Trevor Wilkinson, the founder of TVR, has died in hospital aged 85.
He was the driving force behind the Blackpool performance car brand, which bore his name and went on to become famous for producing cars with outrageous looks and power. He was seriously ill in his retirement in Menorca, according to reports.
TVR fans around the country have expressed their sadness at his death. They described Wilkinson as a ‘perfect gentleman’ and a private man who would never go out of his way to seek publicity, despite his company’s more outlandish excesses.
Trevor Wilkinson: a tragic loss
Ralph Dodds, vice chairman of the UK’s TVR Car Club, compared the loss to that of Enzo Ferrari.
‘How does one describe the loss of someone who produced one of the best sports cars ever seen?’ he said. ‘Everyone is saddened by this loss. Everyone is overawed by the way in which he was revered by TVR owners in this country.’
Born in 1923, Wilkinson left school at 14 and started an engineering apprenticeship at a local garage. His first business was selling and repairing cars in Blackpool, but by the late 1940s he was ready to found his own company.
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TVR: the beginning
Wilkinson built his first car in 1947 and two years later he unveiled the first car to be produced under the TVR Engineering name: the Mark 1 (later renamed the Grantura). It had a glassfibre body and a design that remained – albeit modified – until 1980 when TVR released the Tasmin.
He left the company in 1962, just before the company’s entry into Le Mans, to specialise in a separate glassfibre business.
Wilkinson moved to Menorca later in life, but attended TVR’s golden anniversary celebrations in 2007.
Moving into troubled waters
TVR has had a controversial existence since Wilkinson relinquished control. Around 300 workers lost their jobs when it went into administration in 2006, but it was then surprisingly bought back by the Russian millionaire businessman Nikolai Smolenski in 2007.
He has talked of resurrecting TVR with production outsourced to a coachbuilder, but many remain pessimistic that the company will ever build another car.
Despite business ups and downs, TVR has always been a company to thrill enthusiasts and has a loyal following around the world.
‘When we heard he was ill, everybody thought: ‘I wish I asked him this question and that question’, said Dodds. ‘Our thoughts go out to his family and close friends.’