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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 Jomar11957-1959Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
1098 cc
1172 cc
TVR Grantura I1958-1960Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura II1960-1961Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura IIa1961-1962Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura III1962-1964Coventry Climax
Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1098 cc
1172 cc
1588 cc
TVR Grantura 1800S1964-1966BMC B-Series1798 cc
TVR Griffith 20011963-1964Ford Windsor V84727 cc
TVR Griffith 40011964-1967Ford Windsor V84727 cc
Martin Lilley Era
TVR Grantura IV 1800S1966-1967BMC B-Series1798 cc
TVR Tuscan V81967-1970Ford Windsor V84727 cc
TVR Tuscan V61969-1971Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR Vixen S11967-1968Ford Kent
BMC B-Series
1599 cc
1798 cc
TVR Vixen S21968-1969Ford Kent1599 cc
TVR Vixen S31970-1972Ford Kent1599 cc
TVR Vixen 13001971-1972Triumph I41296 cc
TVR Vixen 25001971-1972Triumph I62498 cc
TVR Vixen S41972Ford Kent1599 cc
TVR 1600M1972-1973
Ford Kent I41599 cc
TVR 2500M1972-1977Triumph I62498 cc
TVR 3000M1971-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR 3000M Turbo1975-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR Taimar1976-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR Taimar Turbo1976-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR 3000S1978-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR 3000S Turbo1978-1979Ford Essex V62994 cc
TVR Tasmin 2001979-1984Ford Pinto I41993 cc
TVR Tasmin 2801980-1984Ford Cologne V62792 cc
Peter Wheeler Era
TVR 280i1984-1987Ford Cologne V62792 cc
TVR 350i1983-1985TVR/Rover V83528 cc
TVR 350SX1985-1989TVR/Rover V8
+ Sprintex Supercharger
3528 cc
TVR 400SX1989TVR/Rover V8
+ Sprintex Supercharger
3948 cc
TVR 350SE1990-1991TVR/Rover V83947 cc
TVR 390SE1984-1988TVR/Rover V83905 cc
TVR 400SE1988-1991TVR/Rover V83948 cc
TVR 420SE1986-1987TVR/Rover V84228 cc
TVR 450SE1989-1990TVR/Rover V84441 cc
TVR 420SEAC1986-1988TVR/Rover V84228 cc
TVR 450SEAC1988-1989TVR/Rover V84441 cc
TVR S1986-1988Ford Cologne V62792 cc
TVR S21989-1990Ford Cologne V62933 cc
TVR S3(C)1991-1992Ford Cologne V62933 cc
TVR S4C1993-1993Ford Cologne V62933 cc
TVR V8S1991-1993TVR/Rover V83948 cc
TVR Griffith1992-2002TVR/Rover V83948 cc
4280 cc
4988 cc
TVR Chimaera1992-2001TVR/Rover V83948 cc
4280 cc
4495 cc
4988 cc
TVR Cerbera1996-2003Speed Eight4185 cc
4475 cc
1996-2003Speed Six3996 cc
TVR Tamora2002-2006Speed Six3605 cc
TVR T350 (Targa & Coupe)2003-2006Speed Six3605 cc
TVR Tuscan1999-2006Speed Six3996 cc
TVR Sagaris2004-2006Speed Six3996 cc
TVR Typhon2004Speed Six3996 cc
Nikolai Smolenski Era
TVR Sagaris2004-2006Speed Six3996 cc

Speciality/Racing Cars
TVR Cerbera Speed 122/31997Speed Twelve7730 cc
TVR Tuscan Challenge31989-(43 made)Rover V8/Speed Eight4500 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


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Trevor Wilkinson, founder of TVR sports car company, dies aged 85". Daily Mail. 2008-06-07. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  2. BBC NEWS | Business | TVR to move car production abroad
  4. London Thunder
  7. BBC NEWS | England | Lancashire | Union anger as TVR is bought back
  8. Autocar - Smolenski's out. Again
  9. Autocar - TVR: new models on sale by 2008

External links