The mid-1990s GT1 era of endurance racing sparked some of the most gorgeous, finely tuned racing cars ever conceived. Cars like the McLaren GT1, Porsche 911 GT1 and Mercedes CLK-GTR all became poster cars for the manufacturers, but also for the class they competed in. The same goes for the homologation road cars, the Strassenversions, as the legacy of each is well documented, and well known by many. Although the holy trinity of GT1 racing might be on everyone’s mind, there was more very cool stuff that graced the tracks. Cars like the Toyota GT-One, the Jaguar XJ220 GT, the Batmobile-like Panoz GTR-1, and the Lotus Elise GT1 Turbo. But the car we’re looking at today is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before unless you have played around with several of the Gran Turismo video games or have more than just a small interest in cars. The car in question is the mad-beyond-belief TVR Cerbera Speed 12, a firebreathing monster of a car built for racing, but converted for road use.
The FIA-sanctioned GT1 class in racing ran from 1992 to 1998 and basically bridged the gap between Group C sports prototypes and LMP as a top-tier form of racing. The main stipulation was that for any car to be eligible for competition, a road-car variant had to be built. Some manufacturers took this as a chance to convert existing cars into full-fledged racing cars (the McLaren F1 for instance) and others saw it as an opportunity to build a racing prototype from scratch, with a small series of homologation road cars to comply with the rules (which is what Mercedes did). Cars like this competed in national and international championships the world over, with the highlight of each year being the Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race.
As mentioned, the era created some of the biggest legacies in racing but there are more stories to be uncovered from this generation of GT racing if you dig into some of the more obscure or downright crazy projects that were developed. One such story takes us to Blackpool, to the grounds of TVR to be exact. The small team of TVR has always been an oddity in car building, not closely following mainstream trends, or even going into a completely different direction. Founded in 1946 by Trevor Wilkinson, which is where the TVR name comes from, the company has always focused on building lightweight sports cars and did so with varying success. Trevor Wilkinson left TVR in 1962, after which Martin Lilley took over and led the company until 1981. Peter Wheeler was next in line to run TVR, which he did until 2004. From then on, the company struggled, now in the hands of Nikolay Smolensky and TVR was basically laid to rest. Under its current ownership, TVR is said to be working on the Griffith EV, an all-electric sports car, as well as electric SUV and saloon cars but the future sadly doesn’t look too bright to be honest.
Some of the most memorable cars by TVR are the Griffith, Tasmin, Tuscan and Chimaera, the latter of which is the most popular TVR of all time with over 5,000 built. One of the maddest though, and one I initially only knew from Gran Turismo 6, is the Cerbera Speed 12 (check out the video below). This car started out with the intention of racing in the FIA GT championship, in a real David-versus-Goliath attempt by TVR to beat the household names. It was based on the Cerbera sports car TVR built between 1996 and 2005 (1,196 cars produced) and used a monstrous one-of-a-kind engine. What TVR did was basically weld together two of its AJP6 straight-6 engines and created a monstrous 7.7-litre V12 that produced north of 800 horsepower, although it was restricted to 675bhp by the FIA.
The hugely powerful engine was stuffed into a lightweight kevlar and carbon fibre body, draped over a tubular spaceframe chassis with a flat floor and some massive aero elements, most notably the huge rear lip and diffuser, and the impossinle-to-miss rear wing stuck on the back of the car. TVR installed a double wishbone suspension system and steel racing brakes to keep it sticking to the ground and make it stop. The engine was mated to a sequential gearbox, which was specifically built for the Cerbera Speed 12. The exhausts poke out the sideskirts on both sides further enhancing the muscular and aggressive look of the car. The weight was kept down to around 1,000kg, and you can see why if peel away the clamshell body parts. The whole front and rear section of the car come off, as is needed for a race car to quickly access the mechanical bits if repairs or replacements are needed. It’s clear this was built to be a very purposeful machine indeed!
Some issues in the development of the Cerbera Speed 12 delayed its racing debut, and rule changes meant it eventually didn’t make it to the start of Le Mans at all, despite the herculean effort from the TVR engineers. It raced in the UK in GT-type racing and even won a few races but it could never live up to its full potential, sadly. So instead, TVR decided to make it into the fastest road-going supercar! The modifications are extremely minimal between the race car versus the road car and most importantly; the restrictor was taken out! During testing the engine destroyed a dyno that was rated to 1,000 horsepower, and ultimately, no exact performance figures are known but it’s alleged to originally produce somewhere between 800 to 880 horsepower. In terms of top speed, it was estimated this car could hit speeds in excess of the McLaren F1’s record-setting 386.4kph top speed although it was never attempted to max it out. After driving it, TVR boss Peter Wheeler decided it was too dangerous to be put into any form of serial production and the decision was made to cancel the entire project.
TVR only built three Cerbera Speed 12’s but just one was converted into a road car and sold to the public. In this case ‘sold to the public’ means that just one lucky person had the chance to buy it if he or she received full approval from Peter Wheeler after meeting in person. A deal was completed and the road-legal Cerbera Speed 12 car changed ownership and was sold again in 2010. This second owner took care of it for well over a decade and turned it into the car you see here, remapping the engine to 840bhp and making sure it’s in a good, driveable condition.
In May of this year, Iconic Auctioneers sold the car for a record price of GBP 601,500, making it the most expensive TVR ever sold. It is also the most brutal and unique one, as there is literally no other car like this, although a sister car was built by the previous owner using as many original parts as possible (featured in the DriveTribe video above). Let’s hope the new owner takes it out for a top-speed run at one point, to figure out if it would indeed be the fastest production car ever made at that time!
For more information on the TVR Cerbera Speed 12, please visit IconicAuctioneers.com.
Editorial Note: The images are sourced from IconicAuctioneers.com.