TVR is the quintessential boutique British car-maker. It’s no secret that there have been a few ups and downs in the firm’s fortunes since its inception way back in the 1940s, but the back catalogue of models produced reads like a greatest-hits of sport cars, fused with the wish-list of every true petrolhead.
The M Series of the 1970s represents a particularly interesting chapter in TVR history; the brainchild of Martin Lilley, who had taken control of the company in 1965, the M cars were engineered to be pure and focused machines, prizing handling and roadholding above all else. These front-mid-engined creations featured a lightweight fibreglass body over a bespoke backbone chassis, with the mechanicals bought in from larger manufacturers – the 1600M, for instance, used a Ford crossflow four-pot, while the later 3000M was powered by Ford’s Essex V6. But it’s the 2500M that’s the really intriguing one: this model, built from 1972 to ’77, was developed with a keen eye on the North American market, an important export territory for TVR. Triumph’s 2.5-litre straight-six was already certified for US emissions regulations, so this was the engine of choice for the intercontinental M – and as well as borrowing the engine from the Triumph TR6, the 2500M also helped itself to the gearbox, differential, and front suspension uprights.
This model was only available in the UK from 1972-73, when it was usurped by the 3000M, and production for export models ceased in ’77 when the supply of Triumph engines dried up – in total, just 947 of these cars were built. And as you can see by the fact that it’s a 1974 model with the steering wheel on the left, the car we have here today is an American-spec example…
When you’re looking at US imports, it’s always favourable to find one from as warm a state as possible. This TVR was actually found in Missouri, a midwestern state with a generally humid continental climate, so that’s a good start. The current owner bought the car in 2016, and had it shipped from Missouri to his native France. On moving to London in late 2017, the car came with him, and we can see from DVLA records that it was officially registered here in January 2018. One of the first things he did was to take the car to a Triumph specialist down in Dorset, who fitted the car with two new radiators. Since then it’s been looked after by the renowned TVR specialist Str8 Six in Oxfordshire, who have got to know the car and the owner rather well, the aim of each visit being ‘to make the car even more reliable every time’. The 2500M has enjoyed plenty of road trips to the Cotswolds and all sorts, although recently, having been confined to quarters throughout the various lockdowns, it’s just not getting used as much. The owner has been careful to regularly start and run the car on a weekly basis, but the honest truth is it’s been sidelined by a Porsche, so it’s reluctantly time for the TVR to go to a new home.
The owner has the V5, which proves that it’s been correctly registered with the right details with the DVLA. He also has comprehensive documentation outlining all of the work that’s been done to the car while it’s been in the UK.
Interior design has always been TVR’s forte, and while the 2500M’s cabin doesn’t quite have the lunacy of a Wheeler-era Tuscan or Cerbera, it’s certainly a pleasant and cosy place to be. The carpets are all new, including the rear shelf where the spare wheel lives. (The cubbyhole beneath houses the warning triangle and tools.) The dash design is charming with its repeated-circle motif and, aside from a small knock on the edge above the centre console, it’s all in good condition. The dials and switchgear are all functional, and the radio works. You’ll have spotted that the seats don’t match: when the car was bought it was fitted with Pontiac Fiero seats, and the owner asked the guys at Str8 Six to fit some genuine TVR items – these are what they had on the shelf and, while they’re different to one another, they are period-correct. (A popular upgrade is to fit a pair of Corbeau Classics, so that might be something to consider for the future.)
The sunroof is also working, and fully water-tight. However, we didn’t open it to test as the owner says that the runners could do with oiling – they’re not corroded, just a bit sticky – so it opens easily but is harder to close. This shouldn’t be a tricky thing to remedy. The car is fitted with new seat belts, and the heaters have been overhauled and they’re working well.
One of the main attractions of a TVR, of course, is that the body can’t rust! The fibreglass is all in pretty decent condition too, considering that it’s an unrestored 1974 car. It would benefit from a respray, as there are a fair few marks, scratches and blemishes across the bodywork as the photos demonstrate. There are a few areas of spidering, particularly on the driver’s door, but all of this shouldn’t be challenging to sort out – there are no chunks or gouges missing, all of the panels are in generally good shape and they all sit well. (Panel gaps are never perfect on low-volume fibreglass classic cars like this, but if you know what you’re looking at, you’ll know that they’re about as straight and tight as they can be.)
The owner highlights that the bonnet fixings will need attention at some point in the future, as they’re just starting to experience a little corrosion; they’re not hazardously rusty at present, but it’s something to add to the to-do list as and when the bodywork is addressed.
The original 14” alloy wheels are fitted and in excellent condition, with good quality Falken Ziex tyres on the front and Dunlop D60s on the rear. All of the correct chrome trim is in place; there’s a little surface corrosion to the quarter bumpers, particularly the rears, but otherwise it’s all in good order. The window glass and light lenses are all good; rather than the Mk2 Cortina lenses of earlier 2500Ms, this one has the later TR6 tail lights. The car appears to be reassuringly solid underneath. Overall, it’s a neatly presented TVR – a little love and care to the bodywork would turn a very good car into a great one.
It’s a simple but robust package in here, with proven Triumph mechanicals offering just the right amount of grunt for such a lightweight car. In factory form the 2500M was fitted with twin Zenith carbs, but we can see here that this one has been upgraded to triple 40 Weber DCOEs, which is much more like it. The owner suggests that these could require a little attention to get them sweetly balanced, but the car does run very well nevertheless.
The Achilles’ heel of the 2500M model has always been its cooling system, so this was one of the first things the owner addressed: with a pair of new radiators fitted within the last few years, it’s now more than happy to keep its cool even when stuck in London traffic. The car has been fitted with electronic ignition, and all the electrics have been overhauled. The engine is strong and dependable, and reportedly has never leaked oil or fluids in this owner’s time; there’s a sheen of oil beneath but we’re assured this has never made the transition from sheen to drip, the car’s eager to keep all its fluids where they should be. The owner points out that there may be a minor leak from the exhaust system to be addressed, and ideally he’d have bought a bigger battery for more cold amps, but on the whole it’s a thoroughly dependable and reliable thing that’s also oodles of fun to hustle down country lanes. The overdrive works correctly so it’s happy to cruise on motorways, and the clutch has been sorted so it doesn’t kill your left leg and/or slip and misbehave around town. The brakes were overhauled in 2019 so they’re all working well. Mechanically speaking, this is a well sorted TVR.
There’s a real purity to the 2500M: the gutsy straight-six, the juicy carbs, the outstanding weight distribution, the tactile interior, the oh-so-seventies body design. It ticks so many boxes. And with this particular example, there’s a lot to like: a US-market car from the time after the model had gone out of production in the UK, it’s lived an interesting life. In the current owner’s tenure, he’s invested a lot of money, time and effort into keeping it mechanically tip-top, always usable and – most importantly – reliable. Sure, the money could have been spent on the paintwork, but instead the focus was to keep it at the top of its game as a pure driver’s car, and that’s precisely what it is. So that paint will really be the final piece of the puzzle. The new owner can draw up a short to-do list, balancing the carbs and having a look at the exhaust and so forth, but realistically this is a classic TVR that you can jump right into and enjoy right away. An honest, dependable, well cared-for classic.
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