TVR has fresh leadership and an equally new car that's set to enter production late next year. Yet the brand hasn't forgotten Blackpool's heritage either, and so the Goodwood Revival's Earl's Court Motor Show Hall was filled with TVR rarities, including most of Blackpool's often forgotten concept cars.
Here they are, in chronological order:
TVR Trident Fissore Coupé and Convertible, 1965.
4 units built (3 coupés and 1 convertible).
The Tridents were the first steel and aluminum-bodied TVR prototypes, powered by the same Ford V8 that the Griffith came with, designed by Trevor Fiore and built by Fissore near Turin. Two years ago, , I didn't expect to bump into one of the three coupés as well, but Goodwood is always full of pleasant surprises.
The car was a hit at the 1965 Geneva show, but TVR's U.S. importer was less enthusiastic about the idea. Not that it mattered; TVR went bankrupt that year before the Trident could be put in production.
After the third (this red example) and fourth cars were put into storage in a rather unfinished stage, TVR dealer Bill Last somehow managed to acquire them as well as all the rights to the design, only so he could launch Trident Cars Ltd. in 1966. The TVR Trident was reborn as the Trident Clipper, and although the new version looked similar on the outside, the Clipper was in fact a fiberglass car based on a clone of the Austin-Healey 3000's chassis.
TVR Tina Coupé Prototype, 1965.
2 units built (1 convertible, 1 coupé).
TVR shareholder Arthur Lilley and his son decided to cut their losses by acquiring all assets left after the bankruptcy, so the new TVR Engineering Ltd was born. Its first mission was to commission Trevor Fiore and Carozzeria Fissore to design and build another steel-bodied TVR. Weirdly enough, the Tina concept was no more than a rebodied version of the rear-engined Hillman Imp. It was launched at the 1966 Turin Motor Show in both coupé and convertible form, but the idea of a steel bodied TVR was deemed unfeasible soon after. This came as a shock to nobody.
TVR Tasmin White Elephant Prototype, 1988
1 unit built.
During the eighties, TVR stepped up its game by using Rover V8s, so when they also managed to get an experimental 5-liter Holden V8 through Tom Walkinshaw at HSV, TVR-boss Peter Wheeler commissioned a prototype from lead engineer John Ravenscroft.
The White Elephant was based on a modified SEAC race chassis, with a unique engine producing 340 horsepower. According to , since it was used by the company boss as his hunting car, it also had "a countersunk dog basket behind the passenger seat to accommodate Peter’s gun dog Ned and a hidden compartment to the rear of the cabin which housed Peter’s shotguns, cartridges and pheasants.".
The only problem was that after just two years of happy hunting, this "development car" was left to rot behind the Blackpool factory, as a non-runner and with its rear window missing. Decades later, a devoted TVR fan took nine years to restore it to better than new condition.
TVR Speed 12 GTS FIA, 1996.
A few units built for racing, 1 functional road car remains.
The reason why this purple Speed 12 GT1 car is just an empty shell is because after Project 7/12 was made obsolete, TVR slowly cut up what was left of it, except for Peter Wheeler's personal road car, the final evolution of TVR's craziest creation.
When the company wanted to compete at Le Mans, they combined two of their Speed 6 engines to create a 7.7 liter V12 milled out of steel, with titanium guts for an estimated peak output of 960 horsepower. The prototype famously broke the dyno that was rated for 1000 hp, but TVR played it safe, reducing its official horsepower rating to "800." There was no science involved, but the GT1 car with its air restrictors had roughly 675 hp on tap, right up until the rule changes made it hopelessly uncompetitive against high-budget prototypes such as the Porsche 911 GT1, the Nissan R390 and the Toyota GT-One.
After Wheeler was forced to abandon the Le Mans dream, the Speed 12's development continued, this time with the ultimate road car in mind. Unfortunately, the semi-finished, 2200 lb. production version was deemed too powerful and unsafe for the road by the boss himself after a test drive, which meant the Speed 12, TVR's fastest car, got canned for good. And since all of the Speed 12 show cars were dismantled to support the race cars still competing in the British GT championship, the last remaining road car was in fact rebuilt using a spare GT1 body, with an upgraded ECU and more downforce than ever before. That car is known as W112 BHG.
Think of it as a road-legal Aston Martin Vulcan, but scarier.
TVR Typhon, 2002-4
3 units built, developed from the TVR T400R race cars.
Once again, the Typhon was born out of a racing program, only to become TVR's fastest and most ambitious model. Since Peter Wheeler was a chemical engineer, by the time they were done with the Speed 12, he was eager to experiment more with carbon fiber and Kevlar. The resulting chassis was a steel tubular frame with a full roll cage supporting a carbon fiber monocoque. Seven race cars were built, first launched as TuscanRs and then rebadged as T400Rs. These TVRs finally made it to Le Mans, starting their mission in 2001 and retiring after the 2006 Le Mans Series season.
Powered by either a 4.0 or a 4.2 Speed Six with an optional Vortex supercharger, the road-going Typhon was bigger, yet lighter, stiffer and more powerful than any TVR before. Thanks to the aero testing, it was easily a 200 mph car, with bespoke interiors specified by the customer. TVR was planning to build two versions: a two seater with a long-range tank, and a 2+2 with a regular one. In the end, only the 2+2 made it into limited production, but that was the least of Wheeler's problems.
An sequential gearbox developed in-house was also on the options list, but before these 600+ horsepower monsters could hit the street, Wheeler decided to call it a day, selling TVR to that Russian kid. With its already astronomical development costs and the company's Composites Department shut down due to financial reasons, the entire supercharger project came to a halt, with only three Typhons emerging from the chaos some two years after they were originally built.
The 2005 list price of a Typhon was roughly twice of what TVR is now charging for the Gordon Murray-designed new Griffith, suggesting that after Wheeler has left, TVR's new leadership wasn't too keen on taking any further orders.
Bonus: TVR Sagaris, with unusual exhausts
The 2005 TVR Sagaris was the closest thing to a Typhon both in terms of looks and performance. What's more, TVR's last hope came with , which then got dialed back to a more traditional design on the 2008 , the final product leaving the Blackpool factory.
Now, there seems to be a third alternative:
Brutally loud, honestly violent, arguably beautiful. It's got to be a TVR!