- The TVR Cerbera Speed 12 is the wildest TVR ever to be unleashed on the street.
- Built to compete in the GT1 racing series, this one-off road-legal version of the Cerbera has an 800-plus-hp 7.7-liter V-12 and weighs less than 2200 pounds.
- This car, the lone surviving example, is coming to Silverstone Auctions this May.
The TVR Cerbera, introduced in 1996, was a powerful fiberglass-bodied sports car that could be seen as the U.K.’s Chevrolet Corvette—or maybe its Dodge Viper. In stock form, the Cerbera topped out at 450 horsepower. It also lacked such rudimentary driver assists as traction control or anti-lock brakes. We called the Cerbera “equal parts terrifying and awesome.” What, then, to make of this one-off that nearly doubles its output?
With the Speed 12, TVR built a 7.7-liter V-12 engine out of two of its inline-sixes and crammed that engine into a Kevlar and carbon-fiber body that weighed roughly the same as a first-generation Mazda Miata. Dangerous? It’s like playing cricket with hand grenades. But now, this lone survivor Speed 12 can be yours.
Blackpool-based TVR does have a reputation for building brutishly insane vehicles, but the Speed 12 was not merely a fit of madness. Instead, it was built as a potential competitor to the likes of the McLaren F1, the Porsche 911 GT1, and the Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR. Today, those three are some of the most desirable road cars ever built, homologation specials exactingly engineered for racing dominance at Le Mans.
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TVR’s take on the GT1 class was less a racing scalpel and more a board with a nail sticking out of it. There were a few teething issues in getting this English-bred mad dog into production. First, the FIA took one look at the monster engine of the Speed 12 and slapped a couple of intake restrictors on it, knocking power down to 675 horsepower. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz had huge R&D budgets next to tiny TVR, and in this case, the German Goliaths stomped David into jelly. The Speed 12 did win a few races in Britain but never competed at Le Mans as intended.
No problem, said TVR. If we can’t build the world’s fastest race car, let’s build the world’s most homicidal road car. Its engineers strapped an unrestricted version of the 7.7-liter V-12 onto the dyno—and the dyno promptly exploded. Eventually, power was confirmed to be in the mid-800-hp range.
At the time, TVR was headed by Peter Wheeler, a chemical engineer who made his fortune in the U.K.’s North Sea oil boom. Wheeler was something of a larger-than-life character—in one instance, his dog attacked the prototype body shell of the Chimera, and he liked the resulting holes so much the production car got them. He was imposing in person and capable behind the wheel. But the Speed 12 was too much even for him.
Returning from a drive in the prototype, Wheeler declared the Cerbera Speed 12 to be too outrageously wild for the road, and the production-car program was scrapped. The road cars were scavenged for parts for the limited racing the Speed 12 did, and that was that. However, one prototype shell survived, and in 2003, TVR put this lone example up for sale. Wheeler personally vetted the buyer.
Now, the Cerbera Speed 12 is up for sale at Silverstone Auctions, ready for a new owner. If you are the sort of person who just read that bit about a car’s design being based on a dog attacking the bodywork and thought, “That sounds fine and normal,” then this is the car for you. Massively powerful, dangerously fast, and a complete handful, the Speed 12 is essentially the most TVR of all the TVRs. It can be yours—if you dare.
Brendan McAleer is a freelance writer and photographer based in North Vancouver, B.C., Canada. He grew up splitting his knuckles on British automobiles, came of age in the golden era of Japanese sport-compact performance, and began writing about cars and people in 2008. His particular interest is the intersection between humanity and machinery, whether it is the racing career of Walter Cronkite or Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s half-century obsession with the Citroën 2CV. He has taught both of his young daughters how to shift a manual transmission and is grateful for the excuse they provide to be perpetually buying Hot Wheels.