- The TR6 might have a separate chassis, but the body still contributes plenty of strength to the whole car. Look particularly for rust in the floorpans, the A-posts and where the B-posts join the rear inner wings. Oh and the rear bulkhead. L
- ift up the carpets and check floor, particularly in the footwell around the pedals and by the seat mountings. Stuck down carpets sounds fishy.
- A common rust spot is where rear suspension arms bolt to the chassis – repairing this section requires the body to come off or access holes to be cut into the floorpan. It’s a major job.
- 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 £400 may be the most cost-effective remedy.
- 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. Check rear axle location.
- Sills can rust anywhere, but look first for decay under the A-post and for sagging doors that may indicate either rust or poor repairs in the past.
- Lucas fuel injection got a bad press in its day, but can be set up to work well by somebody who knows what they are doing. A Bosch pump is worthy alternative, but needs a rewire and relay.
- Engines are durable, but can 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 very expensive.
- Oil pressure should be quite high on the move. If it drops as low as 10psi at idle or the needle becomes erratic, the crank is probably worn.
- 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.
Hardly fast but always thrilling – needs real driver commitment
If well kept can be a good reliable if thirsty daily driver
Superb aftermarket/specialist support; PI not a worry now
Affordable and satisfying – a natural step up from an MGB
Cheap ones a rotting liability so always buy the best you can
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It's now 40 years since the last of the true Triumph TR sports cars was released. But time has been kind to the TR6 and the car’s appeal is stronger than ever
Take a trusty British sports car of the old fashioned kind, update its muscular looking Italian styling with a touch of German efficiency and you have the Triumph TR6, a classic that was vintage even when it was new in the showrooms. But, like the MGB, history has been very kind to this ‘mini Big Healey’ and is probably better thought of now than when it was new. In common with that MG sportster, the TR6 was a dated design from new and also went through an unloved stage in the 1970s when you could buy a ratty one for just hundred of pounds as enthusiasts moved on to more reliable, better handling, civilised Capri 3000 GTs and Datsun 240Zs instead. Then the car became a classic and, in common with the MGB, found a new following with a new understanding of what the car really was about. Today, the Triumph TR6 is second only to the MGB as Britain’s best loved sports car. There was nothing new about the TR6 when it finally hit the streets in January 1969, a few months after the original launch date. Essentially it was a top and tailed facelifted TR5 PI which in turn was really a TR4A with a longer-stroked Triumph 2000 engine (itself a descendent of a Standard Vanguard) topped by new fangled fuel injection, care of Lucas. However, German designer Karmann did a great job, keeping the basic hull but giving the car a square-cut look that was right on the money for the start of 1970s fashion. The end result was a big, 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 six years, selling well over 90,000 in the process, albeit mostly in the lucrative United States. Today. and with just under 8000 UK cars made, there’s still more than enough good ones around to make you remain choosy when buying one.
Which model to buy?
The car everyone shouts about is the early pre-72 150bhp cars. After this the engine was derated to 124bhp care of a less wild camshaft and smaller inlet valves – and not strangely to the mid-way 132bhp tune as found in the Triumph 2.5PI saloon which was launched just before the TR6. It matters little because the actual difference on the road between them all is not as great as you might expect. Indeed top TR specialist Neil Revington (www.revingtontr.com) claims that the genuine power difference was just 10bhp due to how the power figures were calculated. Understandably he adds that too many people get hung up on a ‘150bhp’ CP-engined car. As with many classics, you should buy a TR6 on its condition rather than its mechanical spec (which can always be altered at a later date, if you so desire). That’s because the cars hide their rust too darn well, and rebuilds always cost more than you expect – certainly more than buying a good one from the outset. The situation is complicated by the fact that very few TR6sare still running around in an unrestored condition, so it is crucial to refer to our buying tips and check out any prospective purchase carefully.The good news is that panel supply is good plus there’s brand new bodyshells may become available again from British Motor Heritage if there’s enough interest. That said the cost (perhaps approaching double that for an MGB) and labour involved in fitting one should not be under-estimated. Imported cars can be converted to right hand-drive, but budget for around £1200-1500 from a professional specialist to do the work
Behind the wheel?
Don’t get hung up on this 150bhp thing
The TR6 is a big car when compared to many rivals of that era, and this helps to give it an air of solidity and robustness that can be lacking in smaller alternatives. Certainly there are far fewer rattles than on something like a contemporary Spitfire although the TR6 car is no taut, rattle-free Mazda MX-5, especially a well used one. Unlike earlier TR4s was no rear seat space on the TR6 as the cabin was built solely for two people to travel in reasonable 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 pretty narrow affairs. The fixtures and fittings are not quite opulent, but they do have a sense of luxury about them – certainly more so than previous spartan TRs. They remain 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 although the wood dashboard adds a touch of quality. The seats are comfortable enough 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-inches-off-the-road feeling. Instead it feels more of a grand tourer than a tarmac tearer. Indeed the TR6 may come as a disappointment on the road to some, especially those more familiar with a modern, such as an MR2, MX-5 or even an old Lotus Elan. The heavy steering requires proper muscle power to operate, especially at parking speeds although it is reasonably okay on the move. Power delivery from the long-stroke six-pot engine is more than sufficient to make the tail squat when you bury the throttle (a criticism in road tests of the time). The ride is old school sports-car firm, which is harsh but a front anti-roll bar allied to IRS helps to make the handling pretty predictable even if the tail can still feel typically TR skittish, especially in the wet where oversteer can be served up at whim. Decent feedback tothe driver means hustling a TR6 becomes something to savour but only if you’re prepared to take control of this Triumph – by the scruff of the neck – and show it who is boss. Like the Big Healey, the TR6 is predominantly a ‘man’s car’, with apologies to the PC brigade! The servo-assisted brakes are generally reassuring (and can be made even better with use of a modern friction material) although like the clutch, gearbox and steering, require some muscle to operate. If gentle cruising is more your game, the overdrive box is geared to place the legal limit easily under 3000rpm (3300rpm in direct top). And there is more than enough torque available to dispatch high speed overtaking with nothing more than a flick of the overdrive switch. Like the MGB, overdrive is almost deemed as an essential as straight four-speeders seem fussy by comparison, not simply for a relaxed frugal cruising gait but also due to the fact that without the o/d-aided transmission, the intermediate ratios now seem a tad too widely spaced to make use of the healthy pulling torque from that long stroke straight six.
The Daily Option?
It can take some time to get one right
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 and refinement. Hardtops are available to make winter driving a more civilised affair although the standard hood seals well enough if in good order. That said it is understandably nowhere near as airtight as a modern design and so expect plenty of wind noise when up at the legal limit. Going topless does in some ways make for less noise, but there is a fair bit of buffeting from the wind, although none more so than any other old sportster it has to be said. With 60 coming up in tad under nine seconds if in good tune (many aren’t) a TR6 should have more than enough go to cope with the cut and thrust of moderncommuting, but it does require more input from the driver than a modern sportster such as an MX-5. The steering is unassisted, the brakes are heavy and laden plus you always need to watch that flighty in the wet. None of this makes this Triumph unsuitable for use as a daily driver, of course; you just have to be prepared to concentrate a bit more carefully when keeping up with a new Fiesta diesel! But if you are not willing to do that, what is the point of buying a driver’s classic like a TR6 in the first place? If you’re after an easier time then think about a Stag.
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 (always look to a good TR specialist to carry out a tune up), then a TR6 becomes a relatively easy car to own, with simple mechanical underpinnings dating back to the War that lend themselves to easy 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 quietened with exchange hubs. The supply of parts at reasonable prices is also superb, and shopping around 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 to look after than a full set of twin choke DCOE Webers, for example. Even a car running the Lucas fuel injection should remain docile, tractable and dependable,particularly if the fuel pump has been moved from its heat-prone position in the boot right over the exhaust system or, better yet, upgraded to a Bosch unit instead. To run on unleaded, you will need hardened exhaust valve inserts (unless the car is a repatriated US model – and many are) while the seals in the Lucas PI meteringunit will require similar upgrading to suit, but these are one-off outlays and may well have been done by now. Talking of one-off outlays, Revington TR markets a special throttle linkage which adds real power to your right foot. The problem is wear and slop in the original design says the Somerset specialist meaning some cars only work on less than half throttle! For under £200 the kit gives instant full response and makes it feel as though there’s much more than 150bhp under the bonnet!
TR2 production finally begins, aimed at grabbing a lion share of the market for cheap sports cars from MG. Power’s from Standard’s rugged and reliable wetliner four-cylinder 2.0 unit that stays around until ‘68!
Improved TR3 takes over with a touch of added style and refinement such as sliding windows and a front grille
TR3A introduced, featuring another restyle and more fittings. Gets disc brakes on the front end but basically still a TR2 underneath.
Michelotti re-shapes the panelwork to create the TR4 – wider track, rackand- pinion steering, 2138cc four pot as standard and now wind-up windows.
Revamped, wider chassis and independent rear suspension taken from the 2000 saloon ushers in 100lb heavier TR4A.
Short-lived TR5 PI showcases the new 2500cc six-cylinder engine in the TR4A chassis and body. Stroked to give 2498cc and available with Lucas fuel injection to give 150bhp for European markets. However car is sold in North America with twin Zenith-Stromberg carbs and just 104bhp also simply, badged as the TR250.
Clever facelift by Karmann of West Germany grafts a new nose and tail onto the old centresection to create the TR6 boasting a crisper and more modern look. Still produced in PI and carb versions, with the importance of the US market deciding that the vast majority are Stromberg-equipped for emission reasons. Not on roads until the following January.
Power output on the PI is reduced to 124bhp care of milder cam and head (Oct ‘72) to aid reliability,tractability and smoothness. Chin spoiler is added to aid stability. Optional overdrive unit improved although now longer operates on second as with CP-series cars.
TR6 production ends in the UK after minor improvements to seats and dials. Overdrive now standard but wire wheels dropped.
American TR6 with carb power ends to make way for the all-new TR7, although some cars linger in dealer showrooms as late as 1977. A highly credible total of 91,850 TR6s were sold over a production run of nearly eight years. Many US cars later find their way home.
The TR6 occupies the popular middle ground between small sportsters that are fun but a bit toy like and exotic grand tourers which are too temperamental to enjoy as well as being expensive. Make no mistake, the TR6 is a gruff and gritty machine totally fitting its macho reputation. Prices have not risen beyond the reach of us mere mortals (go shopping with anything between £6000 and £10,000 and you'll have plenty of decent cars to choose from), so driving one is not a pipe dream and owning one is not a nightmare these days either. If a Big Healey is out of reach then try its spiritual successor, the TR6.
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