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Triumph Stag

Published: 31st May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag

Buyer Beware

  • If there is any sign of overheating, you’ll need to find out why (often a blocked radiator) and cure this first, then have the heads skimmed.
  • If the oil light flickers at idle, the main bearings are worn and the crank will need Tuftriding after it has been re-ground. Check the oil light hasn’t been disconnected to hide this, and listen for a rumble when you blip the throttle.
  • A timing chain rattle at hot idle that disappears as the revs rise means the chain must be replaced immediately to avoid terminal problems.
  • If the rear wheels show negative camber, then the nose of the diff has dropped and repairs can get expensive.
  • Poor idling and high fuel consumption could be down to nothing more than leaking breather pipes: suspect this if the idle speed drops when you remove the oil filler cap.
  • Fore and aft movement in the viscous fan coupling is a sign that it will soon fail.
  • Rust by the damper mountings in the hood well is often missed by bodgers, and could indicate serious problems elsewhere.
  • More obvious rust will show in the wheelarches, valences, front panel and floors. Also check the doors where the skin folds around the frame to ensure that good metal hasn’t simply been welded over old.
  • Sills can be hard to check behind trim covers, but the quality of any repairs where they join the rear wings can be a useful indicator.
  • Open the doors and inspect where the top of the wing joins the screen pillar: rust in the pillar is tricky to eradicate.
  • Look for evidence of regular and thorough wax injection into the box panels.
  • Repair panels are not available for the hardtops, so check their front and rear edges carefully.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Feels quite modern but is more GT than sports car

  • Usability: 4/5

    If maintained right then Stags make effective daily classics

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Few problems thanks to vast club and specialist support

  • Owning: 4/5

    Costs little more than a MGB to run, fair fuel economy and insurance rates

  • Value: 4/5

    Not the bargains they once were and cheap Stags are still a liability

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Want a proper classic four-seater sports convertible that simply oozes style and sensibility yet won't break the bank? Then there really is only one choice – and it’s not a Mercedes SL! Simon Goldsworthy assesses Triumph's superb Stag - 40 years after being given the go ahead

Some cars are created after careful analysis of the marketplace. Others come about almost by chance. Triumph had been thinking of a convertible version of its classy 2000 saloon as far back as 1963, but early in ‘66 company boss Harry Webster happened to see a coupe version that Italian stylist Michelotti had fashioned in Turin to advertise his own growing business. Webster liked it so much that - without any research into who would actually buy the thing - he claimed it for Triumph. Back in England, the project was briefly given the TR6 name before the Stag moniker was adopted, initially just as a developmental code. In turning this into the car that eventually made it into the salerooms, the 2000 shell became modified to such an extent that the two vehicles ended up without a single body pressing in common… Mention should also be made of the much-maligned V8 engine. Many people think that this was a last minute lash-up by the factory, but nothing could be further from the truth. The decision had been made in 1963 to move away from the lengthy six cylinder powerplants and develop a family of related straight-four and V8 engines. Of these, the slant-four made it into production first but all initial production was sold to Saab for their 99, and it was the V8 that first appeared in a Triumph car, initially as a 2.5-litre until a lack of torque forced Triumph to beef it up to a full 3-litres: amazingly the Stag that was to be its only home when it would have worked wonderfully well in the company’s saloons!

Which model to buy?

The Stag was born into a turbulent time in the British motor industry. Leyland-Triumph had merged with Rover at the beginning of 1967, the new group merging in turn with BMH the following year. There was little initial rationalisation, but considerable jockeying for position by the individual marques within the giant concern. The Stag found itself up against internal competition from Jaguar in the 2+2 sporting sector while its engine squared up against Rover’s formidable Buick-derived V8. Against this background and given that the company was cash-strapped, the Stag saw little in the way of development. There were some changes as the timeline below shows and the quality of the metalwork took something of a dive around 1975, but after 30+ years of use and restoration this is unlikely to be hugely relevant. Buyers should generally go for the best car they can afford of whatever year, and many buyers will make a decision based more on whether a particular car suits their personal preference for either automatic transmission or the rarer manual box. Colour can play an important role too: there were some garish shades of magenta and green that are wonderfully period, but some people prefer the quieter shades like Pageant Blue or the traditional sporting red. The presence of a decent hard top should also be considered a bonus although bear in mind that the weighty Triumph affair takes two people to fit and remove and it creates a disappointing amount of wind noise. When they were younger, many Stags suffered the indignity of having their original engines ditched in favour of Rover’s V8 or a straight six from the Triumph 2000/2500 saloons. Now this trend has been reversed, and such cars can provide a cheaper way into Stag ownership. Just be aware that a 2-litre six will feel underpowered and the Rover V8, because it is considerably lighter, needs to be accompanied by suspension modifications to preserve the handling. Many aren’t and can be worrying to drive.

Behind the wheel?

Triumph had been thinking of a convertible version of its classy 2000 saloon as far back as 1963

The exterior lines of the Stag clearly show the Triumph family genes. In many ways they are conservative, lacking the unnecessary embellishment and adornments that can date a car so quickly. The car itself is big but not too big, low but not too low… it sounds like a recipe for blandness but somehow the Stag pulls everything together into a very seductive package. Access to the driver’s seat is easy thanks to generous door openings. Seats were all covered in vinyl, more down-market than leather but so much more practical in a convertible. They are comfortable too and legroom in the back, while not limousine standard, is more full four-seater than cramped 2+2. Ahead of the driver, the wooden dashboard is pure Triumph. Many owners have since fitted walnut dashes (like the car in our pictures), as the original light wood veneer and simple dials lack the panache of something like a Jag. But they are streets ahead of contemporary Fords and Vauxhalls, and Triumph’s cluster of triangular warning lights still is a masterful combination of form and function.

Any V8 engine is going to sound good, but the Stag soundtrack is played through a pair of superbly-tuned exhausts. There is a manual choke, but achieving a smooth idle through the twin Stromberg carbs is easy on a properly tuned engine, even from cold. Most Stags came with three-speed automatic transmissions, and this does suit the lazy GT characteristic of the car. Once on the move, there is more than enough torque to accelerate with insolence even with a full complement of passengers on board. The four-speed manual option does provide more driving involvement, and both the clutch and stick movement are fairly light and precise. But the Stag was never intended to be an out-and-out sportster in the TR mould, and the top two ratios combine with the overdrive to take care of most changes once on the move. That’s not to say that the Stag can’t be made to hustle. Specialists and enthusiasts have tuned both engine and suspension to produce some truly formidable racers, and even in standard form it is extremely well-balanced. A thick anti-roll bar suppresses any inclination to wallow through the corners, while the independent suspension all round treads a fine line between sporting firmness and cruising comfort and feels surprisingly modern. Anything less than a solid and stable feel through the seat suggests that suspension bushes are past their best, the driveshaft sliding joints need lubricating or that the differential nose-piece has dropped and damaged the rear cross-member. All are fairly common maladies. The steering itself is power assisted. It can get a bit light in the dead-ahead position, but if it feels anything less than nicely weighted on the move then it probably means that the spooling valve has failed and the car needs a new rack. Brakes came as standard with a servo and discs up front and are reassuring, although they are prone to rust on the insides of the discs. The T-brace rollover bar comes as standard on a Stag, added because of concerns over US legislation. It contributes to the rigidity of the shell and the good handling, but looks from the outside as though it might intrude on the open-air feel of top-down motoring. In reality, you do not even notice it once sitting on the inside. In fact, it is surprising just how much more aware we are these days of personal safety, and knowing the bar is there gives considerable peace of mind in case the worst should happen. In contrast, the hood folds completely away beneath a hard cover, giving unrivalled rearward visibility with the roof down.

The daily option?

Many Stags suffered the indignity of having their original engines ditched

The number of low-mileage and original Stags that specialists such as Cherished Classics still turn up bear testimony to the fact that few Stags are used everyday. That isn’t because they are not up to the job, but rather because the rising cost of restoration persuades most people to treat their car with more respect. In any case, with their soft top and four-seat capability they are ideally suited to sharing the fun of classic ownership on weekend leisure outings. But there is no reason that these outings have to be confined to a few sort weeks in summer. Hoods are quality double-duck or mohair affairs that seal well, and the heater is more than man enough to keep toes warm in the winter when driving al fresco. The ease with which that hood can be lowered and stored under its cover allows you to make the most of any bursts of sunshine. The addition of a hardtop makes the Stag an even more practical year-round proposition - just make sure you have room to store this safely over the summer.

Ease of ownership?

Everything you need to service a Stag is freely available, and there are few gaps in the supply chain for either mechanical components or body panels. Prices are not exorbitant either, although they are certainly a step above those for something like a Spitfire. Examples are £176 for a water pump, £165 for a reconditioned radiator and £74 for an engine service kit. Much has been written about the early shortcomings of that Stag engine and of the poor build quality that blighted sales. Much of this is irrelevant today as most cars will have had the bugs ironed out, but even with sheltered lives and low annual mileages, servicing can not be neglected and the Stag can be a demanding mistress. The valves and timing chain tensioners are all hydraulically operated, and oil changes every 3000 miles will help prolong their lives. Timing chains wear quickly, and most owners reckon on changing them at 25,000 mile intervals. Coolant needs to be flushed out annually, and kept topped up at all times - check it before each trip on a little-used car. The twin point ignition fitted to most cars can be fiddly to set up and needs regular attention, although an electronic conversion gets around this hassle. As well as the regular greasing points, the sliding couplings on the driveshafts need an annual lube to avoid the back end getting twitchy through corners. And if you have a good car then you’ll want to keep it that way: Stags rust from the inside out and annual top-ups of the antirust protection are a sound investment. Some nice spoked alloy wheels and tinted glass become standard fitment.



1966: Harry Webster spies a sleek looking 2+2 coupe styled by Italian expert Michelotti based on a Triumph 2000 shell and decides to put it into production in an instant. Initial plans are for a 1968 launch date using the 2000's straight-six engine found in the saloon and the swift GT6


Stag is launched in June, but production lines are not yet in full flow and it takes several months for deliveries to start in earnest. Convertible hood is double duck with a three window style. Engine had changed from the straight six to a dedicated 3- litre V8 sharing many components of the new slant four.


The very popular overdrive sensibly becomes standard instead of an optional on manual transmission cars and the already suspect cooling system is slightly modified (although it made little difference to the car’s tendency to overheat and warp its cylinder heads)


MkII is introduced with higher compression ratio, new alternator, laminated screen and twin coach lines. Hard and soft tops standard, soft tops now mohair and contain just one window. Best year for sales, but still disappointing at just 5446 cars. Car withdrawn from the US because of horrendous warranty claims


Seat belt warning lights and hazard flashers are added to the dash layout.


Some nice spoked alloy wheels and tinted glass become standard fitment


Borg Warner 35 auto box is replaced by the Borg Warner 65. Production ends in June after 25,877 cars. Of those, only 6780 were exported

We Reckon...

A Stag is not necessarily a low-maintenance option, but it can certainly be a reliable choice. As a stylish and competent four-seater convertible with a big V8 engine, it has few direct rivals. And at the price, it is unbeatable.

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