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Triumph TR4

Published: 18th Jul 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4

Buyer Beware

  • Rust is so easily hidden. Always tale a magnet to check for solid metal. Chief points are the chassis rails and IRS pick-up points. Ill fitting doors can signify a sagged chassis frame. Replacements are available though.
  • Engines are long lived but the wet liners are sealed by a figure of eight gasket so check for water in the oil. TRs usually have highish oil pressure so beware of a low reading. With the engine running at proper temperature, remove the dipstick and rev up. If oil spits out then suspect crankcase compression caused by worn bores and pistons.
  • Listen for clunks at the rear of the 4A model. A jolt could be either worn diff mounting rubbers, worn drive-shaft splines or broken/rusted mounts. Spline lock leading to the ‘Triumph twitch’ is a characteristic you learn to live with.
  • Gearboxes can wear in the casings. Beware of noisy gearboxes and jumping out of gear. Overdrive failures could be down to a just faulty solenoid rather than a worn out unit.
  • Excessive crank end float is a Triumph foible; check for pulley movement as an aid depressesthe clutch. If bad the block could be scrap.
  • Front suspension fails if not serviced. Replaceable trunnions are left to wear due to lack of proper lubrication; the vertical link will also be affected and be expensive to right.
  • A minor job to change but major if they fail are the steering column rubber couplings. Always check that they are in good fettle.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    True enthusiasts will love the old style. Not fast but fun.

  • Usability: 3/5

    Nothing fundamentally wrong, everyday use might become tedious.

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Could so easily have been five as everything is so easy to access.

  • Owning: 4/5

    Economical to run, easy to fix and good ones are gaining in value.

  • Value: 4/5

    With prices busting £10,000 its way behind Healey or TR5 territory.

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Launched in the same year as Jaguar’s E-type, the TR4 represented a major step forward for Triumph and it’s no second stringer to a TR6 says Jim Patten

Triumph’s TR2 was a basic yet rugged car with few gestures to basic comforts. The hood was held by poppers while sidescreens covered the low-slung doors. And yet the market place – especially America loved it. But it was clear that some refinement was needed and in 1961 a completely new model was launched – the TR4. By 1965 the model had gone completely soft with independent rear suspension and a wood veneer dash with more comfy seating! Based on the TR3 chassis the 4 was wider to allow more internal space. The new body was by Italian style house and Triumph’s favourite pencil pusher Michelotti and unlike earlier TRs now boasted wind-up windows for the first time. There was even a very nice Surrey top option where the rear window was fixed in a frame with either a canvas or rigid section covering the gap between front and rear screens. There’s civility for you! The TR4 is from a period when British sports cars ruled the world and although many lamented Triumph going soft with its saloon-like creature comforts ride, the trade off are well worth while. Today the TR4 offers all the style and character of the six pot TR5 and TR6 but without the fuel injection hang ups – or the cost. And that’s why you should buy one!

Which model to buy?

Since we’re staying with four cylinders there is only a choice between the raw live axle TR4 and the more compliant 4A. Within those parameters perhaps the only other choice would be full convertible or Surrey top option. Performance on both cars is virtually identical with 60mph reached in a tad over 11-seconds and a top speed just shy of 110mph but arguably the TR4 is the livelier due to 100lb less weight but with an old classic other things must come into the equation of course. Mechanically both cars are powered by the wet-liner Standard/Triumph unit that in various formats saw service in the Vanguard, Atlas van and even the Massey Ferguson tractor! The engine grew to 2138cc while the gearbox was Canley’s own all-synchromesh unit with a unique overdrive on 2nd, 3rd and top gears, effectively providing seven ratios making make spirited driving interesting as you combine the two transmissions. Externally there is little to choose between the two variants, the differences being mainly cosmetic like the addition of side chrome strips with integrated indicators on the 4A. The grille differs too. Inside the TR4 the layout remains basic with a plain white dash with the centre crinkle finish black vinyl. Even the seats are initially at least carried over from the 3A and certainly the MGB looked plusher. In an effort to luxuriate the 4A, new more comfortable seats were fitted while the entire dash area was covered with a single piece wooden dash. Retaining a separate chassis the body assembly is bolted on with all four wings, bonnet, boot and doors individual panels. Both cars proved incredibly popular and a viable alternative to the MG alternative. Talking of MG alternatives, Triunph – or rather a coachmaker – missed a sitter when it didn’t fully productionise the Dove GTR4. A stylish 2+2, originally made to rival the similar Harrington-made Sunbeam Alpine, the model was dropped just as MG was completing the BGT – and look what a success story that made!

Behind the wheel?

Many lamented Triumph going soft with the TR4

The driving position is true Brit with the seats almost on the floor, arms outstretched and a long bonnet ahead, with a purposeful bulge to clear the carburettors. Both are fairly brisk cars, even today with steering (out went the steering box to be replaced by an excellent rack and pinion) and braking more than adequate for today’s roads. Gearchange is good through all ratios while the clutch pedal, especially on the diaphragm sprung 4A is light enough. It is in the way the two cars ride that any marked differences are seen. The 4 is really quite harsh as the live rear axle skips over undulating surfaces. Cornering too is antiquated and if pushing on, there will be a fair amount of sawing at the wheel. This isn’t meant as a criticism, after all the 4A should be an improvement dictated by evolution. In today’s world many love the traditional handling and the rather raucous character. Not that the 4A is all silk, far from it. But that Triumph 2000-derived IRS does ride the bumps with a bit more decorum. Handling too is ‘transformed’ according to the Autocar road test and it is true. But given a smooth surface like a race track and the gap lessens. It depends what you want for your TR4 – if its raw handling thrills then the old set up will probably appeal more. But if you fancy touring in the TR then the more agreeable ride will satisfy.

The Daily Option?

It’s the way the pair ride that marked differences appear

This writer for one has used both types on a regular basis and found them to be equally pleasing. If it comes down to basic conveniences then logically the 4A scores well. Take raising and lowering the hood for instance. The 4 has a basic frame that falls into the area behind the seats once the canvas top has been un-popped from the front and sides. With the frame stowed the canvas has to be arranged to fit neatly on top. Things improve with the 4A as the frame and canvas are as one, folding back after being released by a couple of clips on the cant rail. The harsh ride on the earlier car may become a chore after a while but at least both versions have decent heaters. There’s definitely more comfort in the later seats. Don’t expect Mazda MX-5 levels of refinement though as we’re talking Trad Brit here. However motorway cruising is well up to the modern world, let alone the 70mph limit, and thanks to overdrive is fairly relaxed too. If anything the 4A feels more stable at speed. Fuel consumption is given as 25mpg but this writer at least has seen vastly improved figures. On a decent run 35mpg is achievable without sacrificing too much performance. It’s that overdrive again. Touring in fact is breeze with a reasonable boot area and ample space behind the seats.

Ease of Ownership?

Everything on the TR4 is within easy reach. The fronthinged bonnet allows access for just about everything. Changing a clutch can be done from inside the car with the seats removed in a jiffy. Even the engine can be overhauled in-situ as the wet-liners can be removed and taken to the machine shop. Only a full crankshaft regrind precludes a total recondition. Like many popular classics, spares back up is good although genuine parts are difficult to find. Some owners have updated the 4 interior to 4A with the veneer dash and later seats. Engines, gearboxes and overdrives are all long-lived and well serviced with specialised companies offering decent back up. Rust is a huge problem with chassis mounts, inner wings and every external panel dissolving before your eyes. A dry state import is a worthy consideration – after all a right hand drive conversion has to be easier that a full on body restoration. Problems sometimes occur on the 4A chassis where the differential unit is mounted. The area where the later chassis is altered to take the IRS is also vulnerable to corrosion. If your car is good, then rust proof it and top it up every three years.



Launched to replace the old TR3A with a more modern look and greater civility and space. Options include a Surrey roof. Engine size now up to 2.1-litres (although some cars may feature 1991cc engine) with overdrive available on 2nd, 3rd and top ratios.


Lesser known TR3B (essentially a TR3A but fitted with the 2.1-litre engine and TR4’s all synchro ‘box) that appealed to the Triumph traditionalists finally dropped from the range. Late in the year Stromberg carburettors replace the original SU items.


Rare fastbacked 2+2 Dove GTR4 (built by coachmakers Doves of Wimbledon) was launched in 1961 to ape Sunbeam Alpine Harrington but dropped three years later – just as the MGB GT came out! Up to 100 were reported to have been made, a few TR4A-derived.


TR4A launched boasting 2000- saloon-derived Independent rear suspension, although some US cars kept former chassis but still badged TR4A. Identified by different grille and wood dashboard design, Surrey top optional as is a/c electrics.


TR4A bows out to make way for stop-gap TR5 PI which featured virtually the same bodywork and running gear but with six pot 2.5-litre power. 40,253 ‘4’s were made, 28,465 ‘A’s with the bulk going overseas, especially the United States.

We Reckon...

TR owners tend to be a dedicated bunch and have a great social scene. There is some refinement over the earlier models, making them a serious car to cover great distances in. The MGB might be more plentiful and a big Healey more glamorous but neither give the full package of performance with relative economy. Their ease of maintenance and excellent spares back up makes the TR4 a serious consideration.

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