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Triumph TR5

Published: 27th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR5
Cockpit is little better than TR4 but roomy and fairly cosy. Retrims are easy Cockpit is little better than TR4 but roomy and fairly cosy. Retrims are easy
Infamous injection system is now reliable if looked after. Converted to carbs? Infamous injection system is now reliable if looked after. Converted to carbs?
Wire wheels look good but check for spoke and spline/hub wear Wire wheels look good but check for spoke and spline/hub wear
Chassis are strong but look for rot and accident patch repairs, such as here Chassis are strong but look for rot and accident patch repairs, such as here
Is the hood in good nick and fit okay. Is a tonneau cover supplied with car? Is the hood in good nick and fit okay. Is a tonneau cover supplied with car?
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What is a Triumph TR5?

It’s the shortest-lived of all the TRs, being built to fill the gap between the demise of the TR4A and the arrival of the TR6. The TR5 is also the best of the full-width TR bunch, with its macho Michelotti lines, smooth and torquey in-line six and independent rear suspension that gives far more predictable handling than earlier TRs - with the exception of the TR4A. It’s rarity will always ensure cult status.


When Michelotti’s sharp-suited new TR4 was unveiled at the London motor show in 1961, the car looked thoroughly modern, especially when compared with the TR3A that it replaced. But the reality was that under the skin the car was still a TR3A - it was little more than the outer skin that was new. Despite this, the TR4, and TR4A that succeeded it, were among the fastest affordable sports cars on offer throughout the 1960s. Cheap to buy and run, the cars’ road manners may have left considerable room for improvement, but as stylish transport they were pretty much unbeatable.

Apart from the completely new look, over the TR3A the TR4 gained rack and pinion steering, wider front and rear tracks to make it more sure-footed and an allsynchro gearbox. And although the engine used in the TR4 was essentially the same as that fitted to the TR3, it was bored out to 2138cc to up the performance a bit. The full-width styling that the TR4 offered also meant a novel roof arrangement could be specified. It’s essentially a targa roof, although the term hadn’t been coined back then. The lift-out top panel meant wind in the hair motoring could be enjoyed while the rear window meant occupants didn’t get buffeted as much by the wind. Unfortunately the panel was too bulky to fit into the car’s boot so Triumph also offered a light framework and canvas assembly, called the Surrey top, which was more easily stowed.

Throughout the TR4’s life there was little in the way of development, so when the most significant change was made in 1965, the car became known as the TR4A to mark the occasion. The chassis was tweaked comprehensively with a new design for the rear of the frame itself and independent rear suspension courtesy of coil springs with semi-trailing wishbones. This gave a more comfortable ride while increasing the amount of grip available, although the car’s weight increased as a result.

Having created an all-new body and sorted the antiquated chassis since the TR3’s demise in 1961, the only thing that the car was crying out for was a better engine – the four-cylinder power plant was starting to get a bit arthritic by the mid 1960s. The answer (after trying out the GT6 engine) was to put the thoroughly modern and beefier 2.5- litre straight-six under the bonnet, which happened in October 1967 with the arrival of the TR5. Complete with fuel injection, the car was externally barely discernible from the TR4A, but the new engine turned the TR into a genuine performance car with a handy 150bhp on tap.

Because of strict emissions regulations in North America, the car was fitted with twin carburettors instead of fuel injection, and cars for this market were badged TR250 instead of TR5. But even by the time the TR5 was introduced, it was looking pretty long in the tooth. Something more than a freshen up was needed, and the TR5 was never meant to be anything more than an interim model until Karmann had finished its work on a replacement – the TR6. That car arrived in January 1969 after 2957 TR5s and 8484 TR250s had been built.


There’s very little that’s bad to say about driving a TR5; the steering is light and direct while the brakes are perfectly capable of slowing the car from high speeds. With a slick gearchange and overdrive on second, third and fourth it’s easy to be in the right gear all the time - especially as the straight six is so flexible. While it comes into its own above 3000rpm, you need barely a third of that on the clock for the car to pull away without murmur - and the power plant remains smooth and refined at all times. Less endearing is the TRs prowess around the twisty bits,made worse once the suspension has worn a little. It’s no Lotus Elan but predictable and fun all the same. From a practical level the TR5 is a good tourer with enough refinement and civility to make long jaunts a pleasure.


The TR5 is by far the rarest of all the Michelotti-styled TRs, and because most have been rebuilt over the decades, restoration projects are hard to find. Even tatty runners aren’t that easy to source so expect to pay £6000 upwards for something that is fairly tidy albeit needs some work to make it decent. The best showroom standard TR5 fetch around £20-£25,000 these days and we’ve heard of factory fresh specimens selling for more. Darryl Uprichard, at Racetorations Tel 01427 616565, says his fully rebuilt bespoke TRs can cost around the £40,000 mark - and there are plenty of enthusiasts willing to pay this for a well sorted fast road TR that has been made to perform and handle well.

For most of us with lesser budgets, a decent car that’s a runner and doesn’t need significant work will hover around the £12,000 mark. Convert a TR4 into a Five? Well obviously it can be done, especially if you use carbs instead of fuel injection but it won’t be a real TR5 or command anything like the values. Similarly, American TR250s are detuned and downgraded TR5s and valued a fair bit less – reckon on a decent one for around £5000.

What To Look For

  • The TR5 has a separate chassis, which can rot in all sorts of places and which can only really be repaired properly if the bodyshell is removed first. Chassis repairs can be undertaken with the body in situ although it’s better to take the body off and do it properly.
  • The worst-affected areas are usually the diff mounting brackets (which can snap off), so pay close attention to what state the ‘offside front’ and ‘nearside rear’ units are in, as these are most affected by the engine torque going through the diff.
  • The centre section of the chassis also needs careful analysis as it bulges when it gets weaker. There’s internal strengthening where the rear suspension is bolted to the chassis; this is an area that corrodes quite readily. The result is flexing that can crack the chassis.
  • As well as rot problems, poorly repaired accident damage is another probability. The chassis isn’t especially hardy, so even small parking nudges can end up causing distortion. The areas most commonly afflicted are the front suspension turrets, the mounting brackets (the points from which the wishbones pivot), outriggers, steering rack mountings and the suspension itself. Look for distorted metal (particularly kinks where the chassis gets wider on either side of the sump), cracks, naff plating and uneven tyre wear which all give the game away.
  • Despite the use of a separate chassis, the bodyshell does give some structural strength. Because of this it’s especially important to make sure the main shell is sound and that the doors, wings, sills and floorpans are in reasonable condition.
  • Make sure the drain holes, which should be obvious on the underside of the sill are all present and correct - if they’re blocked up the sills will probably be well on the way to rotting through from the inside and it’s expensive to put right.
  • The tops and bottoms of the doors and wings can rot away, and where the front wings are concerned you have to inspect the inner as well as the outer wing very carefully. The battery sits behind the engine and the metal beneath it rots readily, so if it doesn’t look too great, ask to remove the battery and inspect more closely - you’ll probably be glad you did and be wary if the owner refuses.
  • Check the door gaps as they can open up at the top if the chassis has been weakened by corrosion or if the car hasn’t been properly braced when the sills have been replaced; very common. The B-posts and door tops can also succumb to the dreaded tin worm as can the lip of the boot lid. If the panel gaps are excessive or hideously uneven it could be because the car has been restored very badly. They weren’t put together especially well on the production line, but by now most will have been restored and if a car has been badly rebuilt it’ll be a lot more hassle putting that right than starting with an unrestored example.
  • Another sign of a bodged rebuild is missing beading along the seam between the top of the rear wings and the deck. The rear wings bolt on and filler is often used along the tops of them while the beading is left out. Check the bonnet fit at the leading edge to the bulkhead advises Racetorations, too.
  • Make sure the footwells are in good shape, as a common bit of sharp practice is to weld replacement panels over already rusty ones - it might look okay but the corrosion will still be there and the car may well be weakened structurally as a result.
  • The six-cylinder engine is a long-stroke unit that offers plenty of torque. It suffers from the same problems as all the cars to which it was fitted, especially trouble with the crankshaft end float. Check for play in the crankshaft thrust washers by pushing and pulling on the bottom pulley or by depressing and releasing the clutch - there should be no more than 0.015” movement if ok. It may also be possible to feel and hear a clonk as the crank moves - any detectable movement means the thrust washers have dropped out, the engine block will probably be fit for scrap only and you’ll have to find another or have it professionally repaired.
  • The Lucas mechanical fuel injection should go for 20,000 miles quite happily without attention - if it’s tuned right. But it rarely is set up properly because there are a lot of people who think they know how to set it up, but don’t. If the car has been allowed to run out of fuel the dregs from the bottom of the tank will have got sucked into the injectors leading to poor running. A superior Bosch fuel pump, re-routed to keep it cooler and so prevent fuel evaporation, is a worthy and accepted mod.
  • The four-speed gearbox rarely gives any problems, but once 100,000 miles have been racked up the bearings will start to grumble and it may start to jump out of gear. The only option is to fit a rebuilt gearbox, for which you can expect to pay £350 in return for your old one. Overdrive was fitted to give a seven-speed gearbox and this gives few problems except for the classic electrical ones in which either the solenoid or the wiring loom play up.
  • Make sure the clevis pin which connects the clutch pedal to the master cylinder isn’t excessively worn and that the slave cylinder is mounted with the bleed nipple facing upwards – the cylinder can be fitted upside down very easily. This will not allow the hydraulics to be bled properly, and if they’re not, the baulk rings in the gearbox will take a battering through the clutch not giving the necessary clearance.
  • Check for wear in the propshaft and driveshaft universal joints by using a wrench to turn the shafts while the brakes are on. Any play will be instantly noticeable and if the propshaft is worn out you’ll have to pay around £150 or so to replace it. Also check for wear in the driveshaft splines which cost around £165 each side to fix – if you’re having to replace these it’s worth investing in a set of converted Jaguar units which are available from Neil Revington and which are both better made and longer lasting. Propshafts need to be greased every 3000 miles if they’re not to seize and they can also go out of balance when the universal joints are replaced, so make sure they’re reassembled in the same way that they came apart.
  • The front trunnions have a habit of seizing because they haven’t been lubricated properly. This will strain other parts of the suspension - especially the drop link on the wishbone - so check their condition by jacking up the car from underneath the wishbone and making sure the trunnions are swivelling properly.
  • Neither the front nor the rear wheelbearings are particularly hardy so check for play in all four corners. Although play can be adjusted out, count on having to replace them if there’s any play detectable.
  • Unless the interior is absolutely wrecked, a bit of scruffiness inside the car isn’t anything to worry about because everything is available.
  • The electrics give few problems and can be fixed easily when things do go wrong. Replacement parts are cheap and apart from connections not connecting properly there’s little to worry about.
  • A new wiring loom is available for about £200 and it’s not that tricky to fit – a specialist will charge £400 £500 to replace it for you. Be wary of the windscreen wipers playing up. If it’s the motor that’s after some TLC you’ll be okay, but if it’s the rack that’s unhappy you’ll have to remove the dash to get to it. If the heater unit seems to be completely ineffective it’s probably because the air vent at the base of the windscreen isn’t open. Just raising the flap by a few degrees manually makes all the difference between a misted up windscreen and a clear one!


There’s something about Triumph roadsters that means they’ll never go out of fashion. Buy a good example of any TR, look after it and drive it sympathetically, and you’ll be able to sell it on without losing your shirt on it. The TR5 is arguably the best out of the family - enjoying those great, unsullied looks of the TR4 but with the raunchiness of the TR6. While TR5 projects are rare, if you do track one down you’ll find a decent supply of parts for a complete rebuild, which means you won’t grind to a halt because you’re missing a crucial component.

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