Peter Wheeler, who rescued TVR from bankruptcy it 1980 and saw the company through its most successful years up until its sale in 2004, has died after a short illness.
His interest in the company began while he was still a chemicals industry consultant and the enthusiastic owner of a 3000M Turbo. When TVR owner Martin Lilley was no longer able to sustain the company, having banked its fortunes upon the love-or-hate ‘Wedge’ models, Wheeler stepped in, and quickly moved the emphasis away from Ford V6 engines to the more evocative and powerful Rover V8s, establishing TVR’s reputation for the ultimate in ‘hairy-chested’ machinery, and overseeing the design of every new car.
He later axed the Wedge models altogether and brought back the popular M-series shape, in updated form, as the convertible TVR S, which proved to be an excellent commerical decision. This was followed by the all-new Griffith, which set TVR in a whole new league.
Wheeler ran TVR in traditional small company style, his personality infusing every model. When Ned the dog bit the clay model of the new Chimaera resting on Wheeler’s desk, the decision was made to leave the resultant bite marks as a styling feature, hence the car’s unusual front sidelights. And though many would see his persistence in developing an all-new engine, the flat-plane crankshaft AJP8 V8, as deeply foolhardy, he stuck with its extended gestation and eventually produced a true gem. It was followed by a straight-six version.
In 2004 Wheeler sold the company to Russian Nikolay Smolensky for a rumoured £15 million. He continued to develop his own classic TVR and was also working on an all-terrain concept vehicle.