The town of Blackpool is arguably most famous for being one of Britain’s tourist attractions, having risen to prominence in 1870 as a holiday resort, thanks to its 11km beachfront and theme parks.
However, Blackpool is also known, perhaps to a lesser degree, as the home of the TVR sports car company that always prided itself on building cars for purists and enthusiastic drivers.
Founded in 1946 by 23-year-old Trevor Wilkinson, the company started out as a car repair and engineering business known as Trevcar Motors.
The company changed its name a year later to TVR and built its first original chassis — the TVR One — three years after the company’s establishment. It was powered by a 1,172cc engine.
The company went bankrupt in 1962 and was rescued by one of its associates at the time, Grantura Engineering. Under that company’s auspices, it built a few models including the TVR Grantura, but it was the first generation TVR Griffith that arguably put the company on the sports car map. It was powered by a 4.7l V8 and shared its namesake with US importer Jack Griffith.
For the next decade and a bit, the company changed ownership, moved into bigger premises and seemed on its way to earning relevance as one of the more recognised British sports car makers.
Between 1981 and 2004, it built a number of vehicles including the Chimaera, Griffith (second generation), Cerbera, T350, Typhon and Sagaris. The latter model was introduced to a wider audience when it played a cameo role in the 2001 movie Swordfish.
Incidentally, it was also one of the cars I was privileged enough to be driven in as a cub motoring intern at a now defunct motoring magazine. It was a blue specimen that had a throaty exhaust note, thanks to an inline six and a cabin that had a pungent carbon fibre odour, no thanks to its body being made out of the material.
Build quality was decidedly dodgy even in the eyes of an inexperienced motoring writer and it had a kit car demeanour. It was also a tricky car to drive as it had no driver aids and with a short wheelbase, it had the ability to snap oversteer, sending you rear-first into the hedges.
It’s been 10 years since TVR shut its doors, but now the company has been resurrected and its first new product in a decade, the new Griffith, was unveiled at the Goodwood Revival in the UK recently.
Penned by arguably the most decorated and revered South African car designer, Gordon Murray, the new model will continue the template of its predecessor — low weight, front engine, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission and no driver aids. It will be constructed from aluminium and carbon fibre, bringing it right up to modern sports car body standards. The car is rumoured to weigh just 1,250kg thanks to the lightweight construction, which should make it some 300kg less than an equivalent Jaguar F-Type.
It will be powered by a Ford-sourced 5.0l V8 that will be tinkered by Cosworth to yield around 373kW transferred through a six-speed manual and limited-slip differential to the 20-inch rear wheels, wrapped in 275/30 tyres. This will give the model a power-to-weight ratio of 298kW/tonne, which should translate to some pretty decent performance.
According to TVR, the 2018 Griffith should be able to hit 96km/h from rest in under four seconds and top out at a supercar-like 321km/h. It will have an electrically assisted steering wheel, which breaks with the company’s convention of an unassisted wheel in the interests of steering feel and feedback.
It utilises Murray’s patented iStream construction system, which includes a carbon fibre-laced honeycomb section using F1 style technology, which entails this being bonded to steel and aluminium to yield a high-strength but lightweight construction. Murray first used this construction technology with the Brabham BT49 F1 in 1979.
While the styling is perhaps not something to write home about, it nonetheless seems to adopt the form-follows-function proviso. It has a deep front air splitter and an integrated rear diffuser out back. Being a TVR, it will also sound the part and the strategically placed exhausts just behind the front wheels should give the driver a front-row V8 concert seat.
According to the company, the all-carbon fibre bodied launch edition models will retail for £90,000 in the UK (about R1,534,527 in SA before import duties). The car will be built at the company’s new facilities in the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone in South Wales, which is backed by the Welsh government.
While it has been a long time coming and the company will likely continue to be a niche sports car maker, bringing the design expertise of Murray who designed the iconic McLaren F1 supercar, we can only hope the build quality and driveability of the model will be right up there with some of the more revered sports cars.
While there is no word of the vehicle being distributed in SA, it is great news to see a brand like TVR make an emphatic return to the sports car fold.