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How is it like owning a Triumph TR

It wasn't that bad, was it? Published: 27th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

How is it like owning a Triumph TR
How is it like owning a Triumph TR There’s no doubt that the wedge-shaped TR7/TR8 looks best in drop-head form, especially from the rear. If it had only been like that from the start...
How is it like owning a Triumph TR After an unhappy childhood, TR7 matured with age and now at 30 it is seen as a good, usable and value for money classic
How is it like owning a Triumph TR Like or hate the looks but there’s no denying the TR7’s cockpit was Triumph’s best to date. Roomy, refined and it’s a safe
How is it like owning a Triumph TR Dolomite unit can be a weak link
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Triumph fan, TR Driver’s Club secretary and TR8 owner Val McMillan defends the most unloved TR of them all

Thirty years ago saw the launch of the TR7 later followed by the TR8. What should have been seen as new generation of the TR sports cars, was soon put to ridicule by socalled pundits.Many people were put off having a TR7/TR8 because of the unceasingly bad press that accompanied the car (and its looks –ed). In the early 1970s, when it was being designed, and manufacture began, there was a very difficult industrial and economic climate, (not a lot of change there then) across the globe. Over the years, and for various reasons, production was moved from plant to plant. This began at Speke in 1975 and continued there until 1978. Then it went over to Canley until 1979/80, and finally to Solihull until 1981, where it is generally acknowledged that the best cars were built. It all came to a very sad end when Sir Michael Edwards killed off all production of sports cars soon after.

Is that really a TR?

Even if the TR7 had been built like a BMW, that quirky shape would have put many people off. The ‘Wedge’, as it became known was controversial and totally different to other TRs. This was because it was initially fixed-head, due to anticipated US legislation which would outlaw soft tops. By the time the TR7 came out, there was an about face across the Atlantic and suddenly Triumph looked stupid with a hard top TR, as it was seen by some to be just plain ugly. Later came the drop-head, which I have to agree is aesthetically more handsome. In an age when man had just begun to explore space, and moon rockets were often on our TV screens, it was logical that the then current generation of cars should be streamlined. In fact, one advertisement showed a TR7 ‘sitting’ on its boot, nose pointing towards the sky like an Apollo spaceship!

In an age of Thunderbirds (the puppet kind), and Captain Scarlet, where imagination was allowed to run riot, the car that Harris Mann designed (ahem- he did the Allegroed) was too far ahead of its time for some. The previous TR, the iconic macho looking 6, was a gradual development from the TR4 and, and the TR5 – and then suddenly there was this great quantum leap to the future! Not only was the styling space age, there were also safety and environmental features that were included within the design. The first TR7/TR8s had catalytic converters, for instance.

Playing it safe

Even today the TR7 and the TR8 can hold its own, against most modern ‘computer designed’ sports cars. There are echoes of the TR7 down through the years. Many people, especially the younger generation, do not believe how long ago it was that the TR7/TR8 first appeared on the road. That strange but aerodynamic styling gives a low centre of gravity, making road holding is pretty good, and it certainly handles better than earlier TRs albeit but it’s not so sporting. The harmonically balanced front bumper on the convertible also contributes to its refinement allowing a smoother ride, too. It was the first production car that had side impact bars and a slanted engine which was mounted to enable the low bonnet profile and also to go underneath the car in the event of a head-on collision, thus protecting the driver and passenger, like no sports car before. The windscreen was bonded adding to the strength of the reinforced frame which is as strong as any add-on roll-over bar; the bonnet, featuring safety hooks, will fold in situ and not go through into the cabin. There have been instances of TR7s and 8s being involved in head-on collisions, at speed, with the other car’s passengers suffering injuries, and the TR driver getting out of his or her car, unscathed or only slightly injured, windscreen intact, doors working, cabin undamaged. The design and styling do what they were intended to do – keep the passengers safe.

Not so bad after all

Something must have been pretty right about the TR7/8 because of all the TRs, TR2 through to the ever popular TR6, it was produced in a greater quantity, to the order of 115,000, so there must have been an equal number of people who did like them! Of these, less than 3000 were TR8s, which have the Rover 3.5- litre V8 engine, and were mostly built for the American market. This figure included 18 right-hand drive UK specification production cars, which are very highly sought after today. If Triumph had been allowed to continue, the range would have been face-lifted (plans were well developed when production was axed). There may have been a TR9, and we would have been the car the TR7 should have been.As a car for the average handiman enthusiast the TR7 simply cannot be beaten in my view. It is comparatively easy to work on, which is proved by the number ofTR7s that have been purchased, rebuilt, reconditioned, restored and customised. Each one of these cars, rebuilt by individuals, as well as specialists, is probably unique. The number of TR7 V8s, ie TR7s with a V8 engine put into them, is on the increase. When a TR7 needs a new engine, the popular option is a V8, with all the necessary brake and axle upgrades incorporated.

In recent years, when petrol changed to its current unleaded format, all that was needed to the TR7 engine was a slight adjustment to the timing. The cars were primarily built for the American market, where unleaded fuel was already in use in 1975, so little change was needed. There are severalwell known variations, and special editions, such as the Premium, black with gold decals; the TR7 Sprint, with a Dolomite 16- valve Sprint engine; the Spider, which is black with a hint of red in it, (Maraschino), and red stripes; and the Coca Cola cars, which were given away as competition prizes. The early cars had a four-speed gearbox, and later ones a five-speed. There are also automatics, and a number with air conditioning. Of course, we mustn’t forget the Works Rally cars. These were built with a life expectancy of twelve months – thank goodness this expectation was ignored – they are still being rallied today!OK, the brakes on the originals were not great, remember this was 30 years ago, but when you drive one of these cars you do so accordingly, knowing that it takes longer to slow down. Also the dreaded tin worm (rust) has a sneaky habit of invading, but was this really worse than today’s cars, far fewer of which will be around in the 2030s?

One of the surprising features of the TR7/TR8 is the amount of room inside. As well as the battery, which is located in the boot of the TR8, there is ample room for luggage, banners, folding chairs, A-stands, picnic hampers, etc., all the paraphernalia that might be taken from show-to-show, or on holiday. Inside the cockpit, there is ample room for a passenger, and a medium sized dog in the foot-well. There is space behind the seats for road maps, bags, hats etc., and on the parcel shelf.Also, a driver can be over six foot tall and still sit comfortably! I have the greatest admiration for the enthusiasm of the owners/drivers who carry out restorations, especially on these Triumphs. These cars have probably inspired the imagination of more people than any other in terms of what can be achieved by the novice restorer and the expert. Even today good TR7s are very reasonably priced, and there is a wealth of knowledge, expertise, and parts available from all over the country thanks to the usual excellent Triumph aftermarket. With fuel consumption around the 30 mpg, and more on a long run, (even 25 mpg for the V8) they are also fairly economical to run, and insurance is reasonable too. These cars are a bucket full of fun, and most people drive around with a big grin on their faces.

I was warned by your editor not to let my enthusiasm run away with me when writing this article, but I have to say, without enthusiasts and enthusiasm, where would any classic car be today? No, the TR7 and the TR8 were fine cars that should be regarded as classics just like the earlier TRs.

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