We’ve picked the top five models from the Blackpool sports car brand’s chequered history to show you the best of the best
Trevor; cracking name, cracking guy, cracking brand. Trevor Wilkinson had a dream at just 23 years old to make specialist sports cars to wow most of the Milky Way, and he was about as proficient as Babe Ruth was at knocking it out of the park in 1919. Here are our favourite models from TVR’s chequered history.
5. 1958 Grantura
The perfect starting point, the Grantura was the first TVR seen as a genuine ‘production’ model after Wilkinson had received his first wad of investors’ cash to set up shop in Hoo Hill industrial estate. This was also the beginning of Wilkinson’s love affair with glassfibre and resin, which frequently allowed customers to get as high as Snoop Dogg on a school night.
The Grantura was small, light and a right giggle on the street. It used a variety of engines, including Ford and MG power among others. Originally relying on its light weight, the Grantura kicked out less than 100bhp in any engine specification.
- One of the oldest TVRs to return to racing
- 20,000 miles from North Pole to South America – in a TVR!
- Buy a classic TVR on AutoClassics
4. 1963 Griffith
This was the spiritual successor to the Grantura in every way apart from, well, everything. The Grantura Mk3 body and chassis were used, and without many ideas as to what direction to take, TVR dumped a thumping great Ford 289ci V8 under the hood. It certainly worked, and many consider this to be the genesis of the TVR philosophy, boasting 271bhp in a car that originally dealt with under 100bhp, and a top speed of an astonishing 160mph.
Thanks to US dealer Jack Griffith, the baby TVR’s namesake, the model was exported to the US, but then there was another financial snag – a ruddy good strike. By 1965 TVR was on the blower to the receivers. Here we go…
3. 1965 Trident
Undoubtedly the rarest and most sought-after TVR, only four Tridents were made before the company ran out of money. Again. The brand that burnt through cash quicker than a student in the union bar lost the stunning Fissore-styled machines to a TVR dealer, which picked up the designs to make its own ‘non-TVR’ Tridents.
Featuring a whacking great Ford Cobra V8, the Trident was the most upmarket product the fledgling company had ever conceived. Trevor Frost – who was working on behalf of Fissore – was quizzed about his ideas over a pint in a local Blackpool pub. Supposedly using the resultant napkin design, Fissore was then told to build a Trident for the Geneva Motor Show.
Glassfibre was nowhere to be seen, and a host of Alfa Romeo and Fiat parts were robbed for various ancillaries. The car stole the 1965 Geneva show, and two further examples (a convertible and a roadster) were commissioned. The company lived happily ever after… no, it went bankrupt instead. Again.
2. 1991 Griffith (500)
By now TVR had changed hands more times than norovirus on a good day, and this range of enthusiasts had kept the company alive.
Undoubtedly the most successful period for TVR was the Peter Wheeler years, which turned the Blackpool massif into the success story it had always been worthy of. The new Griffith was unveiled to rapturous applause at the Birmingham Motor Show, and featured a fine selection of Rover’s charismatic V8s. Offered with a modest (for TVR) 240bhp 4.0-litre, right the way up to a 340bhp, lose-your-mind 5.0, the Griffith was loved by the motoring press for its raunchy looks and pin-sharp handling efforts.
In fact, according to a range of sources, the Griffith was so popular that cheques for TVR’s little beast were arriving every eight minutes. This was no doubt music to Wheeler’s ears; swaggering across the TVR stage waving his cigarette around, he was typically seen as the ultimate PR man.
1. 2000 Speed 12
In the late 1990s, TVR decided to try its hand at designing its own engine. It came up with the AJP6, its in-house take on a straight-six. Sadly, these units were known to last a mildly upsetting 20,000 miles or less – but with a rebuild using more robust enthusiast-demanded parts, their reliability improved considerably.
Having designed its own engine, the soon-bored TVR made the only logical decision left, which was to strap two of the most powerful iterations together. It whacked this monster motor into a track-focused Cerbera made for the GT1 race series. It also decided to try and sell the model to the public...
The result was the utterly terrifying Speed 12. If you know anything about TVRs, it will be that with the loud peddle provoked, they can be genuinely terrifying to an unskilled driver – with a predictably grim result. With 800bhp-plus on tap from the 7.7-litre V12, the Speed 12 made Russian roulette look like the sort of activity that would be perfect for a children’s nursery.
This is not the end of the story, however. You see, the V12 produced more power than expected. So much, in fact, that it broke TVR’s dyno rather spectacularly – and that was rated at 1000hp. Having made a bit of a mess, TVR decided to test each bank of the engine separately to decipher the overall power output. Each bank weighed in at a whopping 480bhp, which made 960bhp overall, and this was in 2000.
Peter Wheeler, a veteran racer in the Tuscan Challenge, took one of the finished prototypes home, only to conclude that it was too powerful. Deposits were returned to customers, and the only thing to leave the factory was these statistics: a 240mph top speed and 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds – gulp!
Pictures courtesy of MagicCarPics