The Trident Clipper is a member of the illustrious club of exotic European sports cars fitted with American V8s that offered power, reliability, and affordability. Other members of this club include icons like the Shelby Cobra, the Sunbeam Tiger, the Intermeccanica Italia, the De Tomaso Pantera, the Iso Grifo, and many others.
The Trident Clipper
The project to build the car that would become the Trident Clipper started out at Trevor Wilkinson’s famous British carmaker TVR. In the early 1960s TVR director Bernard Williams met with British designer Trevor Frost (also known as Trevor Fiore to sound a little more Italian) and commissioned him to design a new, Italian influenced sports GT car based on the TVR Griffith.
Once the styling was done the designs were sent to Fissore in Italy who created a one-off prototype from steel specifically for display at the prestigious Geneva Salon in 1965. There was huge interest in the new coupe, it was said to be capable of 0 to 60 mph in under 5 seconds and a top speed of over 150 mph.
Combined with the attractive styling and affordable asking price it should have been a runaway success for TVR, though sadly the company was battling against impending bankruptcy (as is tradition).
A TVR dealer named Bill Last took over the Trident project, it wasn’t going to be possible to use the Griffith platform for the car so instead he sourced the tried-and-tested Austin-Healey 3000 chassis and had a modified version of the body made using fibreglass – a material he would already have been very familiar with as a TVR dealer.
The Bill Last version of the Clipper made use of independent coil spring and wishbone front suspension, semi-elliptic leaf spring with live axle rear suspension, and front disc and rear drum hydraulic brakes. Engines did vary over the course of the production run, however the most common would be the Ford 289 V8 – the same basic engine used in the Ford Mustang and the Shelby Cobra.
The Trident Clipper Coupe was first shown to the public at the Olympia Racing Car Show in January 1967, and went into production shortly thereafter. Trident would go on to produce two other models over the next few years, namely the Ventura and the Tycoon, but the 1973 Oil Crisis killed off any interested in thirsty V8 powered sports cars and the company folded in 1974. There was a brief attempt to revive the company in 1976, however it was sadly short-lived.
It’s believed that just 120 or car Trident cars were ever made, and it’s not know exactly how many have survived. The cars do attract a lot of attention when they come up for sale due to their rarity and performance figures, but they remain reasonably affordable with prices often in the £25,000+ price bracket.
The 1971 Trident Clipper Coupe Shown Here
The Clipper you see here is a 1971 model, its early life is a mystery but it is known that it spent time in both South Africa and Zambia. It was bought by its current owner in the UK and a comprehensive restoration was undertaken by Tim Walker Restorations Ltd.
The original Ford 289 V8 was unusable so a period correct Ford 302 Windsor V8 (330 hp) was sourced and fitted, mated to a 5-speed gearbox. The car also now features air-conditioning, a stereo, and a modern GPS navigation system – upgrades made to make the car genuinely useable in the modern age.
The car is now due to roll across the auction block with Bonhams on the 29th of March at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting, the price estimate is £25,000 to £30,000. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can click here to visit the listing.
Images courtesy of Bonhams
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