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Triumph TR6

Published: 6th Jun 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
Triumph TR6
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Back in the late 1970s TR6s could be bought for a pittance – and the reason was all too obvious – that unreliable fuel injection....

In the late 1970s my father, in his never ending quest for a cheap convertible to augment the company Renault 12 saloon, briefly considered but then rejected the thought of owning a Triumph TR6.

On the surface and despite the TR6 approaching its tenth birthday, the Triumph looked ideal – spacious by British sports car standards with a vestigial rear seat for family use, and with an engine note loud enough to annoy the neighbours (always an important consideration with my father). But he eventually decided upon a 1969 MGB Roadster and his reasons for rejecting the car from Canley were, despite their tempting value for money, simple and concise – “that damned fuel system” making the car run rich and almost impossible to start when hot.


Some older readers may remember just how cheap TR6s slunk to in the aftermath of the TR7’s launch in 1975, with pages of Exchange and Mart containing tempting offer after apparently tempting offer. Bargains were anything from £1000, depending upon how it started and ran, if at all.

When TR6 production ended in 1976 it was the most commercially successful of Triumph’s post-war sports cars and on its official launch in early 1969 it presented a highly appealing package

As Michelotti, the firm’s coachbuilder of choice, was engaged on other projects and too busy, Triumph used the now defunct Karmann of West Germany to refresh the old TR5 body, which itself was derived from the TR4 of the early 1960s. And given that the TR6 was developed within a mere 14 months, the resulting car looked remarkably well proportioned and svelte.

The familiar 1961 vintage TR4/TR5/TR250 coachwork was subtly updated by losing the chrome side trim and the vertical tail lights and by fitting a new grille. The TR6’s chassis, central section, suspension and doors remained much the same as its predecessors, thereby saving Triumph a considerable amount of potential re-tooling costs. However, the combination of new 15 inch wheels and the Karmann modifications enhanced the new car’s aggressive air. Even in repose a TR6 conveys the sensation of being an automotive raffish Jack Hawkins.

As befitting a Triumph for the new decade the narrow cabin – one major give-away of the design’s basic age – was tastefully trimmed with thick carpeting, a leather clad steering wheel and gear lever knob and a walnut veneered dashboard, all giving the TR6 an edge over its more Spartan Abingdon rival where as late as 1969 a heater resolutely remained an optional extra on the MGB.

Because the TR6 was marketed in the USA, chiefly on its ease of servicing, it was a blessing that the infamous Lucas Fuel Injection couldn’t be fitted due to emissions reasons. The VW-Porsche 914 may have offered mid-engine sophistication but when Triumph’s Mike Carver and engineering head Spen King (who lists one of his biggest regrets believing company engineers who said in no way could the Rover V8 fit in a Stag’s engine bay – but that’s another story…) visited US dealers to gain a greater insight into the demands of the North American sports car market, they learned that a conventional front engine rear wheel drive convertible still appealed on the grounds of reliability and home servicing.

Indeed, one advertisement promised that as the owner could change wings easily he (and it would most probably have been ‘he’ in 1970’s North America) could have a TR6 of many and varied hues…


Under the TR6 bonnet lurked a 2.5-litre straight six first fitted to the TR5 PI in 1967. Triumph needed to keep the TR range competitive in world markets and so expanded the capacity of the 2-litre Vitesse unit to 2498cc, fitted a racier cam and head and topped with fuel injection to manage it all.

British market models had the Lucas MkII mechanical petrol injection system that was originally designed for military use, but for the USA, the TR6’s most important market (where over 90 per cent of the production run was sold there), the engine was de-tuned and fitted with twin Strombergs in order to meet the strict emission controls. In retrospect it probably saved the car from an early death like the Stag… UK TR6s were considerably more powerful – 150bhp as opposed to 104bhp on the early models – but by the early 1970s, the problems of fuel vapour evaporation were becoming all too well known with owners and mechanics.

The Lucas electric fuel pump was notorious for overheating and shrewd TR6 owners always kept their fuel tank at least a quarter full in order to keep the pump cool; one persistent folklore story was that some even resorted to placing a pack of frozen peas as well – why peas was never made clear, however. A popular mod was using the wiper system from any post-1965 Triumph as a replacement pump motor once it failed! Today a relocated Bosch fuel pump cures most of the problems Triumph couldn’t be bothered to sort out.

The TR6 underwent a series of more official modifications the most significant being a detuning of the engine to 124bhp for the purpose of ensuring a smoother engine via camshaft alterations.

This, in classic car circles, resulted in the canonisation of the original 150bhp engine even though those in the know state the difference in real world performance is minimal. But the real curiosity remains the fact that the 2.5PI saloon always had an engine rated at 132bhp – how come is not clear.


What made the already dire reliability of the fuel injection system worse was the fact that fed up owners, not prepared to have their main dealer sort out the ills and hand over big bills, gave it to Fred in a shed to ‘have a go’ to save a few quid. A fiddle here, a tweak with these odd looking screws there and the car usually ran ten times worse than before but it was always the fault of the fuel injection set up – well wasn’t it?

Owners faced two choices. The first was to switch to carbs or cut their losses and sell the car cheaply as many did back in the 1970s to buy a 3-litre Capri instead which had the performance of a TR6 with the reliability of a Triumph Herald.

Cheap TR6s were in abundance and folks, long on image, short on finances, simply wanted to own one – even for a few months – for the cachet of owning a TR6 to pull the birds.


It’s sad that the TR6 (along with the 2.5PI saloon) was blighted by poor engine reliability, sadder still that it was not a one off accident as Stag and Dolomite Sprint drivers will testify. Because when new, the TR6 was the spiritual successor to the late lamented Big Healeys even though it was not so much as old wine in new bottles as with previous TRs, but more like new wine in an old bottle.

In their respective, highly non PC 1969 road tests, Motor latched on to the ‘he-man’ aspect of the car. “It takes a man to get the best from it”, further opinioned Autocar who added that even if the Healey had not been dropped, the TR6 “would have taken over as the he-man’s sports car in its own right.

“It is very much a masculine machine, calling for beefy muscles, bold decisions and even ruthlessness on occasions”. And that was only about driving the bloody thing!


Each of the 94,619 could trace their lineage back to the original TR2 to a world of sports jackets, flat hats, Brylcreem and pipe smoking in general.

Its demise marked the end of a quarter century of Triumph tradition. Small wonder that once folks tasted what Triumph served up as a sports car with the TR7 they quickly wanted back their beekcake – warts and all.

When The Car Was The Star

Amazingly, despite its popularity, the Triumph TR6 didn’t figure much on the silver screen – not in the UK, at least. The car’s biggest claim to fame was in an obscure 1969 BBC Sci-Fi series called Counterstrike, which majored on an earthbound alienoid (Simon King, played by accomplished actor Jon Finch) sent to save our planet – from itself. Finch freely admits that it wasn’t one of his best ever star roles.

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