The Cerbera was first unveiled to the public at the 1994 Birmingham Motor Show, taking another two years for the first one to hit the roads. The introduction of the Cerbera took TVR into slightly new territory; a more family orientated 2+2 sports car, covered with a hardtop, and utilising TVRs first in-house developed engine.
TVR tradition was kept however in the spirit of the car; mating a scarily powerful, lightweight engine, to a lightweight body, to create one hell of a performance package. The engine remains one of the highest performing naturally aspirated engines to date, producing 83.3 HP/litre for the 4.2, 93.3 HP/litre for the 4.5 and 97.7 HP/litre for the 4.5 Red Rose.
Not only did customers get a timelessly beautiful exterior, but once again TVR decided to slaughter cows a-plenty for the interior. One of the characteristics that makes a Cerbera such a special place to sit is the exuberance and extravagance of the inside. From the swooping dash and centre rest, to the two prong steering wheel complete with inset gauges and controls.
One thing not to forget is the immensely sexy noise these beasts make, especially on full throttle. So loud, deep and rumbling you could be mistaken for thinking the Norse god Thor was orchestrating. Other, newer, supercars may now be slightly quicker point to point, may possibly surge off the line quicker, but no car quite competes as an all round package of charisma, brute force and elegance.
The 4.2 was TVRs base model for the Cerbera range, with an reported engine output of 360BHP. Coupled with a body weighing in at about 1100kg, it created a car that could reach 60mph in 4.2 seconds and on to a top speed of 185mph.
The main differences with the 4.2 Cerbera were in the engine bay, distinguishable by its overhead, metal fuel rail and side air intakes. For the more technically minded of you, you may be interested to know that all 4.2s came with a plated LSD as normal, with the Hydratrak (viscous) LSD as an option. One thing to be mindful of is that the early 4.2 engines were fitted with a cast crank (rather than the later steel crank), and a small percentage of these have failed. Other than this though, the AJP engine is known to be quite bullet-proof! As an added bonus, many of the very last 4.2 cars were actually fitted with 4.5 litre engines with the 4.2 intake system.
When they were released, the 4.5 was priced roughly £5,000 more expensive than the 4.2. What did you get for that extra money? Well the main gain was the engine output, increased by 60bhp over the 4.2 to 420bhp. In reality a number of owners have reported power figures nearly as low as the 4.2, however it does seem easier to tune the 4.5 back to the kind of power figures it should have been putting out, and onwards. TVR revised the engine bay slightly for the 4.5, changing the air intakes to silicon hoses that arched over the top of the engine. On the exhaust side, the manifolds were made from slightly bigger tubing to help those exhaust gases escape quicker.
In line with a car that could now accelerate to 60mph in 3.9 seconds and go on to a top speed of 195mph, TVR decided to fit bigger brakes and the Hydratrak LSD was now a standard option in order to improve all round handling and stopping ability. To give a bit more clearance around the brakes the 4.5 was also the only Cerbera to receive 17" wheels.
The Red Rose was, you might say, the pinnacle of the Cerbera range. Based on the 4.5, but tweaked, reaching for motoring perfection. The engine was tuned, and you had the option to hit a switch on the dash, which would tell the ECU to change to an alternative fuel map and you'd get the benefit of 440 horses pulling you along. The Red Rose was also giving larger brakes and tweaked suspension making it a very formidable package.
Speed Six Cerbera
In 1999 TVR developed their 'Speed Six' engine which would eventually go on to be installed throughout the TVR range. The Speed Six Cerbera was based on the 4.2, with the same size brakes but a quicker steering rack and Hydratrak LSD as standard.
The Speed Six variant used in the Cerbera was the 4.0 litre, churning out 350bhp. Despite being down on power against the 4.2 Cerbera, the Speed Six engine is slightly more 'torquey', meaning performance figures are almost identical up against the 4.2.
Unfortunately the Speed Six engine endured a torrid time in its first few years, with breakdowns and rebuilds quite common. Rest assured however, there are now countless improvements and upgrades that can be had, and any of those cars needing a rebuild most probably will have received one by now. Perhaps, however, still be wary of those low mileage examples that do not include some sort of detailed service history.
Which one to choose?
Given that you're already looking at buying a TVR you'll already be aware of the reasons why they've gained a cult following; a combination of lairy engines, packaged inside lightweight bodies, with outlandish interiors and no driver aides. With that in mind you should be able to find a Cerbera to suit your needs and driving style. The 4.2 is the most brutish, with the power coming in hard at 4000rpm, they also have the most unforgiving ride, along with being more suited to touring than to town driving. The 4.5 focuses a little on improving the negatives of the 4.2; a slightly smoother ride, and a more progressive power delivery; a generally more refined car. The Speed Six is more refined still, or the softest of the range depending on how you choose to look at it. Much better around town, the clutch is reportedly nicer/softer, and perhaps the Cerbera you'd prefer to use on bumpy A and B roads!
So, a Cerbera for anyone, the one thing I do guarantee you is that if you take your time to find the right one, you certainly won't be disappointed! And should you ever come to swap the car for something else, you'll have to search high and wide to find something that can compare to all the amazing qualities the Cerbera has to offer!
Where to find one?
Undoubtedly the best place is the classifieds section on PistonHeads.com. PistonHeads now attracts a huge audience, mainly from that section in humanity who have petrol running through their veins, and therefore exactly the same type of people who are likely to be buying and selling TVRs. The really great thing about PistonHeads is that amongst the TVR owners there is a real close community. If you are particularly interested in a certain car, quickly log on to the forums, head down to the Cerbera section and ask if anyone knows anything about the car. More often than not you'll find either a previous owner, or someone with previous knowledge of the car who will be able to give you an unbiased view and some background on the car.
Another 'community' website that is always worth a look is the classifieds section on the TVR Car Club (click here). Though not quite as famous as PistonHeads, you'll often find very good examples amongst their adverts. Unfortunately you can't ask about a car on their forum as it is only open to TVRCC members, but many members are on PistonHeads too, so still well worth a post on there instead.
Of course there are always the well known websites AutoTrader and eBay. Understandably some people are wary of buying cars from eBay, but treat it like any other private sale (thorough inspection and test drive before bidding) and there is no reason why a sale on eBay shouldn't go just as smoothly as any other.
And last but not least there are the well known TVR dealers. The benefits of buying from a dealer are obviously that you have a port of call should you have any problems following the sale. The chances of any problems though should be minimized, since TVR dealers are specialists and will not want to land themselves with a lemon of a car they have to then spend money on to fix, for it then to be saleable.
So, you've worked out which model you want, or want to stay clear of. You've spend many evenings looking through pages of adverts, maybe even a few preliminary phone calls, and you've finally convinced the other half that a Cerbera is an economical, family car. Now it's time to go an inspect the car and take it for a test drive, and here's what you need to know....