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Triumph TR6

Triumph TR6 Published: 27th Jan 2020 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
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Few cars are born classics meaning they suffer the slings and arrows of the motoring press through their life. Were they right or wrong in retrospect of the TR6?

When the Big Healey was unceremoniously killed off by BMC in 1967, in house rivalry saw MG and Triumph jostle to be the rightful heir apparent as that same year, both bought out six-cylinder versions of their trusty ageing sports cars. MG seemed to be in the driving seat as its new 3-litre C-Series unit was a descendant of the old Healey unit, Triumph on the other hand slotted in higher tuned engine derived from the 2000 saloon, albeit beefed up to 2.5-litres topped by fuel injection.

Both delivered roughly the same power output but the pair were also living on borrowed time. The MGC came and went by 1969 and by this time the TR5PI was already superseded by the squarer-styled TR6 which survived until 1975.

The TR6 was the last of its kind. Apart from specialist makers, such as Morgan and TVR, the market was moving away from big-engined hairychested sports cars and the motoring press recognised this fact almost as soon as the new Triumph was launched. “A rewardingly hairy sports car of the old school” enthused Autocar. “It could be dubbed the last of the real sports cars because it displays many qualities so beloved in vintage times”, the weekly gushed before going on to crow about the car’s masculinity “calling for beefy muscles, bold decisions and even ruthlessness on occasions”. Hardly PC, “Like heavily built hunter it responds to a firm hand and takes a man to get the best from it” was the test team’s verdict.

Motor’s report wasn’t quite so testosterone-packed but did remark that the TR6 “Has nice blend of old he-man feel and up to date behaviour,” preferring to stick to facts more, commenting on its “excellent performance” and enjoying its “reasonable handling” but which was judged little better than that of an MGB. In that weekly’s yearly round up of new car releases it commented, “A later road test supported our view that the TR remains best of BLMC’s lesser sports cars, largely because of the impressive snarl and vigour of the beautifully smooth engine… The short and rather dismal life of the MGC rams the point home”.

Not that the Triumph handled much better than its one time rival according to Autocar. The previous TR5 PI could dish up a tail-happy drive, but because the TR6 was fitted with a front anti-roll bar it had now become a predominant understeerer. “We eventually understeered almost ahead after applying full power in second” (on a bone dry track-ed) said the test.

Reading through these wonderful period road tests also highlights how the taste of drivers and owners changed over the years. One suspects that the road testers on the weeklies were brought up on vintage sports cars and so tolerated the Triumph’s “reasonably draught free hood” and its “harsh and very firm ride”, qualities today’s MX-5 owner would shudder at no doubt. “The TR6 is a real driver’s car. It has faults but they are all of a minor type the true enthusiast would choose to ignore,” believed Hot Car in 1972, its TR6 test written by our contributor Paul Davies – who was brought up on a diet of Sprites and Midgets!

However, by this time other tests – with younger testers at the helm perhaps – were not so tolerant, Custom Car magazine being one of them. In a twin test with the Capri 3000E – a sporty coupé which questioned the worth of a sports car if ever there was one – the writer wrote about the “jumpiness” of the Triumph’s handling, its woeful heating system and a on old fashioned feel. Highlighting a shift in attitudes, “I must be getting old but I’m past the stage when I have to prove I’m driving a sports car by the intensity of my spinal pains and fatigue in my arms… it is how it’s probably supposed to be, a sports car of the old school” mused that particular writer.

CAR magazine, their writers being more in tune with sugar sweet performing Alfas, Lancias, Ferraris and the like, found little to praise in the rustic TR6. Unfairly pitching it against the thoroughly modern Lotus Elan Sprint in mid 1971, the acerbic monthly believed that this rustic roadster was “by no stretch of the imagination is it fun to drive anywhere at any time in the way the Lotus is” although confessed that “the Triumph’s relaxed, solid nature makes it more restful to drive”.

A few months later the same magazine, assessing both the Spitfire and the TR6 together, really put the boot in; ironically this particular journalist writer is now the publisher of old timers’ favourite The Automobile!

“It is not as good as the Spitfi re (he was hardly complimentary about that car either-ed), even it goes 60 per cent better. If I were you… I would go putting shiny new pennies in the piggy bank a bit longer and ask Santa to bring a Stag instead.”

The TR6 soldiered on until 1975 but at least it didn’t outstay its welcome like the other British old timers, CAR was becoming particularly scathing about – the MGB, Midget and Spitfire. In fact, once enthusiasts twigged what was to replace it (TR7), the TR6 became an instant classic as well as a fitting Healey replacement.

“People moan about the loss of the old ‘hairy Healey’ – they should take a look at the TR6” commented Hot Car but Autocar went one better reckoning. “Even if the Austin-Healey 3000 had not been dropped, the TR6 would have taken over as the he-man’s sports car in its own right”. Until the TVR Chimaera came along two decades later to keep the fl ame burning we should add…

They said it

Was how the TR6 was viewed was dependent on the age of journalist? The weeklies such as Autocar were of the older generation and loved the Triumph’s he-man character but were of a dying breed. Hot Car’s testers were more youthful and while liking the car weren’t so blind to its age-related faults. Custom Car, on the other hand, said the days of wearing a hair-shirt just to own a sports car were finished…

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