TVR Reborn As AC Cobra Scam Partner

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

TVR has never been a well-known brand in the United States, where its closest brush with fame was a cameo by a TVR Tuscan in the excrescent JohnTravolta vehicle Swordfish. In the UK, however, the TVR name is as rich in legend as Lotus or Morgan, speaking to a proud history of wild, hairy, fiberglass muscle cars with bizarre styling and even more bizarre handling characteristics. And like most blue-collar, British, backyard shed-based sportscar makers, TVR has not had an easy time of it lately. Having spent ruinous amounts developing an in-house V8 and a derivative straight-six engine under Peter Wheeler’s leadership in the 90s, the company fell on hard times and was bought in 2004 by 24 year-old Russian oligarchlet Alexander Smolensky. Despite promising to keep TVR British, Smolensky broke up the firm, kept the IP and brand rights, and reportedly moved production to Turin. Now, suddenly, Smolensky says he’s bringing TVR back, promising an appearance by an all-new Chevy LS-powered TVR at this summer’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. And yet TVR fans aren’t exactly falling all over themselves with glee… now why would that be?

For one thing, TVR was always a truly British company… so much so, in fact, that it was always a Blackpool company first and foremost. As one multiple TVR owner put it poignantly at Pistonheads:

TVR wasnt about making hairy arsed cars for me, it was my *home* making something that was famous worldwide and demanded respect from every other motor out there. It wasnt just knocked up by blokes in a shed, it was knocked up by blokes I knew, in a shed that was round the corner from my football club. There is a whole load of sentimental value locked up in that that probably is irrelevent to most other folks or doesnt make sense to everybody else, but to me…it means damn near the world.

And it’s not as if Smolensky is bringing production back to the sheds of Blackpool, either. According to an Autocar interview with TVR’s owner, production of the new convertible model will take place at Gullwing, a German kit-car maker. And then there’s the fact that the reborn TVR is ditching the old in-house, flat-crank AJP V8 and “Speed Six” engines in favor of an American crate engine, since confirmed by Smolensky to be Corvette-sourced. Everyone, from hard-core TVR-heads to car bloggers who once had the exquisite pleasure of being scared shitless by a passing Cerbera knows that, as good as the LSx engines are, they are no substitute for the sound made by a “proper” 90s TVRs. But, says Smolensky,

We looked at every engine available — including making our own — and decided that the Corvette was the most powerful off-the-shelf design going. Fitting it to our chassis allows us to meet all current regulations and is not too big a step.

And then there’s the price. Smolensky tells Pistonheads that the new TVR will cost upwards of $100k, while telling Autocar that

the new car “shouldn’t cost any more” than the European price of an equivalent Corvette.

The Corvette ZR1 costs just over $100k in the US, but retail for over $200k in Europe, so there’s no way of knowing whether its supercharged LS9 will be used in the forthcoming TVR. Besides, the Corvette engine is only a stepping-stone for TVR, as according to Smolensky, a hybrid TVR is being “considered.” And for all the wrong reasons. He explains:

I always wanted an automatic model, but the chassis wouldn’t allow either a regular auto or an automated manual. The hybrid concept would allow us to kick out the conventional gearbox completely.

But the real reason to pretend that TVR never stopped being dead has nothing to do with TVR heritage, or whether it can compete with its engine donor. The real news in the TVR revival story is the fact that it will be made by Gullwing. That firm also builds the AC Cobra MkVI for Alan Lubinsky’s AC Sports Cars, and the infamous Cobra-peddling-scamster is reported to be involved in the TVR revival. Having screwed over investors in Texas, Connecticut, and Malta, Lubinsky is reviving his scam with Gullwing in Germany… and it appears that the TVR brand is getting pulled in as well. For all we know, the TVR angle in all this is just so much bodywork, with the old TVR steel backbone frame residing under each car.

In any case, we don’t particularly want to find out. Sometimes it’s best for the dead to simply stay dead and live in memory. After all, there will always be someone else offering to sell you a $100k kit car.

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3 of 7 comments
  • Nick Nick on Apr 28, 2010

    Yup, the women in the clubs I go to look like that too. On a more serious note, is it really even possible for carmakers like this to survive in this day and age?

    • Kurkosdr Kurkosdr on Apr 29, 2010

      As the author said, there will always be "kit car companies". Just take an Mercedes/Corvette/Ford engine, etc .... However, any company in the size of TVR trying to develop their own engine is destined to fail. With all those new regulations and competition, it's just too hard. PS: I am really impressed by how many companies have started to design hybrids lately. Isn't designing hybrids supposed to be an arcane art that takes years to master?

  • Revver Revver on Apr 29, 2010

    Funny seeing a TVR news item about the same time the TR6 was featured. While there were earlier models, the one I first became aware of, because I saw it at the New York Auto Show, was the 2500M. TVR took the only thing of value from the ancient Triumph, its engine, trans, and tailights. The TVR continued its 'unique' stylings from the Griffith, but managed to elongate them a bit to move towards, but still cleverly avoiding - attractiveness. Supposedly the thing drove like a dart only surpassed in agility by the Lotus Europa. Now, you can get a mint one for a fraction of a restored Triumph. Syke: don't give up the dream. . .