- Best model: Tax-free manual overdrive car
- Worst model: Dodgy Rover conversions
- Budget buy: Post-1973 autos
- OK for unleaded?: Yes
- Will it fit in the garage? (mm): 4425 x 1628mm
- Spares situation: Extremely good
- DIY ease?: Generally fine
- Club support: Excellent
- Appreciating asset?: Getting there
- Good buy or good-bye?: It’s a classic that’s better than when new
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Triumph’s fine but flawed 2+2 is in better shape now than ever. A worthy Merc SL or W124 alternative, boasting better club and support back up, prices on the rise for the top cars so buy now
Forty years ago British Leyland culled its pet Stag or was it more like put the poor thing out of its misery? This V8-powered coupé cabrio promised so much just seven years earlier, but yet like Triumph’s dabble with fuel injection around the same time (see Memory Lane in this issue), it sadly ended in an expensive failure, mainly due to lack of development, resulting in hapless owners becoming the guinea pigs, a practice British Leyland was a past master at.
Happily, the Stag, though seriously wounded, didn’t completely die but amazingly survived and thrived thanks to those caring owners and an army of specialists. Today, and in much better shape when the car was new, the Stag is rightly regarded as our own (R107) Mercedes SL that’s as easy to own and even better value for money although prices are on the march and the step is quickening. So, if you’ve ever yearned for a Stag, there’s no better time to turn that dream into a reality.
1970 The Stag arrives in June, having first been dreamt up in the mid-1960s and intended for a 1968 launch to coincide with the TR5PI-powered 2.5 saloon. The planned specification for the Stag changed constantly; initially, it was to have the same 2.0-litre straight-six of the 2000 saloon this 2+2 was broadly based upon. Then, logically, the 2.5PI unit was to be fitted and there was even talk of using the 3.5-litre Rover V8 but the 3.0-litre Triumph V8 project was already well underway, plus Triumph and Rover had only just become stablemates in the BL empire, that never came about. Worse still, their respective engineers felt the two companies were still rivals, so it was decided that the 3.0-litre V8 would power Triumph’s new grand tourer despite it not being fully ready for road.
When the Stag hit the UK market, it featured its own overhead camshaft 2997cc V8 and a choice of manual (with overdrive) or automatic transmissions.
The rest of the car is a mix of 2.5PI hardware but make no mistake, the Stag is more than a chop top saloon.
1971 Stag reaches US showrooms, but American car buyers are less likely impressed by the design and even less enthusiastic to continue product development for British Leyland so the whole exercise becomes a corporate disaster (sounds familiar)…
1972 In October, the highly desirable overdrive becomes standard on all cars fitted with a manual gearbox although automatics are still preferred.
1973 Triumph reveals a MkII Stag in February. Changes are generally minor; they include the fitment of a matt black tail panel and sills, plus new instruments. The wheel trims are also now completely silver, a hard top becomes standard issue and the rear quarter windows are deleted from the hood design. Mechanically, the troublesome V8 featured a higher compression engine and a modified cooling system.
Stag specialist EJ Ward says Stags make a superb long-distance tourer, and knows several customers who undertake big trips all without a hitch. However, it adds that a lot of them for sale aren’t as good as buyers think they are meaning there aren’t enough better quality cars to go round.
Stags for a song are long gone, True, you do still see them for a few grand but they will cost much more to put right. At the other end of the scale you could part with as much as £25,000 for a super Stag.
You don’t need to spend that much; £12-£15,000 will still get a really good example – but spend under ten and the chances are you’ll end up with something which will need a lot of expenditure in the coming years because Stags are costly and fairly complex to restore right.
“Because you’re likely to be buying a restoration project if you buy a £6000 Stag, you could be better off buying a £1500 car instead, as both will probably need a complete rebuild anyway. If you do buy a project, make sure it’s as original as possible; putting right somebody else’s bodged restoration is likely to be even more painful and costly than just overhauling a very tatty original car”, warns the company.
Of course, there are bargains out there; not all £7000 Stags are heaps, but at this level most are riddled with filler and mechanical issues. So while many £7000 Stags have an MoT, if you take the longterm view, buying a car at this level will ultimately cost you a lot more than buying a £12,000 example.
The most popular colours at the moment are red, blue and white; yellow, purple and brown are less desirable, but values aren’t affected by a car’s hue.
What will obliterate a Stag’s value is how original it is. There aren’t many cars left now with Rover V8s still fitted, which is just as well because converting back to the proper unit can easily cost £5000 all-in, while alien-engined cars even using the straight six TR6 engine can be worth less by up to 25 per cent. “A good Stag is cheap to own, cheap to run and will be reliable in service – the key is to buy a car that really is good, rather than one which just appears to be”, advises EJ Ward.
While a raft of improvements can be made to the engine, the key ones are to flush the water jackets through so coolant can flow properly. An electric fan is worthwhile as is using Evans Waterless Cooolant as it can’t pressurise or boil, but only if the rest of the system is tip top. Carb upgrades (such as American Holley) and assorted breathing mods can release a reliable 175bhp but even if you want to keep yours as Canley made it, it’s wise to fit electronic ignition to do away with the quirky twin points set up.
A really stiff clutch can be caused by the engine and gearbox running out of line with each other. The easiest fix is to use a modified clutch plate, from James Paddock for £210. A five-speed manual from Toyota or BMW are known conversions but if you prefer an auto, but want a smoother box, a modern four-speed Jaguar conversion is the way to go. You’ll need around £4000 to fit it but the transformation is staggering if you pardon the pun.
Other worthwhile improvements include re-valving the steering for more feel, uprated dampers and springs along with appropriate poly bushing (don’t go mad and spoil the ride here) ventilated discs up front to increase stopping power plus the fitment of Datsun driveshafts in place of the splined items usually fitted. The originals can stick, leading to the infamous Triumph twitch and snatching in corners, and the mod can really improve things or you can go much further and fit a complete BMW rear axle assembly.
What To Look For
- Trim is durable, but new bits are readily available. The most likely source of problems are the front seats, the diaphragms of which can collapse; new ones available from James Paddock. All else is available too, the best source being Wolverhampton-based Aldridge Trimming.
- All Stags have a mohair hood, which should be jet black. If what’s fitted is grey, it’s a double duck roof, which isn’t as durable. While the hood itself is usually long-lived, the plastic windows go brittle and disintegrate. To replace these, the hood will need to be removed altogether.
- Exterior trim is generally still available new, and anything that isn’t can be found secondhand. There aren’t any common electrical glitches, apart from sticking fuel pumps, which prevents the engine starting. If you can’t get the engine to fire, listen for ticking from the fuel pump, which is in the offside of the boot. Everything is out there new, in terms of lighting, switchgear and instrumentation.
Body and chassis
- Major corrosion can be an issue, especially in the sills, floorpans, wings and seams between the inner and outer wheelarches. Cover sills are sometimes fitted; they’re a bodge and not to be confused with stainless steel decorative oversills. Replacing the sills properly means removing the front wings, which are welded on, or cutting the bottom of the wing off.
- Also check the base of the A-post, which rots out after filling up with water that’s drained from the guttering on the side of the windscreen pillar. Repairing the A-pillar base is tricky as even with the front wing removed it’s not very accessible.
- The base of the B-post can also rot badly, and this is also an awkward area to repair properly, although at least it’s accessible. The leading edge of the rear wings, sills and B-post all meet here, which is why it’s so complicated.
- Most have a three-speed Borg-Warner automatic gearbox, a Type 35 until October 1975, then a Type 65. The rest got a four-speed manual transmission with overdrive on all except a few Mk1 cars. All gearboxes will cover 120,000 miles between rebuilds.
- The first problem is usually worn second gear synchro. Also flick it in and out of overdrive; if it’s sluggish or doesn’t engage, it needs servicing or there’s an electrical fault.
- On a manual, listen for chattering from behind the engine. Dip the clutch and if the noise disappears it’s because the clutch thrust bearing has worn. This will mean a new clutch.
- Vague steering suggests worn suspension and steering rack mounting bushes. Polyurethane items are a popular upgrade; there are 18 in total. If the handling feels especially twitchy it may be because of worn trailing arm bushes. Twitchy handling points to binding telescopic splined joints in the drive shafts. A good clean and a bit of CV joint grease is the solution, usually occurs with infrequently used cars. More worring is a failed quill shaft – dear to fix.
- Rimmers sells OE spec dampers at £243 a set but going Gaz at double the price is worthwhile.
- Stags had 14-inch pressed-steel wheels until the end of 1975 – after this, alloys were standard. There was also the option of 48-spoke wire wheels, but few had these.
Body and chassis
- The bottom of each door rots where the skin is folded over onto the frame; it corrodes from the inside out. Underneath the car are two outriggers on each side; those at the front rot first, with the corrosion soon spreading to the sills and the rest of the floorpan.
- Valance can rust, but the key areas at the front of the car are the two seams between the front wings and the panel in front of the bonnet. The paint cracks in this seam, then water gets in and rots the metal. It’s the same story at the back of the car, where there’s a seam between each wing.
- Have a good look at the trailing edge of the boot lid, which can rot out particularly badly by the chrome trim strip. So can the boot’s floor, especially where the exhaust hangers are located.
- EJ Ward has new front wings at £384 but rears cost four times as much although repair sections are available at a little over £100. Sills are around £150 for inners and outers; it’s the fitting that’s costly.
Three Of A Kind
BMW 3-Series convertibleYou’ve got an array of 3-Series generations to choose from, depending on how usable you want your fourseater drop-top to be. The newer the car, the more space and extra comfort and safety tech you’ll get. While the E30 is now becoming collectable, its interior isn’t that spacious; the E36 which followed it is more readily available and prices are still very tempting.
Mercedes W124 convertibleWith the build quality of a tank, this big Merc is from another era when pitched against the Stag – but prices are much the same and the nineties E-Class is utterly usable and better value than a R107 if not as coveted. With ample room for four, lots of kit and a choice of 2.2 four-pot or 3.2 straight-six engines to choose from, values will never be lower than they are currently.
Reliant scimitar GTCJust like the shooting brake GTE, the Scimitar GTC has seen some significant gains in value over the past couple of years, to the point where you’ll need almost as much to secure a good one of these as to buy an equivalent condition Stag. Ford V6 power means reliability and pace, and if you want to indulge in some upgrades, there’s a wide array to choose from.
The days of the Triumph ‘Snag’ are in the past over and a good one is a delight to own and run, a perfect antidote to today’s hectic roads. There’s an estimated 7000 or so left so take your time to find the right one that suits you. On the other hand, don’t leave it too long to bag a Stag as prices are rising.
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