In 1965 the first two prototype TVR Trident coupés were exhibited at the Geneva Show and so positive was the reception by press and public alike that two further prototypes were commissioned, a third coupé and a convertible.
The idea of a new high-performance car had been in Trevor Wilkinson’s mind for several years already. The founder of the car manufacturer TVR, he began the process of designing the Trident model in the mid-1960s, with steel and aluminium bodywork designed by another Trevor, named Fiore, and built by Carrozzeria Fissore. In 1965 the first two prototype TVR Trident coupés were exhibited at the Geneva Show and so positive was the reception by press and public alike that two further prototypes were commissioned, a third coupé and a convertible. Very soon after the Show, however, the Blackpool producer suffered a serious economic crisis and was declared bankrupt.
A TVR dealer from Woodbridge, Bill Last, saw an opportunity to acquire the Trident project and made a deal with Fissore to buy the plans, commissioning another prototype, this time a convertible, which was displayed at the London Racing Car Show at Olympia in January 1966 under the name of Trident Clipper. Last formed Trident Cars Ltd but nothing was heard of the Trident project until a coupé was shown, again at the Olympia Racing Car Show, in January 1967. It differed from the original TVR design in losing the retractable headlights, having a glass-fibre body and sitting on an Austin-Healey 3000 chassis. It had a Ford V6 engine, but it was proposed to fit the same 4.7-litre V8 which had been fitted to the TVR prototypes for production. This engine guaranteed the car a maximum speed of 240 km/h. The price, even in the kit version, was very high, contributing to the small number of cars produced.
In 1969 production moved to Ipswich and the Venturer model was announced, identical in appearance to the Clipper but with a V6 engine and chassis derived from the Triumph TR6, in common with other Trident models by then. From 1971 the Ford V8 was replaced by a similar Chrysler V8 engine of 5400 cc. Subsequently a further version called the Tycoon was launched, with a 2500 cc Triumph straight-six engine.
Despite the continuous refinements to the car, the Trident was overwhelmed by a financial crisis, largely due to the oil crisis of the early 1970s, which drove the company into bankruptcy in 1974.
At attempt was made to restart production in 1976, but only a tiny number of further cars were built before final closure in 1977. In total there are estimated to have been a total of 39 Clipper, 84 Venturer and 7 Tycoon models built.
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
My Love Affair with the TVR Trident
As mentioned in the article above, three coupé prototypes of the TVR Trident (plus one convertible) were completed and all survive; the following article was written for the TVR Car Club magazine Sprint by Norman Hawkes, owner of the third (and only right-hand drive) prototype coupé, designed by Trevor Fiore and built by Carrozzeria Fissore.
This is his story:
The first time I saw the TVR Trident was on the day in March 1965 that it was pictured in the Daily Mail under the headline “Is this the most beautiful car in the world?” and I fell in love with it instantly. After cutting the picture out of the paper it adorned the wall in my bedroom for many years. That same year I was in the local bookshop and found a copy of Style Auto No. 7, the lamented Italian book all about car styling, and persuaded my Dad that was to be my Christmas present in 1965. I still have that book, though it has been opened and pored through so many times that the pages have all come adrift from the spine! Italian engineering, eh?!
I was heartbroken when I read about the bankruptcy of TVR that summer in The Autocar, but my spirits were lifted again only a month or two later when there was a picture of the Fissore-bodied Trident convertible ordered by Suffolk TVR dealer Bill Last, who had seen an opportunity and bought the Trident design from Fiore/Fissore. Only one Trident convertible was built and it was shown at the Racing Car Show in January 1966, but the following year Trident Cars were at the Show again, this time with a white Trident coupé, and I was there to see it in person. It looked terrific, though the lack of pop-up lights spoiled the frontal appearance somewhat. But the rest of the car looked spot-on, and it was very close to the original TVR Trident – far closer in fact than the eventual production Tridents. I spent hours on the stand just staring at the car and engaging the chap manning it in conversation; nearly 50 years later I would actually visit that chap at his house in Lytham St. Annes: it was David Hives! He had produced the car in glass fibre for Bill Last using my TVR Trident to make a mould! No wonder it looked so close. Eventually I had a Trident Venturer, as it was the closest I thought I could possibly get to owning any kind of Trident.
But then I was browsing the adverts at the back of Classic and Sports Car in early 1986 and there I spotted an advertisement which claimed there was a TVR Trident for sale! “Geneva Show Car” it said, which I thought was very peculiar as I knew both the cars shown at Geneva in 1965 had gone to the USA and never returned. I had to go and see this car and see if it really was what it claimed to be, and what I found was indeed an Italian Carrozzeria-built TVR Trident, although it was just a body (fortunately complete with all the glass and upholstery) but with no usable mechanicals. Genning up on the facts in Peter Filby’s book “TVR – Success Against The Odds” it was clearly the third coupé, which TVR had ordered after the successful
reception of the first two cars at Geneva that March, but this time with right hand drive, the only coupé which was. It had been finished after TVR’s collapse and was delivered to the factory, after being shown on Carrozzeria Fissore’s stand at the Turin Show in November 1965, along with the only TVR Trident convertible, which the factory completed for the new owner of TVR, Martin Lilley, to use as his daily driver.
Despite the fact that my wife and I had just acquired a Victorian house which had been derelict for over 10 years and needed a fortune spent on it, I decided I had to take on this one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own probably the only TVR Trident I would ever have the chance to get and paid the seller £2000, which I fundedby selling my Trident Venturer. The seller was in fact a guy named Ian Stronach, a very talented car builder, who actually designed and built his own Buick V8 mid-engined racing car in the early 1960s. It was way ahead of its time and has recently been restored by its Belgian owner, appearing, for the first time in this country since its restoration, at last year’s Goodwood Revival; the car was also featured in Octane magazine about a year ago.
I had to promise my wife not to start on putting the TVR Trident together for at least 5 years, so the following year I engaged Don Haldenby, Stirling Moss’s old racing mechanic, who still looked after Stirling’s collection of historic racers, to build the TVR into a usable car. Many of the correct mechanical bits were unavailable at the time (most now are) but we managed to acquire the correct engine, gearbox and rear axle and Don spent the next 4 years making a fantastic car which drove beautifully; a real work of art! The car was put on the road in May 1991, when it was registered for the first time ever and I became its first owner to actually be able to drive it.
In the 27 years since then it has been to many TVR CC events and has been shown at places such as the NEC Classic Car Show and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. It has been featured in Classic Car Weekly, Classic and Sports Car, Classic Cars and Auto Italia and is now quite a well-known car. I’m delighted that such a rare car and important piece of TVR history as this has survived and continues to be used and I still find it hard to believe that I am fortunate enough to own what has been the car I have most wanted to own for 53 years!
Text by Norman Hawkes
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