Trevor Wilkinson, the founder of TVR, the small British carmaker known for nimble little sports cars that early owners often assembled from a kit, died Wednesday in Minorca, Spain. He was 85.
His death was confirmed by Marshall Moore, president of the TVR Car Club of North America.
The soft-spoken Mr. Wilkinson built his first car in 1947 as a race special and incorporated TVR Engineering (later simply TVR) the next year. The company name was a shortened version of his first name.
In later years, the company was known for producing extroverted cars with outlandish names like Sagaris (a Persian-era battle-ax) and Cerbera (a derivative of Cerberus, the three-headed hound of hell).
Nothing resembling regular production began until the late 1950s, by which time Mr. Wilkinson had come up with the formula that served TVR well for the next several decades: a light tube chassis draped with oddly styled fiberglass bodywork. Mechanical components were a mishmash of parts from larger British manufacturers.
It all worked surprisingly well; early TVRs, while generally cramped and uncomfortable to drive on the street, proved to be capable weekend club racers. Because of a loophole in the British tax laws, TVRs of this era were available fully assembled or as a kit.
After the loophole was closed in 1970, most TVRs came fully assembled.
Mr. Wilkinson left the company in 1962, and TVR was sold to Martin Lilly in 1965.
Under Lilly’s stewardship, the company began to make an impression among American sports car enthusiasts.
From the start of regular production in the mid-1950s until 2006, TVR produced fewer than 30,000 cars, Moore estimated.
Mr. Wilkinson stayed in touch with TVR’s small fan base in the United States. He often attended club events, including the annual gathering of the TVR Car Club of North America.
Moore said Mr. Wilkinson had been bemused by the size of the gatherings and the popularity of the cars in America and had admired the cars built by TVR’s subsequent owners.
The future of TVR is uncertain, with its factory in Blackpool closed since late 2006; there have been several failed attempts by the current owner, Nikolai Smolenski, to restart production or to sell the company.
Mr. Wilkinson was not married and had been living in retirement in Spain at his death.