THE CARS - THE PASSION - A LIFETIME
Upon leaving school in 1964 I went to work in Fleet Street, London EC4 (The street of ink as I recall) as a black and white printer. At this time all my mates had interesting cars such as MG TC - TD - TF - Morgan - Healey - TVR - Mini Cooper etc. We would gather at our local pub car park after the usual dare devil journey with tales of how fast such and such bend had just been taken at ... totally crazy times for a young man in the 60's! I had however had a very thorough grounding in the art of black and white printing and photography which was put to use with my passion for Motor Sport, some of which are shown on this web site. This grounding in the use of a camera has paid dividends throughout the years as it has evolved to the present day digital era.
Around 1971 the seed was sown as my love of cars was not being satisfied. There were so many fantastic machines which I dreamt of owning, but could not afford to buy... I had to do something ... anything! So the decision was made to try and make some money out of cars so that I could further my passion. I left The London Darkroom where I worked, sold my ex Jack Brabham development 1963 MGB complete with side draft weber and put the funds into specialising in the sale of Mini's. The early 1970's was all about these cars, working from a rented barn round the back of the Wellington pub in Old Welwyn (last time I looked the barn was still standing) However such was the demand that I was able to get my foot into the used car market, learning about car preparation, costing's, paperwork and how to sell!
By the mid 70's business had progressed and I was buying and selling cars which today are worth lots of money ... A few that spring to mind are Ford Escort Mexico, RS1600, Lotus Cortina, Capri 3000 - RS3100, through Healey 3000, Cooper S, including Lord Snowden's Downton tuned example complete with addressed and signed green log book! Gilbern, Scimitar GTE, E Type Jaguar, Porsche, all types of Lotus Elan, Europa, Esprit, Triumph TR, MGB/C etc. and a horde of TVR models which unknown to me were soon to become another lifelong passion. By the mid 70's I bought my first house in Hertford and proceeded to fill the road with a stream of above mentioned. Surprisingly the neighbours all loved the cars so success was not hindered and I was having a fabulous time with these wonderful machines.
The 1980's brought on ever growing success together with a second house purchase. A period of very hard work, long hours and no holidays was rewarded with around 100 sales per year from home! My trading style had then become 'Giles Cooper - Sports and Performance car specialist' with headed paper and black / gold rear window stickers of which I was most proud. Back in 1979 I had received a phone call from Stewart Halstead, MD of TVR sports cars in Blackpool. He had seen my success selling lots of TVR's and invited me up to the factory. This did not happen until 1980 and was my first glimpse of the new Tasmin model ... which compared to the M series I did not like. However Stewart had me taped and it was not very long before he had worked his magic and I bought a new but pre-registered black 280i Tasmin convertible. I had unknowingly paid more than the main dealers were selling the cars for! TVR must have been my thing as I was not allowed to advertise new cars but still sold the production line out in January 1981 all from used enquires. The factory were very pleased with my progress and at this point I first met Peter Wheeler who when introduced to me just nodded from a great height and so started our long and close relationship which was to last until his untimely death in 2008. Indeed I sold Peter's first Tasmin 280i S2 coupe in Ferrari red complete with dog scratches to the driver's door!
In 1985 I received a call from Stewart Halstead as TVR had set up at the ex-John Britten premises in North London. A joint venture was formed as the London outlet for the marque. Peter initially wanted to call it 'Great British Sportscars' which came too late as by then I had all the advertising set up as 'The TVR Centre' which it well and truly became, so much so that customers often asked if we built them after seeing an assortment of Tasmin's having 40 hour PDI inspections!
By 1987 I brokered a deal with Peter, the company now coming totally under my ownership leading to the name Giles Cooper Ltd trading as 'The TVR Centre'. I had bought the sole right to TVR sales from Cambridge down the Thames and across the width of the M25. This freedom allowed huge sales of new 280 / 350 / 390 /420 and from 1986 many hundred TVR S series models. This is what Peter Wheeler had banked on and it really worked!
The TVR Tuscan Challange (1989 - 2004)
TVR announced The TVR Tuscan Challenge at the 1988 motor show amidst a fan fare of excitement and naked ladies ... The stand was utterly jammed to overflowing, totally eclipsing all rivals. The series started in May 1989 at Donnington Park with my car driven by John Kent on the front row. What a sight and fabulous sound the Rover V8 engines made with their short stub side exhausts as they stormed down to Redgate for the first time ... Unforgettable ... I can still hear the thunder to this day! Between 1989 till the end of 1994 professional drivers including rally ace Jimmy Mcrae, racing legend Gerry Marshall, touring car driver Patrick Watts and 2 times touring car champion Chris Hodgetts on occasion drove for me when John Kent my regular driver was not available. By 1995 I was instructed by Peter Wheeler that I would have to personally race in the series which I did until 2003. Having previously raced the Tuscan once (with no other competition experience) at an early round of the 1992 British Touring car championship round at Snetterton as a novice entry, I was concerned and excited about this as I thought racing was something other people did. Always in the past I had photographed them and now I was told I that I would have to race with them! I became totally addicted, spent a fortune and could on my day swop paint with the very best club drivers. Ex FI drivers including Nigel Mansell, Sports as well as Touring car aces all came and had loads of fun. Indeed at one meeting guest driver Tim Harvey 1992 British Touring Car Champion and current BTCC commenter pronounced over the microphone after winning at Oulton Park 'I race the Renault for business and the Tuscan for fun! High praise for a great race series that actually got better and more competitive as time went on. Unforgettable moments!!
The Tuscan race car formed the underpinnings for the Griffith road car. By the early 1990's things became more difficult due to another recession with sky high interest rates. However the TVR Griffith saved the day when finally let loose on the buyers early in 1992. After a quite fantastic reception at the 1990 Motor Show saw The TVR Centre selling 143 examples by the end of the show. Cheques for deposits were all over the floor and the enthusiasm for the car through the roof. By 1993 the Chimaera appeared and was again an instant hit with the press saying that TVR could do no wrong.TVR were on a rapidly building crest of success which continued to follow on with the Cerbera models. When Top Gear showed the Cerbera in 1996 destroying the best opposition (inc Porsche) in a straight line acceleration test TVR's stock rose even more ... I loved the little English sports car company taking on the mighty and winning!
I had sold TVR models to the very highest profile people from all walks of life from Arab prince's, well know F1 insiders, Italian car design experts, pop stars, footballers, one well known man from the historic racing car specialist world who turned up in a short nose D type Jaguar, film producers and of course hundreds into the City. I especially remember Mclaren F1 road car project leader Creighton Brown on purchasing a Griffith for himself and two for friends at the 1990 motor show subsequently becoming a great friend until his early death in 2006. In 1992 during a lunch meeting with him and Gordon Murray a comment was made along the lines that the Griffith possessed the 'right shape, size, engine, interior and price' Indeed Creighton told me that his TVR was causing him serious concern as he did not think the F1 was worth £61,5000 more! How times change and the wheel may well have turned full circle with Gordon Murray's current involvement in the new TVR project!
Turn of The Millennium
The new Tuscan was announced at the 1999 motor show and produced the usual massive interest and flurry of deposits. Although not the envisaged Griffith with the Speed Six engine which we had previously taken a lot of orders for, the car had dramatic styling and caught the imagination. This was pretty quickly followed by the Tamora, T350 and Sagaris models. I had previously disposed of the Surrey TVR Centre outlet in Redhill, and in 2001 opened up a joint partnership in Stansted initially only selling TVR's but by 2003 the Lotus franchise had been added, much to the absolute disgust of Peter Wheeler. Once Peter had sold TVR I then successfully added the Noble franchise selling lots of the still born M15 models together with countless M400 and GTO3R variants. Latterly a brief foray with Marcos TSO model via Tony Stelliga then owner of the company. I had previously sold two new Tuscan's to him after he had seen the car in the Swordfish film. One would have thought that the period would have been highly successful as all the cars had real style and massive performance especially the TVR with their own power plants. Dramas within TVR had begun to take their toll and customers lost confidence which was to prove crucial for TVR and myself. Customers were losing heart and the competition was fast catching up. Large manufacturers had looked at the TVR formula and produced alternatives like the Porsche Boxster, BMW Z3 which had previously not existed. By 2006 internal dramas at TVR cemented the downfall and with confidence at an all-time low the end of the year saw the factory closure and mine, bringing to a close The TVR Centre's history that had existed between Peter Wheeler and myself after a 25 year relationship.
So by 2007 after the loss of The TVR Centre I had to start again. After a couple of years assisting the growth of the Castle TVR / Lotus dealership in Stansted the TVR world had changed. The time came to wind this venture down and early in 2009 severed the ties with my business partner and went back to my roots working from home concentrating on myself only. Ironically the full circle had reached its conclusion.
2010 - Present Day
Business was good early on in 2009 as stock was readily available and I continued to sell an interesting and eclectic range which included TVR, Lotus, Porsche, Aston Martin, Noble, Skylines, BMW, Jaguar, Caterham, Westfield along with mass produced cars and prestige types ... the list is endless. By 2011 the recession really hit home and was one of the factors that influenced a change of policy within the main dealer section of the motor trade impacting the amount of quality used cars sold into the trade. A move from Barley in 2014 to the present lovely location in Mount Bures, Suffolk has brought a freedom not felt in the previous ten years with the only problem nowadays being the lack of readily available stock that I really love to purchase!
Today my passion for all things cars is undiminished and I still have a current competition licence ready to be used again ... I hope! Back in the 1970's I ran a very successful small line advert in Motor Sport magazine simply stating 'Sports and Performance Specialist' urgently requires stock, distance no object... Today as then this simple line says it all! I would love to hear from you (particularly if you were a previous customer) and would be very happy to either buy your car from you at an agreeable price (for us both) or sell on your behalf. I can guarantee the same level of enthusiasm as when I started all those years ago!