Turn the Ford-badged ignition key and the huge V8 chunters lazily before erupting in a wall of noise. Blip the throttle to clear its throat and the TVR rocks from side to side, spitting and grumbling at being woken from its slumber. Easing on to the road it be comes obvious that this car is powered by a very different beast to the lazy, burbling V8s that wafted prime ministers around London in their P5Bs. At tick over, the 450SE sounds uncannily like a top-fuel dragster - the threatening roar hinting at the awesome power available. Under way the throbbing builds steadily until the revs pass 3000rpm, when all hell breaks loose as the thumping torque propels the TVR forward at a ludicrous rate. Tyres scrabble for grip a it takes all powers of concentration in a straight line as the race-bred V towards its 6000rpm redline. Lift off, exhaust crackles and pops in protest, urging you on - it's addictive stuff.
Turn-in is sharp, but the over-light power steering lacks feel. Well-controlled body roll means no pitching under hard acceleration or braking and fast, flat cornering, but judicious use of the accelerator is needed on damp roads to prevent unwanted excursions into the scenery. This car will bite back if not treated with respect. The Rover-sourced gearbox is baulky and double-declutching helps even when going up through the gears from cold. The brakes, though effective enough, fail to live up to the fearsome performance. Intrusive noise even at tick over is wearing, but the 450 is surprisingly docile in city traffic. Heat streams back from the big V8, cooking your feet, though it's easy to cool off by dropping the trademark user friendly hood. And the intrusive transmission tunnel makes the driving position cramped.
TVR was slow to cash in on the 'wedge' phenomenon. When the Tasmin appeared, in 1980, most other manufacturers were phasing out their door-stop sports cars. Designed by Oliver Winterbottom, the man responsible for the Lotus Elite and Eclat, the new model was born with Ford's'Cologne'2.8i V6, but didn't come of age until the Rover V8-powered 350i of '83. The new engine gave plenty of scope for tuning and allowed the model to continue selling until the early'90s.
Engine size grew progressively, culminating with the 320bhp, 4.5 litre 450SE. This final Tasmin development is certainly a smoother, more integrated design than earlier cars, and is neater than its brother, the wild 420SEAC, whose spoiler used enough 2.lassfibre to build a small yacht. Subtle, however, it is not. Although dynamically flawed, the simple recipe of exhilarating acceleration and phenomenal noise brings out the hooligan in you, and the TVR is ideal for summer blasts along your favourite (straight) roads. Good examples fall within our £15,000 budget, so it's fair to say that you won't get more power for your money, but with just 35 built, finding one could be a challenge. Buyer beware, many have been thrashed or crashed, and a bad one will be expensive to put right.
Alastair Clements - Classic & Sports Car Magazine April 2000.