A Farewell to TVR

-Christopher Little

Another storied manufacturer has died.  This week, TVR became just another “Saab story” for automotive history.  TVR was a master integrating V8 power and tubular steel frames.  Beyond that, they managed to fit these platforms with stunningly beautifully and unique fiberglass bodies.  While many of these cars were a sight to behold, their driving dynamics often bordered on insanity.

Trevcar Motors was founded in 1947 by Trevor Wilkinson in Blackpool, England.  In 1949, Trevor built his first alloy-bodied car and renamed the marque after himself.  Thus, TVR Engineering was born.  In 1954, TVR Engineering became just “TVR” and made the move to fiberglass bodies.

In 1956, TVR race cars could be purchased in the US, through a dealer in Manchester, New Hampshire.  This fact, still today unbeknownst to most enthusiasts, provided much of the funding for early TVR development and expansion.  Much of TVRs chassis development also occurred in the US.

Four years later, America helped to redefine TVR a second time.  Jack Griffith dropped a 4.7 liter V8 AC Cobra engine into his TVR Grantura.  This transplant became so popular in the US and the UK that TVR adopted the idea into what would eventually become the first TVR Tuscan.

In 1962, Trevor left his namesake company.  TVR continued to operate, despite falling into international obscurity.  However, TVR enthusiast Peter Wheeler decided to change that when he purchased the company in 1981.  The early 80s TVRs once again found V8s under their hoods, this time British engineered Rovers.  By 1990 however, TVR had developed an in-house engine, the AJP8, based on a modified Rover V8.  During this time, TVR also began developing some of their most attractive models.  Models like the Tuscan, Tamora, and Sagaris brought TVR back to international acclaim.  Under Wheeler’s ownership, TVR grew to the 3rd largest private sports car manufacturer in the world.

Unfortunately, like most manufacturers, high gas prices had a negative impact on TVR.  Despite developing the TVR Speed Six engine, which was both lighter and easier to maintain, TVR began to struggle.  In 2004, Russian millionaire Nikolay Smolensky purchased the company.  By 2006, TVR demand had dropped to 4 cars per week.  The Blackpool factory was closed and TVR was split into multiple entities.  Poor leadership and financial troubles plagued TVR until 2011, when the company showed a glimmer of hope.  They announced individual order production of many previous models, all powered by GMs 6.2L LS3 V8.  This last ditch effort wasn’t enough.

Interestingly, Smolensky won’t just let the TVR name die with the marque.  He’s decided to turn TVR into a wind turbine company.  For us, that counts as another enthusiast brand killed off in the name of clean energy and efficiency.



Categories: Christopher Little, News

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