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Triumph 2500 (2.5 PI)

Published: 14th Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph 2500 (2.5 PI)
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their names on rally stages and race tracks, and still provide fine drives today

The Triumph 2.5PI was made for just one event, the 16,244 miles dash from London to Mexico City that was the 1970 World Cup Rally. It was an unlikely rally car, but after 66 days of the toughest marathon ever second and fourth places, splitting the far fleeter Ford Escorts, will go down as one of the manufacturer’s greatest (pardon me) triumphs. Born amongst the mayhem that was the British Leyland amalgamation of Austin-Morris (BMC), Rover, and Triumph, the 2.5PI was underrated by press and industry alike. A high performance version of the Triumph 2000, itself a sort of ‘poor relation’ to the Rover 2000, it married silky-smooth, six-cylinder, power with Lucas petrol injection. The engine, with a few horses less at 132bhp, came from the TR5 sports car. Second and fifth for the Austin 1800 on the London-Sydney Marathon of 1968 made BL determined to go for outright victory on the World Cup Rally. With the 1800 short on speed, the welcoming of Triumph into the corporate fold provided the team with a faster alternative. Despite worries the new regime under Lord Stokes was not ‘motorsport friendly’, little effort was spared to get the formula right. Paddy Hopkirk debuted a Mk1 version of the 2.5PI on the 1969 Austrian Alpine Rally and retired with clutch failure, but Brian Culcheth nursed the car to 24th place fon the Scottish. ‘Testing’ continued on the RAC Rally, with a clean sweep in class for Andrew Cowan, Hopkirk and Culcheth. Rallycross with Cowan and Rod Chapman helped to refine things further. Crucial testing took place in South America, with the team learning of rough stages, or primes, up to 500 miles each at high altitude, and of the logistics of employing a vast spares and service operation. In-car oxygen was deemed necessary for the higher primes. No less than four Mk2 versions of the big Triumph were entered, with alloy panels to compensate for the weight of 32 gals fuel and numerous spares carried on board, and a dashboard knob to dial in the correct PI mixture every 3000ft change of altitude. Culcheth and Johnstone Syer elected to travel two-up, but Hopkirk and (London-Sydney winner) Cowan decided to each add an extra body. Culcheth’s strategy proved correct, with second place behind the winning Ford Escort of Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm. Hopkirk, Tony Nash and Neville Johnson, were fourth, the Green/Murray/Cardno car going out with engine failure and Cowan/Coyle/Ossio retiring after an accident. It was, says ‘Culch’, the mother of all rallies. “For sheer speed and endurance it was out on its’ own. We drove from Santiago (Chile) for 57 hours through the Andes mountains on three special stages, one of 500 miles and two of 300 miles. Only three cars made it on time, we were one of them. One 350 miles stage in Uruguay, the Triumph averaged 108 mph.” After Mexico, the 2.5PI lived on for two years. Culcheth/Syer had top places, including winning the 1970 Scottish, and finishing second on the 1971 Cyprus. ‘Culch’ and Lofty Drews were 13th on the ’72 East African Safari. Then the 2.5PI was pensioned off, to make way for the Dolomite Sprint and the Morris Marina would you believe!

Triumph 2500 (2.5 PI) Summary


Mk1 (1968-69): 8658; Mk2 (1969-75): 43,353


Engine: Front mounted, six cylinder in-line, 2498cc, single block mounted camshaft operating valves via pushrods. Twelve port head with Lucas multi-point, mechanical fuel injection. Power: 132bhp.
Gearbox: Four-speed with overdrive.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Brakes: Disc front/drum rear.
Suspension: Front independent with struts and coil springs; rear independent with trailing arms and coil springs.
Steering: Rack and pinion.

Claim to fame

2nd and 4th on 1970 World Cup Rally. Loved by UK police patrolmen!

Famous names

Brian Culcheth, Johnstone Syer, Andrew Cowan, Bran Coyle, Paddy Hopkirk, Tony Nash, Neville Johnston, Rod Chapman, Evan Green, ‘Gelignite’ Jack Murray.

Where to buy

Try various Triumph club websites (see below). Occasionally seen in classified adverts.

What to look for

General rust (as usual), PI system can malfunction, worn suspension bushes (replace with Proflex).

What to pay

Recently seen from £500, with £2000 for a good ‘un.


Club Triumph: Triumph 2000 Register: Triumph Sports Six Club:

Classic sport

No reason why you shouldn’t have fun in classic rallies, post-historic stages, navigational or touring events. Check out the Historic Rally Car Register (

Maintenance, tuning and sport

Works rally cars ran in standard tune with high compression heads. With modded head, cam and exhaust near 200bhp is possible. Race engines often ditch PI for triple Webers. Rimmer Bros ( supply most parts to rebuild. The petrol injection experts are Prestige Injection Developments ( and Jigsaw ( and Canley Classics ( can both supply suitable tuning equipment.

Competitive Rating: 5

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