TVR Cerbera | 90s Icon and Legendary Sports Car
Believe it or not, almost 25 years has passed since TVR unveiled the legendary Cerbera in 1993. As the years have passed by, less and less are seen (and heard!) on our roads which is a real shame. It was released after the crazy Griffith and softer convertible Chimaera.
It’s difficult not to mention the words ‘reliability’ and ‘TVR’ in the same sentence, as all 90’s (and later) TVRs were plagued by catastrophic electrical gremlins. Some cars have already had their midlife crisis and are OK to run now, but it really is pot luck. And if the chassis and fibreglass body has seen better days, then you should walk away unless you have deep pockets and want a time consuming project.
Practicality is not a selling point for the Cerbera. Yes it has 4 seats, but you have to think of it as a 3+1 set up because the passenger seat slides further forward than the driver’s seat. The rear seat behind the driver is completely unusable if your passenger has any legs, and I’m not exaggerating. The interior is beautiful however. I would loosely compare it to a Zonda, with elegant bespoke stitched leather and aluminium machined buttons with dials everywhere. The sweeping dash cocoons you with futuristic looks; with the fuel gauge and clock on the bottom of the steering wheel, below the buttons for the lights and wipers à la the modern, super high tech Ferrari 458.
At the end of the day this is a very big car, with a very big engine and with no electronic driving aids whatsoever; and you can forget airbags. It’s easy to spin the wheels in the dry and I don’t mind admitting that I wouldn’t want to drive one in the wet. If you stack it, it’s entirely your fault. The Cerbera does have a long travel accelerator pedal to compensate for the light steering and help you control the beast. You sit very low and flat with the pedal box pushed right into the engine compartment to give a sporty feel. It also has an air vent in the steering wheel to help keep you alert, not that you’d ever fall asleep with the sound of the 4.2-litre V8. Before the Cerbera, TVR used engines from other manufacturers like Rover and Ford but the Cerbera marked an important point in TVR’s history when it became the first model to use an in-house engine. It produces ‘only’ 350hp but then the car only weighs 1100kg so it’s a great recipe.
The cherry on the top with any TVR is the exhaust sound. Loud backfiring and crackling on overrun, particularly at low speeds is just what the doctor ordered. In fact this was the result of an argument at the factory between one of TVR’s executives and the engineers creating the mapping for the engine. The engineers wanted to map out this “irregularity” to improve fuel efficiency and emissions, whilst the executive insisted it was exactly the kind of thing owners would like. In the end a compromise was reached in which the popping and banging was loudest on the later 4.5-litre version. But the two long tailpipes on all versions still burble and bang enough to scare young children.
Performance figures are pretty impressive. 0-60 takes just 4.5 seconds and it recaches 100mph in less than 10 seconds. If you’re brave enough (and if the car stays intact) it would go on to reach 185mph. It could still blow away most modern sports cars. Also, because of the long wheelbase and tall suspension is it surprisingly comfortable to cruise in ‘most’ of the time.
It’s no surprise that the Cerbera suffers from the aforementioned electrical problems because the car is packed full of fancy electronics. The doors pop open after pressing a little button on the bottom of the wing mirrors, and by a small button in the centre of the dash when you want to exit. There have been a few horror stories over the years of owners being trapped in their cars because the electrics have failed with them in it! It’s the same story to open the boot – you press the ‘Cerbera’ badge in and the boot pops open to reveal the large luggage area.
I actually almost took the plunge and bought a 1997 model in the classic Reflex Purple colour a few years ago for just under £9,000. I wasn’t brave enough. I wish I had been though because you’ll struggle to find a half decent one these days for less than 20 big ones!
Despite their horrific faults, late TVRs remain some my all time favourite cars and I urge you to experience one should you ever have the lucky opportunity because they are fast becoming extinct. The styling of the Cerbera and later Tuscan is bonkers and the fact that they can kill you makes it one of the coolest cars of the last 20 years.