1969 TVR Tuscan: Obscure coupe bristles with the power of a Ford V-8

Dave Gilmore’s TVR Tuscan is one of eight in the U.S.
Dave Gilmore’s TVR Tuscan is one of eight in the U.S.

When cinematographer David Gilmore talks about the 1969 TVR Tuscan coupe that he and his wife, Meg, bought a few months ago, he beams as if he has discovered buried treasure. In some ways he has because his Tuscan is one of only eight thought to exist in the U.S.

Gilmore, of Leawood, has been shooting a documentary about TVRs and that eventually led him to this car. He expects his video to be released in the spring.

The 2,100-pound TVR Tuscan is powered by a 289-cubic-inch high-performance Cobra Ford V-8 and it can hit 60 miles per hour in less than 5 seconds and has a top speed of 165 mph.

Gilmore’s Tuscan V-8 SE, serial number MAL008, was the only one to have a Ford automatic transmission. Harvey Onore of Tom’s River, N.J., bought it off of the floor of the 1969 New York Auto Show and drag raced it successfully for several years. It later passed through three other owners. The original engine was enlarged and modified. Art Becker of Manahawkin, N.J., completed the car’s restoration seven years ago. It now has a correct 289-cubic-inch engine. The transmission is a four-speed manual even though the car originally had an automatic. The paint is Dodge Viper blue.

TVR was a British company founded in 1949 by Trevor Wilkinson. In 1955, Ray Saidel of New Hampshire asked Wilkinson to build a car with an independent suspension and a glass-reinforced plastic body. Called the TVR Grantura, it was shown at the New York Auto Show in 1957.

The TVR Griffith came into being in the early 1960s because of Jack Griffith, a Ford dealer in Syosset, NY. Griffith stored Shelby AC Cobras after they arrived from England until they were shipped to Shelby’s California shop where the engines were installed. He decided to build a Cobra killer of his own by dropping a Ford V-8 and transmission into the TVR Grantura. The result was the TVR Griffith.

The Griffith had a reputation for overheating but it was fast and won races on the track and at the drag strip. A dock strike ended Griffith’s dream because bodies could no longer be imported for modification.

In 1967, TVR importer Jerry Sagerman revived the Griffith as the Tuscan V-8 with a modified fiberglass body and improvements to overcome the Griffith’s poor reputation. This Tuscan sold in limited numbers since the base price made it more expensive than a new Jaguar XKE roadster.

Approximately 50 V-8 Tuscans were built between 1967-1970. The Gilmores’ car is one of the last 289-equipped cars and one of only 21 of the long-wheelbase MAL series cars. It will be shown at the ninth annual Art of the Car Concours next June 28 at the Kansas City Art Institute.