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1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC

Sep 2010 - First Report (51,700 miles)

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1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC 1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC 1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC 1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC 1995 TVR Chimaera 400HC

Turn the key to activate the ignition, pause a second until the whine of the fuel pump stops, signifying that it’s primed and ready for action. Turn the key a little further and the starter churns – faster and higher pitched then my usual car. Almost immediately the already-warmed engine springs to life, high octane unleaded feeding the 8 hungry cylinders. The revs rise initially then settle to an even burble just under 1,000rpm. Blip the throttle pedal, impossible to resist, and I’m rewarded with a snarling bellow, so characteristic of a TVR V8. Blip it a couple more times just to savour what is, to my ears, the most evocative and perfect noise ever created by man.

Depress the clutch pedal and shift the stubby, short-throw gear lever into first. The low slung driving position and huge transmission tunnel means it feels like you’re reaching up to grab the spherical alloy gear knob, rather than down like in most cars [no, it’s because you’re short - Ed]. Apply a bit of gas and smoothly release the clutch pedal. Accelerate gently then change to second, the shift action is satisfyingly chunky. Even when accelerating gently the noise emitted from the twin stainless–steel exhausts is spine tingling, especially with the roof off. Up to third now and ease off the gas to keep it at the 40 limit.

Already I feel at home. The low seat and snug, cosseting driving position makes this feel truly special. Ride quality is firm but surprisingly absorbent and quiet. I could easily cruise around all day – this is no effort at all.

But the calm does not last long. Around the left hander and the national speed limit sign looms. Still in third gear, I press the throttle firmly into the carpet as I pass the sign. Instantly the car surges forward, accompanied by the kind of bellowing cacophony that might signify the arrival of armageddon. Ease off slightly for the left kink then back on the power. Still in third gear, up the hill, the noise reverberating off the stone walls flanking either side, under the stone railway bridge which amplifies and echoes the sound further.

The yelp and giggle from my missus to my left reminds me I’m not alone and is followed by a gasp and "Gosh" as the revs continue to rise. The sheer oomph generated is not a complete surprise to me – but the way the intensity of the surge increases as the revs rise is. The pull from the four litre, high-compression V8 seems to get stronger and stronger as the needle heads towards the rev limiter.

Grab fourth now and ease off the gas slightly – I can feel the "that’s fast enough thank you" vibes emanating from the passenger seat, despite the huge grin on her face. A couple more kinks in the road ahead, first to the right then the left, which the Chimaera takes in its stride, even at this speed. Then over the crest, illuminate the "slow down: bend" sign and brake hard. A quick downshift to third with a heel-and-toe throttle blip that the perfectly placed pedals so helpfully facilitate. Off the brakes, turn the wheel and the car turns in to the right hander instantly. There’s no noticeable body roll, just instant response and grip.

My pace is moderate (probably fast to most people) but I’m well within my comfort zone and nowhere near the car’s limit – it’s early days yet. The mid-corner ridge causes an ever-so-slight skip at the front end but the rear remains planted. I start easing on the power as I reduce the steering lock, then its foot to the floor again as I hit the straight. The noise is simply awesome – probably at least 50% of the enjoyment of the experience. I change up to fourth again then quickly into fifth and settle at a not-so-licence-shredding cruise.

What a rush. That little blat was a once-in-a-lifetime drive. Only, it wasn’t…this is my car, I’ve just bought it and there will be plenty more once-in-a-lifetime drives to come. Does life get any better?

So why a TVR Chimaera? Well, I’ve always been a TVR fan. Ever since I first saw and heard a 350i, I’ve been obsessed. I couldn’t believe that such a noise could be legal. It made the hairs on my neck stand to attention and I came over all giddy. Then, when I saw the Chimaera at the Birmingham Motor show in 1992, I knew at that moment I had to own one. Well, it’s taken a while but I’ve finally scratched the itch and got myself a 1995 400HC.

Knowing what a liability I could be taking on, I joined the TVR car club a few weeks ago and started trawling the forums on both the TVR Car Club website and Pistonheads, in order to assimilate as much information as I could, and started browsing the classifieds. I must have looked at hundreds for sale online. The first one I went to see was right at the top of my budget (£8-9k) and what a shocker – it was a tatty shed. I started to feel a bit dejected and thought my dream was doomed.

I went to my first local TVR club meeting one Wednesday evening and spoke to a few of the Chimaera owners. It seemed that my dream was not dead. Good ones are out there at my price but they take some finding. Whilst I was desperate to own one, I was in no rush, so I continued looking, happy to wait for the right one.

I didn’t have to wait long. The car I bought appeared for sale on Pistonheads a few days later. I made the call and went to see it. As soon as I set eyes on it I knew it was the one – it practically sung to me. After a bit of negotiation a price was agreed – subject to a satisfactory inspection (it’s that liability thing). I called Rob Ingleby, a renowned TVR specialist, and employed his inspection services. Boy am I glad I did? Firstly, he reported that the offside outrigger is rusting along the top front corner and needs replacing (a notorious TVR issue). Secondly, he reported that the rest of the chassis is sound and that, apart from a couple of minor issues, it’s a desirable car with a fantastic engine and drivetrain. The bodywork is generally in great condition with a minor scuff on the wing and only a small number of stonechips. The interior is also in fantastic condition and the black leather looks great. I’m not keen on the wooden dash but a stainless steel one is high on my priority list. So, inspection done, I knew I wanted it but not at the original price. After a bit more negotiation I got the price down by a further £1k, thus allowing me to get the chassis fixed and still be well within my original budget.

There are a few other minor things that I’ll enjoy sorting out in the months to come. I’m going to enjoy the car as much as I can through the autumn and winter then get the chassis fixed before the Spring. I can already feel upgradyitis coming on but I’m happy to take my time - this is a car for life.


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