Obscure Auto: TVR Cerbera Speed 12

The one actual road-going Speed 12 in existence

This is a mythical machine known to many enthusiasts. Anyone who has played Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport will recognize it as the most insane car that british manufacturer, TVR, ever built. It is the Cerbera Speed 12. People who know it, know of it’s insanity, but few know it’s actual story. We will try and set the record straight.      

The Speed 12 was originally developed to be a GT1 class endurance racer with the necessary road legal homologations being built to take on the likes of the Mclaren F1 in the mid 90’s. The original concept, the TVR 7/12, had a 7.7L V12, which was basically two of it’s inline 6’s (used in other TVR models alone) put together. They claimed 800hp for the road versions and 660hp for the racing cars due to restrictions. It’s engine block was made of steel and it had a specially developed manual transmission, both very uncommon for it’s time. However, the rules of GT1 changed and the racing program was ultimately sacked.

One of the Speed 12 prototypes, this is what most people are familiar with when this car is mentioned

TVR continued road car development and also sought new racing endeavors in both GT2 and the British GT Championship. When TVR attempted to get an actual measure of the engine’s power on a dynamometer, it broke the input shaft. They wound up testing each bank of the engine separately. Each side read 480hp for a total output of 960hp in a car that weighed just over a ton.

The actual Speed 12, with it's racing body work

By this time, TVR had been testing Speed 12 prototypes and showing them to the public at many events. Many orders had been placed for the car that TVR continually claimed would beat the Mclaren F1. All of this fell apart though, when TVR boss, Peter Wheeler, road tested one of the final prototypes and deemed such a car completely unfit for road use because the cars was just too extreme.

prototype, the bodywork was much smoother on the road car prototypes

Deposits were returned to customers, and the prototype Speed 12’s were used as spare parts for the remaining racecars in competition. The great Mclaren beater, was never to be, and it would have stayed that way had it not been for continued interest.

The 7.7L V12 in the road car

In the early 2000’s, TVR decided to rebuild one of the road cars and sell it only to a customer they deemed fit to handle their greatest achievement. The rebuilt car used many parts from the racing cars, including the body, which gave much more downforce than the previous road versions could manage. After a personal meeting and blessing from Peter Wheeler, the new owner took delivery of the only Cerbera Speed 12 in existence. The Speed 12 was later featured in EVO Magazine for the public to behold; it was deemed “terrifyingly quick”.

A Speed 12 prototype in one of TVR's wild, mutli-chromatic paint jobs

So there you have it, the real story on one of the most insane cars every built for public roads. Those of you who play racing video games will notice that the version of the Speed 12 in such games is the road going prototype and not the finished product that was rebuilt by TVR. The Speed 12, for many is just a legend in automotive lore, and with just one actually in existence, it may as well just stay a legend.

-Nick

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