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Triumph TR7/8

Triumph TR7/8 Published: 5th Dec 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR7/8
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Triumph’s last TR places civility over sportiness but can be made to perform well plus remains great value and makes an excellent starter classic that feels modern

If life begins at 40 then the Triumph TR7 is in for a great time, because in effect it’s marking the big 4-0 several times over. Last September, the respective Triumph clubs held a calibration drive to mark 40 years of production commencing at the Speke factory. Next year, it’s the official launch initially into the USA, before the UK saw cars in early ’76.

For many, the TR7 is a TR without any balls and will never live in the hearts like the earlier he-men sportsters. Yet a more enlightened view is that this last ‘real’ Triumph is an entirely decent and not to say vastly underrated classic that knocks spots off an MGB and remains exceptional value for money.

After running one a few years back, we are of the latter opinion and can see the TR7 gaining the respect it has always deserved. Buy one before all the candles are blown out…


1970 Leyland sounds out the vital US market to see what sports car would eventually replace the recently launched TR6. US safety regulations threatened to ban soft tops so Triumph looked to completely new type of sports car for the safety conscious 1970s that would replace the TR6, GT6 and possibly the MGB, after some mods down the

However, well into TR7 development in 1973, the Yanks changed their mind about soft tops meaning Triumph immediately cut the roof off a coupé during one lunch break. It looked the part but Triumph still went ahead with the fixedhead for the initial launch.

1974 Production commences at the Speke factory late summer. Using a completely new platform that shared little with the Dolomite (and was meant to spawn a new saloon), the TR7 (also badged as an MG during early development) was introduced as a two-seater coupé utilising a Dolomite engine; the Sprint’s 2-litre bottom end, topped by the normal 1850cc eight valve cylinder head, rated at 105bhp for the UK and European markets.

1975 Sales get under way, initially in America where there’s eager demand despite the engine being detuned to 90bhp and even less for California where a single carb has to be fitted to comply with even tougher emission regs!

1976 The TR7 is released in UK and Europe initially with a four-speed manual as the only choice, but the option of a three-speed auto and a Rover SD1-sourced five-speed manual followed by the end of the year. Poor build, reliability troubles and most of all strikes dogged the car from launch, causing production to be shifted from the Speke factory to the Canley one soon after.

1977 That March, the normal plain cloth seating trim is replaced by a vivid red or green tartan look which also involves the door cards. New wheel trims are fitted.

1978 Detail changes result in a smaller fuel filler cap design due to impending convertible where original cap was simply too big for the scuttle. As production shifted to Canley, the cars became identified by having a garland transfer on the car’s nose instead of the original TR7 badge.

To boost sales (it became best selling TR ever), it wasn’t unknown for individual dealers to make their own special editions, but Coca-Cola and Levi’s ran a very special TR7 as a competition prize in red and white Coke colours with special denim upholstery. It’s now owned by the TR Register.

1979 A five-speed manual becomes standard fitting but the real story is the launch of the much nicer looking convertible for the make-or-break US market; it arrives in the UK the following year.

1980 As the UK gets the rag top, the US gets the TR8 – after a delay of two years! It’s fitted with a 135bhp Rover V8 either on carbs or fuel injection. Around 20 official UK models were made, along with workshop manuals etc before the RHD TR8 was stopped before it even got going.

1981 The car was killed off, after seeing production shifted yet again, this time, finally, to Rover’s site at Solihull. It is said that the Speke cars used better build materials but build quality was the worst of all three sites. Like most of BL products the TR7 was a ‘nearly’ car. Quality improved over the years (it could hardly worsen) while the Rover V8-powered TR8 should have saved the day. But it wasn’t simply the car’s fault. The £/$ parity in the early 1980s meant the company was losing big bucks on every car sold.

Just over 112,000 TR7s were made – 60 being the very rare Dolomite Sprint- powered models. There are several well known variations and special editions, such as the Premium, (black with gold decals), the aforementioned Sprint with a Dolomite 16-valve Sprint engine, the Spider, (black with a hint of red in it) and Coca-Cola car.

A ‘Grinnall’ car is a specially-made V8 conversion from this specialist where other mods could be dialled in such as a wider body, Rover SD1 axles and many customising additions. Let’s just say that opinions differ about their desirability…


What do they say about judging a book by its cover? Even staunch critics of the TR7 have to concede that they drive much better than they look. For starters, the TR7’s handling is a complete departure from the old sea clipper TRs.

Admittedly, the soft and roll-prone TR7 feels more like a two-seater Dolomite in comparison and a GT6 rather than TR6 replacement, but it feels good and modern to drive and a mile away from previous TRs, the tail happy GT6 and even the old fashioned MGB.

If safety is important to you with any classic, it’s as well to remember that the TR7 was the first production car to feature side impact bars, plus the slanted engine was mounted to enable both a low bonnet profile plus also to submarine underneath in the event of a head-on collision, protecting driver and passenger like no sports car
before. Performance from the stock 2-litre remains adequate with the early four-speed versions being the quickest of the lot. With a 0-60mph time of under ten seconds, a standard TR7 isn’t that much slower than the heavier TR6 although that slant four engine doesn’t sound anything like as sporting as any previous TR sportsters.

Don’t be surprised to find a TR7 fitted with a full house 16-valve Sprint engine as it’s a natural fit (and easier than converting a TR7 block) and some 60 were officially made, called the TR7 Sprint. But the real TR7 was the TR8 which remains one of the most underrated sportsters of all. Note, the official TR8 is different to a converted TR7 V8 of which many were homespun conversions, so expect differing standards of quality and workmanship and prices.

If you’re in the touring mood then you’ll appreciate the TR7’s spacious and comfy cockpit plus there’s a roomy boot. Add a BMW-like ride and low noise levels and it’s one of the most civilised 1970’s sports car made – and safe in an accident, remember.

Initial press reports were favourable to the TR7, once testers had decided it was really a ‘new’ GT6 rather than a needed replacement for the old TR6. Car praised the handling, cabin and economy of running but described the body as ‘hideous’ and urged BL to restyle “and

Once Triumph did by 1981with the stylish convertible, the monthly, in a twin test with the mid-engined Fiat X1/9, commented: “Make no mistake, the TR7 in convertible form, is a fine car… is very thoroughly developed and is excellent for long-distance cruising in the sunshine.”

Autocar summed up the coupé by saying its strongest suit was its comfort, but while the handling was generally good, its performance was ‘US-inspired’. “You know you’re not in TR or MG territory,” the weekly commented during its 12,000 mile long term test, but admitted to liking its BMW-like softness. “The TR7 is very civilised indeed”, it said, although hinted that if it was fun you were after, then a rapidly aging MGB or Spitfire provided it more!

Is this your kind of sports car? Certainly the TR8 provided the real replacement for the TR6. “Nothing less than the reinvention of the sports car”, hailed American Car and Driver, “Just when it seemed that as though we would never again see another mass produced lusty-hearted convertible sports car, here comes the TR8,” said rival mag Road&Track in June 1980. “...this car probably represents the best sports car buy today,” added Sports Car Graphic.


We’re fair fans of the TR7 and ran one seven years ago; a coupé four-speeder Canley car purchased from Robsport International. After running a Fiat X1/9 and an MGB, we were also sceptics but found the car really agreeable, more so after adding K&N filters, sports ignition leads, a Robsport anti-dive kit and EBC brake pads but we’d have liked to have fitted new rear shock absorbers to reduce the soggy stern. In the year we ran it, the only failing were the pop-up headlights. Wish we’d have kept and looked after it like contributor Stuart Bladon does with his last-of-the-line convertible. Stuart is an ex Autocar road tester and liked this drophead TR7 so much when new that he had to have one as a classic. Say no more!


Tepid TR7s are easy to pep up without going the full fat Rover V8
route. Start with the soft suspension where a front anti-dive kit is the first priority (see Robsport International) along with poly bushing and uprated dampers and springs. Fitting Ford Sierra top mounts to the struts sharpens the steering as well as making it usefully lighter. Larger 14-inch rims are a bonus too (15-inch MGF wheels and rims fit incidentally) and done properly a TR7 can be made to handle extremely well.

Brakes can be sharpened, ranging from just better pads to beefy two pot callipers, sourced from the Ford 2.8i Capri, TR8 or the Rover SD1, which are four-pot designs. The 2-litre engine can be pepped up simply by making it breathe easier care of K&N air filters (plus suitable re-jetting of the SUs) and a better exhaust manifold and pipework. Add a gas-flowed cylinder head with electronic ignition and you’re looking at similar power (110-120bhp) to the 16V Sprint but with more extra torque into the bargain. Of course, the 16-valve head sounds the best mod but it’s not simply a drop on to the 2-litre block – you need to fit a complete engine. That done, it can yield around 160-170bhp if fitted with twin Weber DCOEs. Alas, although it was Dolomite-derived, the Saab engine changed dramatically as early as the 1970s and none can be fitted without a lot of effort that really isn’t worth it. In contrast, the Rover V8 is tailor-made for the job and conversion kits are readily available.


As the TR7 notches up 40 since its introduction, Classic Motoring caught up with its designer Harris Mann to see why it’s always been the black sheep of the family. Says Mann: “All of the TRs that came before the seven were aimed at traditionalists, and the TR7 was anything but a traditional sports car. It didn’t look like a traditional sports car, with its pop-up lights and wedge profile, and it didn’t have a six-cylinder engine, which TR buyers had by then come to expect. Instead it had a smaller, more efficient four-cylinder engine which was necessary to get through the US emissions

Mann continues: “We were proved right of course, because the car would go on to be a sales success in America, but at the time it was tricky getting everyone at BL to support the project – it was just too radical for many. While being so cutting-edge led to many people voicing disapproval for the car in period, what’s great so many years on is the keenness with which a lot of young enthusiasts are now embracing the TR7 – they can’t believe it’s been around for so long as it still looks so modern”.

He concludes: “One of the reasons for the TR7’s popularity now is its affordability – it’s much cheaper to buy than any of its forebears. What’s really interesting though is how highly regarded the TR7 is in the US. I’ve just come back from there, having attended a Vintage Triumph Register function, and the TR7 is loved every bit as much out there as any of the TRs that came before it. We’re not there in the UK yet, but hopefully one day”.


TR7s are moving away from their banger status as they are becoming more collectable, although projects still start from a few hundred quid, making them worthwhile for spares. According to the TR Register’s Wayne Scott, some 20 TR7s, including one V8 (hopefully not a real TR8!) were crushed during the last scrappage scheme. Taking it from the top, the most valued TR7s are the factory TR8 convertibles followed by a Grinnall conversion, then TR7-V8s. The coupé was once the runt of the litter but now their values aren’t far short of a rag top and can indeed match the convertible so long as it’s a ‘solid’ roof and not sun-roofed car, says TR7 expert Wayne Scott.

Five figure sums for the best V8s are now common with up to £15,000 for a TR8 and say a third less on average for a LHD US car; expect somewhere in between for a genuine Grinnall car if in proper order.

Anything between £3000-£5000+ will secure a very good car with the convertible worth that bit more and say around £2500 for an average but useable TR7. Automatics (a three-speeder) are the least liked, even though it suits the car’s character fairly well; Robsport Int (01763 262263) has a really nice original self shifter at £4250.

The earliest four-speed manuals are becoming quite sought after for their rarity, rather like manual V12 XJ-Ss of the same era and they are also a tad quicker than a five-speed. It’s possible to fit a Dolomite gearbox with overdrive if you wish.

Sprints are hard to value but in the main fall mid way between a 2-litre and a V8. The biggest danger, says Wayne Scott, is landing a fake one because it’s an easy swap, and you should check all cars against the Register’s records before buying.

Talking to Robsport and the TR Register, it appears that TR7s are not only excellent, low cost ways to get into TR ownership but a good number are also bought by TR owners as a second classic, liked for their comfort when the mood takes them.

What To Look For


* Although the number of good cars is growing, there’s enough bad examples around or – worst still – nice lookers, full of filler and a layer polish. Because residual values have historically been low, enthusiasts aren’t encouraged to spend big money on their cars until lately. These Triumphs can literally fall apart at the seams and if bad, the car is of scrapper use or spares only.

* The good news is that most specialists know the car’s weak areas. Rimmer Bros markets a complete body restoration kit that comes with sills, wings etc – all you need. It costs £1350.

* The vast majority went for export, the US in the main so if you can’t find what you like here, cast your net further.

* Have any homespun V8 conversion vetted by an engineer if need be as standards can vary, although according to Robsport International the majority are done ok as the car was designed with that V8 always in
mind. Three levels of DIY conversion kits are available from Rimmer

* A DVD on the TR7’s history is available from the TR Drivers Club; a comprehensive four hour viewing where the truth about the car is finally told. The DVD was made by TR Drivers’ Club member John Clancy and available from See this web site for a host of information and a couple of great TR7 DVD preview trailers.


* Major rot areas are everywhere but include chassis rails (particularly at the front around the subframe points), floorpan, bulkheads and inner front wings, especially the strut top mounts. If bad the car isn’t worth repairing unless special to you and with around 1000 remaining there’s still a fair choice around.

* Other major areas include the A posts (very common), boot floor (check spare wheel well for rot) and rear suspension pick up points. Check the rear deck where the fuel filler resides – as on all Triumphs – for rust and dodges. At the front, if allowed, remove cover under the windscreen to see what’s what. Sills are a major worry on TR7s so check well; inner sill can be vetted by simply lifting up the carpets. Are they stuck down?

* Those huge rubber bumpers can mask valance rot and bulky US-inspired fenders can droop.


* Early ones are Dolomite/GT6 sourced so will usually be tired on P- reg cars (an exchange overhauled unit is just over £300). Most featured the Rover SD1 five-speeder however, which apart from being slicker is also sturdier, although worn synchros (watch for gear clash) on second and third are pretty common.

* The gearchange quality is known to be quite notchy, especially on the V8, and made worse in the cold weather. A change to a lighter semi-synthetic oil or auto trans fluid is a known cure but speak to a specialist first.

* The three-speed Borg Warner automatic is reliable and doesn’t detract from the Triumph’s appeal too much and okay for cruising. Check the state of the fluid and smell for a burnt aroma, suggesting serious overheating. On a test drive, ensure it all works as it should.

* Rear axles on the five-speeders is tougher (plus has better brakes) than the earlier type which can whine as the miles mount up. A typical recon costs in the region of £500.


* Overheating is the biggest worry (the Dolly engine was basically half a Stag unit, remember). Silted and corroded waterways are common and head gaskets often fail but it’s not as troublesome as it once was. Worse still a cylinder head can prove virtually impossible to remove at the kerb if it has rusted on with the studs.

* Check the state of the cooling system; it needs a diet of quality anti-freeze. And be wary if there are signs of oil droplets. A modern head gasket is available from Robsport International as is a refurbished head complete with cam and bits for £425 or so.

* Water pumps are known weak points and once they start to leak, usually deposit all the coolant on the road rapidly enough to catch you, and the head gasket out. .

* The timing chain is rattle-prone although doesn’t slip like as on Stags. Incidentally, TR7 manifolds differ from the 1850 Dolomite unit.


* Suspensions are simple but share little in common with the Dolomite. Damper, spring and mounting bushes usually go, especially the front shockers. TR7s normally handle ok albeit softly, but if the car feels like an old TR6, then the suspension is decidedly clapped out.

* A test drive is a must, to feel and gauge how taut the car is (there’s a lot of bushes that can wear out). Take it up to speed and note any wheel wobble; it’s a known TR7 problem and certainly not simply a question of wheel balance. General sloppiness or rattles are due to worn bushes and couplings.


* Many TR7s are running around with naff seat covers to hide deterioration but needn’t be as full trim kits are available, albeit costing £1070-£1560 from Rimmer Bros.

* Triumph specialists Robsport International markets an increasing number of TR7 trim parts such as proper heater controls, for instance. Other controls are Marina/Allegro- derived and fairly easy to source.

* While checking out the cabin’s condition, inspect not simply for dampness but also pull the carpets back from behind the seats and the footwells to check the floor condition. If bad then find another car as it can be difficult and costly to put right.

* Is a TR7 winking at you? It’s not a come-on… sluggish or no-show headlamps common but usually due to dodgy wiring or the (essentially wiper) motors being on the way out – around £50 a pop to fix if it’s the latter. The rubber lips around the ‘lids’ are almost extinct now new but Robsport says it has ‘thousands’ of good second-hand ones.

Three Of A Kind

Another 70s Brit that was supposed to be in tune with the times yet also failed to live up to its promise, the Jensen-Healey is another underrated, strong value, soft-riding sports classic. Most are convertible, but the Jensen GT (hatchback) is a good practical tourer. TR7-like build quality and a fickle, if fast, new-fangled Lotus engine killed the car, but today these problems can be fixed and club support is pretty strong. Values are rising so buy now
The faithful old MGB almost outlived the TR7 and certainly lives longer in most hearts and minds. A simple, solid, dependable, easy-going, easy-owning classic that is full of character it is universally loved; everybody should own at least one in their lives. As with the Triumph, the roadster is most coveted, but the GT is an immensely practical 2+2. A TR7 runs rings round the MG on the road and is more civilised but will always lack the class of the MG.
This is the car both MG and Triumph should have made years before the F finally surfaced in the mid 1990s! Thoroughly up to date and fast with excellent handling, but also a comfortable ride, a good MGF is a delight and there’s no shortage of help from specialists or owners’ clubs. Many are now scrapped due to their low values while Hydragas spheres are getting scarce. Later TF has conventional suspension and the better bet to buy.


Like or loathe the TR7, you can’t deny that it makes a great inexpensive classic sports car that boasts a historic linage. As Motor rightly noted; “ The TR7 is a good car…it’s a very comfortable two-seater”. Support from specialists and owners’ clubs is as good as any TR and we can well see prices rising steeply in years to come. So buy now.

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