A visit to Blackpool’s sports-car factory
This year the R.A.C. International Rally started from Blackpool and so, being in this famous Lancashire seaside resort, it was opportune to pay a visit to Layton Sports Cars Ltd., manufacturers of the T.V.R. glass-fibre G.T. coupé.
This small concern, functioning on simple but efficient lines, came into being in 1956. It occupies a site on a Blackpool Industrial Estate and in this pocket factory one T.V.R. is produced per day by a total of 46 employees, working a five-day week. Of the five cars turned out weekly, 70% go out in kit form, for final assembly by the customer, but it is hoped that next year the figures will be reversed and that the output will be 30% kits, 70% complete cars. Already a lot of l.h.d. T.V.R.s are going through, for export to America.
The T.V.R. is a compact coupé with a multi-tubular frame, the main members of which are of 16 g. steel tubing, trailing-link torsion-bar independent suspension front and rear, and engine mountings that take a single-cam Coventry-Climax engine or an M.G.-A engine to choice. In either case an M.G.-A gearbox is usually employed, although some cars have been fitted with the excellent all-synchromesh ZF gearbox. Originally the Ford 105E engine was used but its torque curve did not suit the car. The Ford 109E power unit gives far better results but most T.V.R.s go out with the M.G.-A engine, of which supplies are drawn from the local B.M.C. agent.
The chassis incorporates many M.G. components, such as the Girling disc front brakes, drum rear brakes, differential, etc. The original T.V.R. had an R.G.S. body shell but today Layton Sports Cars make the coupé bodies themselves and to date about 25% of their cars have had Climax engines, the remainder M.G. engines, except for a few with Ford 109E engines for which a top speed of some 95 m.p.h. is claimed. One car has been raced with a 1 1/2-litre twin-cam Climax engine and their R.A.C. Rally entry, entrusted to Peter Bolton, had an H.R.G. cross-flow head and twin Webers on its M.G. power unit.
To obtain effective sound damping of so small a body experiments have been conducted by Pressed Felt. All cars have Dunlop centre-lock wire wheels shod with 5.60 in. x 15 in. Dunlop Gold Seal tyres, which are adequate for Motorway driving. Incidentally, because the laminated torsion bars of the suspension system run laterally through the chassis cross-tubes it is possible to vary the height, front and back, by adjustment of a single bolt locating the bars within the chassis.
The T.V.R. factory consists of two storeys of a former brick works. On the ground floor of the main building the cars are assembled, bodies being made on the first floor of another building, while the chassis are welded-up, one at a time in simple jigs, in a sort of disused brick kiln, below the body shop. The glass-fibre coupé body takes three boys 23 hours to produce as a set of moulded plastic panels; and in 40 hours these are assembled and the body shell is polished ready for painting. The bonding of these plastic components is assisted by the timber roof of the body shop, which makes for a good operating temperature, which is otherwise controlled only by hot air generated by a portable electric “Little Red Hen” heater. Assembly of the chassis components occupies about 30 hours.
At present completed body shells are mounted on a trolley and towed to a paint shop about a mile distant but eventually painting, which involves some half-dozen undercoats and five top coats in a choice of eight colours, will be transferred to the body shop. Two body sides and a roof section are bonded in split moulds and are then bolted together until bonding is complete. Triplex laminated windscreens are supplied on export cars and to special order on other T.V.R.s. The very comfortable separate bucket seats are made in the factory, using a tubular framework shaped over a simple former, Pirelli webbing and upholstery prepared on Singer sewing machines, some of the leather being supplied from Scotland and the rest by Connolly.
The i.r.s. incorporates T.V.R.’s own light-alloy castings and Hardy Spicer drive shafts. A Serck radiator with small header tank behind the engine is used, with an electric fan to obviate overheating at low speeds or during traffic stops.
A T.V.R. kit comprises the body ready mounted on the chassis frame, with back wheels in place, but leaving the half-shafts to be coupled up, engine, radiator and front suspension to be fitted, wiring and detail assembly to be done, although the wiring loom is already in place behind the facia. Customers are able to obtain engine, gearbox and certain components from the subsidiary company of Brown & Mallalieu of Blackpool.
The T.V.R. originated as the enthusiastic venture of Mr. B. C. Williams, Trevor Wilkinson and a foreman. Today they have been joined by Brian Hopton, the Managing Director, Henry Moulds, the Assistant Director, and John Timmer, the Development Engineer, while David Scott-Moncrieff is another Director, Sales and Production being the particular concern of Mr. Williams. Mr. Thurner races the product he is developing and this small but keen sports-car company has some ambitious projects for the future.—W. B.