Jack Griffith came up with the idea for the car in 1964, and secured rights to market the cars in the US. Griffith ran a car repair workshop in the US for patrons such as Gerry Sagerman and Mark Donohue who had both driven a TVR Grantura at Sebring International Raceway in 1962. The concept for the Griffith Series 200 originated during a dinner with Carroll Shelby, where Griffith declared he could build a car that could outperform an AC Cobra.
Griffith first attempt was to put the Ford V8 engine from Mark Donohue’s AC Cobra into a TVR Grantua. While this did not work, the idea prompted further conversations. Griffith wanted TVR to supply him with modified TVR Grantura chassis, without an engine or transmission, and TVR complied with his request.
In an effort to get the engine and gearbox to fit, some chassis triangulation was removed compared to that of the Grantura Mk 3, and various parts of the chassis were simply hammered until the drivetrain fitted. The brakes were not upgraded either, although slightly wider 185 section tyres were added.
The Griffith Series 200 could either be fitted with a 195 horsepower (145 kW) motor, or a high-powered 289 cubic inches (4.74 l) that put out 271 horsepower (202 kW). Performance over 0 to 60 mph was very good, taking just 3.9 seconds, and the car had a 150 mph (240 km/h) top speed, ranking it as a factory hot rod.
The immense power, short wheelbase, and light weight of the cars allegedly made them difficult to handle. Despite its performance, just 192 Griffith 200s were made in the US, before it was superseded by the TVR Griffith 400.
Griffith Series 400 picked up where the 200 left off and it was followed by the Griffith Series 600 before the company ceased operations.
The standard engine in the 400 was the more powerful Ford 289 ‘HiPo’ Windsor engine w/271 hp that was available in the Series 200 as an option. The 400 weighed a few more pounds than the 200 due mostly to the new Salisbury independent differential that gave it a higher gear ratio providing it with a higher top speed.
As the Series 400 cars were being produced in early 1965, the entire east coast of the US was crippled by a prolonged dock strike. This not only caused a disruption in the supply of the series 400 bodies that were being shipped from TVR in Blackpool, UK, it also caused a delay in the shipment of the newer body design of the Series 600. Frank Reisner, whose Intermeccanica body works in Turin, Italy, was building the new steel bodied Griffith, was also unable to have the bodies shipped. Jack Griffith attempted to bring his car to the public by having these bodies airlifted across the Atlantic.
With only 59 copies of the 400 and 10 600s off the assembly line at the Griffith factory in Plainview, Long Island, N.Y, USA, the company was dissolved. It’s to be noted that Grantur Ltd. of England designed the independent suspension for the TVR automobiles which later became the Griffith 200 and 400. What makes the Griffith 400 a Cobra killer is the unequal wishbone suspension on all four corners and weighing a couple of hundred pounds less than a Cobra. Many people are not aware of the sophisticated Formula One type of suspension system on the Griffith’s. Furthermore, with a centre of gravity so low it is basically a legal race car for the road. As stated above some people refer to the Griffith 400 with its original kamm tail effect as the King of the middle sixties A Production sportscars. It regularlyand beat a host of Shelby AC Cobras,Jaguars,Aston Martins, Corvettes,Ferraris,and Porsches at historic events to this day. It’s to be noted that the Griffith 400′s are so fast that they run the fastest of the qualifying times and usually are with the superfast Ford GT 40′s.
In the early 1990s TVR paid homage to the original Griffith by introducing the TVR Griffith. This was the first true use of the name “TVR Griffith”. Referred to as the Griffith 500, it was designed and built by TVR in 1991.
Like its forerunner namesakes, the Griffith 200 and Griffith 400, the modern Griffith was a light weight (1048 kg or 2310 lb) fiberglass bodied, 2 door, 2 seat sports car with a V8 engine. Originally, it used a 4.0 L 240 hp (179 kW) Rover V8 engine, but that could be optionally increased to 4.3 L 280 hp (209 kW) in 1992 with a further option of big valve cylinder heads. In 1993 with a TVR-developed 5.0 L 340 hp (254 kW) version of the Rover V8 became available.
Although the Griffith was almost mechanically identical to its sister car, the Chimaera, it had a different body design and was produced in much smaller numbers. Well-maintained examples generally command higher prices on the second-hand market.
The Griffith was a light weight, high power, and well-balanced car. The speed six Griffith proposal never became a production reality, by the time it was launched it had morphed into the TVR Tuscan Speed 6.
In 2000, TVR announced that the Griffith production was going to end. A limited edition run of 100 Special Edition (SE) cars were to be built to mark the end of production. Although still very similar to the previous Griffith 500 model, the SE had a hybrid interior using the Chimaera dashboard and Cerbera seats. Noticeably, the rear lights were different along with different door mirrors, higher powered headlights and clear indicator lenses. Some also came with 16 inch wheels. Each car came with a numbered plaque in the glove box including the build number and a Special Edition Badge on its boot. All cars also had a unique signature in the boot under the carpet. The SEs were built between 2000 and 2002, with the last registered in 2003. A register of the last 100 SEs can be found at TVR Griffith 500 SE Register.
Every year, to celebrate the TVR Griffith, their owners have a meet called “The Griff Growl.”
In 2008, Al Melling Sports Cars unveiled the Melling Wildcat, a roadster heavily based on the Griffith but powered instead by a variant of TVR’s later AJP8 engine.
Top Gear road test Video here.
TVR Car Club.
TVR Owners Club.
More images here.