TVR White Elephant spotted in West Lancashire

2014 Drive-My

After two years of researching the car, regular factory visitor and enthusiastic member of the West Lancs TVR Car Club, Howard Bryan has negotiated with Peter Wheeler the purchase of his famous Tasmin Holden prototype, the ‘White Elephant’.

The car was used by Peter Wheeler as a rolling test bed for the Holden 5-litre V8 engine which TVR were considering using during the late eighties. The TVR development team took a 390SE chassis and modified it to take the large iron block engine and Bag Warner T5 gearbox. The 390 body shell was over-moulded with spray-on modelling foam and finished with a fibreglass skin.

The Holden engine was not adopted by TVR due to the superior power to weight ratio of the standard Rover unit, even though performance tests saw the car reach speeds of up to 180mph. The TVR White Elephant was subsequently shelved, being utilised for a while at the Blackpool site and was later displayed in Birmingham TVR dealers Team Central showroom before being condemned to the TVR graveyard at the rear of the factory.

TVR White Elephant spotted in West Lancashire

The car itself had stayed in reasonably good condition until the rear screen was taken for another project, which left the White Elephant open to the elements. With time moving on and now with a 2ft tree growing out of the boot, grass growing out of the carpet and the Kevlar bonnet lying ‘wedged’ underneath the car, Howard Bryan decided it was time to act; “For TVR enthusiasts and wedge fans in particular, the White Elephant is as good as it gets – a classic one-off TVR prototype which was commissioned and run by Peter Wheeler. To see the car sat motionless at the top of the yard was really quite sad, TVRs are built to be driven! So I decided to ring and speak to Peter to discuss the possibility of my renovating his old prototype and restoring it to its former glory.”

TVR White Elephant

With much discussion and many emails passing between the factory and Howard. Peter Wheeler finally decided that the White Elephant would be in safe hands and confirmed to Howard the car was his.

So now the work begins! Howard Bryan along with Tony Cole – collectively known as the West Lancs ‘Wedge Twins’ due to Howard’s 400SE never being seen without Tony’s restored 350i following in hot pursuit, now begin a planned 22 month ground up restoration of this important part of TVR’s history.

After testing and running the engine, the interior and engine bay will be catalogued and stripped, the body will be lifted off – which could be interesting as the whole shell was over moulded and skinned whilst still actually attached to the chassis. Then the rolling chassis itself will be stripped, powder coated and carefully re-assembled.

“We intend to take the chassis back to Blackpool for the powder coating.” said Howard. ‘As part of the refurbishment process we would also like TVR’s Ray Wilding and Eric Mather oversee the bodywork and interior for us. The standard of workmanship at the factory is superb and it would be a crime to take a TVR prototype anywhere else”.

In fact TVR have already given Howard and Tony a helping hand towards the restoration with Dave Cumming and Peter Wheeler donating a brand new rear screen for the vehicle to help them on their way.

Howard adds “For Peter to trust us with the White Elephant is a magnificent gesture and to help us out like this with the very first piece of the jigsaw is absolutely fabulous. Isn’t it just great to know that TVR is still run by true enthusiasts!..”

The White Elephant will be lovingly restored by Howard & Tony over the next 22 months and the Wedge Twins, or as they should now perhaps be known – the ‘White Elephant Twins’ will keep both Peter Wheeler and Sprint informed as to their progress along the way.

When the Holden powered beast is completed and growling once more, it will be driven to Blackpool and presented to Peter Wheeler for him to once again get behind the wheel and give it his personal seal of approval.

That having been granted the White Elephant Twins hope to embark on a tour of regional TVR car dubs and classic shows throughout the UK, with them ultimately entering the car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

So watch this space for further updates. If anyone has any information or photographs featuring the White Elephant they would be very gratefully received. You can contact Howard anytime. So good luck to the guys as they embark on this fantastic and historic project. Now is the time to invest in Swarfega shares.

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