Goodwood Revival 2017: legendary carmaker TVR reborn at the Earls Court Motor Show

TVR Griffith
Old meets new: the 2017 TVR Griffith has been unveiled at the Goodwood Revival, 

While the world gawps at the all-new Gordon Murray-engineered TVR V8 sports car at the 2017 Goodwood Revival, examples from this British specialist sporting marque’s history surround the debutante within Goodwood’s period Earls Court Motor Show exhibition hall.

Supporting the rebirth of the TVR brand at Goodwood is a reminder of the most charismatic road-going and competition models from this low-volume sports car maker’s past, which first coughed and spluttered into existence 70 years ago when its founder, Trevor Wilkinson (hence TVR for TreVoR), built himself a ‘Special’ two-seater roadster so typical of the era, using readily available and affordable pre-war primary Ford and Morris components.

Wilkinson’s first special was destroyed many years ago, but his second special (still not badged as TVR) survives to this day and can usually be found at the Lakeside Motor Museum in Cumbria.

The earliest TVR-branded sports car did not appear until 1953, with the first true production model - the Grantura - not appearing until 1958, with a rare 1959 version at Goodwood’s Earls Court Motor Show.

An old-fashioned delight

These early Grantura models set TVR’s styling and rear-drive chassis layout DNA for many years to follow, with its distinctive contoured tail-end and wrap-around rear window.  Examples of later, evolved TVR two-seater coupe models, such as the 1960s Tuscan and 1970s M-Series, are also on show at the Revival, displayed alongside two stillborn mid-60s TVR coupe prototypes, the small Hillman Imp-powered Tina, and the stylish Fissore-built Trident, the latter going on to have its own brief existence as a stand-alone marque until the mid-1970s.

TVR’s development took a slow and stumbling pace throughout the 1960s, with multiple new owners as the Company teetered from one financial crisis to the next, with a bewildering array of models (Vixen, Tuscan, Griffith, 2500, etc.), all based around the basic Grantura fibre-glass coupe layout.

The TVR Vixen, built from glass fibre and powered by a Ford Capri engine Credit: Heritage Images /HULTON ARCHIVE 

The first in a revolutionary series of changes (by TVR standards) began in the late 1970s when TVR introduced its first hatchback coupe (the Taimar), swiftly followed by its first production soft-top (the 3000 S Convertible) and the all-new wedge-shaped Tasmin coupe in 1980.  

The Tasmin set TVR on an all-too-rare financially-stable footing for most of the 1980s. Under the ownership of characterful entrepreneur Peter Wheeler, this extreme wedge model spawned a whole raft of popular and exciting coupe and convertible derivatives, most powered by Rover’s lusty V8 engine. These included the 350i, 390 SE and 420 SEAC with its wild rear ‘tea tray’ boot spoiler, an example of is at the Revival Earls Court display, alongside the one-off ‘White Elephant’ Tasmin coupe prototype.

The TVR Tuscan  Credit: Martin Pope 

Buoyed on by TVR’s 1980s sales success, Wheeler re-introduced the classic Grantura/M-Series-inspired design with his new 'S' convertible series in the late 1980s, selling a few thousand of these stylish ‘old school’ rag-tops, including the menacing V8S Roadster model, shown at Goodwood.

The popularity of the S helped to fund the development of a series of all-new TVR sports cars in the early 1990s, all remaining true to the back-to-basics, powerful front-mounted engine, rear-wheel-drive principles of Wilkinson’s original 1958 Grantura.

Nikolai Smolensky in 2003 Credit: VASILY SHAPOSHNIKOV / Nikolai Smolensky

The new generation of Griffith, Chimaera and Cerbera models saw TVRs status grow, even if its reliability and build-quality remained somewhat questionable, and by the time Wheeler sold this beloved Blackpool sports car business to Nikolai Smolensky in 2004, the then-current range of models (Sagaris, Tamora, Typhon, etc.) had even begun to show some signs of durability and longevity, sadly qualities that Smolensky’s tenure of the business lacked, with TVR going under in late 2006.

The revival of the TVR brand at the Revival is a significant event. The new model is presented alongside around 18 previous ‘historic’ TVR models, with the Earls Court Motor Show also hosting displays from other car companies as diverse as Ford, Maserati, BMW, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover. It’s an exhibition not to be missed!

Click here for more information on the brand new 2017 TVR Griffith.