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TVR Company History

Published: 24th Mar 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!


TVR Archive

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It is more than 60 years since, what was effectively, the very first TVR was built by talented engineer Trevor Wilkinson. He produced a lightweight special using an Alvis Firebird chassis as the basis. However, it was not until two years later that the first car carrying the TVR name (derived from ‘Trevor’) was built, using a purpose-designed chassis. This model was powered by a Ford 1172cc side valve engine and used for motor sport. A third car was built in 1951, this one now featuring an Austin A-Series power unit. The firm’s Sports Saloons of the early 1950s incorporated orthodox tubular chassis frame construction, Austin mechanical components, and glass fibre bodywork.

By 1956 TVRs were being exported to the United States, and two years later the Grantura coupé was being produced. An Elan rival the MGA powered versions of the early ‘60s were fast, stylish and relatively affordable. The 1963 Griffith was in essence a Grantura with an uprated chassis plus was powered by a meaty American Ford V8 engine. A sort of Sunbeam Tiger but actually made two years earlier than the Rootes effort, performance was superb for its time. However by now the company was floundering so in 1965 TVR was taken over by Martin and Arthur Lilley. During the following few years, the Grantura was replaced by Vixen, and the Griffith by the Tuscan V8. In 1970 the Blackpool-based company moved to new premises in Bristol Avenue.

The fresher looking M Series arrived in 1972 and enthusiasts could choose between fixed head, hatchback and convertible versions. In 1980 the Ford Capri 2.8i - powered Tasmin was introduced, and after Peter Wheeler had taken over in ‘82, the Rover V8- powered 350i arrived. Wheeler was a real power nut and the 350i was developed through the years, eventually resulting in the 1988 450SEAC (propelled by a modified 4.5 V8, producing 324bhp). The competitively-priced new ‘S’ of 1987 had a lot of styling similarities with the M Series cars, but was all-new. This model proved to be so popular that TVR production almost doubled within a year. In more recent years, the Chimaera, Cerbera, Tuscan, Cerbera Speed 12, Tamora, T350, with the Tuscan 2, the mighty 400bhp Sagaris (based on the T350) plus the Typhon suggested good times ahead.

In 2004 Wheeler sold out to Russian Nikolai Smolenski, who looked set to move on the company a stage further. However, sales dived and in 2006 the famous Blackpool company went into receivership. Smolenski subsequently purchased the company back and placed it in the hands of two American businessmen who hoped to restart expand production. And we’re still waiting…

Early Classics

Although TVRs were made well over 60 years ago they didn’t really come to prominence until the very late 1950s when the the fixedhead Grantura was launched. Originally it featured the same Coventry Climax engine as used in the Lotus Elite but the later Grantura II and IIA also featured more mainstream MGA and Ford power plants. Grantura III came on stream in ‘62 and, appearance-wise, set the tone for TVRs to come.

This model also formed the basis of the Griffith; a brainwave of US car dealer Jack Griffith who took a Grantura and shoved in Ford 4.7 V8 to make a TVR ‘Cobra’. Up to 300bhp was claimed but more likely it was 220bhp tops, and UK enthusiasts first saw it at the 1965 Racing Car Show. The Griffith wasn’t popular over here (only a claimed 20 were made) but it did form the basis of the Tuscan; at first V8 powered (up to an honest 271bhp) but in 1969 the easier, cheaper Ford V6 was favoured.

A total of 73 Tuscan were made up to 1970 including 21 wider-bodied cars that offered usefully more cockpit space for larger drivers. In 1967 TVR introduced the Vixen. Again Grantura-derived but this entry model relied upon 86bhp Cortina 1600 GT power. A 1300 cc Triumph Spitfire version was offered for a time but only 15 out of the 746 were made due to costs as this model proved hardly any cheaper to market than the Ford-powered model. The final half dozen featured the later M bodyshell which had replaced the Vixen by the early 1970s, by which time TVR started to move upmarket withthe M and then Tasmin

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