Under Peter Wheeler, TVR gained a reputation for championing young designers. I think we sensed this and some of us worked for the firm for our industrial placements.
The SM was a prototype that marked TVR’s change of aspirations. Until 1973, when the introduction of VAT killed off many component cars, TVR was foremost a kit car manufacturer but at the 1971 Earls Court Motor Show the firm showed a mock up of the SM, signaling a move up market.
The bodywork was developed in conjunction with Specialised Mouldings Ltd, who were still a force to be reckoned with in the field of prototype and concept car building at the time of our visit to the factory. The severe kick up at the rear was of its time and shows a connection with the Ogle Aston Martin known as the Sotheby Special. With its Morris Marina door handles, it could be mistaken for a mid-seventies Lotus and contemporary photographs show it on Wolfrace wheels – remember them?. The car we saw had standard TVR alloys that suit it equally as well.
It was ahead of its time in a number of ways, not just the styling. Under Martin Lilley the company were uncertain about putting the SM into quantity production and on introduction at the Earls Court show it was little more than a mock up. It wasn’t until the following year that a running prototype – presumably the car we saw – had been fitted with a Triumph 2.5 litre engine. TVR designed a new chassis featuring all round independent suspension and Martin Lilley used this car as personal transport for a while.