A TVR Club with a Difference
The White Elephant is a 1988 TVR prototype – the only TVR ever to be powered by an Australian 5 litre V8 Holden Bathurst race engine – and one of only a handful of TVR Prototypes to survive today.
Commissioned and driven by Peter Wheeler, the Managing Director of TVR, it was eventually decided that this 185mph TVR prototype was still too dated for the 1990’s and that Australian engine logistics could also be a problem; so the project was shelved and 12 months later the new TVR Griffith was born…
The Elephant was rescued from the ‘TVR Graveyard’ at the rear of the Factory just a week before Peter Wheeler sold the company in July of 2004. A truly remarkable one-off hand built British sports car; this is the story of her restoration…
The White Elephant is a one-off hand built TVR prototype which was Peter Wheeler’s personal transport for the first few years of its life.
Completed in September 1988 by John Ravenscroft, Neill Anderson and Peter Wheeler, the car has a totally unique body comprising of a fibreglass inner shell which was covered by a thick coat of heavy modelling foam which in turn was over-coated with the finishing layer of fibreglass to give the Elephant its unique shape.
Based on a developed and modified SEAC chassis and a Tasmin FHC stripped down and chopped body shell, this car is the only TVR to ever be factory fitted with an Australian Holden engine. The 5 litre V8 is said to have been developed to 350+ bhp with around 400 ft/lb of torque.
On the 15th of July 2004, the White Elephant was collected from Bristol Avenue, just a couple of weeks before Peter Wheeler sells the company to Nikolai Smolenski.
Having just rescued Nelly, she is put on display at the next meeting of the West Lancs TVR Car Club. Albeit she arrives on a trailer of course. Two weeks of trying to diagnose a starting problem lead to the diagnosis that it has some very rusty electrics and several blocked injectors at the very least. So the restorers make the decision to start stripping her down almost immediately.
The US spec Borg Warner T5 box & the standard Jaguar Salisbury diff were re-built by ATJ Transmissions in Chester. Both units were stripped and acid-bathed before being thoroughly examined and then re-assembled by Alan. The gearbox was re-machined to accept an updated seal kit and an updated thrust bearing was installed in the bell-housing. Several hours were also spent re-finishing both units to bring them up to an ‘as-new’ finish.
As the original exhaust system was is a very poor state of repair, we fabricated a new one – sympathetic in every way to the old one – but this time made from high quality stainless steel for better aesthetics and longevity. As the system may well not bring the noise level down below 105db, we also have the option of fabricating a pair of track-day baffles for the end of the system, to allow us to pass scrutineering for hill climbs and sprints.
Having completed the in-house bodywork tasks, the shell has been returned to Bristol Avenue for the Surface & Design team to work their magic and complete the bottom end and engine bay finishing. There is plenty to do, including fabricating a new, stronger bonnet which will hinge, this replacing the original kevlar bonnet which had to be lifted off completely to access the engine bay. The inner nose also needs an amount of work to ensure the new radiator can sit flush for optimum performance. Both footwells also need some attention as the passenger side is wafer thin and the driver’s side has a sizable hole in the front corner. By the time the shell has been fully prepped and given a coat of two-pack primer, the engine bay, tunnel, nose, sills, rear valence and wheel arches will all be finished in the car’s signature pearlescent white, at which stage she will be ready to mount straight on to the rolling chassis.
As the restorers have to install the engine in the chassis before they can drop the body on, it makes sense to complete the final painting of the inner nose and engine bay as soon as we can. Due to the intricacies of spraying these areas they have to spray the entire front of the car to finish this section seamlessly. Once the engine and chassis are reunited once more and the body is lifted on, they will bolt on the doors, set the gaps and finish the painting.