the TVR SEAC pages

TVR SEAC racer

In the beginning

A one off special - TVR built a yellow 420 SEAC racer in late 1985/early 1986

Chris Schirle explains how the SEAC was created:

The request came from Peter Wheeler: As the company has a motorsport history can we build any competition cars ?

I was set the task of firstly doing a couple of 390's - revamping them and changing suspension with quite a bit of success in club racing. The SEAC was a typical Peter Wheeler idea - he had most of the ideas and was quite strong in making them come to fruition.

He was quite a brilliant designer (I rate him higher than Colin Chapman) He wanted a slightly different bodyshape and as a marketing exercise can we do it in Kevlar? I'd had experience of Kevlar and Carbon in F1 and Indycar it was always vacuum formed then autoclaved - you can't wet lay it. PW insisted on Kevlar content in the car - he obviously had the name in his head so that's the way it was done.

We had problems with strength and flexibility, it never went hard - when done properly it's quite strong but PW insisted. The wing at the back was a complete and utter PW wing - he had no idea about aerodynamics but he wanted that particular shape - it actually worked very well.

My role was more with the mechanical components - bodywork wise PW came in each morning changing shapes and evolved the design although I did the front splitter following experience in F1 with aerodynamics and applied it to the SEAC Although never in the wind tunnel it was quite quick for what it was.


Here is the text of the press release from TVR

It has been no secret recently that TVR ENGINEERING LIMITED, have been developing a new lightweight body design to be powered by a high performance Vee 8 engine.

This in the form of the Special Equipment Aramid Composite ( S.E.A.C.) is currently been road tested in the tough field of competitive racing against some formidable opposition.

Powered by a 4200 cc fuel injected Vee 8 powerplant, for the first time of TVR's own construction, has some 365 B.H.P. on tap. A totally redesigned stainless steel spaceframe chassis with wishbone suspension all round enables the massive increase in power to be put down onto the road.

Body styling with shortened front end incorporates a glass cover over indicators, driving lights and licence plate. Widened front wheel arches bulge over special Compomotive split rim road wheels front and rear on Bridgestone 225/50 x 15 tyres. Flared sill panels run into the extended rear arches, with the back of the vehicle being dominated by the aggressive wide spoiler covering the entire trunk lid.

Driving the TVR 420 S.E.A.C. this season is Steve Cole, who for the last four has been competing in Morgans. Steve, winner of the Prodsports Championship in 1982 and the Donington Series in 1983, now finds the increased power and handling of the TVR better equipped to defend his title against the modern opposition found in this year's championship. Steve who started his racing career in 1978 has gained wide and valuable experience in Prodsports with Ginetta G15's, Formula Ford 2000, Sports 2000 and Thundersports.

Pictured with the new TVR are ( right to left )

PETER WHEELER - CHAIRMAN OF TVR
JOHN RAVENSCROFT - DEVELOPMENT ENGINEER.
CHRIS SCHIRLE - COMPETITION MANAGER.
DAVID BENTLEY - RACE ENGINEER.

Featured in the background is TVR's new £30,000.00 LEYLAND CRUISER cab and trailer decked out in the Racing Team's livery. This when not transporting the team around the country is used to ferry the 8 American specification vehicles produced every week to the docks for shipment to the U.S.A. importer.

TVR SEAC Press release


but first we need to rewind:

Rupert Kent was kind enough to write about and provide pictures of his father's racing history:

In 1982, John Kent bought a TVR Tasmin 280i from Colin Blower. A car that Blower had campaigned with some success in ProdSports carrying the silver and blue BF Goodrich colour scheme. The car, although competitive, lacked the outright performance of the well-developed V8 powered Morgans in Class A.

TVR 280 Racer

With some backing from TVR, this car was due to have the Ford 'Cologne' fuel injected 2.8 V6 removed and replaced with a 3.5 litre V8 from a Rover SD1 Vitesse. This had come about after Peter Wheeler had done a deal with Austin Rover to purchase the Vitesse units which were a lower cost route to power than the turbocharging of the Ford Cologne (remember the Tasmin Turbo...?). The conversion was driven by two requirements - firstly, to give the car more power and make it competitive, but also to use it as a testbed and to a lesser extent a showcase for the proposed TVR 350i road car.

The car was the third TVR to be fitted with the rover V8 engine, being preceded by two development mules (the one shown in the B&W photos at Donington being piloted by Kent, and a white car that spend much of it's time in Ireland).

TVR 350i Prototype

As a result of this conversion, problems were encountered, not least the fact that the V8 engine would not fit into the chassis properly. As a result, Kent and his engineer brother-in-law Peter Chambers stripped and rebuilt the car around a new chassis during the Winter of 82/83 at their farmyard barn workshop near Preston in Lancashire.

The Rover V8 used was a standard single plenum fuel injected 3.5 litre unit from an SD1 Vitesse. The engine was tuned by an outfit, (the name of which is lost in the sands of time), but ultimately was unreliable. The motor was given to Andy Rouse to "Make reliable without spending money". The car was painted white and with limited backing from Castrol, sponsorship decals applied. This was 350i Mk.1.

TVR 350 Racer Photo: Rupert Kent


The car was raced 7 times in 1983 at the following events :

14-05 : Oulton Park (National Meeting)
19-06 : Blackpool Sprint
25-06 : Donington Park (International F2 Meeting)
03-07 : Snetterton (National Meeting)
13-08 : Donington Park (International Meeting)
18-09 : Donington Park (GT Championship Meeting)
09-10 : Donington Park (International Meeting)

John Kent in the 350 racer

During 1983, the car was uncompetitive against the Morgans and Porsches. The car was still underpowered and the poor implementation of the trailing arm rear suspension setup meant that setup of the rear of the car was to all intents and purposes complete guesswork and ultimately, useless. One upside was that Rouse came good and the motor held together for the rest of the season, the injected unit developing around 210bhp vs. the Morgans which ran carbs and approximately 235bhp.

For 1984, Further TVR backing came in the form of more work from Rouse on the engine that he built engine for Kent. This engine was good, and indeed was better than the "reliable" unit, proving smoother although still lacking in outright power. The car was also rebuilt by Kent and Chambers in the service department at Bristol Avenue, featuring the 350i style body of the then new road car and modified suspension to cure soggy handling. This was 350i Mk.2.

Development continued throughout 1984 with small body mods and suspension tweaks. The car at this stage still ran trailing arm at the rear and although more competitive, was still not a championship-winning car.

For 1985, TVR's newly formed racing department under the watch of Chris "Hermann the German" Schirle built two brand new cars with all new stainless steel chassis along with the 390 style body and fiberglass copy of an SD1 rear spoiler. One car in white for Kent and a red car for Rod Gretton. Whilst Kent was lumbered with the Rouse motor, Gretton received a £10,000 ex-TWR engine (which was in fact a 3.9). Kent's car was 390i Mk.1. Neither car was composite, just very thin glass fibre. Built as racers, the thin bodies would have produced some awful paint finishes (even by TVR standards)

In 1985, as a result of the new chassis, and not least it's new A-arm style rear suspension, the car was much better but was being held back by the 3.5 Rouse motor. The engine blew up after a few rounds and was rebuilt by John Eales of JE Motors in Coventry to 3.9 litres. The revelation was the JE motor produced almost as much power as the TWR motor and a lot more torque for 80% less cost. As a result, Kent won a number of races, easily outpacing the Gretton car. Kent unfortunately missed out on the championship to a all-conquering car in a lower class.

TVR 390 racer John Kent in the 390 racer

Having seen off Gretton for a fraction of the cost, Kent was offered a drive in 1986 in a new car that was to be shared with Steve Cole. Instead, Kent elected to take a sabbatical from racing to concentrate on his healthcare business.

The Gretton car was bought by Tim Exter and repainted green - AKA Kermit

An "Ex-John Kent Racing" 350i did appear in early 2007 Classified of Autosport Magazine - If genuine, it could only be the Mk.2 350i of 1984. This was a conversion of the Mk.1...

John Kent returned to racing and to TVR in 1987 to drive the Ford Sierra RS500 Cosworth powered "Evolution S" in Macau where the SEAC also raced (see below)  and so began another chapter...


Fast forward to the SEAC racer

Let's go racing

It was campaigned in 1986/1987 - the car was continually developed by Chris Schirle and driven mainly by Steve Cole in the 750 Motor Club  Sporting Cars Magazine Road Going sports series and  BARC  (NW) Sports Saloon Challenge in the production class.

It achieved 21 class wins out of 24 races before being banned on homologation grounds (not building the 200 cars required)

The latter series was the 1275GT Centre/Howley Racing Sports Saloon Championship organised by the BARC (NW)

The Championship was split into five classes

A: Special Saloons and Modified Sports Cars over 2500cc
B: Special Saloons and Modified Sports Cars over 1501 cc - 2500cc
C: Special Saloons and Modified Sports Cars over Up to 1500cc
D: Production Saloon and Sports Cars Over 2300cc
E: Production Saloon and Sports Cars up to 2300cc

So basically any GT or Saloon car could enter, there was often a varied and wonderful entry.

The TVR would have run in Class D and as I recall always ran at the front of the field with the Class A cars. It therefore always won its Class.

Steve Cole had been racing Morgan's in the early eighties and in 1982 won the British National Sports Car Championship in Prodsports with his ultra lightweight Morgan famous for its one-piece alligator body. After the SEAC he drove in the TVR Tuscan Challenge winning the Championship in 1991 and gaining three Championship 3rd places.

Peter Dron, Andy Clarke and Gerry Marshall also drove the car during this period

The 1986 season was supported by the TVR factory

"SAT. 26th APRIL 5th CHESHIRE CATS TROPHY MEETING AT OULTON PARK

As for the racing it really was a good day with some very exotic machinery there. Astons, Cobras, 935/930 Porsches, Ferraris, and of course the factory's all new 420 SEAC in bright yellow and looking very nice. This year's driver is Steve Cole, who last year was racing a Morgan V8, and indeed won this particular race last year.

The race itself was very exciting as from the start Steve was in 3rd place for a couple of laps, until he took the second place Porsche on lap 4. From then on it was just a case of how long before Steve caught the 911 Carrera which was holding first place. By lap 10 Steve was attempting to take the Porsche, and for the next 7 laps or so was dicing for the lead. With the slower traffic giving the Carrera more problems than for the TVR. However from lap 15 we were noticing that the Tiv was bottoming badly and lap 18 the 420 had to retire with what was later found to be diff problems. A very promising start to the season. This car is fast!! If the new car due out soon from the factory looks anything like this one, TVR Engineering have got it right, visually and mechanically .. ."

Reproduced from Sprint courtesy of TVRCC

Early failures to differentials were due to overheating (lack of airflow and proximity of rear brakes)

1986 race results

26/04 Oulton Park DNF - diff Report and results
05/05 Cadwell 2nd Report and results
11/05 Donington 1st Report and results
17/05 Oulton Park 2nd Report and results
26/05 Oulton Park 1st Report and results
01/06 Donington 1st Report and results
14/06 Oulton Park 1st Report and results
22/06 Mallory 1st Report and results
24/06 Cadwell 4th
25/06 Oulton Park 1st and 6th
28/06 Oulton Park 1st Report and results
05/07 Castle Combe 1st Report and results
26/07 Oulton Park 3rd Report and results
09/08 Oulton Park DNF - Suspension Report and results
10/08 Donington 2nd Report and results
14/08 Oulton Park 4th and DNF - Engine
Donington 3rd
Donington 2nd
30-31/08 Donington - Relay 5th Report and results
06/09 Oulton Park 6th
20/09 Oulton Park 1st Report and results
21/09 Oulton Park 5th
27/09 Oulton Park - Relay Report and results
TVR SEAC racer lap times

That wing again!

Steve Cole asked Chris Schirle what the wing did. Chris took it off and after a of lap Steve came back in quickly and said put it back on it's almost undriveable

Banned

I was racing in that championship (750 Motor Club Roadgoing Sports Car) at the time. I recall that there was a lot of ill-feeling because the car was basically a ‘works’ car which arrived at race meetings in a transporter with a team of mechanics. That was totally alien to the club, where all competitors were privateers running mass production sportscars on very limited budgets. I remember that the car disappeared from the scene quite quickly.

"Also, because the yellow racer was developed from the 390SE racer by Chris Schirle it took the early chassis # sequence. I believe TVR never wanted to identify a SEAC from the rest as they were trying to pass off the SEAC as a derivative of the 390 which as you know was a derivative of the 350. This would allow them to race in production sports car category, SEAC was banned from racing in this group because having won most of the races that year the opposition complained that TVR hadn't produced enough road cars to qualify, TVR tried several times to re-enter the group making up SEAC numbers they had produced for the road, because of the chassis # sequences, nobody could prove or disprove how many were actually built. By 1988 TVR had moved on to develop the Tuscan Racer and one make race series so the production sports car group was left"

1987 David Gerald

David Field and Gerald Jinks bought the racer with a view to opening a race dept and asked Chris Schirle to run it which he did with his business partner Julian Knapp. The car was then raced under the name of David Gerald Motorsport and driven by Andy Clark with Steve Cole as a guest driver

TVR SEAC racer David Gerald 1987 advert

The engine was rebuilt by Alan and Graham Nash at NCK


Macau GP 1987 - Gentlemen Racers Club

Click on image for report from Sprint courtesy of TVRCC

At Macau John Kent also raced in the 500+ bhp flame spitting Turbo S which won the race

There are videos of the Macau Grand Prix here

1988

The SEAC continued racing in the 1275 GT Centre / Howley Racing Sports Saloon Car Championship in Class D

3rd July BARC Mallory Park 10 laps
Qualifying time 52s 93.46mph
Race very wet, Steve Cole DNF

6th August BARC Oulton  2 x 10 laps
1st Chris Wilson (B), 36:37.20, 2nd place Steve Cole, 37:03.10
Fastest lap D. Ellis 1:39.7 99.98mph

27th August  OPRC Oulton 10 laps
1st Dave Ellis (A) 10:47.6, 2nd John Kent (in the Turbo S) 10:51.8
Steve Cole won Class D
Fastest lap D. Ellis 1:02.0

TVR SEAC Racer Mallory practice
Mallory practice - courtesy Vfsvideos

1989 was the year that the Tusscan Challenge started

From Sprint November 1989:

"Julian Knapp (partner of Chris Schirle in David Gerald Motorsport) called me to inform of his exploits in the ex-Factory 420SEAC racer. He has competed six times this year, achieving two overall thirds, one class win, one 2nd in class and two 3rd in class. A fastest lap was gained at Oulton Park and a new lap record set at Pembrey. We'll try and update the Scott Moncrieff table accordingly for next month."
TVR SEAC racer Oulton Park 1989
At Oulton Park in 1989

The Scott-Moncrieff Trophy was commissioned for and presented to the TVR Car Club in 1965 by Avril Scott Moncrieff in honour of her husband Bunty who was a key figure in the early days of TVR. He owned a Rolls Royce dealership in Staffordshire and in 1955 started selling TVRs. In 1958 he was invited to join the board of directors in Blackpool and rapidly became intimately involved in the development of the Grantura, especially in motorsport where both he and Avril were amongst the first regular competitors in TVR motorsport in their brown Grantura Mk1, nicknamed the “coffee bean”. In 1962, when TVR first appeared at Le Mans, the Scott Moncrieffs drove one of the support cars to the famous La Sarthe circuit. Bunty was also important in the history the Car Club being appointed its first president when the Club was formed in London in the same year.

The trophy was traditionally awarded to the driver who won the most points in a single season of motorsport in a TVR and has some very famous names engraved around its base including Gerry Marshall, Tommy Entwistle, Rob Farmer and Paul Weldon.

Back to Macau

The racer was seen at Macau in 1987 by Richard Witts who was running an E type Jaguar in the race. He is reported to have said that the SEAC sounded like thunder and went past as if I was standing still.

He bought the car in September 1989 and it arrived in Hong Kong just in time to be put on a boat for the race in Macau. All his cars had been green and the SEAC followed suit. Chis Schirle flew out to provide support for races.

The car came back to UK in the middle of 1991.

Back home

Many thanks to Jeff Statham for enduring hours of questions from me:

Jeff saw an advert in Autosport November 1991 for the racer and wrote the phone number down.

TVR SEAC Racer for sale advert

He was at that time running an MGB with modded supension on Dunlop Formula R's but it was always a compromise and Jeff was looking for a more focused TVR track car. Each car was described over the phone and a deal was done The MGB was part exchanged for the SEAC - the former went to Germany.

Restoration

Car was in a bit of a mess but Jeff knew from pictures that it could be restored: for example the drivers seat was broken in half held in by rope, both seats were hanging through the floor. The wing (which was not on the car) was later supplied by Chris Schirle.

Over the next 3 years Jeff undertook a sympathetic restoration during which he completely rebuilt the car from the ground up. Where possible original items were repaired or refurbished - the following were replaced:

The dash

The bonnet (a lightweight version at only 7Kg), was made by TET mouldings

Nose cone came from David Gerald

He then strengthened the boot to provide support for the wing

Some updating was also undertaken as part of ongoing developement:

Silicone heater hoses
Goodridge Aeroquip fuel, brake and oil hoses
Alloy expansion tank
Alloy radiator
Alloy oil catch tank
Alloy oil tank
Nuts replaced with bolts on inlet trumpets
Image billet wheels (for slicks)
A smaller bore exhaust made by "Mike the Pipe" to reduce the noise though it did not decrease performance

Everything was done by Jeff apart from the respray by Jim Gamsby and finished in early 1994. Most of the body panels were stored in the bedroom during restoration (and he's still married!)

"I wouldn't dare add up the receipts but you do it for the enjoyment and track days"

First outings

The SEAC racer was tested at North Weald but was overfilled with oil and ran hot at 90 - ideally Jeff wanted the temperature down at 85.

On it's second outing at Brands Hatch the engine was not running right - it wouldn't rev over 4.5k. Jeff Bought a book on Dellorto carbs and started from scratch - changing jets and chokes. Tuscan racers were asked for advice as it is basically same engine.

Driving

Jeff thumbed through some of his log books from trackdays - he started at Goodwood on road tyres with a lap time of 1m 42s in 1995 and was down to 1m 26s in 2006 on slicks.

"All the heat comes into car I don't know how Steve (Cole) drove it with hood up - it makes me sweat even on a cold day."

"It doesn't understeer (on the limit), 4 wheel drifts (neutral) but if you over do it slighlty you have to be quick to catch it"

"It brakes and goes round corners"

The (relative) lack of power at low revs and race clutch makes the car tricky to get off the line. High revs and dumping the clutch = wheel spin - still looks like fun trying to perfect the technique

Jeff's fastet time for the 1/4 mile sprint is 13.02 seconds




Specifications and differences to road car

A stainless steel chassis

Chris Schirle explains:

Peter Wheeler was adamant to make the racer with a Stainless Steel chassis but I told him it won't work with our jigs

The welding is complex and when removed from the jig they twist which is what happened with the first 2

2 were made for 390 racers and also I had to make one for the (SEAC) racer
They were no stiffer and not much lighter (4lb less than mild steel). They should be normalised and heat treated to make it work but we didn't do that - we did not have the facilities

The chassis was built on original factory jigs but was strengthened in several areas which were I thought flexible but basically it was a Wedge chassis

Peter Wheeler did have some good ideas but this was not his best idea


The chassis was changed to mild steel by David Gerald during the racing life of the car in 87/88. Not sure exactly when, but it was because the stainless one kept cracking.

Bodywork

The bodywork was a mixture of Kevlar and fibreglass which saved substantial weight. It was later fitted with a lightweight glass fibre bonnet.
Nose cone (which was originally integral), bonnet, sills, and rear valance all removeable which made it easier to work on.

Chris Schirle:

Originally the car had a Carbon fibre rear wing made by Rolston who did bodywork for March Formula 1 - done in an Autoclave from the original mould. It was later painted yellow (that was sacrilege) because David Gerald did not think it looked "Period".

A special Kevlar bootlid and bonnet were also made in an autoclave just for the racer

Interior

Full roll cage

Engine

Group A (Rover SD1 touring cars)
11.2-1 Compression ratio
Dry sumped
Stainless steel valves
Chrome molybdenum springs
Cosworth pistons
Steel rods
Solid lifters
256 cam
4 downdraught 48 Dellorto's
Originally running on single then twin plenum fuel injection
Running off one alloy fuel tank with 2 pumps and swirl pot in boot
Oil cooler

Engine capacity was increased to 4.5 Litres
The engine was originally built by the factory, but has since been rebuilt by Graham Nash at NCK Racing.

24lb Lightweight steel flywheel, AP racing clutch

Getrag straight cut gearbox
Torsen differential with oil cooler


Articles

A selection from magazines - more can be found in the database or articles sections

Click on picture for full article. You will need Adobe Acrobat or an alternative

and here is the gallery of pictures: