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Triumph TR7

Triumph TR7 Published: 9th May 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR7
Triumph TR7
Triumph TR7
Triumph TR7
Triumph TR7
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Designed to drag the TR sports car into the modern world, the TR7 shared little with its illustrious forebearers but it doesn’t make it a less worthy car to wear the badge

There’s been a lot of rot talked about Triumph’s TR7 – probably by many who have never been in one let alone driven this last of the TR sports cars. Launched in 1975, it was never intended to replace the hairy-chested TR6 but be in tune with the energy conscious 1970s, particularly in the US where the bulk of all Canley’s classics traditionally went to.

Apart from the Dolomite engine (itself a mix of the Sprint’s 2-litre block with normal eight valve cylinder head) and gearbox, the TR7 was pretty much all new and also provide the basis of an important new saloon which never materialised. Rotten reliability, together with questionable coupé looks, tarnished this Triumph from the off yet it was still the best seller of the entire TR strain. As a starter sports classic the misjudged TR7 takes a lot of beating. Read why.

On the move

Before we even talk about the TR7’s performance, you have to deal with elephant in the room – those fixedhead looks which you either take to or don’t although time seems to mellowed general opinions but on the other hand, the convertible always looked so right with that wedge styling.

Inside, the cabin is a world away from previous TRs, meaning that it’s pretty civilised and comfortable with ample room for two even if plastics dominate the decor.

Fire up and the Dolomite engine doesn’t sound remotely sporting – it’s too saloon-like and flat in tone. It doesn’t feel especially sporty either, even when wound up to the red line but there’s good flexibility from the 105bhp 2-litre ‘half Dolomite Sprint’ unit so you don’t need to wring its neck to get maximum grunt. While lacking the charisma of the old Triumph engines, a good one, in tune, propels the TR7 quite nicely giving passable sports car performance that lies somewhere in between the TR4-6. You will find some powered by Sprint engines (officially 60 were made) which will make a TR7 almost as quick as a TR8.

While the five-speed cars are most wanted (there’s also a three-speed automatic), the original four-speeder is tad quicker thanks to the ratios being closer stacked. However, if you’re doing lots of motorway driving, the five-speed box is probably better, and all posses crisp gearchanges making the TR7 not a chore or challenge to drive.

For this reason, this Triumph doesn’t feel ‘sports car’ like previous TRs, an MGB, nor for that matter a Spitfire; the 7’s civility and comfort gives the impression of a two-seater saloon instead. In fact, many magazines at the car’s launch remarked that the newcomer was more a replacement for the GT6 than the TR6. That’s not a bad thing for those used to moderns or an MX-5; TR7s enjoy enough classic appeal but they don’t feel primitive. In fact, according to the owners club a good number of TR owners also own TR7s “for when the mood takes them” and we can well see why. It’s certainly a far nicer tourer than the earlier sports cars, including the GT6, although the convertible’s roof can give rise to a lot of noise.

Round the corners

Even staunch critics of the TR7 have to concede that they drive better than they look including the handling which is a world away from the old sea clipper TRs although like the power delivery, cross country prowess is again perhaps too saloonlike. It’s a bit roly-poly and soft, but entirely predictable to control in the best MGB tradition.

There’s no nasty surprises; understeer giving way to a progressive if a rather sloppy roll prone tail slide – thanks to the soft springing – but that weird aerodynamic styling does enable a low centre of gravity for good road holding. A TR7 certainly handles cleaner than the earlier TRs or GT6s (or a Dolomite Sprint-ed), albeit in a not so overtly sporting or challenging manner. If you value decent comfort just as much then the TR7 is ideal but you can also make one handle very well indeed with some simple mods (speak to TR7 specialist Robsport International for best advice) such as harder dampers and a cheap anti-dive front suspension kit to quell the Triumph’s tendency to nose dive under heavy braking.

If safety is important to you with a 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 so 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 it.

Motor Magazine hailed the TR7 as being “much better than the existing Leyland two seaters” but warned its readers that “If your idea of a sports car is something rorty with a stiff ride, the TR7 is not for you,” and we agree with this some 43 years on.

Go or no go

Project Bullet was Triumph’s attempt of bringing its TR sports car strain bang up to date, now offering enough civility and usability to make them ideal classics for first-timers or as a daily driver. The car’s designer Harris Mann (who also penned the Allegro) once told us: “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”.

The TR7 will always split opinions, but the car’s value for money (you can buy a good one for under £4000 still) always hits the target and why you should take a second look at one with your eyes (and mind) wide open.

Quick spin

PERFORMANCE Adequate with good torque, shame it doesn’t feel sporty

CRUISING TR7’s forte making it more a GT6 not a TR6 replacement

HANDLING Viceless; quite high powers but with an MGB-like predictablity

BRAKES Effective but the car prone to nose dive when used hard

EASE OF USE Complete contrast to past TRs

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