TVR M Series Buying Guide

Buying an M Series TVR (Updated December 2020)
If this is the first time you’re looking to buy an M Series TVR, then I have prepared this page to assist you when checking over a car with a view to buying. I’ll add to it when I can think of other things to write. The only real differences between the models are engine, gearbox, and differential types, with the exceptions of the 3000S (which is a 3000M convertible), and the Taimar (which is a 3000M Hatchback)! Below is some data to help you with the more technical specifications:

Engine sizes/types:
3000M – Ford 2994cc Essex V6
3000S – Ford 2994cc Essex V6
2500M – Triumph 2498cc Straight Six
1600M – Ford 1599cc Kent Crossflow
Taimar – Ford 2994cc Essex V6

Gearbox Types:
3000M – Ford 4 Speed, Ford 4 Speed overdrive or Ford 5 speed (modification)
3000S – Ford 4 Speed, Ford 4 Speed overdrive or Ford 5 speed (modification)
2500M – Triumph 4 Speed or Ford 4 Speed Overdrive
1600M – Ford 4 Speed
Taimar – Ford 4 Speed, 4 Speed overdrive or 5 Speed (modification)

Differential Types:
3000M – Triumph TR6 or Salisbury (Limited Slip was optional)
3000S – Salisbury (Limited Slip was optional)
2500M – Triumph TR6
1600M – Triumph Vitesse/GT6
Taimar – Triumph TR6 or Salisbury (Limited Slip was optional)

Test Driving
M Series cars are a bit shaky to drive compared to newer TVRs, especially when hitting bumps. This is from ’scuttle shake‘ (or flexing) of the bodyshell – not too much of a problem to put up with, but difficult to fix – basically a roll cage type frame has to be bonded to the shell and bolted to the chassis – not easy and I’ve never seen such a mod, just heard about it.
Another niggle can be the door window frames rattling and poor door seals – as they were hand made they all fit slightly differently and were my biggest headache when rebuilding the car. Actual driving should feel responsive, the usual acceleration test should be done to check for engine glitches.
Sitting position is very comfortable once seated, but getting in & out can be trick for people who are 6 foot tall or over.
Pedal position is OK, but to place your left foot away from the clutch means bending your knee as there’s no space to the left of it due to the wide Transmission tunnel. Steering position is comfortable, a good place to rest your right arm while driving on a long journey is the top of the door which is padded!
The handbrake can be in one of two places, either in the centre console, or near your left leg on the transmission tunnel (overdrive models).
The hardest thing to get used to however, is the gearchange which means you have to move your left shoulder position when changing gear. This in time will become second nature so don’t worry too much.
Seats are adjustable for tilt and front/back position as long as they’re the originals made by TVR. To put on the seatbelt may require the seat to be tipped forward if it has slipped behind it, and this can require getting out to do it!

General Condition
I think the chassis and body condition are more important. Many of these cars are not driven all that often unless the owner uses it as a main car – so beware of all the usual things – seized brake caliper pistons & rear brake cylinders, or leaking from old seals. Check out the list below for where to spot the rot.

Rust at rear end where body sits onto bars.
Rust on tubular front to rear sill members
Seriously bent front wishbone mounting plates (on chassis) – indicates front end smash and geometry may be incorrect
General rust, any signs of repair (if so make sure it’s been done properly)
Chassis number – check the chassis number stamped on the body i.d. plate (on the bulkhead) matches the chassis number (on a flat plate on top of the bar near the alternator), and of course the log book.
Chassis bushes tend to go soft and can distort, causing slight suspension arm movement and upset geometry. They’re sometimes difficult to replace as the bolts can rust up and require hacksawing off.

Small chips and cracks are nothing to worry about – just check for signs of larger repairs and re-sprays (look for overspray on surrounding glass/rubber etc). The bonnet is prone to stress cracking near the headlamps.
Other areas with cracks, crazing, splits, de-lamination – the bodywork can get really tatty on these cars if neglected. If the paint is faded but otherwise ok it should be possible to polish it back to a decent shine. If it’s red, brown or black or some darker colour you may find it goes back to a matt finish after a few weeks of polishing. If so it’s time for a respray as the paint has oxidised too much. This shouldn’t happen with metallic painted cars. Any cracks, splits etc will need repairing asap to stop problem getting worse – and this may result in a respray for any panel that’s been repaired.
Accident damage badly repaired – again try to avoid this unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time repairing. You may not have much of a choice though as it’s pretty hard to find an M series car for sale these days.
Windows – front and back screens can pop out at high speeds – check that no gaps are visible between glass seal and bodywork. A wider seal is available now to stop this.

Very hard to get a new one now, I had to restore mine. Make sure no rust is forming under vinyl by feeling to see if it’s still smooth. If there is it’ll puff up the material and restoration or replacement is the only cure.

Knocking while engine labouring (eg up hill) could indicate bearings worn out
Oil leaks from bellhousing – main crank seal needs replacing, or gearbox input shaft seal (smell oil to determine which it is). This is just annoying as it means an engine or gearbox removal – but that’s not too difficult with the bonnet removed. It may be something else leaking though, and the oil may simply be running to the lowest point before dripping off.
Excessive blue smoke on hard acceleration – piston rings may be worn out
Excessive blue smoke on overrun (from a high speed, change down into 3rd gear to decelerate with no throttle) – any puffs of smoke mean valve guides are worn or valve stem oil seals have lost their effectiveness.
Any unusual sounds – possible broken piston rings, cam worn, followers worn etc etc

Differential & Shafts
Diff whine at higher speeds (like a humming sound at the back) – evident to some extent, but when it occurs all the time it needs looking at.
U/J’s for propshaft, and more importantly half shafts. These can wear out through lack of maintenance – wearing away at the flanges too. See my web site for photo of what can happen.

All the wires are black with coloured collars to indicate each wire. These collars fade with time and look pink or cream coloured – not much use really! All you can do is check all circuits work by trying each switch, and check the fusebox on the bulkhead to make sure fuses are present and not nails or fuses wrapped in tin foil!

Make sure the fans cut in when idling and up to temperature. Some fit an override switch but this isn’t necessary as long as otter switch in radiator is working. A good modification is a capillary type thermostat which switches the fan on – this can be altered with a dial. I think Kenlowe produce them.

General mechanicals
Jack the car up if permitted and check the rear wheel bearings. If loose, reckon on about £90 per side for a reconditioned assembly – doing the work yourself is almost impossible as the hub flange is on a tapered shaft which can take literally tons of pressure to release it. At the same time, also make sure the alloy rear hub carriers don’t have play (check as for wheel bearing play but have an assistant press the brake pedal). Any movement means that the long top or bottom wishbone studs have worn out the alloy casing – meaning a rear strip down and a few days waiting for your local engineers to put a sleeve in for you.
Jack up each wheel in turn and check for play. I’ve already mentioned the rear suspension, but the front can cost a bit too if the trunnions on the front suspension are worn out. These are the hub uprights which screw into a brass cup which can wear out. I think they can literally separate if left for years without greasing and can be pretty dangerous (although rarely found to be that bad). Check no play in the steering, although offside play in the rack can be that it needs adjusting. Anti roll bar link rods can wear out, and I think they’re not easy to find as TVR modified another manufacturer’s part to get it to fit.
Front wheel bearings can have play if worn, but are adjustable to a point.
Front and rear shock absorbers – check for leaks, and springs can get pretty rusty so check for breaks. A special spring compressor is needed as the coils are very close and of small diameter.

Handbrake is normally OK but not great on slopes. Just have a look to see if the cable moves freely on each side, and the lever moves into the drum. If you’re familiar with mini brakes then you’ll know more or less how the rear drums work. One difference is the strange „C“ washer method to fix the cylinder into place, which I would recommend you photograph or sketch before dismantling.
Front brakes are OK but not good enough for constant high speed braking on the 3000M but vented 4 pot kits are now available.
Check as much of the piping as you can – the rubber ones at each wheel (for perishing), and the metal ones for corrosion/damage. If you are able to get right under the car, check the front to rear brake pipe (and fuel pipe while you’re at it) which sit under the top chassis tubes in the transmission tunnel. Changing these isn’t a nice task without the body removed.

These cost a lot, so make sure it’s in good condition. Expect to pay around £400+ for a system, £700+ for stainless steel. Look to see if the central part has hit the ground – common on these cars as they sit low to the road, and exhausts can wear through.

Seats are TVR modified from another manufacturer’s seat, and any tears will mean a visit to a re-upholsterer’s or a cover (if you’re lucky) – your only chance is with David Gerald TVR – see links page. Other vinyl items such as dashboard, door panels, console etc if torn would need recovering – hard to match original vinyl nowadays.
Carpets – it took me 8 days to make a carpet and fit it – be prepared to get high on the glue unless you remove the front & rear screen. I think sets are available but much more than buying a roll and making it yourself.

Price Guide (Revised December 2020)
Prices taken from Practical Classics Magazine – the latest and most accurate price guide in the UK:

Rough – £5250
Average – £8500
Good – £14500
Concourse/Dealer Price – £20000

Rough – £4500
Average – £8000
Good – £13750
Concourse/Dealer Price – £18500

Rough – £5750
Average – £8750
Good – £15000
Concourse/Dealer Price – £20500

Rough – £7000
Average – £10000
Good – £16500
Concourse/Dealer Price – £25000

There is no top limit to the top value of these cars as they can be seriously modified, each car being valued on its merits.
Notable exceptions to the above price guide are the 3000S and the Turbo models, which tend to fetch more than the others due to their rarity.

Finally and most importantly
Any signs of welding on the chassis should make you worry – most old unrestored M series cars have been welded here – see the chassis section for what awaits you if it needs repairing! This is the area I reckon is worth the most time investigating, as an MOT failure next time could mean months of evenings/weekends to get it back to a suitable condition.

Everything that’s wrong can be repaired/replaced however, and that’s the way I think when buying a car – probably because I like a challenge…..

Thanks for looking & hope it helps you if buying an old TVR.