TVR had been actively involved in motor sport pretty much from its inception.
Trevor Wilkinson and Martin Lilley both appreciated the glamour that participation could bring – and so did Peter Wheeler. In 1986, the factory-backed 420SEAC proved a dominant force in national competition before being banned on homologation grounds, when the authorities questioned production numbers.
In 1988, Wheeler got round that by creating a brand new race car and his own series for them to race in. At the heart of the Tuscan Challenge racer was TVR Power’s 4.5-litre version of the RoverV8, pumping out 350bhp. The first cars were offered at half-price – £16,000 – so long as they competed in at least six rounds of the 12-race series. If they didn’t, the owner had to pay the other £16,000 at the end of it.
The racing proved massively popular, and was televised in the UK. Gerry Marshall was a high-profile (and successful) entrant, while Octane’s Mark Hales won back-to-back championships. Wheeler was proud of what he’d achieved with the Tuscan Challenge, admitting that the secret of its success was the cars’ excess of power and lack of grip.
There was supposed to be a production version of the Tuscan Challenge car, and roadgoing prototypes were very pretty indeed. But those plans fell away as TVR concentrated on the S models, before developing the Griffith and Chimaera. So the Challenge car never entered production – yet it’s still a hugely important part of TVR history.