of that decade.
But that was far from the first time TVR used the Rover engine: The same powerplant (even in the same trim, i.e. 4-litres, fuel injected and pushing out approximately 240 horsepower) was installed in the less spectacular TVR S-series from 1986. Equally a lovely sportscar, but also quite different from the 1991 Griffith seeing as the S-series had a very retro-inspired design with heavy influences from their M-series dating back to the seventies. Nonetheless, it proved to be a hit, and the S-series sold (by TVR standards…) quite well.
However, they actually used the Rover engine even earlier than that: In a car which has been relatively overlooked by classic car enthusiasts – the TVR wedge-series. That was of course not their official model name, as the first incarnation from 1980 bore the tuneful name “Tasmin”. But you only have to grant the car one quick glance to understand why its unofficial nickname quickly became the Wedge.
One would truly struggle to argue that the design by British Oliver Winterbottom is anything but super sharp and crisp. Granted all of the proportions are perhaps not in perfect harmony, and some might feel that it simply has too much edge. It almost makes a series 1 Lotus Esprit look nicely rounded, and that takes some doing. Initially it was presented only as a coupé, but the later convertible – even without the angular sloping roofline – is every bit the wedge too.
Enginewise they started off with Fords Cologne 2.8-litre V6 with 160 horsepower, which was enough to the first wedges reasonably rapid cars. Then in 1983 they raised the bar significantly with the V8. The first cars made due with 190 horsepower from 3.5-litres, but TVR knew that there was huge tuning potential in the V8, and off they went! In the Wedge-series they ended up pushing out a healthy 325 horsepower towards the end of the eighties, which propelled the small sportscar from 0-60 mph in a mere 4.5 seconds. Back then, that was simply sensational.
Less could of course suffice. I personally feel that especially the 390i model from 1984 – 1989 is a commendable compromise with its 275 horsepower V8. One of my feinschmeckerfriends coined it as the AC Cobra of the eighties.
Those are of course big words which could easily be challenged – but considering that the Wedge-series is among those few classic cars which haven’t (yet) been hit by silly hikes northbound in value, you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. Around £ 10,000 should get you into 390i territory and you might be lucky and find the original 350i for as little as half of that.
I’ve recently found myself trawling the internet for TVR’s wedge, but I’m still quite ambivalent: On the one side, I’m drawn in by just how much sportscar you get for your money – let’s just call it a poor man’s Cobra. But on the other hand, I’m just not sure how I feel about that design. It’s wedge on speed!
So the question isn’t whether you get a lot of sportscar for your money with a TVR wedge. I believe that goes without saying…
Rather, the big question is: Do you get a sexy sportscar? I frankly can’t decide. Some days I love the idea of a square-cut wedge of an eighties V8 sportscar with power and attitude in bulk. Where other days, I struggle to come to terms with the exaggerated absence of curves.
What say the readers: Is “wedge” sexy?