TVR Speed 12

You never fully appreciate what you have until it’s gone. TVR is a case in point: did we really know how lucky we were that the Blackpool based sports car had a place in the world? In its 1990s and early 2000s heyday, it provided a steady stream of the most exciting sports cars you could buy. It was a simple recipe for simpler times, but the company was nothing if not ambitious under the stewardship of boss Peter Wheeler.

With the Speed 12, the small firm planned to take on the supercar establishment on the road and at the Le Mans 24-hour. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. Regulation changes in the GT1 category rendered it obsolete (but not before it had raced in a few FIA GT Championship rounds), and as a road car Wheeler himself declared it a ‘silly idea’ and cancelled the project. How silly did a car need to be for TVR to declare it too silly? Very!

The car first appeared in 1996 as the Project 7/12 – that denotes 7.7 litres and twelve cylinders. It used two cylinder banks from the AJP6 engine and a common crank, and initially had a claimed power output of 880bhp. In the end, it proved too much for a dyno rated at 1000bhp, so it’s safe to assume it had a four-figure power output. In a world jaded by Bugatti hypercars, it’s easy to forget what that meant in the 1990s. The TVR was an entirely different proposition to the electronically-nannied Veyron and Chiron, too.

By 2000, it had been named Speed 12 and time had been called on the racing programme because of the aforementioned rule changes. It was going to be sold as a road car with a price of £245,000 –which is nudging half a million in today’s money. That was until Peter Wheeler drove it.

“I knew within 300 yards it was a silly idea,” he said, reputedly suggesting that anyone crazy enough to want one was simultaneously too irresponsible to own one. Deposits were returned and that was the end of that. Almost. In 2003, one car was rebuilt and would only be sold to someone after being personally vetted by Wheeler.

Today, it’s on display at the Lakeland Motor Museum alongside the oldest surviving TVR. The spirit of the Speed 12 has also had a reprise. In 2018, a number of ex-TVR engineers at TR Supercars revealed their own interpretation of the car with a 1021bhp turbocharged V12. Still too silly?

Adam Wilkins