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SNAPSHOT 389: 1997 TVR Griffith 500

The TVR Griffith was produced from 1990 to 2002. There were several versions, starting in 1990 with the 4-litre powered by a 240 bhp Rover V8 engine. From 1992 this could optionally be increased to 4.3-litres, putting out 280 bhp, with a further option of big-valve cylinder heads. In 1993 came the 5-litre version, later badged (as is this example) as the 500. It was powered by a 5-litre 340 bhp version of the same Rover V8, developed by TVR.

The Griffith name dates to 1964 when Jack Griffith came up with the idea for a car that would be marketed in the US. He ran a car repair workshop in the USA; patrons included Gerry Sagerman and Mark Donohue, who had both driven a TVR Grantura at Sebring International Raceway in 1962. The concept for the Griffith Series 200 originated during a dinner with Carroll Shelby, where Griffith declared he could build a car that could outperform an AC Cobra.

Like all TVRs, the Griffith was bodied in fibreglass. In the United States, it was sold as a make in its own right, the Griffith, the model being the 200 or Series 200. In the UK the same car was sold as a TVR Griffith 200.

Griffith asked TVR to supply him with modified TVR Grantura chassis, without an engine or transmission. They did this, and Griffith set about shoehorning an American V8 into the chassis. It was usually fitted with a 289 cubic inch (4.7-litre) Ford V8 engine putting out 271 bhp, achieving 0-60 mph in 3.9 seconds and a 150 mph top speed.

The high power, short wheelbase and light weight of the cars made them difficult to handle, and just 192 examples were made before they were superseded by the 400 and then the 600, built by the Griffith Motor Company in Plainview, New York between 1964 and 1967 with a larger radiator, redesigned rear suspension, and a redesigned rear with better visibility and the round taillights sourced from the Ford Cortina Mark I. Only 59 400s and 10 600s were made before the American Griffith company folded.

The later 1990s TVR Griffith seen here was introduced in tribute to the earlier, extremely potent Griffith. It was mechanically identical to its sister model the Chimaera, but it had a different body design and was produced in much smaller numbers.

In 2000, TVR announced that Griffith production was going to end. A limited edition run of 100 Special Edition (SE) cars were to be built to mark the end of production. The SEs were built between 2000 and 2002, with the last registered in 2003.

In 2017, to coincide with TVR’s 70th anniversary year at the Goodwood Revival, a new Griffith was revealed under the now resurrected TVR marque, featuring design work by Gordon Murray. The Griffith was expected to start production in 2019, but COVID, funding problems and damage to production facilities have delayed development. The car might appear towards the end of 2023.

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