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Triumph Stag

Triumph Stag Published: 29th May 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
Triumph Stag
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Why not own a...? Triumph Stag

Just over half a century ago Standard- Triumph caught sight of what was to be its Stag sportster. The carmaker had been considering a convertible derivative of its classy 2000 saloon as far back as 1963, but in ’66 company boss Harry Webster happened to spy a coupé version that Italian stylist Michelotti had made in Turin, exactly as he envisaged. Webster liked it so much that, he purchased it and bought it back to the UK where the board gave it the green light and was given the TR6 moniker.

The rest, as they say, is history and the Stag became one of British Leyland’s many great White Elephants and lasted only seven years in production, instantly gaining the unfortunate albeit deserved nickname Triumph ‘Snag’. Happily, this V8 2+2 had classic written all over it and concentrated efforts by owners’ clubs and specialists turned the Snag into the Stag it should have always been to the point where today, a fully sorted car is an absolute joy and a great GT that’s almost as easy to own as a Spitfire.

Model choice

Despite the fact that the car was originally designed around the trusty straight six engine, the Stag only came V8-powered with one trim level and the options of manual plus overdrive (standardised in late ’72) or auto along with hard and soft tops.

Biggest Stag snag was (is?) the troublesome V8 engine which was essentially two Dolomite engines housed together. Overheating problems saw a revised cooling system as early as 1972.

It’s a little known fact, that Dolomite pistons, together with its cylinder head combustion chambers followed when the MkII surfaced in early 1973. Cosmetic changes were generally minor; a matt black tail panel and sills, plus new instruments but the once optional hard top was now thrown in and the rear quarter windows are deleted from the hood.

Another rethink for ’74 saw hazard warning lights fitted but, strangely, air-conditioning is cut from the options list. The following year a better Borg Warner automatic gearbox was installed, sensible as some 75 per cent of Stags were self-shifters.

With the rolling 40 year VED exemption rolling on, most are now tax-free meaning, that the MkII cars are worth seeking out, although condition counts first and foremost as the cooling system mods BL added did little good and most have been modified over the decades anyway!

Colours can play an important part. Magenta and green are wonderfully period, although some prefer the classier shades like Pageant Blue or the traditional sporting red. Apart from its hefty weight, that requires at least two to manhandle, the factory hard top should be considered a bonus if it’s still there.

Stag heart transplants became a thriving industry during the late 1970s and up until a decade ago, was considered a pretty good thing to do, especially if the evergreen 160bhp Rover V8 – that many say should have been fitted from the outset – nestles under the bonnet.

Aftermarket conversion quality varied enormously as too many cars ran with incompatible spring and damper settings. For example, the Rover V8, is considerably lighter than the Triumph V8, while Ford V6 engines are much heavier.

If the job is done properly then there’s little wrong with a converted Stag although, thanks to the new found durability of that lovely Triumph unit, a good many have been brought back to factory spec because they are now worth appreciably more.

 

Behind the wheel

Please don’t simply think that the Stag is a Triumph saloon with knobs on! True, it looks similar inside and out, but the driving experience is special and different to say a 2.5PI. It’s a sportier drive in every sense and yet it’s certainly not a sports car but instead a relaxing GT and for that reason swapping from a TR6, for instance, may disappoint some.

The V8 is meaty and melodic but its 145bhp is no powerhouse but it’s lively enough for many and besides, you can up it to over 170bhp if you so wish. Most Stags came with three-speed automatic transmissions, and it does suit the lazy GT characteristic of the Triumph. The four-speed manual is more involving but the Stag was never intended to be an out-and-out sportster in the TR sense of the word.

Handling is soft and the power steering is a shade too light but you can uprate if you want a sportier drive; personally we wouldn’t overdo it and spoil the comfort. It’s hard to comment on versions powered by anything else and you’ll have to go by a gut feeling; try a standard model to compare and see what suits you best.

 

What to pay

Most Stag buyers want a car they can simply use rather than a project. A lot of the Stags for sale aren’t as good as buyers think one specialist told us, adding that the problem is that there aren’t enough good cars to go round because doting owners with good cars don’t want to sell!

You could part with as much as £25,000 but restoration costs easily exceed this. A very good example can be bought for around £12-£15,000 but sub ten grand buys can be a liability. In contrast you may be better off buying a project for less than £2000 and go to town on it, rather than purchase something much dearer yet still needs the same amount of work on it.

The most valuable Stags have invariably had a modern four-speed automatic gearbox fitted (see Making one better panel) while they’ll be leather-trimmed perhaps with fancier walnut interior detailing – oh, and a documented rebuild.

What ultimately obliterates their value is originality and the state of the rot-prone bodyshell. There aren’t many cars left now with Rover V8s still fitted, although re-engineering them back to spec can cost £5000.

 

Making one better

There’s no shortage of bits to help sort out a Stag. The cooling system has to be the first major area to tackle; an uprated rad and better electric fans are good starting points and we gather that a front air spoiler, similar to a Dolomite Sprint, helps a great deal at high speeds to provide an optimum ram effect.

A really stiff clutch can be caused by the engine and gearbox running out of line with each other. The easiest fix is to use a modified clutch plate, from James Paddock for £210 plus also gives a much lighter pedal. If you prefer an auto but want a smoother box with a touring ratio, a modern Jaguar XJ40 conversion is available; you’ll need around £4000 to fit it, but apart from a smoother drive it cuts the revs down from a frantic 4000 to 2500rpm at the legal limit making a self-shifting Stag as relaxing as the manual overdrive model.

The brakes are generally ok but aftermarket ventilated discs are an advantage. If the infamous ‘Triumph Twitch’ annoys you (it’s caused by the primitive splined driveshafts locking up under power and causing a momentary snatch) you can either fit Datsun ones, or, better still, the new CV joints made for SC Parts at just under £600; expensive but worth it for a smoother drive. Another mod is a complete modern BMW rear axle swap which also opens up a choice of completely new final drive ratios to ponder over.

Polyurethane bushes are a popular upgrade; there are 18 in total, including the steering rack mounts. If the handling feels especially twitchy it may be because of worn trailing arm bushes. Replacing them is easy, and it’s also worth fitting polyurethane types while you’re at it because they will last a lot longer.

 

Maintenance matters

Everything you need to service a Stag is freely available, via an army of specialists and the excellent Stag Owners’ Club with prices in line with a TR6, for example. The coolant needs to be flushed out annually, and kept topped up at all times – check it before each trip. We’ve heard of some owners running their Stags with neat anti-freeze but we’d prefer Evans Waterless Coolant as it can’t pressurise like normal coolant.

It’s a good idea to check the cylinder head’s tightness annually as they can relax slightly in service and if you need new head gaskets, Club Triumph sells improved extra thick replacements to compensate for any previous excessive skimming for under £40. SG Parts’ replacement radiators, featuring a better matrix design, start at £461. A recon water pump, typically at £80 is the final fit.

Timing chains have always been known to stretch quickly and slip teeth, and most owners reckon on changing them at 25,000 mile intervals along with the tensioners, as recommended by Triumph; it’s a paltry £80 outlay that saves lunching the engine! The ignition utilises a twin c.b. point set up not unlike that of a Daimler SP250. As a result, to keep everything in tune, it’s better to swap for an electronic ignition, either simply to replace the points or a complete distributor.

As well as the regular greasing points on the chassis, the sliding couplings on the driveshafts need an annual lube to avoid the back end getting excessively twitchy through the corners.

Stags rust badly and you need to keep on top of problems because repairs can get pretty pricey.

 

Buying tips

 

1. Body and chassis

Major corrosion, especially in the sills, floorpans, wings and seams between the inner and outer wheelarches. Cover sills sometimes fitted; they’re a bodge. Replacing them properly means removing the welded front wings.

Also check the base of the A-post, which rots out. The base of the B-post can also rot badly, and this is also an awkward area to repair properly.

Two outriggers on each side at the front rot first. Have a good look at the trailing edge of the boot lid, which can rust badly, as can the boot floor.

 

2. Engine

The V8’s reputation was deserved when new, but all problems can now be fixed. Most issues relate to the cooling system, so drive the car for at least 10 miles, watching the temp gauge. Although the rad is usually blamed for the overheating problems, it’s generally the cylinder head castings at fault. Their waterways were often cast badly, restricting flow. It’s essential the system is flushed out annually and that a 30/70 anti-freeze/ water mix is used as weak coolant will corrode the heads, causing blockages.

With the engine idling and the bonnet up, listen for tapping noises from worn cam followers and loose timing chains.

 

3. Running gear

The first problem with the TR6 gearbox is usually worn second gear synchromesh. Also flick it in and out of overdrive; if the action is sluggish or doesn’t engage, it needs servicing or there’s an electrical fault, such as a broken wire or duff solenoid – it’s rarely a major fault thankfully.

Propshaft universal joints wear, but replacing them is simple. The driveshafts can be more complicated though, and check the quill shaft as it can break with serious results.

Check the angle of the rear wheels with care as it could be that the differential nose-piece has dropped and damaged the rear cross-member (not uncommon) with it.

Stag diffs have been scarce for a long time, which is why some owners fit a Triumph 2000 (with 4:1 ratio) or 2.5PI unit (with 3.45:1 ratio). The Stag’s is 3.6:1, although BMW units are now being fitted.

 

In conclusion

Stylish good looks, V8 power and yet pragmatic practicality for all the family, it’s no wonder that their owners refused to let the Stag die but instead carried on vital development where BL left off – or simply didn’t bother! The result is a fine GT that’s as good as a Mercedes SL in many areas yet at the fraction of the price.

 



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