Michael Zappa’s 1969 TVR Tuscan V6 Race Car, Number 29

18 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Michael Zappa’s 1969 TVR Tuscan V6 Race Car, Number 29

Michael Zappa’s 1969 TVR Tuscan V6 Race Car

Owner: Michael Zappa

City: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania

Model: 1969 TVR Tuscan

Engine: 3.0L Ford V6

Built by: Zappa Racing, MAP Automotive, and Boffo Motors

Race Prepared by: Zappa Racing

The TVR Tuscan Model

TVR is a small, specialist sportcar manufacturer that was founded in 1947 by Trevor Wilkinson and his partner Jack Pickard. The company started and operated for nearly its entire existance in the seaside town of Blackpool, which overlooks the Irish Sea. From 1953, TVR car models have usually featured fiberglass bodies mounted on top of tubular steel chassis.

TVR’s Tuscan model was built from 1967 to 1971. A second model produced through this same period is known as the Vixen. The two were cosmetically similar, but the Vixen model featured smaller and less powerful engines.

The Tuscan and Vixen were preceded by various Grantura and Griffith models, and in the early seventies they were superseded by TVR’s various M models.

The Tuscan model was originally offered with Ford’s 289 cubic inch V8 engine. Ultimately, seventy-three Tuscan V8’s would be built. Compared to their rivals, a relatively high proportion of TVR sales were to British customers. The large American V8 engine may have been overkill for that market. Realizing this, in 1969 TVR began also offering British Ford’s Essex 2994cc V6 in the Tuscan.

The Essex V6 was rated 136hp, and with it the Tuscan was able to reach speeds of 125mph. 101 Tuscan V6’s were built, bringing total Tuscan production to 174 cars.

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Mike Zappa’s Tuscan V6

Mike Zappa’s first encounter with a TVR sports car happened when he was in high school. The year was 1966, and the car was a Ford 289 cubic inch V8 powered TVR Griffith 400. As much as he coveted it, he’d have to wait until college graduation before buying a TVR of his own. Then, Mike purchased a new 1972 TVR 2500M, which featured Triumph’s 2.5L inline six cylinder engine. Mike raced his 2500M through 1973 and 1974, before events conspired against his racing ambitions.

Firstly, due to low sales volume, SCCA ruled that the 2500M failed to meet their homologation requirements. They would no longer classify it as a production automobile. At about the same time, young children were born into the Zappa household.

The racing bug may have been forced into remission, but it didn’t leave his system entirely. In 1991, Mike resumed racing. Through the nineties, Mike drove progressively faster classic Lotus models: a Lotus 18 (Formula Junior), Lotus 31 (Formula Three), Lotus 26R (racing version of the Elan), a Lotus Cortina, and a Lotus 23B. For a change of pace, Mike raced a spectacular Chevron B16 for about five years. Meanwhile, Mike also built-up and raced a Datsun 510.

All these cars ultimately led back toward where he started. About five years ago Mike decided to build himself the ultimate vintage TVR racecar.

Over the years Mike has owned about fifteen TVR sports cars. In addition to working on his own TVR’s, he has also restored TVR sports cars for other people. When this particular car came along, he knew well how to judge whether it was suitable for restoration. It’s a 1969 TVR Tuscan, and it arrived as a basket case. Its tired and corroded tubular chassis was judged unsuitable for use or repair, so it was scrapped.

The rest of the car was in pieces. This Tuscan had never been a racecar, but that would be its destiny.

One of the first orders of business was acquisition of a suitable frame. Original TVR Tuscan frames were constructed of round tubing. In 1971, for the new M series, TVR developed new frame designs which combined round and box section tubing.

The new style frames were easier to fabricate and much easier to attach body panels to, and they were also significantly more robust. Mike chose a 2500M frame as a foundation for this project.

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Ultimately, the frame would receive many modifications, including entirely custom front and rear suspension pick-up points. Much of his chassis work was subcontracted by Mike Zappa to his friend Mike Pierro. Mike Pierro is also located in the Pittsburgh area, where he specializes in restoration of Cobras and GT40’s. His shop is known as MAP Automotive.

MAP Automotive restored the TVR tubular chassis, built the rollcage, fitted the engine and radiator, and fabricated the custom exhaust headers.

Another key partner in the Tuscan’s construction was Jim Boffo of Boffo Motors in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. Boffo Motors is a full service sports car maintenance, repair, and restoration shop.

Although Jim has many years of racing experience, his role in this Tuscan project was primarily bodywork. Indeed, some of the custom bodywork on this car is quite special and elaborate. Both front and rear fenders have been sectioned and made wider to fit wider tires. Boffo Motors also did modifications to the suspension and updates to the chassis beyond what Mike did.

The TVR’s exceptional paint job is entirely the work of Boffo Motors.

Besides over-seeing all the construction work, Zappa Racing did the electrical, plumbing, interior, and aluminum work as well as assembly and shaking out. For example, they found and corrected a runout problem in the bellhousing which was causing rapid transmission failures. Now that the Tuscan is fully sorted, they’re actively racing it and making continuous mechanical refinements.

Since this TVR Tuscan project started, Zappa Racing has restored seven other TVR’s, but this one is the fastest! Mike has also recently purchased and started restoration of a Ford GT40 Series I. Restoring an original Ford GT40 is a big financial commitment, requiring rare parts and specialized help. For example, the Ford V8 engine is currently being rebuilt by Holman Moody, who built it the first time back in the sixties.

Thus, the Tuscan has been offered up for possible sale, priced at $110,000. It’s certainly doubtful whether anyone could build an equally developed and refined Tuscan V6 for less

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Features and Specifications

Rear Susp.:

upper and lower A-arms with Heim joints. Spax Krypton adjustable gas coil-over shock absorbers. Hypercoil springs. Reinforced aluminum hub carriers. All pickup points gusseted.

Speedway Engineering modular adjustable sway bar, mounted on Heim joints.


(master) dual Girling master cylinders, with remotely adjustable bias bar. Castrol SRF hi-temp racing fluid.

(front) Outlaw calipers with Hawk HP100 pads. 10.75 Ford Thunderbird rotors.

(rear) Outlaw calipers with Hawk HP100 pads. 10.75 Ford Thunderbird rotors. Tilton brake bias valve.

3-piece aluminum racing wheels by Image Wheels International Ltd. Toyo Proxes R888/235/50/15 tires, unshaved.

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