End of an era: TVR founder dies

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarMonday, June 9th, 2008

 
 

Trevor Wilkinson, the man who founded a small sports car company in 1947 that went on to make his name literally synonymous with some of the most desirable cars on British roads, has died aged 85 in hospital near his Minorcan home.

Wilkinson set up TVR – derived from his first name, minus vowels, and the successor to a company called Trevcar – in his home town of Blackpool following an engineering apprenticeship at a local garage.

He was the inspiration for everyone who dreamed of building a prototype sports car in their garage and turning it into an international brand.

The company’s cars inspired a devoted following prepared to overlook sometimes idiosyncratic reliability, especially in the earlier years, for the unique gratifications of looks and power that the marque could offer.

In 1947 Wilkinson started work on his first car and, two years later and with help from partner Jack Pickard, the sports car business was born. The first car was completed by 1949 – an alloy two-seater built on a multi-tubular steel chassis.

The first production TVR was the Mark I, later known as the Grantura, which made its appearance in 1953 with a glass-fibre body and the distinctive tubular steel chassis that made for a superb power to weight ratio. It continued in use until the introduction of the TVR Tasmin in 1980.

Trevor Wilkinson left the company in 1962 and subsequent owners have included Martin Lilley, Peter Wheeler and, perhaps the most well-known, the 24-year-old Russian entrepreneur Nikolai Smolenski who took the reins in 2004.

In 1995 the Cerbera was produced withe the TVR V8 engine – the first racing engine to be de-tuned and installed in a road car.

In 2004 a pair of TVR Tuscan 400Rs entered Le Mans and, after retirements the previous year, both managed to complete the race classified 21st and 22nd. It was a feat that Wilkinson, by then aged over 80, must have relished.

The company’s recent history has been somewhat turbulent. It went into administration around 18 months ago – leaving nearly 300 people jobless – before being sold back to Smolenski who says that he intends to re-start production this year.

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