Ex-TVR chairman Peter Wheeler (1944-2009)

Published: 12 June 2009

Peter Wheeler, the chairman of TVR from 1980 to 2004, has died.

Wheeler was in charge of TVR during some of the company’s finest modern years, launching lightweight and powerful rear-wheel drive Blackpool-built sports car including the Chimaera and Griffith, and the Cerbera, Tuscan, Tamora and Sagaris with TVR’s own engine.

Wheeler passed away during the night on Thursday 11 June after a short illness.

He had sold TVR to Russian businessman Nikolai Smolenski in 2004, but this didn’t stop Wheeler continuing to indulge his automotive passion – in 2008 he built an ‘RRV’ (a rapid response vehicle) called the Scamander.

An end of an era

Jeremy Blandford, chairman of the TVR Car Club, said: ‘The club is very saddened by the news, and our condolences go to the family and friends of Peter.’

The news comes almost exactly a year since Trevor Wilkinson, the founder of TVR, died. Blandford said: ‘It feels like two leading lights have been extinguished, and that it’s an end of an era for British motoring.’

He added: ‘In some ways, the most fitting tribute would be to bring TVR back to the forefront of the British motor industry.’

From unknown to globally renowned

Ben Samuelson, who was in charge of TVR’s marketing and PR from 1993 to the early 2000s, worked and raced with Wheeler. Samuelson believes Wheeler transformed the company: ‘He took TVR from being a fairly small company to a globally recognised one. The product went from using a Ford V6 to TVR making their own engine, which many believed was impossible for a small car manufacturer.

‘From a racing point of view, when Peter started they were racing in very small, minor championships,’ said Samuelson. ‘He managed to produce cars that could beat Porsches and Ferraris at Le Mans.’

Samuelson said of his time at TVR: ‘They were exciting, challenging and fantastic times. You never got bored – you didn’t know what was going to happen next! There were no committee meetings, he wasn’t a touchy-feely person, there were no group yoga sessions or anything; he was a proper boss.’

Big engines and big speed

Wheeler’s design philosophy was to make the cars small, light and powerful. ‘He always wanted to keep weight down, but in conjunction he wanted a big, good engine,’ said Samuelson. ‘He wanted them to have plenty of poke!’

After racing in the Tuscan Challenge, Wheeler raced in an Aston Martin DB4. Why a DB4? A good taste in cars is one reason; finding a car that could fit a six and a half foot tall man inside is another.

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