German Import Edition: 1985 TVR 280i

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When I spied the listing for this 1985 TVR 280i, also known as the TVR Tasmin, I had forgotten that they still exist as a going concern, but according to their website, they’re still TVRing along. And even though only about 1,000 Tasmin/280i’s were produced between 1980 and 1987, we have reviewed a surprising number here on Barn Finds. Today’s find, courtesy of regular BF reader and commenter FordGuy1972, is a 20K mile survivor. It’s located in Mattituck, New York, and is available, here on craigslist for $15,000.

This sharp-looking Black and Gold wedge is a German import and decked out as a John Player Special edition. The distinguishing import feature is this car’s slim European/German bumpers as opposed to the lip-jutting bumper car rammers that most Federalized imports were required to wear. The Midnight Black finish is a mile deep and very alluring and it contrasts beautifully with the gold lace BBS wheels. This example is a convertible, as opposed to the also offered coupe, and the folding fabric top is in fine nick.

FoMoCo provides the power with a 160 HP, 2.8 liter “Cologne” V6 engine, coupled via a “fresh” clutch, to a five-speed manual gearbox. The seller exclaims, “Twin exhausts sound amazing!” but doesn’t elaborate beyond that. It’s a 2,000 lb. car so it ought to scoot pretty well.

The two-tone velour fabric upholstery is in excellent condition and the gray seating inserts contrast nicely and brightens up a rather all-dark environment. Being a child of the ’80s, the dash and center console has that typical blocky, angular design that graced virtually every car of that era. The wood trim is said to be walnut, and it looks OK, but wood trim, real or faux, had overstayed its welcome by the mid-’80s IMHO. The plain, very readable white-on-black analog gauges are perfect for a car of this nature.

Starting in 1984, the Tasmin name gave way to the 280i moniker but the car remained largely unchanged. By 1987, the party was over and that was the last year that a Tasmin/280i was exported to the U.S. Many reasons have been cited for the 280i’s demise but one over-arching matter is that of price – these were expensive cars for what they offered. This is a magnificent example, complete with low mileage but…Parts? Reliability? My thought is that this TVR will appeal to one who has already had the TVR experience, but that’s just a guess – what’s your thought?

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  1. Barstow

    American Pickers

    Like 1
  2. MoragaPulsar

    Headline is correct but misleading. “Imported” from Germany, but this is a British “Import”. But grabs one’s attention.

    Like 3
    • Jim ODonnellAuthor

      It’s a bit awkward but it is a German version of a British car.


      Like 1
  3. Expressbldr

    Why are the trunk lid pictures different?

    Like 0
    • SubGothius

      I reckon you’re referring to photo # 22, where the open garage door overhead is reflected in the trunk lid, making it appear at a glance to have some sort of complex contouring — but no, it’s the same smooth-surfaced lid as the other photos.

      Like 1
  4. G Lo

    These cars always remind me of a BMW Z1. Or maybe it’s the other way ‘round.
    It would be fun to do a modernization: updated brakes, electrical, hvac, and an updated alloy blocked engine. I would do the seats, too. Velour always makes me feel like I’m wearing a bathrobe.

    Like 0
  5. Howie

    I always liked these, but would never have a black car again.

    Like 2
    • Uncle AL

      Howie….watch out ! Some moronic lefty/progressive will call you a racist for that remark…maybe you should call the car a African-American vehicle ! hahahahahahaha

      Like 1
  6. UncleAL

    wow… a sold “sticker” on the windshield in several photos….was it just bought for perhaps $8,000 and Seller turning into a “flip” ?

    Like 0
  7. JMB#7

    This is what a TR7 dreams of being when it grows up. Wish I would have paid more attention to these back when they were relatively new. Nice find.

    Like 4

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