TVR Is Coming Back To Life; Deposits Being Taken

Pistonheads, Autocar and The Truth About Cars have reported that TVR, under new management, is taking orders for 2017 delivery.

2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)
2017 TVR: image from Autocar (thanks!)

I had forgotten about TVR. In the 90s it was a favourite of the motoring press for its outrageous styling, in-house engines and aggressive performance. The two things you noticed about TVRs were that their drivers looked like they were having fun or they were waiting for the AA.

With their in-house engines replacing Rover V8 units (that Rover engine again) they overstretched themselves. The AJP V8 proved to be expensive and thirsty. A straight six, was designed to address these problems and ended up powering all the later TVRs. After wisely selling TVR the owner Peter Wheeler handed over to a Russian, Nikolai Smolensky. At this time production had dwindled to a single figures and it stopped altogether in 2006.

The last few years of TVR production resembled the way Aston Martin seems to be tweaking an existing formula, with diminishing returns. The simple and effective shape of the Griffith and Cerbera gave way to rather baroquely encrusted complexities sold as Tamora, Typhon and Sagaris. In the interim period the ownership structure was fragmented, with some German involvement around 2010.

1992 TVR Griffith:
1992 TVR Griffith:

At present the owners are both TVR-drivers and have F1 experience. Autocar shows the new design as more restrained than the later models, with a long nose and very short rear-overhang. To judge by the drawing the famous entry-button is still hidden on the outside mirror. It’s free of the normal indulgences of small-scale producers which is a relief. The chrome window frame looks pleasant but is not perhaps in keeping with TVR´s image. I’d be curious to see if that detail makes it into production. Or anything like it.

The return of TVR is a chance for Gordon Murray to deploy their iStream production system. This application is more in tune with Gordon Murray’s range than the small vehicles shown so far to showcase the concept which involves tubular frames and minimal use of stressed exterior panels. It is not likely the car will rival McLaren’s F1 but it will be very interesting to see how much Murray intelligence can be applied to a car costing about £50,000 or so. The engines will be modified units purchased from a supplier, which is probably a good bet given the enormous difficulty of making their own. As long the engine provides ample torque and rocket-like speed, TVR owners will not be too concerned about its provenance.

Gordon Murray once said the hardest part about engineering a car for small-scale production was fiddly stuff such as door seals and interiors. It will be fascinating to see how he deals with those matters for this car.

[14.12 pm July 2 2015: the text was amended. The AJP 6 engine was a straight six and not a V6]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “TVR Is Coming Back To Life; Deposits Being Taken”

  1. I liked Peter Wheeler’s creations. I agree that they became a bit too baroque, but it was good that he was trying hard to give his client’s something distinctive, inside and out. I didn’t really look that closely at how they were performing so, because their PR was good, I assumed they were healthy. Therefore, when Nikolay Smolenski took over the company, I had an idea he had just frittered all that away through brattish incompetence. Hindsight shows that was not so. Of course he can be criticised for the sort of hubris shown by many business people, young and old, who have though that it’s easy to sort out the motor manufacturing business, and mostly had their fingers burnt.

    Mention of Gordon Murray’s name always commands respect, and rightly so in many instances. However, although motoring history has his F1 firmly ensconced at the highest table, he really hasn’t credentials in car production. Yamaha have adopted his i-stream process for a vehicle that seems more straightforward Smart Car than interesting T25, but it still remains to be seen if his whole venture ends up being a bit quixotic. I don’t think his i-stream process will have much to do with TVR though, more his expertise at making a conventional fast car behave well.

    New TVRs certainly need that – too many Peter Wheeler ones got stuffed through hedges by inexperienced drivers under quite ordinary conditions. Actually, I tend to the opinion that the Jaguar F-Type has inherited the TVR mantles, both good and bad.

  2. The thing I liked about TVR were the creative ways to work around the problems of low-volume manufacture and the nerve to design two engines. They were English but avoided all the clichees long before it was a clichee to avoid clichees.
    They aren’t remotely my type of car, true, yet I am glad they exist. I hope they have found some good designers who don’t make the cars too tricksy. The V6 and featherweight body are the selling points.

  3. Richard, the latter of the two TVR-built engines was a straight-six rather than a V6. They also created a V12 racing engine for GT endurance racing. TVR did continue to use the old Ford Europe OHV V6 engine for entry-level models after adopting the Rover V8, but that stopped around 1993. Autocar says the new TVRs will have a Cosworth V8, which has a huge appeal to anyone who remembers the Cosworth-Ford V8 racing engines from Formula One or Indycars. I wish they could bring back the Speed Six engine though, there aren’t enough inline six cylinder engines in the world these days outside of the BMW range.

  4. Twenty years ago, we overlooked at lot of Peter Wheeler’s guff about no safety aids. Everyone realised that the truth was less to do with avoiding drivers becoming to overconfident, more to do with avoiding the sheer cost of sorting it all out.

    TVRs were attractive and relatively affordable. They doubtless attracted a loyal clientele who knew what they were doing, accepted or even relished any shortcomings and returned for more. I suspect they also got a larger client base, moving up from a hot hatch or the like, who really scared themselves (and innocent bystanders) a few times and called it a day.

    As is known, the F1 can be tricky in extremis, but again what was acceptable in the 90s, maybe isn’t now. So Gordon Murray needs to make the new TVR considerably more vice-free than its predecessors, but retain character. That’s not easy.

    As for the looks, I liked the way Wheeler evolved his shapes. But at the end, they were parodying themselves – the Sagaris (rear view certainly) was just too MaxPower.

  5. I wish them well, but can’t think that the business case can be made to work. Not sure the brand has enough going for it to win in this market. I may be being prejudiced or ill informed … or both.

  6. TVR have a pretty clear character which is unlike other sportscars. That’s lightweight and frightening speed. Whether they succeed at reviving the brand has to do with execution. Can they make them reliable and make them sturdy enough? Having Murray on board ought to help.

  7. TVR’s “purple period” should be regarded as a high point of British sports car manufacturing. I still regard sitting in a TVR Tuscan Speed Six at the Birmingham Motor Show (remember that?) as a moment to savour. Hubris was the marque’s downfall, but at least Peter Wheeler had a vision and saw it through to execution, making some great looking cars along the way.

  8. It’s good to hear news of TVR’s revival, and I wish the new owners well. They seem to have their heads screwed on right and have assembled a good team. Gordon Murray’s iStream does seem well suited to low-volume sports cars – essentially a tubular steel frame (so far, so predictable) but with more science applied through bonded in panels to give strength.

    However, there are frequent reports that the sports car market is dwindling. It is certainly ferociously competitive, with the Porsche Cayman surely owning the £50k price point. Can a new TVR sustain production at a viable level after the initial excitement has subsided? I hope so – but it won’t be easy.

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