The name TVR is one of the most enduring in the world of British sports cars, which are often short-lived. TVR has had a rocky history, but it began way back in 1947, when engineer Trevor Wilkinson (whose condensed first name is where “TVR” comes from) built his first special. By 1949, Wilkinson had started selling his own tubular chassis. These eventually grew into full kit cars and even fully assembled automobiles, but he had only sold about 30 of them by 1954.
That same year, the shape evolved into the now familiar Grantura, the name of which came from the Grantura Plastics company that build the bodywork. One of the cars made its way to the United States, where car dealer Ray Saidel ordered six more examples and even displayed one at the 1957 New York Auto Show.
Saidel marketed the cars as the Jomar in the U.S., and they proved to be competitive sports racers thanks to their low, wide profile and weight of only 1,445 lbs. The cars had a tubular backbone chassis, Volkswagen torsion bar and trailing arm suspensions front and rear, and a large choice of four-cylinder power plants. Though they were devoid of frills, TVRs gained immense praise for their handling.
The base engine in the 1958 Grantura Mk I was a 1,172cc side-valve Ford 100E four. With a supercharger, it produced 56 bhp. The over-square 997cc Ford 105E OHV Anglia engine was good for 55 bhp, but revved easily to 5500 rpm. The best but most expensive option was the excellent alloy 1,098cc SOHC Coventry Climax engine. With twin carbs, it was good for 85 bhp at 7,000 rpm.
TVR just couldn’t keep up with orders, and had built only 100 cars by 1960 when it was rescued by Layton Sports Cars. This was just the first of four emergency reorganizations for TVR in the 1960s. Engines available in the 1960 Grantura Mk II included 1,340cc and 1,489cc Ford OHV Consul engines, as well as 1,588 cc and 1,622 cc BMC units. With the latter engine the Mk IIA could top 100 mph, with a quarter mile in 18 seconds.
The Grantura Mk III offered a redesigned chassis with Triumph Herald independent suspension by coil springs and wishbones, front disc brakes and rack-and pinion steering. The 1,798cc MGB four-cylinder engine was generally fitted after 1963, with either 90bhp or 108 bhp, the latter with an alloy cylinder head and twin Weber carburettors. Again, the most powerful option was the alloy Coventry-Climax SOHC engine, which offered 110 bhp and 110 mph, but it was rarely found after 1963.
By 1964, the Grantura Mk III had gained a larger back window and chopped-off Kamm tail, which would remain a TVR styling hallmark through Tuscan and Vixen models into the 1970s. The final Grantura was the Mk IV 1800S of 1966. It had an MGB-sourced 115-bhp engine and a top speed of 108 mph. All Granturas were Spartan, cramped and noisy, but they were also quick and immense fun to drive.
TVR remained a cottage industry throughout these developments, and specifications were as complex as the company’s finances. There were 14 paint colors and six interiors in 1962 alone, and the company had to be rescued three more times in the early 1960s, with Wilkinson himself leaving in 1962. In 1965, the company was acquired by TVR dealer Martin Lilley and his father Arthur. By the end of 1966, 796 Granturas had been sold.
Many Granturas were raced for the same reason as Elva Couriers. They combined light weight and excellent handling, and many have competition history, so be careful to check for accident damage and botched repairs.