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TVR is an independent British manufacturer of sports cars based in the English town of Blackpool, Lancashire. The company manufactures lightweight sports cars with powerful engines and is the third-largest specialised sports car manufacturer in the world, offering a diverse range of coupés and convertibles, most using an in-house straight-6 cylinder engine design, others an in-house V8. TVR sports cars are composed of tubular steel frames, cloaked in aggressive fibreglass body designs.

TVR's two arms are TVR Engineering, which manufactures sports cars and grand tourers, and TVR Power, their power-train division. The company has a turbulent recent history and an uncertain future (see below).



Blackpool born Trevor Wilkinson left school at 14 and started an engineering apprenticeship at a local garage. In 1946 he bought a wheelwright's business in Blackpool, renaming it Trevcar Motors in 1947, for the purpose of selling and repairing cars and light engineering.[1]

In 1947, Wilkinson built his first car, a special two-seater body on an Alvis Firebird chassis for himself. As a result, Wilkinson with partner Jack Pickard then started a separate company, TVR Engineering, with a name derived from Wilkinson's name - TreVoR. Their first car was an alloy-bodied two seat body on a tubular chassis, which appeared in 1949.[1]

In 1953 the concept of glass-reinforced plastic bodywork over a tubular steel backbone chassis was accepted, and continued throughout TVR's current production history. In 1954, TVR Engineering was renamed TVR, in light of the launch of the first "production" car called the Mk1, later name Grantura. The glass fibre body design and layout remained, in modified form, until replaced by the angular wedge design Tasmin in 1980.

At launch in the 1950s, TVRs were powered by 4-cylinder engines from Coventry Climax, BMC or Ford, the performance models having Shorrock superchargers. As with many other British sports cars, engine sizes remained under two litres, and all produced less than 100 bhp (75 kW). As most TVRs were sold in the domestic British market, to avoid a British tax on assembled cars many of the early cars were sold in kit form - a practice which continued until the 1970s, when the tax loophole was closed and the kit-form option removed.

In April 1962 Wilkinson and Pickard left the company to set up a specialist fibre-glass engineering business. On retirement, Wilkinson moved to Minorca, Spain, where he died aged 85, on 6 June 2008.[1]

1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s, American motor dealer Jack Griffith decided to put a 4.7 litre V8 engine from an AC Cobra he owned into a TVR Grantura, in much the same way that V8s were first transplanted into AC Cobras (It is in honour of Jack Griffith that the TVR Griffith was so-named).

Under the ownership of Martin Lilley from 1965, TVR returned to Ford for a 2994 cc V6 Zodiac engine for the new TVR Tuscan (1967) racer. This produced 128 bhp (95 kW), giving a 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) time of 8.3 seconds, which was good performance for the time.

The 1970s saw a number of engines used in TVRs (particularly the 'M Series'), mainly Triumph 2500s, Ford Essex V6 and Ford 1600 Crossflows.

Wheeler ownership

In the 1980s, under the ownership of Peter Wheeler - a chemical industry consultant and TVR enthusiast - TVR moved away from naturally-aspirated and turbocharged V6s back to large V8s, namely the Rover V8 (to which Rover bought the intellectual property rights from Buick). Capacity grew from 3.5 to 4.5 litres.

In the 1990s, TVR Power modified a number of Rover V8s, but subsequently developed an in-house engine design. The AJP8 engine, a lightweight alloy V8, was developed by engineering consultant Al Melling along with John Ravenscroft and Peter Wheeler (hence the AJP initials), a notable achievement for a small maker. The new engine was originally destined for the Griffith and Chimaera models, but development took longer than expected and it finally became available in the Cerbera and Tuscan race cars.

Perhaps more significantly, Peter Wheeler was instrumental in the body design of TVR cars during his ownership. He managed a design team that produced a number of acclaimed and resolved body designs including the Chimaera, Griffith, Cerbera, Tuscan, Tamora, T350, Typhon and Sagaris. These attention grabbing works of sculpture helped to keep TVR on the front covers of magazines around the world and thus in the public eye.

Owner Peter Wheeler subsequently directed the design of a straight-six derivative of the AJP8 that would be cheaper to produce and maintain than the eight. This engine, designed by John Ravenscroft, became known as the "Speed 6", and powers current TVRs.

Smolensky ownership

In July 2004, 24-year-old Nikolay Smolensky bought the company from Wheeler, for about £15 million. Despite his Russian nationality, Smolensky said he intended TVR to remain a British company.

In April 2006, responding to falling demand and with production rumoured to have dropped from 12 cars a week to 3 or 4, TVR laid off some of its 300 staff. At the same time, the firm announced plans to move to updated facilities in the Squires Gate district of Blackpool, citing impending expiry of the lease of the current factory in late 2006, where owner Peter Wheeler was said to be planning to build a housing estate.

In October 2006 Smolensky announced[2] that body production and final assembly for TVR would move to Turin, Italy[3], with only engine production remaining in the UK. In protest at this and to show support for the workers, a large number of TVR owners paraded through central London on 26 November, 2006. Dubbed "London Thunder"[4], it was also an attempt at the official world record for the biggest one-marque convoy on record.

By December 2006, it emerged that Smolensky had split TVR into a number of different companies[5];

  • Brand and intellectual property rights had been transferred to a core Smolensky company
  • TVR Motors - held the licence to the brands and intellectual property in the UK, as well as sales and marketing of the brand
  • TVR Power - the parts and spares business had been sold to a management buyout
  • Blackpool Automotive - the factory and manufacturing assets

On 13 December, Smolensky and production director Mike Penny resigned as directors of Blackpool Automotive, being replaced by Smolensky UK personal assistant Roger Billinghurst and 25 year old Austrian Angelco Stamenkov. By 24 December Blackpool Automotive was in administration. Administrators are now seeking legal clarification on the ownership of certain assets, including the brand and intellectual property, to see what assets the company has and who should pay the redundancy notices of the remaining 200 workers[6].

Recent events

On 22 February 2007 it was revealed that Smolensky is once again the owner of the company after being the highest bidder. [7]. On 28 February 2007, less than one week after reacquiring TVR, he has reportedly announced plans to sell the company to Adam Burdette and Jean Michel Santacreu, who intend to export TVRs to the United States market. [8] On 8 October 2007 it was found that Smolensky was still in control of the company and was hoping to restart production, with a target of 2,000 cars to be sold in 2008. [9]

Ownership history

The history of the company can be divided into four eras, based on ownership:

  • 1947–1965, founder Trevor Wilkinson, who left in 1962
  • 1965–1981, Martin Lilley
  • 1981–2004, Peter Wheeler
  • 2004–present, Nikolay Smolensky

Model list

Model Production Years Engine Displacement
Trevor Wilkinson Era
TVR Jomar1 1957-1959 Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
1098 cc
1172 cc
TVR Grantura I 1958-1960 Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura II 1960-1961 Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura IIa 1961-1962 Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura III 1962-1964 Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura 1800S 1964-1966 BMC B-Series 1798 cc
TVR Griffith 2001 1963-1964 Ford Windsor V8 4727 cc
TVR Griffith 4001 1964-1967 Ford Windsor V8 4727 cc
Martin Lilley Era
TVR Grantura IV 1800S 1966-1967 BMC B-Series 1798 cc
TVR Tuscan V8 1967-1970 Ford Windsor V8 4727 cc
TVR Tuscan V6 1969-1971 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR Vixen S1 1967-1968 Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1599 cc
1798 cc
TVR Vixen S2 1968-1969 Ford Kent 1599 cc
TVR Vixen S3 1970-1972 Ford Kent 1599 cc
TVR Vixen 1300 1971-1972 Triumph I4 1296 cc
TVR Vixen 2500 1971-1972 Triumph I6 2498 cc
TVR Vixen S4 1972 Ford Kent 1599 cc
TVR 1600M 1972-1973
Ford Kent I4 1599 cc
TVR 2500M 1972-1977 Triumph I6 2498 cc
TVR 3000M 1971-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR 3000M Turbo 1975-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR Taimar 1976-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR Taimar Turbo 1976-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR 3000S 1978-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR 3000S Turbo 1978-1979 Ford Essex V6 2994 cc
TVR Tasmin 200 1979-1984 Ford Pinto I4 1993 cc
TVR Tasmin 280 1980-1984 Ford Cologne V6 2792 cc
Peter Wheeler Era
TVR 280i 1984-1987 Ford Cologne V6 2792 cc
TVR 350i 1983-1985 TVR/Rover V8 3528 cc
TVR 350SX 1985-1989 TVR/Rover V8
+ Sprintex Supercharger
3528 cc
TVR 400SX 1989 TVR/Rover V8
+ Sprintex Supercharger
3948 cc
TVR 350SE 1990-1991 TVR/Rover V8 3947 cc
TVR 390SE 1984-1988 TVR/Rover V8 3905 cc
TVR 400SE 1988-1991 TVR/Rover V8 3948 cc
TVR 420SE 1986-1987 TVR/Rover V8 4228 cc
TVR 450SE 1989-1990 TVR/Rover V8 4441 cc
TVR 420SEAC 1986-1988 TVR/Rover V8 4228 cc
TVR 450SEAC 1988-1989 TVR/Rover V8 4441 cc
TVR S 1986-1988 Ford Cologne V6 2792 cc
TVR S2 1989-1990 Ford Cologne V6 2933 cc
TVR S3(C) 1991-1992 Ford Cologne V6 2933 cc
TVR S4C 1993-1993 Ford Cologne V6 2933 cc
TVR V8S 1991-1993 TVR/Rover V8 3948 cc
TVR Griffith 1992-2002 TVR/Rover V8 3948 cc
4280 cc
4988 cc
TVR Chimaera 1992-2001 TVR/Rover V8 3948 cc
4280 cc
4495 cc
4988 cc
TVR Cerbera 1996-2003 Speed Eight 4185 cc
4475 cc
1996-2003 Speed Six 3996 cc
TVR Tamora 2002-2006 Speed Six 3605 cc
TVR T350 (Targa & Coupe) 2003-2006 Speed Six 3605 cc
TVR Tuscan 1999-2006 Speed Six 3996 cc
TVR Sagaris 2004-2006 Speed Six 3996 cc
TVR Typhon 2004 Speed Six 3996 cc
Nikolai Smolenski Era
TVR Sagaris 2004-2006 Speed Six 3996 cc

Speciality/Racing Cars
TVR Cerbera Speed 122/3 1997 Speed Twelve 7730 cc
TVR Tuscan Challenge3 1989-(43 made) Rover V8/Speed Eight 4500 cc
TVR T400R/Typhon GT3 ? 440 bhp

1 - Not technically a TVR model, but used TVR chassis/body.
2 - Never went into production.
3 - Built exclusively for racing.


See Also

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TVR Motors

TVR Motors | TVR Power | Blackpool Automotive

Current: Typhon

Historic: Sagaris · Tuscan S · Tuscan S Convertible · T350 · Tamora · Cerbera · Chimaera · Griffith · V8S · S4C · S3(C) · S2 · S1 · 450SEAC · 450SE · 4520SEAC · 420SE · 400SX · 400SE · 390SE · 350SX · 350i · 250i · Tasmin 280 · Tasmin 200 · 350SE · 3000S · 3000S Turbo · Taimar · Taimar Turbo · 3000M Turbo · 3000M · 2500M · 1600M · Vixen 2500 · Vixen 1300 · Vixen S4 · Vixen S3 · Vixen S2 · Vixen S1 · Vixen S1 · Tuscan (1967) · Grantura

Racing: Cerbera Speed 12 · Speed 12 · Tuscan Racer · T400R / Typhon GT

Concept: Project 7/12 Concept ·

Peter Wheeler · Jack Pickard · John Ravenscroft · Al Melling · Tuscan Challenge

Trevor Wilkinson Corporate website independent


External links