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Triumph TR6

Triumph TR6 Published: 9th Nov 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR6

Fast Facts

  • Best model: 150bhp injected car
  • Worst model: 104bhp United States carburetted models
  • Budget buy: US converted cars
  • OK for unleaded?: No; mods are needed
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L3937 x W1480mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: Generally straightforward
  • Club support: Brilliant
  • Appreciating asset?: Set to soar
  • Good buy or good-bye?: It’s the last of the hairy-chested British sportsters
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Last of the old school TR Triumphs and a worthy, more modern alternative to a Big Healey but at considerably less cost although values are closing. Morgan-like driving character may surprise some new to the label as it feels vintage but spares and support is excellent and you can’t lose if you buy a good one

When the TR6 was killed off, so did the heart and soul of Triumph. Granted, this brawny old school sports car that traced its roots back to early 50s was out of step with the recession-hit 1970s, and the PI fuel injection system was proving more trouble than it was worth, but the car still enjoyed a strong following, thanks to its smooth, torquey straight-six, muscular lines and a classic British interior. In contrast the TR7 replacement looked a joke on wheels – even if it wasn’t.

Fast forward almost five decades, and like so many Triumphs – not least the Stag – the TR6 is a better buy than ever, chiefly because the surviving cars are generally in better nick than they’ve ever been. While still stuck in the tyre tracks of the TR5PI, prices are starting to ascend at a fair rate and make a good long term investment while you’re having fun safe in the knowledge that an excellent club and specialist support will always ensure that TR6 ownership should be painless and low cost if you buy a good one. Sadly, many of the cars on sale aren’t as half as desirable as appears to be at first glance, so take care.

History

1969 TR6 appears in January as an update of the fuel injected ‘150bhp’ (142bhp net) TR5 with modernised squarer styling (care of German Karmann), front anti-roll bar and wider wheels. US federal cars sipped fuel from twin Stromberg carburettors yielding only 104bhp (126bhp net) as a result.

By November of this year, the TR6 had already received an early revise with extra standard equipment while reclining seats were now fitted while the plain steel wheel design was also refreshed.

1971 As early as January there’s yet more revises. For example, an anti-theft steering lock becomes standard issue while the supports for the rear springs and trailing arms are uprated. Then, that August, carb-fed (American) engines receive revised manifolds for a touch more power and cleaner emissions. On all models, the gearbox gains a Stag-like design that’s more heavy duty.

1972 From September, carburetted cars get a CF prefix, a smaller fuel tank is fitted and there’s now a J-Type overdrive option. Then in November the CR-prefixed TR6 gets the same mods as the CF – the CR prefix from this point on denotes a car with the lower tune 125bhp injected engine that became standard ware on all PI engines, including the 2.5PI saloon and estate cars.

1973 Tougher J-type overdrive replaces the A-type unit previously fitted. Also, from this point, wire wheels are no longer an option. Cosmetic changes include a slightly revised frontal featuring a fresher grille plus a chin spoiler to improve high speed stability. The Instrument dials are also refreshed.

1974 From that October, all Statesidemarket cars feature those obligatory black impact bumpers with ugly, over-sized overriders although it’s nowhere near as blatant as the MG eyesores. The gearbox now gains similar ratios to those used on the Stag; economics rather than performance gains for this move.

1975 Final injected car rolls off the lines. Production of carburetted cars continues until July 1976, when the TR7 arrived. By then, a highly creditable 94,619 TR6s had been built, in total of which just a paltry 8370 were for the British market, meaning converted US cars are on our shores but it may well be best to leave it in LHD form as they always sell well abroad.

Driving and press comments

While it’s very nice (and the certain kudos that goes with it) to belong to the ‘150 club’, the longer serving 125bhp edition, with its milder, cam timing gives the TR6 respectable enough performance and in the real world there’s not a lot of difference between them so don’t get too hung up about it, advise TR specialists who add that the reduced power figure was also due in part to Triumph realigning its figures. Also, bear in mind that the 2.5PI saloon was always strangely rated at 132bhp – yet nobody quite knows why!

What’s appealing is how smooth and torquey this six still is, irrespective of which cam is fitted and if you hadn’t driven one or the other you wouldn’t know the difference. As a result, what you want to be aware of is fakery as these cars can be worth around 10 per cent more…

PI or carbs? When Triumph ditched the former on saloons, the transition was barely mentioned in road tests (106bhp quoted) but on the other hand, TR experts stress that set up the much maligned PI works a treat if treated right and set up by a TR specialist plus copes fuelling 200bhp or more with fair ease.

Apart from its lustier engine, a TR6 is little different to TR4 to drive although there’s more weight up front so it’s less wieldy – again if you hadn’t driven the earlier car you wouldn’t know. Stiffer dampers and wider tyres help a lot and many have had these fitted already, but if you’re not a press-on driver, you might find the ride is too compromised as a result.

Autocar, driving one of the earliest TR6s, loved the lusty performance but criticised the slow steering, strong understeer, heavy clutch, notchy gearbox and firm ride – yet despite all these negatives reckoned the TR6 was a “tremendous fun car”. Naturaly, this weekly – in line with many others – made the somewhat inevitable comparisons with the discontinued Austin-Healey 3000 and went so far as to claim the TR6 was the last of the real sports cars (thank goodness for later TVRs-ed), stating that it was “tremendously exhilarating to drive anywhere”.

When Motor put another through its paces in 1969, it was more or less in agreement praising its value for money and excellent performance but said the handling could only be described as “reasonable”. Despite this, Motor summed up the new TR by saying: “The succession of TR models through the years has been a story of old wine in new bottles followed by new wine in the old bottle. The latest, with a new bottle holding contents which are very much in their prime, is unquestionably the best yet; we drank our fill and enjoyed it”.

“Last of the real sports cars” moaned Hot Car back in 1972; no wonder – it clocked ‘WHP 854J’ to 60 in 7.8 seconds! “People moan about the loss of the good old hairy Healey – they should take a look at the TR6”, it concluded. That same year, Custom Car published a twin test with the Capri 3000E (many flitted between the two back in the late 70s when you could buy either for under a grand!-ed) and while liking the Triumph, reckoned it didn’t handle as well as the MGB (Motor said much the same) and fairly slated the ride and hood design.

They say that opposites attract, and that’s what Car discovered when it pitched this vintage roadster against the advanced Elan. Of course, the lithe Lotus trounced the TR yet for all that Car conceded the TR remained an “enjoyable, car to drive.” All well and good… except that a year earlier, one outspoken Car writer reckoned the smaller Spitfire was the better sports car and urged potential buyers to save up a bit more and savour the new Stag instead!

Values and marketplace

While values of its predecessor have rocketed over the past few years (you can now easily pay approaching £50,000 for a top TR5), the TR6 remains relatively affordable with values fairly static. Projects can start from £5000, and something that’s fairly roadworthy costing from under £15,000. Really nice cars will fetch just under £20,000 while superb cars commanding ten grand more. A pair of carb-fed TR6s – one described as a very good restoration – went at auction during the summer at sub 15 grand prices.

All prices relate to genuine right-hand drive cars; knock around 10-15 per cent off if you’re looking at conveted ex-US cars plus models that are still to federal spec are typically worth around 25 per cent less. Given that there’s so much gear around for modifying TRs, they seem very tempting buys – particuarly if orignality doesn’t bother you overly.

According to Michael Helm, TR6 model consultant for Club Triumph, cars vary from £10-£25,000 and while their condition varies, most are probably in better shape than when new, he says. The majority in the club are, in the main standard, save for alloy wheels and sports exhaust, retaining the Lucas fuel injection.

Improvements

The list of possible TR6 upgrades is pretty much endless (and why most cars aren’t standard), with bits offered to improve the performance of just about every aspect of the car, including the brakes, suspension, interior, lighting, engine and transmission, the latter boosted by Revington TR’s new Roller Thrust Washer Set specifically for use in TR gearboxes to bring it up to Stag spec while still utilising the TR layshaft. An economical solution to an old TR problem if you already have a good gearbox, although some machining is required.

Even if the car is otherwise standard, swapping the original canister type of oil filter for a modern spin-on version is considered an essential investment for under £50 as the original lacks an anti-drain valve, leading to the bearings being starved of lube on start up, especially after being left standing perhaps for weeks on end.

Another very common conversion on the fuel-injection system is the replacement of the Lucas pump with a superior Bosch item, solving most of the overheating problems for which the British modifed wiper motor pump achieved an infamous reputation for.

There are numerous fuelling options, including triple Webers or better electronic fuel injection, the latter being the most efficient but also the most expensive although the original is pretty efficient say experts, where a lot of ‘lost’ bhp can be found by ensuring the throttle linkages aren’t worn and slack; Revington says its kit revitalises most TR6s for a few hundred. The sky is the limit when it comes to engine upgrades – including a larger engine bore of 2.7-litres for added torque.

Stopping power can be boosted by a four-pot brake system, while the suspension can be upgraded with alloy hubs, thicker anti-roll bars and so on, although most TR experts agree that the best as well as most cost effective improvements lie in fitting polyurethane bushes to the chassis and suspension along with a thorough geometry reset. Oh, and good quality tyres that aren’t over-sized provides the finishing touch.

What To Look For

General

  • Most desirable TR6 features a 150bhp fuel-injected engine, but these accounted for just 10percent of production. The 124bhp injected edition accounted for ficw per cent – the rest were 104bhp carburetted cars with scant more power or performance than a TR4…
  • While there are plenty of standard TR6s about, many have been modified in some way, which can completely alter the driving characteristics. Before driving any prospective purchase, ask if the car is non-standard in any way.
  • The interior trim is straightforward and everything can be bought new. Seams can give way in the seat trims and there’s a good chance there’ll be a tear or two in either the seat covers or the door trims, while carpets wear through eventually.
  • As far as exterior trim is concerned, just about everything is available, although early front bumpers are tricky to source.

Body and chassis

  • The wings corrode along the top and around the headlamps. Corroded inner wings are what you’re looking for. With the bonnet up you can also see the bulkhead and front flitch panel.
  • With the doors open look at the base of each B-post, which rots badly where it meets the sill. Easier to see is rot in the rear deck, between the bootlid, rear wings and hood well.
  • Chassis needs careful vet. Potentially the most important are the mountings for the rear trailing arms. Area just ahead of the rear wheels where the five main chassis members meet up between a pair of bracing plates. These rot to the point where the trailing arm mountings are weakened. Patching this point is easy; long-term fixes are much more involved. Other areas are the mountings for the front lower wishbones and the steering rack.

Running gear

  • Universal joints on the propshaft and half-shafts wear; listen for clonks as drive is taken up when the car is driven off. Also get underneath the car and look at the differential’s mounting points, which can be distorted or even torn away.
  • The gearbox generally doesn’t give problems. The first casualty on all is usually the layshaft bearings; this will be given away when cruising by a rumbling noise in all of the intermediate gears, which disappears when top gear is engaged. Overdrive ills are usually electrical and easier to correct.
  • The front suspension incorporates bushes, trunnions and ball joints that can wear. All of the components are fitted with a grease nipple although the recommended procedure for the lower trunnions is to use EP90 gear oil but most are greased.

Engine

  • Check play in the crankshaft thrust washers by depressing and releasing clutch – there should be no more than 0.015” movement. Any detectable movement means the thrust washers may have dropped out.
  • Engine is famed for its oil leaks, and rattles at start up. It won’t be hard to spot if the engine has worn out. Blue smoke when the car is accelerated points to bore and/or piston wear.
  • If you can see black smoke it’s because the fuelinjection metering has been set up to run rich – which means steep fuel bills and premature bore wear.
  • Other injection problems revolve around hot starting issues, fuel vaporisation and misfiring on start up. All parts for the injection system are readily available.

Three Of A Kind

TVRS
TVRS
TVRs have always produced cars in the Big Healey mould and modern alternatives start with the Tasmin and 350/390 ‘wedges’ but the buys are the later S Series (V6 or V8 powered) and the brawny Chimaera. All offer old school thrills and meaty performance, especially the ‘look-at-me’ Chimaera where up to 5-litres are provided. Rust and build quality are always worries but parts supply is fine.
Jensen-Healey
Jensen-Healey
The Jensen-Healey was something of a liability in period, but modern know-how means you can now drive one of these enigmatic machines expecting complete reliability. With its free-revving, if peaky twin-cam 2.0-litre engine (provided by Lotus) that’s faster than a TR6, this roadster (or rare shooting brake) makes a brilliantly affordable left-field classic buy. Values are rising and parts supply is improving.
MGC & RV8
MGC & RV8
Built for just two years and also often accused of being a lame duck, the MGC was undoubtedly something of a duffer in period. But the handling issues that killed it can easily be fixed and the car can now be turned into a great grand tourer. With its smooth 2.9-litre straight-six it provides effortless cruising if not pace. Later 1990’s MG RV8 is a better alternative, very fast with sorted suspension as well.

Verdict

A Big Healey replacement? Drive a good one and you’ll find that the TR6 is more than merely that and a good bit cheaper to buy. But beware as it’s so easy to land something that will swallow all the money you throw at it (sub £10K buys usually) so you take your time to look at and drive the plenty which are still decently priced.



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