Peter Wheeler brought us some of the most dramatic cars ever built, but he was more than a successful car builder and businessman. For my generation he was our Enzo Ferrari, Colin Chapman or Ferrucio Lamborghini; a maverick who did things his own way.
TVR was barely on the radar when Wheeler bought the company in 1980 but pretty soon he turned it around with a range of dramatic cars that looked like no other and had performance to match. They broke down a lot but when they were going they provided a unique experience.
Anyone born in the early Sixties grew up dreaming of E-Types, Cobras and Ferrari Daytonas. Big, powerful, front engined cars that were before our time and that we never got to experience when they were new. Then Wheeler produced the Griffith. It did everything a sportscar should do and was an enormous hit. It was the Cobra for the baby boomers. Rugged, pretty, fast, scary and loud. It defined a decade.
Peter Wheeler was a quiet, laconic man. You’d bump into him at motorshows at which there was often a dramatic new TVR on the stand. Wheeler would field awkward questions from hacks like ‘When is it going into production and when can we test drive it?’ with a non committal answer and a hint of a grin.
A private man, I got to know him a little bit during a three day drive in the then new Cerbera. We took it from Blackpool up to Scotland. Few journalists had spent that much time with him so I was a bit nervous. He turned out to be fantastic company, puffing away on Marlboros, talking about ex girlfriends, the cars he’d owned and his favourite subject: how dreadful 911s are. We drove together until the Cerbera’s engine went bang. Wheeler almost exploded himself. It wasn’t that it had gone wrong in front of a journalist, he was furious that it wasn’t working properly.