The first real TVR was built in 1949 but TVR Engineering was actually formed in 1947 by young engineer called Trevor Wilkinson. The first thing he did was to re-body his old Alvis Firebird which he then sold to finance his next car. TVR No 1 took it's front coil springs from a fairground dodgem car. The second car TVR No 2 (which still survives and has recently been restored) was built in 1950. These first cars ware all aluminium bodied open sportscars. In 1953 Trevor Wilkinson started on a new chassis and changed to using glassfibre bodies with many different engines. About twenty of these cars were built. The next step was in 1955 when they designed the first backbone type chassis used in all production TVRs to this day and the body was developed from using an modified Ashley kit car front end for both the front and the rear of the car.
Ray Saidel who saw a market for these cars in America asked TVR to supply him unbodied cars with Coventry Climax. He sold these cars under the name of Jomars. This led to further development of the chassis. Unfortunately only about 200 orders were received from America. Serious production finally got underway in 1958 with the TVR Grantura named after Grantura plastics who made the bodies. TVR now started going from one financial crisis to another and Trevor Wilkinson was being gradually manouvered out of control. In 1960 the Grantura Mk II appeared with some body changes and a chassis designed by John Thurner which was used in different TVRs for many years with only slight changes. In 1961 the Mk IIa was introduced with front disc brakes as standard and one was road tested by The Motor magazine. In 1962 the prototype Grantura Mk III is built using the Thurner chassis. Trevor Wilkinson resigned and a works team took part in the Le Mans 24 hour race unfortunately without success.
It is said that in 1962 an AC Cobra and a TVR Grantura were in Jack Griffith's New York workshopsand the mechanics decided to see if the Cobra's V8 would fit in the Grantura. It fitted and so Jack Griffith decided to do a proper conversion on a MK III and it was found to be a very fast car. Ufortunately TVR ended 1962 in receivership and in 1963 Grantura Engineering took over. In 1963 Griffith decides to sell V8 engined TVRs in the US and the Griffith 200 was born. In 1964 the body of the Grantura was restyled with a new Manx tail using Ford Cortina 'ban the bomb' rear lights. This new body style was used for the Grantura MK III 1800S and the Griffith 400. At this time around 90% of production was going to America and in 1965 the Griffith is produced for the UK market while Jack Griffith ended his association with Grantura Engineering. The first attempt to move away from the old style TVR body started when Trevor Fiore designed the Trident but unfortunately the company was having money problems once again and went into bankruptcy.
This is when garage owners Arthur and son Martin Lilley bought the company and TVR Engineering was once again back in business. The Lilleys thought they were getting the Trident which is one of the reasons that they bought TVR but unfortunately this had been bought by Bill Last's Trident Car Company. The Lilleys thought it unwise to pursue the issue of the Trident and concentrated on turning TVR into a going concern and some cars were assembled using remaining parts. Some cars were even exported to the US, this time imported by Gerry Sagerman. In 1966 the MK IV 1800S is introduced with numerous improvements and Trevor Fiore is once again called upon, this time to help design the Imp base Tina of which only one was produced. 1967 saw the introduction of the new Tuscan V8and later this year the wheelbase was lengthened to 7' 6", the doors were enlarged and a number of other changes to the body were introduced including MKII Cortina rear lights By the end of 1967 the 1600cc Ford Kent powered Vixen S1 was in production and sales were now on the up By the end of 1968 the Vixen S2 was in production with the longer chassis and new larger doored body. The company even made a small profit!
TVR Tuscan V6
1969 saw the first of many 6 cylinder cars with the new Tuscan V6 which was powered by the Ford Essex 3 litre and was very popular with the motoring press. Vixen sales were continuing to improve. 1970 saw TVR move to new premises at Bristol Avenue. Later in the year the Vixen S3 saw some detail changes and the 2500 was announced as TVR needed an engine which would meet US emissions laws and the Triumph TR6 straight six engine was used.
TVR 3000M TVR 3000S
During 1971 the new M series was being developed and at the end of the year the last Tuscan was delivered. In 1972 the last of the 2500s and the Vixen S4 were built on the M series chassis but with the old Vixen style body. The original M series consisted of three models, the Triumph engined 2500M for the American market and the Ford powered 1600M and 3000M for the home market. The 1600M was dropped in 1973 and in 1974 sales passed the 400 mark. In early 1975 a fire gutted a large part of the factory and destroyed a number of cars. TVR recovered from the fire with help from loyal staff and assistance from TVR North America. It took the whole year to get production back to normal. The turbo powered production car the 3000M turbo raised the engine power from 138bhp to 230bhp and saw off many other cars costing far more. The 1600M was also reintroduced. In 1976 it was decided a hatchback was needed in the range and this became the Taimar. Apart from the tailgate it was identical to the 3000M it was also available as a turbo. 1977 saw the 2500M replaced by a de-toxed version of the 3000M. In 1978 the TVR 3000S was introduced and was the first open car since 1958.It was based on the 3000M and available as a turbo but only about 70 were made. In the background TVR were working with ex Lotus designer Oliver Winterbottom on a completely new car. In 1979 as the last M series cars were being produced the factory was gearing up for new Tasmin. The range was introduced with a choice of the not very popular 2 litre, 4 cylinder Ford Pinto (Tasmin 200) or 2.8 litre V6 Cologne (Tasmin 280) engines and convertible or hardtop bodies. In 1981 the +2 was added to the range but sales were not going well and after nearly 15 years of relative prosperity TVR was again in financial difficulty.
In 1982 TVR's current owner and chairman, Peter Wheeler, took over and in the following year the first of the Rover V8 engined TVR's was introduced: the 350i. Over the years, the cars got faster and more sophisticated, culminating in the mighty 450 SEAC of 1988 which produced 324 bhp from a TVR modified 4500cc V8 engine.
A new chapter in TVR's history was introduced with the birth of the S which went into production in 1987. Although it looked superficially like the 3000S, it was an all-new car and with its amazingly low price, it restored TVR's good fortunes and saw production nearly double in a year.
However, it was the Griffith that was really responsible for TVR's renaissance. The first cars were delivered to customers at the beginning of 1992 and the car was overwhelmingly successful. An order was taken on average every eight minutes at its first Motor Show and, with the introduction of the Griffith 500 in 1993, it has reached the first rank of the instant classics.
The TVR Chimaera and Cerbera have been introduced since then and have contributed to TVR's position as the most popular of Britain's independent car manufacturers.