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From F1 to Nascar to grandma's Camry....it's Car Talk.

Re: What are you driving? TVR 280i...

After the very sad loss of my beloved '96 Dodge Neon ACR - one of the most enjoyable cars I've ever owned. Inexpensive, fun, fast, reliable, easy and cheap to service on the rare occasion I had to do any service. A hyperactive ninja on the road and the track.

Feeling dispirited with the choices for replacement for the Neon, I've pressed one of my toy cars into daily service. My '85 TVR 280i roadster. It's really too far over-the-top to be suitable daily driver, it's a better track toy, but it'll be fun for a while. It has very low original miles, 16K, but it still needs a lot of details attended to. Having the car close and mobile is giving me the opportunity to sort through things carefully and well.

It's an interesting, or perhaps better said, curious and unusual car compared with what's typically on US roads today. It really could use and entirely different drivetrain. For such a large motor, both in terms of weight and displacement, the German-made Ford 2.8i V6 doesn't make much hp or torque, and unfortunately this motor doesn't have a tuning path, or parts, to get more hp or torque. The gearbox is a wide ratio four speed, and the final drive ratio is lazy.

The other issues I've got is the lack of chassis adjustability. If you want the largest tire contact patch on the road, you've just got to have camber adjustment. Gotta. Otherwise, the chassis is essentially identical to an early Lotus Esprit. I could modify the suspension for adjustment, but I don't know that I'm up to putting that effort in this car right now.

Still, the chassis performance is very good. In SCCA Solo, which is so much a chassis performance test, the 280i is classed into ASP and AP, along with various Ferraris, third-gen RX-7s, the fastest Porsches, and the classic Lotuses - the Seven, Elan, and Europa - which tend to dominate these classes. The TVRs are hardly the pick of the class, but they still get ranked head of things like late-model 'Vettes and BMW M3s. So the chassis performance is good, and it's fun to be in a good RWD car again.

It's very much a kit car, like race cars essentially are. This kit'y quality is either a frustration or a blessing. For me it's a bit of both. It nets out to a character I find attractive. TVR's added valued is the rare level of chassis performance, the kind that only a few road-cars can equal and that you can't just make happen on-demand, and the styling. They built the body and most of the chassis. But the car is clearly a cottage industry product. Lots of VERY simple, crude fabrications, and of course, parts borrowed from a variety of different manufacturers bins. The crude fabrications I actually like very much. It means that when I need a part I don't have to chase down something essentially unobtainable and expensive - I can build it! And it's even easy to built a lot of things much better than TVR did. I love it. I go to race parts suppliers, race parts fabricators or machinists/toolmakers (my brother being a toolmaker), or Home Depot for parts!

It's a car that attracts a lot of attention. That's part of the fun for me. With only about 800 280i roadsters ever built, and I'm sure far fewer are on the road today, it's a car that isn't oft seen.

- SJ

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