19th Oct, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Lot 34

1962 (1959) TVR Grantura
The TVR development car that went to Monza, and the Tulip Rally

Sold for £27,225

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: 603 FM
Chassis No: 7C 119
MOT: Exempt

  • Believed to be the development vehicle fitted with the first Coventry Climax engine delivered to TVR
  • The car used by Keith Aitchinson and Bryan Hopton on the TVR press/testing trip to Monza, ultimately resulting in them buying a controlling share in TVR
  • Believed to have competed in the Tulip Rally, as well as numerous races, testing and press events and now sympathetically restored, retaining its Coventry Climax engine, still the first delivered to TVR
  • One previous owner from when it was sold ‘new’ to 2019, and accompanied with an impressive history file

The first production model TVR in a long line of TVR cars, the Grantura debuted in 1958 and went through a series of developments leading to the MkI to Mark IV and 1800S models, with production ceasing in September 1967. Hand-built at the TVR factory in Blackpool with varying mechanical specifications, the Grantura was also offered in ‘kit form’. All cars featured a cocktail of Austin-Healey brakes, VW Beetle or Triumph suspension parts and BMC rear axles. The Grantura bodyshell was made from glass-reinforced plastic and made use of a variety of proprietary components, with a front-hinged bonnet. Buyers could choose from a range of powerplants which, depending on the model in question, included a choice of side or overhead valve engines from Ford, a Coventry Climax unit, the engine from the MGA and, ultimately, the 1798cc BMC B-series engine.

By the middle of 1960, the factory employed forty-three workers, the Grantura MkI production was ending (with a total of 100 cars produced), and the Mk2 body shell design was nearly ready. TVR had distributors selling cars in the UK, including David Buxton Ltd. in Derby and Bill Last in Woodbridge, Suffolk. In January 1961, Keith Aitchison and Bryan Hopton (of the Aitchison-Hopton Lotus/TVR dealer in Chester) expressed interest in investing in TVR. During the summer, Bernard Williams attempted to cement their interest by offering a Climax-powered Grantura MkII to the two men for a drive to the Monza circuit in Italy. During the trip, a portion of the exhaust system fell off the car on two separate occasions, but the two men were nonetheless impressed with the car's performance.

In September of the same year, the Aitchison-Hopton company bought a controlling share of TVR. Before the end of the year, Hopton had appointed himself as chairman and renamed Layton Sport Cars to TVR Cars Ltd. Between September 1961 and February 1962, the number of orders for cars had been doubled, and most of the stock of finished cars had been sold.

This particular Grantura, sold through H&H as a project in November of 2019 with little known history, as it turns out, may well be a rather historically important car. Now confirmed in writing by Keith Aitchison himself as the development vehicle taken to Monza on the press run with Hopton, as well as believed to be one of two cars to compete in the 1962 Tulip rally and further races and events in the uk as a development vehicle, ‘603 FM’ is offered for sale with us once more only due to a loss of storage.

It is believed this particular Grantura started life as a MkI. In a letter from TVR director Bernard Williams to USA TVR agent Alex Saidel in April 1959, Williams states TVR had started to compete at a low level in order to gain some experience. They had purchased the first 1220 FEW engine to build a race car in approximately 3 months so to be ‘quick to mix with the big boys’. The first Coventry Climax engine, number 8409, would be delivered to TVR in May 1959, before being fitted to chassis number 7C 119 (the car offered for sale today) for use in testing and racing. This theory is clearly supported in TVR records, with the chassis number before and after 119 both being MkI Granturas, as well as the electrical parts on the car being dated 1958 and 1959.

From here, it is believed 119 was competed as a MkI under spoof registration numbers, before the first MkII body was created in May of 1950. Chassis 119 would then be rebodied as a MkII and registered under 880 ABM. However, telltale signs, including the front flashers being moved higher as per all future MkII’s, the 8,000rpm rev counter as per all works cars and the 7 inline dial dash as per Climax spec on all future MkII’s, would remain. Now under 880 ABM, this Grantura would race as a works car at Oulton Park by Malcolm Wayne, with Wayne also setting the class record at Hudson Mills Sprint in August that year.

In May the following year, 880 ABM would be driven to Monza on a press/reliability run by Keith Aitchinson and Bernard Hopton as mentioned above and supported by correspondence with Aitchinson himself, and would be tested with Autocar Magazine with its now Stage 2 Climax engine before being prepared by the factory for the Tulip Rally. Here, a MkIII bonnet would be fitted, the car would be painted white, the bonnet and roof would receive spotlights, the engine would be changed for a B series engine with the rev counter changed to suit and a rear reverse light would be fitted. 880 ABM would be driven by Anne Hall and Val Dolmeo, where unfortunately the car would crash on Col de Charbonniers and the car would not finish. 880 ABM would be repaired by the factory using parts from another car, 7F 203, which was also being used as a chassis replacement for a damaged private car, 7F 178, at that time. Blue seats with door cards would be fitted to 880 ABM, presumably from this car, the steering wheel, an original MkII bonnet would be re-fitted and the Climax engine, 8409 would return to the car.

In August of 1962, Chassis 7C 119 would be registered as ‘603 FM’ by Aitchinson-Hutchinson of Chester, and sold as a new vehicle, purchased by an Alan Rhodda, who was under the impression he was buying a new car that had originally been built for a customer in India but that the latter had abandoned trying to get it imported after several years of bureaucratic wrangling. Rhoda would soon have difficulties with the rev counter being inaccurate. An investigation in 1964 would determine that the car had the wrong rev counter calibration for a Coventry Climax. The assumption here, is that TVR forgot to recalibrate the rev counter after its Tulip Rally B series engine. In addition, the vendor reports there is still evidence of the roof light support, as well as evidence of the crash damage from the rally. Rhodda would be the sole owner of the car, until it was ultimately sold with H&H Classics in November of 2019, having apparently just covered 20,600 miles.

Although this provenance is not supported by the TVR club, the vendor has undertaken significant research in his ownership, communicating with the likes of Keith Aitchinson himself, investigating records and much more. Included with the vehicle is a timeline from December 1958 and 1959 where a Coventry Climax Grantura write-up and sketch appears in Autocar, with the spec matching 7C 119, through to its sale in November 2019. Each event is dated, with accompanying evidence listed, thus providing a convincing case.

Since its purchase, the vendor undertook a restoration, repainted in ‘Old English White’, the seats reupholstered in their correct colour in high quality leather by a Jaguar Heritage craftsman, and much more. The engine, still the original Coventry Climax number 8409, has been boroscoped and confirmed as stage 3 in good condition, and is now offered for sale with a much improved history file containing an original sales brochure, buff logbook showing 1 previous owner from new, Coventry Climax letters signed by Coventry Climax chief engineer Whalley Hassan confirming the provenance on the engine and built date, Coventry Climax letters discussing Stage 3 conversion of the engine (Completed in 1964) including receipts for all parts from Coventry Climax, numerous Smiths letters discussing the issues with the rev counter and a large collection of receipts for restoration and recommissioning.

PLEASE NOTE: The vendor informs us he did not have time to fill the brake and clutch hydraulics with fluid, as well as the coolant system prior to auction.

For more information, please contact:
Andreas Hicks


Auction: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, 19th Oct, 2022

An auction of classic & collector motorcars


Tuesday 18th October 2022 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 19th October 2022 from 9am
Additional viewing for lots 200-254 on Thursday 20th October 2022 from 9am

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