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Triumph TR5

Take 5 Published: 20th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR5

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Original
  • Worst model: US carburetted car
  • Budget buy: Converted TR4s
  • OK for unleaded?: No, except TR250
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L3937 x W1480 mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally straightforward
  • Club support: Top drawer
  • Appreciating asset?: Starting to soar
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Rarity will always say yes
Cabin was carried over to TR6 and all parts are available Cabin was carried over to TR6 and all parts are available
Wire wheels suit car as does overdrive Wire wheels suit car as does overdrive
Engine is robust, and now the injection system is too Engine is robust, and now the injection system is too
Only subtle differences split one from a TR4 Only subtle differences split one from a TR4
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With muscular six-pot power and period styling, the TR5 is the most exclusive TR of them all

Pros & Cons

Rarity, six-pot punch, superb aftermarket back up, strongly appreciating asset
Few bargains left, ratty TR250s conversions, TR6 better and cheaper bet?

Shortest-lived of all the TRs, the Five was built to fi ll the void between the demise of the TR4A and the arrival of the TR6. It was also to be the test bed for Triumph’s advanced fuel injection set up. The TR5 is also the best of the ‘bug eyed’ TR bunch, with its macho Michelotti lines, smooth and torquey in-line six and independent rear suspension, which gives more predictable handling than earlier TRs. In addition, its sheer 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 old fashioned TR3A that it replaced. However, the reality was that, under the skin, the car was still very much a TR3A as little more than the outer skin was actually 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; over the TR3A, the TR4 gained rack-and-pinion steering, wider front and rear tracks to make it more surefooted, and an all-synchro gearbox. However, as stylish transport they were pretty much unbeatable. All it cried out for, to compete with the new wave of saloon GTs was more power. Lots. The stock 2-litre GT6 engine was tried and, although smooth, was actually no quicker than the old tractor-derived four pot. The answer was simple though – enlarge the straight six by a massive 500cc to give a lusty 2.5-litre and make it breathe easier. With a better cylinder head and
wilder camshaft, the engine worked well, although was too lumpy at low revs until fuel injection was fi tted to better monitor the fuel. All this lead, in October 1967, to the launch of the TR5. Outwardly the car was barely discernible from the TR4A, but the new engine, complete with Lucas fuel injection, turned the TR into a genuine performance car, with a handy 150bhp on tap. Because of strict emissions regulations in North America, the export version was hampered with twin carburettors instead of fuel injection, and cars destined for this market were badged TR250 instead of TR5. In truth, the TR5 was little more than a test bed for the new engine (which quickly found its way into the 2000 saloon). As a rather dated looking stop-gap, the TR5 only had to last little more than two years, until Karmann had fi nished its work on the replacement, the TR6.


There’s very little that’s bad to say about a TR5 if you like your sports cars hairy-chested and old-school, in the hairy Healey mould. It’s no Lotus Elan (or MX-5) and the threshold of grip is lowly but a good TR5 is predictable and fun. The steering, although heavy, is quite direct, and the brakes are perfectly capable of slowing the car on modern roads, without uprating. With a precise, if heavy-handed gearchange, and overdrive on second, third and fourth, it’s second nature to be in the right gear all the time – especially as that straight-six is so fl exible. All TR5s came with the full-fat 150bhp Fi engine, which gave the car exceptional pace in its day. Over 40 years on it still impresses, if in good tune, especially with its mid-range wallop. Contemporary road tests of that time saw the car hit 60 in a tad under nine seconds and truck on to 120mph making it a quicker car than the TR6. From a practical standpoint, the TR5 is a good tourer, with enough refi nement and civility (thanks to overdrive to cut the revs) to make long jaunts more than just pleasing. However, you’ll need to overlook the assortment of rattles and creaks that are a part TR life. It all adds to the sense of occasion and one which Autocar hailed as “Expensive but enjoyable.”


Rarity ensures that the last of the Michelottistyled TRs are the most coveted and prices have soared over the past year or so. Because most have been rebuilt over the decades, restoration projects are pretty hard to fi nd. Even tatty runners aren’t that easy to source these days, so expect to pay from £7000 upwards for something that is remotely decent and worth restoring. The best showroom-standard TR5s now fetch around £25,000 and perhaps ten grand more for specimen examples are not unheard of. Like-forlike, a TR5 is worth a fair wedge more than the later, more common TR6 – whether you think that the price premium on what is essentially the same car is justifi ed is a personal matter. In a similar vein, how about converting a TR4 into a TR5? They are more plentiful and cheaper to buy. Obviously it is possible, especially if you use carbs instead of fuel injection, but it won’t be a real TR5 by any imagination or command anything like the values. And it’s not simply an engine swap over either as there’s a lot of modifi cations required to do the job properly. For value for money look to a Stateside TR250. Okay, these are detuned and downgraded, but are also valued a fair bit less – reckon on paying £5000 for starters.


You can see up to 180bhp from the six-pot engine without stripping it down, although it can be stretched to 2.7-litres and up to 250bhp if you wish. The standard injection system responds well, especially if modern electronic mapping is employed, or you can fi t triple Weber DCOEs if you have the readies for the neddies! Even if you intend to keep the car stock, a session on the rolling-road of a specialist who knows these engines can reap rewards. Also consider fi tting electronic ignition and a superior Bosch fuel pump (the original was actually a wiper motor!) which should also be relocated to prevent the infamous fuel vaporisation when hot. Even if the car is otherwise standard, see if the original canister-type oil fi lter has been replaced with a spin-on version – it’s an essential investment at under £40. The original fi lter had no anti-drain valve, leading to the bearings being starved of oil on start up. The IRS rear system was made for touring, but along with the rest of the chassis can be usefully stiffened up. Fitting the larger front brakes from earlier TRs (yes, they were actually bigger!) together with racing brake pads is ample for road use but you can go much further.

What To Look For

  • If the bodyshell has rotted, the chassis may also be history – although you can also source a new one for £2000. A broken TR6 can also become a good donor.
  • The wings corrode along the top and around the headlamps, but you need to lift the bonnet to see the true extent of the rot. Corroded inner wings, as well as rusty hinge platforms and a rotten bonnet leading edge are common.
  • The base of the windscreen surround alsorots. With the doors open, look at the base of each B-post, which rots really badly where it meets the sill. Any signs mean there’s serious corrosion lurking. Things aren’t helped by this also being near to the seatbelt mounting points – which means an automatic MoT failure.
  • With the doors open, have a look underneath each one; they rust along their base and along the top edge near the rubber weather seal. Also check sills and fl oorpan, both of which rust.
  • The rear wings also corrode around the wheelarch lips and in the area aft of the rear wheels. Easier to see is rot in the rear deck, between the bootlid, rear wings and hood well. Several panels meet here, and the multiple joins produce a series of rust traps.
  • The chassis itself needs careful inspection, as there are a few rust traps built in. Potentially, the most important are the mountings for the rear trailing arms; if these corrode badly enough they’ll end up breaking away.
  • The other significant area is just ahead of the rear wheels, where the fi ve main chassis members meet up between a pair of bracing plates. These plates can rot away to the point where the suspension’s trailing arm mountings are weakened. If there’s evidence of repairs in this area, fi nd out if the bodyshell has been removed for proper restoration.
  • A clunk on take off indicates problems with the differential mountings, which can break away from the chassis. Other areas which need strengthening are the mountings for the front lower wishbones and steering rack. Any TR specialist can carry out the strengthening work, or kits are available to do the work yourself.
  • Serious chassis corrosion can be identifi ed easily, because when weakened by corrosion, a TR5 chassis will hog in the middle, given away by door gaps that open up at the top, especially when jacked up.
  • The smooth (for a four-bearing ’six’) 2.5-litrestraight-six will take 120,000 miles quite happily. Check for play in the crankshaft thrust washers by pushing and pulling on the bottom pulley. The job is made a bit easier by depressing and releasing the clutch – there should be no more than 0.015” movement. Any detectable slack means the thrust washers may have dropped out, which could be serious and involve the sourcing of a replacement engine.
  • If you can see black smoke as the car is accelerated quickly, it’s because the fuelinjection metering has been set up to run rich. Not only will this mean steep fuel bills but it will also mean premature bore wear if it’s been allowed to stay that way for a while.
  • Other well known fuel injection problems are diffi cult starting from hot, fuel vaporisation and misfi ring. These are well known problems and easily remedied by one of the many specialists, or the job can be done at home without any special tools. All parts for the injection system are readily available either on an exchange basis or even outright on a number of components.
  • Replacement powerplants are readily available, through the basic engine being common to the 2.5 saloons. Running second-hand engines can be bought for £50 upwards, although you’ll have to spend at least £200 to get a good one.
  • Universal joints on the propshaft and half-shafts may be worn; listen for clonks as drive is taken up when the car is driven off. Also get underneaththe car and look at the differential’s mounting points, which can be distorted or even torn away by repeated fi erce acceleration.
  • All were fi tted with a four-speed manual gearbox, which generally doesn’t give problems. The fi rst casualty is usually the layshaft bearings; this will be audible when cruising by a rumbling noise which disappears in top. It can also be identifi ed when the car is stationary, but disappears when the clutch is engaged. Cure is a rebuild.
  • Overdrive wasn’t fitted as standard and it is worth buying a car with it. If fi tted, but faulty, it’s probably because of wiring problems; easily fi xed. Things like broken wires, dodgy relays or loose lucar connections are common but it could be because the overdrive has got clogged up inside or because the solenoid has packed in.
  • The steering gives no problems, other than the split gaiters that can potentially affect any car so equipped. But the front suspension is a different matter as it incorporates bushes, trunnions and ball joints that can wear. These can be checked in time-honoured tradition by removing the respective wheel and using a lever/crowbar to check for excess movement. To check for worn trunnions, put the lever between the vertical link and the lower wishbone; trying to lever between the vertical link and the upper wishbone.
  • All of the components are fi tted with a greasenipple, although the recommended procedure for the lower trunnions is to use EP90 gear oil. If the seller has owned the car for a while and has done all their own maintenance, ask them what they lubricated the trunnions with. If they’ve usedgrease, the trunnion threads may have corroded to the point where they’re weakened.
  • If wire wheels have been fi tted, you need to check for loose or rusty spokes as well as corrosion to the rims. The splines can also wear, so jack up each corner and check for play by trying to rock, then spin the wheel with the footbrake applied. Obvious movement means splines have worn.
  • Brakes have no inherent problems, but if there is a fault of any sort it’ll be easy and cheap to fi x. The brakes have an in-line servo as standard and unless the car has been uprated the stoppers are more than adequate for the purpose. However, the handbrake is poor even with everything in good condition.
  • The interior trim is straightforward, and even if it’s all had it, everything can be bought new. A new hood costs from £145 and even a frame is available at £210. Dashboards can crack after years of exposure to the elements; a new one is £185 while the dash top is another £45. Seams can give way in the seat trims. If you need to replace they’re available from £170 per pair while a trim panel set costs from £145.


Three Of A Kind

Launched around the same time as the TR5PI, the six-pack MGB is more appreciated now than when it was new, being heavily criticised for its lazy performance, understeer-prone handling and old fashioned feel. Today, the same car is liked for its lazy engine, touring capabilities, usability and the optional practicality of a 2+2 hatchback that the TR lacks.
Austin Healey 3000
Austin Healey 3000
A forerunner to the TR5, the big Healey is a quintessential hairychested British sports car. It’s brilliantly supported by clubs and specialists and cars are readily available. But they’re costly too and becoming dearer; whether you opt for the better balanced four-cylinder car or the seriously torquey straight-six, expect no change from £25,000 for anything worth having.
Triumph TR4
Triumph TR4
The question is, if you like the looks of earlier TRs, why not go for the TR4 instead? Its robust four pot can be tuned to match a TR5, without the hang ups, while being a lighter engine means better handling. Apart from being appreciably cheaper to buy, more TR4s come with the useful Surrey top. TR4s are better handlers, while the TR4A is less jittery and better for touring.


There’s something about Triumph roadsters that means they’ll never go out of fashion. The TR5 is arguably the best out of the family enjoying the great, unsullied looks of the TR4 but with the raunchiness of the TR6. And that makes it quite a sports car in our book even at the prices now being asked.

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