Bidding for beleaguered sports car firm hots up

A new owner for the beleaguered TVR sports car company - a successor to 'baby oligarch' Nikolai Smolenski, who acquired the company for £15 million in 2001 but appears to have lost his trademark rights in a series of financial machinations - is due to be revealed in less than a fortnight.

TVR Power, the Coventry-based company previously owned by Smolenski that built engines and supplied spares for the cars until production ceased last autumn, was subject to a management buyout at the end of last year. Now it looks as if the Russian will relinquish ownership of the rest of the company too.

The administrator of Blackpool Automotive, the company created last year by Smolenski to contain TVR's Blackpool assets, will announce the successful new owner on February 23, from a field of around half a dozen serious bidders, all of whom were required to provide proof of £2 million funding to be considered. It is possible, though observers say increasingly unlikely, that Smolenski will bid again for the company. Another prominent bidder is the Rochdale millionaire and engine designer Al Melling, already in the news after recently showing a full-size concept model of his own-brand super-performance sports car, the £185,000 Melling Hellcat, powered by a 1200 bhp, quad-turbo V10 engine of 6.3 litres. Melling designed TVR V8 and in-line six-cylinder engines, and has already hot-housed plans to revive the company, which would continue to be based in Blackpool. "I'd need the old workforce," he said, "and if we could extend the lease on the existing Bristol Avenue premises, we'd stay there. It would take between six and 12 months to get the place back in full production, but I'd never expect to make more than 10-15 cars a week, two-thirds of which would be sold in the US. We'd major on the Sagaris and we'd revive the Griffith, which would be powered in updated form by an AJP8 engine. That car should never have been dropped."

Steve Cropley

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