TVR 3000M: UK to Greece in a Classic Car Again

TVR 3000M: UK to Greece in a Classic Car Again

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This time it was in a “modern” 1977 TVR. Well it’s modern compared to the ’39 MG TA that I drove over last time! In Greece it is prohibitively expensive to import cars, especially the sort of cars I like. However, providing I don’t need to use the car as an everyday car, I can import as a “Historic Car” with minimal cost. To comply with the rules it must be at least 30 years old, FIVA certified, and usage is limited to testing, old car events or rallies (or fights between old cars as it says on the translated form). The last trip to Bulgaria in the old TA convinced me that if I am to continue with the Greek rallies I would need a car that would be more suitable for long distances so I started looking at a British fun car from the 1970s.
I found the TVR 3000M via a few emails to some enthusiasts I knew. The car had been completely rebuilt mechanically by a leading specialist and sounded just what I wanted. I flew over in June to buy it.
Elly and I landed at Stansted and took a bus to Norwich. where I had arranged to phone the vendor who was to take me to the car. When I tried to phone, I got a wrong number message. Fortunately I remembered he had said he worked in insurance so on the off chance I wandered into the old Norwich Union building. I struck lucky and the receptionist managed to find him – apparently the number I had been given was one digit out.
The car was as described and after a little negotiation I handed over a wadge of notes and took the keys. We loaded our bags over the seats. TVRs of that age have no boots so everything goes in over the seats onto the enormous parcel shelf under that huge back window. We drove it to a hotel near Norwich for the first night.
We then spent a few days sightseeing in England, including the June run with FoDHVC, before driving to Newhaven for the ferry to Dieppe.
We took the night crossing which arrived at Dieppe in the small hours. It was then a lovely quiet run across France to Munster where we spent 2 days exploring the Parc des Baloons. The TVR is certainly a great car for long distance European driving. The straight roads of that part of France gave me a good chance to really get used to the car. Unfortunately the heater turned out to be permanently on as the hose that is supposed to bypass the heater matrix was actually plumbed in to bypass the heater valve. Fortunately we were able to get some cool air in via the Webasto roof. The owner of the hotel at Munster offered me the use of his garage so I was able to fix the plumbing error. Whilst the bonnet was up I noticed that the spare was flat. That too was fixed at a local garage but I was a bit miffed that the vendor had not forewarned me, knowing I had an 1800 mile trip ahead of me.
From Munster we drove to Switzerland where I made the mistake of taking the motorways past Zurich. We succeeded in getting lost twice and entering Germany, which cost me a €40 permit to use their motorways just to get out again – on top of the €30 I had already paid to use the Swiss motorways. Last time, in the old MG, I took to the national roads but I thought because the TVR was that much faster it would be quicker to use the motorways. Unfortunately it is a real spaghetti maze in that area and none of the signs tell you which direction is North or South. Needless to say we took the wrong direction several times. If I ever do the run again I’ll stick to the old roads.
Once we started to climb into the Alps the TVR came into its own. Last time I did the run in the old MG it was snowy and wet. This time was a true Alpine spring with flowers everywhere, warm sunshine and clear skies. The TVR romped up the passes and gripped the road like a train as we slid around the hairpin bends. The seats in the TVR hold you very well and being so low and far back you really feel that the rear axles are attached to your hips – like a bike but with 4 wheels. The weight distribution is just about even between front and rear wheels. This gives a neutral feel to the steering with no oversteer, which combined with the very good suspension results in a car that can safely be driven quite fast around the mountain bends. Our route was over the Fluelapass to Zernez.
At the little town of Davos I couldn’t find the road to the pass so I asked a local and got the strange response: “does your car take deep breaths?” Once I had assured him it did he showed me to a little narrow un-signposted lane. Had my car not been able to take deep breaths it transpired I could have put it on a train to take me under the mountain. The pass is quite something, climbing to 7745ft on a series of narrow hairpin bends. Elly tells me that it is above the height that aircraft have to use oxygen. The views at the top were fantastic but I did feel light headed when I got out of the car. I was pleased to note that the TVR showed no signs of overheating despite temperatures in the high 20s. The gearbox was a dream with the ratios just right for the terrain, although the overdrive 5th gear wasn’t needed often. Needless to say the 3000cc of Ford V6 engine helped. It is hard to imagine now how my old MG coped with its little 1250cc engine. Zernez turned out to be a very pretty Alpine village in a valley with mountains all around. We found a really nice family run traditional hotel called Bear and Post where we spent the night.
Next day we crossed the border into Italy where we were welcomed with the usual smiles and cheers from the customs officers. Italians seem to love sports cars – even British ones. Our route took us to the north of the famous Stelvio Pass and down to Predazzo. We passed many fine classic sports cars travelling the other way on that route. Yes it was the Stelvio Classic Rally. I was tempted to turn around and follow them but I stuck to our planned route to our next stop at Predazo. Perhaps next time I’ll have a go at the Stelvio Pass. We found a nice hotel at Predazo, and a particularly fine restaurant for dinner.
For the next leg I had selected a route slightly further north than the one I used for my last trip. This route was to take me through the Dolamites.
I don’t know how to put the experience of the Dolamites into words. The massive vertical peaks dominated the skyline for mile after mile as we negotiated the hairpin bends and passes. Without a doubt the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen and even more spectacular from the driving seat of a proper car. We were both so impressed that we are now trying to find some Italian Classic car events in the same area for next year.
It was with some regret that we left the Dolomites for the run down to Venice and the ferry to Greece. It was Sunday when we arrived at Maestre near Venice but when I phoned to book the ferry I couldn’t get any response from the office. Next morning we drove over to the port and discovered that we could only purchase deck tickets – no cabins were available. Also there were no cabins on subsequent sailings that week. Somewhat disappointed we took the tickets and drove the car onto the boat. We went straight to the purser and asked if there was a chance of a cabin – we certainly didn’t want 36 hours on deck. He added our names to a 4 page list and told us to wait until the boat sailed. As names were being called on the tannoy, Elly decided to go again to the purser and see what was happening. After what seemed an eternity she came back with a grin from ear to ear. I don’t know how she did it but she managed to get us a cabin. Fluent Greek must have helped – plus a little feminine charm. It was just as well as the boat was full of backpackers and young families. On deck was a padded room especially for kids to scream in and even a pool where desperate parents could drown noisy children. We arrived at Patra in Greece at about 10am after two nights on the boat and drove to Athens where Elly lives.
I got back to Skopelos a few days later and was called out of the car queue by a harbour policeman as I drove of the boat. What sort of car was it? How many horses did it have? Had I driven all the way from England? Could I bring it back to the harbour tomorrow so that the harbour master could see it? They had never seen a TVR before on Skopelos. I should get the VIP treatment from now on.
I did a little over 1800 miles of driving over 15 days, which included several sightseeing diversions, about 40 hours on ferries and thee days in Athens. We checked the fuel consumption a couple of times and we were getting around 32mpg. Most of the driving was below 60 mph apart from motorways. The old Ford Essex V6 produces massive torque so for most of the journey the rev counter rarely went above 2000 revs, which I am sure helped the fuel consumption. With that large engine and the car weighing under a ton, I barely needed to open the gas tap, even when climbing quite steep inclines. The only other expense was 3 pints of engine oil. In fact the journey back cost us less than the flight over – unless you include all the hotels, dinners, wine, souvenirs, ferry tickets etc.
I can’t wait for an excuse to do it all again.

Words: Clifford Knight

2 COMMENTS

  1. That's really cool. I have been a vintage car collector since 1989. So far, I have 3 classic chevy. Those are my most priced possession. How much do you sell this cool ride? I'd be waiting for your response!

  2. Hi Classic Car Sales,
    Glad you enjoyed the write-up . Sorry, I wouldn't sell the TVR, it is too much fun – like your chevies I'm sure.
    We have just done another tour in Italy, including a weekend with the TVR Car Club of Italy which I will send to TVR Unofficial Blog – Look out and see if it gets posted.
    Cliff

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