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Triumph TR6

Published: 1st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!
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Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6

Buyer Beware

  • The TR6 might have a separate chassis, but the body still contributes plenty of strength to the whole. Look particularly for rust in the floorpans, the A-posts and where the B-posts join the rear inner wings.
  • Lift up the carpets and check the floorpans, particularly in the footwell around the pedals and by the seat mountings.
  • A common rust spot is where the rear suspension arms bolt to the chassis - repairing this section requires the bodyshell to come off or allow crude access holes to be cut into the floorpan.
  • Outer panels can rust like any other car, and problems here are usually obvious. One area that might be worse than it appears is in the double skin to the front of the bonnet - a new panel at £370 may be the most cost-effective remedy rather than patch repairs.
  • The chassis rails can rust from the inside out, swelling in the seams usually hiding more serious corrosion. Watch to for accident damage, which most often creases the rails behind the front wishbones.
  • Sills can rust, but look first for decay under the A-post and for sagging doors that may indicate either rust or poor repairs in the past.
  • Poor/jamming door fits can mean a sagging rotting chassis that is way past its life.
  • The Lucas fuel injection got a bad press in its day, but can be set up well by somebody who knows their stuff. A superior Bosch pump makes a good alternative.
  • Engines are durable, but suffer from excess crankshaft endfloat. Up to 12 thou means a simple replacement of the thrust washers might effect a cure. Over about 50thou and the thrust washers fall out, and that gets expensive to put right.
  • Oil pressure should be quite high. If it drops as low as 10psi at idle or the needle becomes erratic, crankshaft is probably worn out.
  • Gearboxes are also long-lived. The action is never lightning fast, but if it is noisy then a lack of oil may well have ruined the layshaft.
  • Clonks on take-up may be UJs (cheap), worn driveshafts (£212) or cracked diff mountings (expensive), so investigate carefully.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 4/5

    Hardly fast but thrilling - needs proper driver commitment

  • Usability: 3/5

    If well kept can be a good reliable daily driver

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Superb aftermarket/specialist support; PI not a worry now

  • Owning: 4/5

    Affordable and satisfying – natural step up from an MGB

  • Value: 3/5

    Cheap ones a rotting liability so always buy the best you can

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The TR6 was in a class of its own in the 1970s. A quarter of a century on, it still has few competitors that can offer so much and for such a modest price

When Sir John Black decided he wanted a cheap, no-frills sports car in Standard-Triumph’s line-up of cars that was exactly what he got. With a separate chassis, a simple tent of a roof and side screens instead of proper windows, the TR2 may seem impossibly crude to us today but its full-width styling was streets ahead of the bluff MG TDs being churned out in Abingdon at the same time. As the line evolved through an alpha-numeric progression that had reached the TR4A by 1965, the same basic bloodline was there but now with far more creature comforts, not to mention a new chassis with independent rear suspension. Always short of cash, Standard-Triumph would change the body one year, the chassis another and the engine on a third occasion, keeping buyer interest alive but saving the cost of a total redesign. So to create the TR6 we are looking at today, the recipe was to take the chassis of the TR4A, the engine and running gear of the TR5 and new sheet metal shaped by German Karmann. The end result was abig, macho sports car in the traditional mould, which - with the demise of the Austin-Healey 3000 in 1968 – could claim almost total dominance of that particular niche market for the next eight years.

Which model to buy?

The number everyone shouts about is the 150bhp of early PI cars. But as well as giving the most bragging rights, these early cars also carry a price premium. In actual fact, the difference on the road between these and the post-1972 124bhp versions is not as great as you might expect. Even US-spec cars are good for 109mph and the 0-60mph sprint in 10.7seconds, all the while returning a respectable enough 25mpg. As with many classics, you should buy a TR6 on the condition of its body and chassis rather than mechanical spec (which can always be altered at a later date). That’s because the cars hide their rust quite well, and rebuilds alwayscost more than you expect. The situation is complicated by the fact that very few TR6s are still running around in unrestored condition, so it is crucial to refer to our buying tips and check out any prospective purchase very carefully. The good news is that panel supply is ok plus there’s brand new bodyshells available from British Motor Heritage later this year, although the cost (perhaps double that for an MGB) and labour involved in fitting should not be under-estimated. Imported cars can be converted to RHD for around £1200-1500 from a professional.

Behind the wheel?

It feels more of a grand tourer than an out and out hell raiser”

The TR6 is a big car compared to many twoseaters of the era, and this helps to give it an air of solidity that can be lacking in smaller alternatives. Certainly there are far fewer rattles than on something like a contemporary Spitfire. There was no rear seat on the TR6, but the cabin was built for two people to travel in fair comfort.There is plenty of elbow room, a convenient luggage space behind the seats and room for lanky legs to stretch, although gearbox intrusion does make the footwells somewhat narrow. The fixtures and fittings are not quite opulent, but they do have a fair sense of luxury about them. They are traditional too with the dash layout with the large rev counter and speedo dead ahead with minor gauges mounted centrally harping right back to the TR2. The seats are comfortable and durable, although the backrests are shorter than you might expect. The car’s size means there is never any danger of getting that traditional bum-six-inchesoff- the-road feeling. Instead it feels more of a grand tourer than an out and out hell-raiser. The steering requires some muscle power to manoeuvre at parking speeds despite what some people regard as low gearing, but it is fairly accurate and light on the move. Power delivery from the six-pot engine is smooth and refined, and more than sufficient to make the tail squat downwhen you boot the throttle. The ride is sportscar firm, which will feel harsh compared to a modern family hack but never comes close to threatening your fillings. The front anti-roll bar helps make the handling more predictable, but the tail can still get skittish, wet or dry. The good news is that feedback from the road to the driver is excellent, so hustling a TR6 becomes a test of driver skill and control rather than a lottery. The servo assisted brakes are generally reassuring, and can be made even better with use of a modern friction material. If cruising is your game, the overdrive is geared to place 100mph easily within your grasp. And there is more than enough torque available to dispatch motorway overtaking with nothing more than a flick of the switch into direct drive.

The Daily Option?

So many cars have been restored, hacked about and tinkered with over the years

Everything about the TR6 is reliable and durable. The hood is easy to erect in a hurry and the whole package combines performance and economy with reasonable road manners. Hardtops are available to make winter driving a more civilised affair. The standard hood does seal well enough, although it is nowhere near as airtight as a modern (MGF for example) offering and generates plenty of wind noise when up. Going topless does in some ways make for lessnoise, but there is a fair bit of buffeting from the wind. The side windows can deflect some of this and you can fit a windstop behind the seats, but a hat and scarf is a solution that is more in keeping with the style of the car anyway. The cabin can be a bit of a draughty, creaky affair but at least the standard heater does an adequate job keeping your toes warm and dry. Any TR6 in good tune (and many aren’t it has to be said) should have more than enough power remaining to cope with the cut and thrust of modern commuting, but it does require more input from the driver than a modern car – such as an MR2 or MX-5. The steering is heavy and unassisted, the brakes are laden and not as sensitive as a modern plus the tail can get a bit flighty, more so in the wet. None of this makes it unsuitable for use as a daily driver,you just have to be prepared to concentrate a bit more carefully when keeping up with a new Fiesta! But if you are not willing to do that, what is the point of buying an old fashioned driver’s car like a TR6 in the first place?

Ease of Ownership?

So many cars have been restored, hacked about and tinkered with over the years that it can take some time to get one running just right. But once sorted and in tune, then a TR6 is a relatively easy car to own, with simple mechanical underpinnings that lend themselves to DIY maintenance. (One exception is that special tools are needed to replace the taper roller bearings on the rear end, so grumbly bearings are best silenced with exchange hubs.) The supply of parts at reasonable prices is alsosuperb, and shopping around the specialists can net you some real bargains. Exactly how easy a TR6 is to keep on song will depend on what has been done to the engine. A pair of Strombergs or an SU conversion generally proves easier than a full set of DCOE Webers, for example. Even a car running the Lucas fuel injection should remain docile and tractable, particularly if the fuel pump has been moved from its heat-prone position in the boot right over the exhaust or, better still, upgraded to a Bosch unit instead. It can pay to keep the tank topped up though, as on early cars the pump can get starved of fuel round left-hand bends if the fuel is getting low, causing the engine to cut out. A full tank also helps keep the old Lucas pumps cooler, too. To run on unleaded, you will need hardened exhaust valve inserts while the seals in the Lucas PI metering unit will need upgrading, but these are one-off expenses.

Timelines

July 1953

TR2 production begins, aimed at grabbing a share of the market for cheap sports cars from rival MG. Power comes from Standard's rugged, reliable wet lined four pot 1991cc engine

October 1955

The TR3 takes over with a little more refinement (sliding windows and a front grille) plus crucially 95bhp tune and then 100bhp (and optional overdrive), although it is essentially the same car.

September 1957

TR3A introduced, featuring another restyle (big wide mouth grille) and more civility. Gains disc brakes on the front (the first car in its class). A big and beefier 2.2-litre engine was offered - small take up.

September 1961

Michelotti re-shapes the panel work to create the TR4. Apart from a modern look there’s also the benefit of wider track and rack-and-pinion steering. A 2138cc unit is now standard along with wind-up windows.

March 1965

All-new chassis and modern independent rear suspension set up identifies the TR4A.The new rear suspension gives a more supple ride but there’s sadly a hefty 100lb weight penalty.

October 1967

Short-lived TR5 showcases the new six-cylinder engine in the TR4A chassis and body. Stroked to give 2498cc and fitted with Lucas fuel injection for 150bhp in Europe (TR5 PI). Sold in US with twin Zenith-Stromberg carbs and 104bhp, badged as the TR250.

September 1968

A facelift by Karmann of West Germany grafts a new nose and tail onto the old centre section to create the TR6 with a crisper and more modern look. Still made in PI and carb versions: the importance of the US market deciding vast majority are carb-fed.

January 1973

Power output on the PI is reduced to 124bhp to improve reliability and smoothness. Chin front spoiler is added. Desirable optional overdrive unit is improved and later becomes a standard fit.

January 1975

PI production ends for the UK market.Credible total of 91,850 TR6s were sold over a run of almost eight years.

July 1976

TR6 carb production finally ends to make way for the all-new fixedhead TR7, although some TR6s actually linger in the dealer showrooms until as late as 1977.

We Reckon...

The TR6 occupies a fine middle ground between small sportsters that are fun but impractical and exotic grand tourers which are too temperamental to enjoy. It is gruff, slightly crude in some respects but smoothly refined in others, all totally fitting its macho hairy-chested reputation. Prices have not risen beyond the reach of us mortals (go shopping with anything between £6000 and £10,000 and you'll have plenty of decent cars to choose from), and driving one is guaranteed to turn heads in admiration rather than sheer jealousy (unless you hate Triumphs!). Finally, did we mention that fabulous exhaust note? Well, just try driving though a tunnel without being tempted to blip the throttle!


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