David Thompson’s 1965 TVR Grantura MkIII was in no state to compete when he bought it – it had been stripped down from its former fast road rally guise and had been left as a rolling chassis, requiring a lot of hard work to get it going again. However, David was on the lookout for the perfect 60’s racer and gave it a nuts-and-bolts rebuild.
Once it was ready to go back onto the track, David invited veteran racer Willie Green to Silverstone to give it a test run – “Willie suggested that the gear ratio was wrong, the back axle was wrong, so yeah – a number of things still needed tweaking!” said David.
“It was really good though – I learned a lot, I made quite a few changes to the car, and spent a great time with Willie. He told me lots of stories about his past and we had a great day.”
Since then, David has taken the Grantura to victory at the Silverstone Ecurie GTS, earning the top prize overall, and was a class winner in the Classic K series organised by the CSCC. And for a keen competitor with a love of 1960s cars, the Grantura was the perfect fit.
The TVR Grantura is perhaps one of the most underrated sports cars of the 1960s. Founded in Blackpool in 1946 by Trevor Wilkinson, TVR started out as a general engineering business, but in 1949, the company stepped into automotive production with the TVR One, a bespoke racing car. While the TVR One was crashed and beyond repair, it spurred Wilkinson and the company on to move forward and trial further one-off specials, which Wilkinson then took to a number of sprints and hill climbs. After receiving several awards for racing, Wilkinson commenced work on a road car. The Sports Saloon became the company’s first car on sale to the wider automotive market, and cemented TVR’s reputation as a high-end sports car manufacturer.
The TVR Grantura, perhaps the most recognisable TVR model, made its debut in 1958, and each car was hand-built at the TVR’s Hoo Hill works in Blackpool. The car was well received, with interest as far as America, but the company’s slow production rate meant that TVR began to face financial difficulty as agitated customers cancelled their orders. Nevertheless, TVR continued to produce the Grantura and made numerous improvements to the model throughout the years, releasing the MkII in 1960 and the MkIII in 1962. David’s car, chassis number 9/664, was the first official Grantura MkIII to be fitted with the 1800 B series as standard, as all previous models were fitted with a 1600cc engine.
Although the more powerful engine would naturally lend itself to racing, the car’s longest owner, Mr Knight, used the car as a road car for many years, even taking it touring through the Italian Alps. It remained with Mr Knight until the early 1980s, when it was involved in an accident and ended up in a scrapyard. The car was rescued in 1996, and a long restoration commenced. It didn’t get back onto the road again for another ten years, when it reappeared as a fast road rally car, but was almost immediately sold and stripped down. It then came into David’s hands, and the rest is history.
David normally competes in circuit races along with his friend and co-driver Jon Wolfe, and the pair went along to the Chateau Impney Hill Climb last year as spectators: “The atmosphere was great and it was a really fun day – but the competitor in me said I wanted to have a go at it,” David commented.
However, David has never competed in a hill climb before, instead opting for the thrill of the circuits throughout his involvement in motorsport.. For the Chateau Impney Hill Climb, he’ll have to adjust his state of mind and learn the track quickly in order to reach the top slot.
“Hill climbs are very short, so I’ve got to be quick out the blocks. I’m used to having 20 to 30 minutes qualifying to get to know the track, but at the Hill Climb, you’ve got 20 to 30 seconds. So it’s a big cultural change,” continued David. “That said, I did see the Grantura that won its class last year, and I think I can definitely go faster than that! However, I’ll be in a class with some competitive machinery, I’m sure.”