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Trident Clipper, Venturer and Tycoon (1967 - 1977)

Last updated 7 March 2013

 
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Model Timeline

January 1964
Trevor Fiore sketches a new TVR coupe in time for the 1965 Geneva motor show

In 1964, TVR – today famed for its 6- and V8-cylinder powered glassfibre coupes – decided that to attract a more affluent type of customer, a classier-looking Carrozzeria-styled car would be essential. With this in mind TVR’s managers met Trevor Frost (aka Trevor Fiore) in a public house near Blackpool…

Frost penned some sketches, but more importantly convinced Carrozzeria Fissore, to construct the prototype Trident for TVR, ready for the upcoming 1965 Geneva Salon. At the heart of the steel-panelled showstopper was a Ford 5.0-litre V8 engine (a 270bhp Cobra V8 unit, rife amongst sports cars of the day) and four-speed gearbox.

Rolling on Dunlop Racing 72-spoke wire wheels, and decorated with the most delicate chrome and lighting details (sourced from domestic Italian marques), the Trident looked a million dollars. Judged a roaring success by potential buyers, orders worth in excess of £150,000 were placed at the show, and this prompted TVR to commission a further two prototypes (another coupe and a convertible) for serious evaluation.

Unfortunately TVR was declared bankrupt. Existing TVR distributor, Martin Lilley, bought the remnants and acquired the manufacturing rights for the production models… although that did not include the Trident.

Due to both Frost and Fissore still being TVR creditors, another distributor, William Last, secured the Trident’s design rights, even though – allegedly – Martin Lilley later purchased the third and fourth prototypes from the Italians! (However, Last and Lilley never agreed the true story).

January 1966
Newly rebranded Trident Clipper shown at the London Racing Car Show

January 1967
Trident Clipper goes on sale


William Last’s Trident Cars Ltd wasted no time in displaying the Trident at the January 1966 Racing Car Show, but it was not until a year later (again at the London Olympia Racing car show), that the definitive article appeared on sale – at first only in coupe form. Though visually very similar to the TVR prototypes, Last’s ‘Clipper’ featured a glassfibre body shell sitting on a separate chassis sourced from the Austin-Healey 3000 – but with simplified lighting arrangements.

It was still powered by the Ford 289cu Cobra V8 engine; shared with the AC Cobra. However, compare the prices – the AC came in at £2952, while the Clipper appeared something of a bargain at £1923 – even if the fast but flighty Sunbeam Tiger weighed-in at a mere £1471. According to Trident Cars, the Clipper could crack the 0-60mph benchmark in 5 seconds, and reach the magic 150mph. Whether this was actually attainable is debatable, but since the launch of the Jaguar E-type in 1961, this had become the figure to beat.

The brakes were by Girling – 11-inch discs with coil sprung wishbone front suspension, and 11-inch drums mounted on the end of a 3.5:1 live rear axle. Steering was by cam and peg, and it seemed that the only real sophistication lay in the 12-volt alternator-driven electrical system, which boasted (optional) air conditioning. Inside, you could also specify it with sumptuous leather and deep pile upholstery.

01-01-1967 Trident Venturer launched

Lift-up tailgate adds practicality to a thrilling package...

In 1969, a second Trident model was announced – the ‘Venturer’. Powered by the Ford 3-litre Essex V6, it had a top speed of a 120mph, and a competitive 0-60mph time of 8 seconds. The major difference for both of these models was the adoption of an off-the-shelf Triumph TR6 chassis – by this time, Austin Healey supplies had run out. To make sure the wheelbase remained the same as the older underpinnings, five inches of steel was crudely inserted into the chassis rails. One positive aspect of this change was that the new underpinnings featured independent coil suspension for both front and rear wheels.

January 1971
Trident Tycoon launched

For the 1971 range the ‘Tycoon’ model was added, featuring automatic transmission coupled to the Triumph straight-six, and was was offered with the troublesome Lucas fuel injection system for the first time. This raised the price to £2584, £285 more than its carburettor-equipped Ford V6-powered sister.

Another variation appeared, this time powered by Chrysler’s 5.9-litre V8 (though only one was produced, and ex-Trident employee suggests this was a free sample engine) in place of the Ford V8. Equipment was generous – with electric aerial and windows, reclining seats and a hazard warning light on the list, as was ‘No-Glare’ tinted glass. Those who demanded true opulence could even order an eight-track radio cassette and TV system! Bizarrely, the clock was still an option…

January 1974
Production of Trident cars stopped

By 1974, the worldwide fuel crisis and economic recession, killed demand overnight and forced the company into ceasing production.

January 1976
Production restarted

Two years later, there was an attempt to re-start Clipper production, and despite offering a more appealing revised model, it didn’t get very far. The major difference in these new models were the ungainly looking fibreglass pedestrian-friendly rubber-style bumpers – a nod to ever tightening safety legislation, and the desire to appeal to the US market. Chrome faced Wolfrace slot mags replaced the Dunlop wires, and in homage to Giugiaro’s Lotus Esprit, flush fitting Morris Marina door handles appeared.

Quite unusually at the time, the steering wheel featured a stylish crash pad, making its appearance not dissimilar to today’s airbag-equipped jobbies. In total, a further two Clippers were constructed in 1976 – and that was that. Of these last two, one is on display at Ipswich’s Transport Museum , bequeathed by Lesley Last – daughter of the late William Last

January 1977
Production ended

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