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Triumph TR Series

Published: 1st Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR Series
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Fancy owning a motorsport legend for road and track use? Paul Davies looks at true classics that made their name on stages and circuits, and still provide a fine drive today

When the Morgan family rejected Sir John Black’s offer that his Standard Triumph company should build their Plus 4 sports car, the resulting Triumph two-seater became not just a best seller on both sides of the Atlantic but also a race and rally winner. More than a little miffed that Morgan – who already used a version of the Standard Vanguard engine in their ‘retro’ sports car - spurned his advances, Sir John decreed his company would make their own roadster. The result was the Triumph TR2. Built on a version of the pre-war Standard Flying Nine chassis, with independent front suspension and rigid rear axle from the razoredge Mayflower saloon, the first of the family of TR sports cars offered 100mph performance from its two-litre, four pot, motor. Private entrants soon recognised the potential, and Manchester motor trader Johnny Wallwork gave the car its first success: outright victory on the 1954 RAC Rally no less. With need for more publicity, it wasn’t long before development driver Ken Richardson – who famously reported the car as “a death trap” when asked to assess the prototype - was given the job of setting up a motorsport department. His first big event was the 1954 Mille Miglia where - sharing the driving with Maurice Gatsonides - he finished 27th overall. The tough TRs made their name on the big rallies of the fifties, like the Alpine and the Liege- Rome-Liege. Gatsonides (better known to us for his Gatso speed camera) was one of the team’s top men, winning a coveted Coupe des Alpes in ’54. In ‘56 the team - by now joined by Tommy Wisdom and a young Paddy Hopkirk - surpassed themselves with five Coupes. By 1958 they were on a roll, with Hopkirk winning most of the British international rallies, including the Circuit of Ireland, and Gatso coming sixth on the Monte Carlo. It wasn’t unknown in those days for TR2s and TR3s to fill the top ten entry on British club rallies.Racing was also part of the heritage. Edgar Wadsworth and Bob Dickson ran a factory prepped TR2 at the 1954 Le Mans 24 Hours, finishing 15th, and the car became a favourite for club racers throughout Europe and – importantly for sales - in the USA. But major success at Le Mans with, largely, production cars eluded Triumph. Richardson’s team developed a160bhp, twin overhead camshaft, engine (nicknamed Sabrina after a well-endowed film star of the day, because of the bulging cam covers on the front of the head - think about it) for the lightweight TRS special of 1959. The cars were initially not successful, but re-bodied versions took the team prize in 1961. Motor sport successes continued, through the disc braked TR3A (1957) to the re-bodied TR4 of 1961 and the independent rear TR4Aof ’64. When Leyland Motors took over Standard Triumph in 1961 Ken Richardson’scompetition department was closed, only to be re-born almost immediately under the management of Graham Robson. John Sprinzel, Roy Fidler and Vic Elford rallied the TR4, whilst in the USA Bob Tullius was unbeatable in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) racing. Although the four-cylinder TR was to continue until 1967, the car’s competition life ended some years earlier when the light and nimble Spitfire and the super-strong 2000 saloon came on the scene. But things have gone full circle. The car is now a regular in historic club racing, and only a couple of years ago a winner in the Historic Rally Car Register’s road rally championship.

Triumph TR Series Summary


TR2, 1953-55: 8,628
TR3, 1955-57: 13,377
TR3A, 1957-61: 58,236
TR4, 1961-65: 40,253
TR4A, 1964-76: 28,465


Engine: Four-cylinder, in-line, pushrod. 2 x SU carbs. 1991cc and 2138cc (from 1961). Approx 100bhp.
Gearbox: Four speed with electric overdrive.
Drive: Rear wheels.
Suspension: Front independent with coil springs; Rear, live axle with half-elliptic springs. (Coil spring IRS on TR4A).
Brakes: TR2/TR3 Drums all round. Front discs from Oct 1956.

Claim to fame

Outright and class wins on International rallies, incl. Alpine, Monte Carlo, Liege-Rome-Liege, RAC, Circuit of Ireland, Tulip, Shell 4000 (Canada). Racing in USA (SCCA) and UK (Tourist Trophy) and Le Mans (with twin-cam TRS).

Famous names

Maurice Gatsonides, Tommy Wisdom, Peter Cooper, Rob Slotemaker, Paddy Hopkirk, Vic Elford, John Sprinzel, Jean Jacques Thuner, Ninian Sanderson, Peter Jopp, Bob Tullius, Roy Fidler (King Cod!).

Where to buy

Small ads, Triumph specialists (lot’s of them). CCFS.

What to look for

Serious rust in chassis and anywhere in bodywork. Noisy rear axles and worn synchro on gearboxes. Non-functioning overdrive.Wear in steering box. Engines are pretty bullet-proof however.

What to pay

Beware any TR2/3 under £10,000, it’s likely to need considerable work. Top quality cars are £15-20,000 (TR2/3) and TR4 models a bit less.


TR Register:; 01235 818866.Club Triumph:; 01425 274193

Classic sport

Out-classed by Healeys, Jags and Elans in historic racing. Good for road rallies and production car trials though.

Maintenance, tuning and sport

1991cc engine will go to 2187cc with 87mm pistons and liners. Responds well to headwork and a camshaft change. 150bhp is possible with dual Webers. Specialist engine work available from several sources. Most parts (incl body) obtainable.

Competitive Rating: 5

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