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Triumph TR7 Part 1

2007 in a TR7 Published: 13th May 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR7 Part 1
Triumph TR7 Part 1 Robsport’s Simon hands over keys to editor
Triumph TR7 Part 1 Interior is in very good shape indeed for an old TR7. Only scar is the split armrest top which you can just see
Triumph TR7 Part 1 Engine in good shape; needs tuning but runs cool
Triumph TR7 Part 1 Shades of Lotus Elan don’t you think?
Triumph TR7 Part 1 This is probably the most unflattering angle of the TR7 Coupe but at least the body is in decent enough order
Triumph TR7 Part 1
Triumph TR7 Part 1
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Seventh heaven or oh-oh seven? We’re running a wedgy Triumph to see just how good or bad this 70s sports car really is!

Give a dog a bad name and it sticks. That old saying could well apply to classics and our latest project car – a Triumph TR7 - in particular. If ever a car was slated and ridiculed from birth, then this last of the TR line surely wins an award. This is one reason why Classic Cars For Sale decided to buy one. Apart from currently being excellent value, surely this wedge-shaped wonder has other qualities to offer, such as modern underpinnings, decent drive and a burgeoning back up from owners clubs and specialists? The problem as we see it at Classic Cars For Sale is that a lot of tosh is spoken and written about Triumph TR7s and much of it is from folk who haven’t even sat in one, let alone got behind that pvc-clad wheel. So after a succession of MGBs, a Fiat X1/9 and a Porsche 924 (another much maligned motor), we’ve gone for anotherunderdog to see whether this Triumph really isas bad as they say it was - and still is!

Not so magnificent Seven

The history of the TR7 is well known. Basically British Leyland wanted a modern TR for modern times and did what the US demanded by only making a fixedhead car because rag tops were destined to be outlawed on the grounds of safety. Fine, except that America changed its mind on such safety laws and decided rag tops were wholly acceptable after all… leaving Triumph well in the lurch until it could design a convertible. Combine being blamelessly wrong-footed by the Yanks with dreadful build and reliability (of which BL was totally to blame) and it’s easy to see why the car was deemed such a flop (when it actually outsold every other TR-ed!). But as Autocar commented in its long-term test of an early TR7 30 years ago, when your MGB or TR6 had racked up 50,000 miles and you were looking for a modern replacement, the TR7 looked a tempting bet (not that there were many direct rivals to choose from back in 1977). Some dismiss the TR7 as being a dressed up Dolomite, which isn’t true as the TR7 shares surprisingly few major components, including the platform. Some say it was more a GT6 than TR6 replacement because it was new-man rather than he-man and we’re not going to disagree with this view - initially anyway. Not that the TR7 was all bad, you understand. Even those who totally disliked the shape had
to grudgingly approve of that spacious, ergonomic cockpit, driving qualities - which were streets ahead of the MGB (interestingly prototypeswere actually badged MGs) - and civility levels which were way above usual TR standards. Another factor that swung us on the mag was passive safety. The TR7 was considered with the safety conscious US in mind, which meant a strong, accident-friendly design. It was the first production car to boast side impact bars thus protecting the driver and passenger like no sports car before, for example. The windscreen was bonded in, adding to the strength of the reinforced frame, which is as robust as any add-on roll-over bar claim TR7 fans. There have been reports of TR7s being involved in collisions with the driver getting out of the car, unscathed or only slightly injured, windscreen intact, doors working, cabin undamaged - and thankful for the car’s design. Now we’re not saying old cars are dangerous (it’s the nut behind the wheel rather than the ones holding our classics together that are the problem!) but it’s a fact that modern cars naturally perform better in a prang - and safety is an increasingly important facet for motorists and manufacturers alike.

Our car

We spent quite a while TR7 hunting before coming up trumps - ironically just where we should have started our search in the first place, at a top Triumph specialist. We were keen to findan original coupe as opposed to the sexier convertible for a variety of reasons, but most of the examples we looked at were pretty dire. TR7s rust for England and because there’s no real value in them, many become tart-up TRs that are an MOT away from the scrap yard. The closest we came to parting with the folding stuff was last spring at a car show where we ran a rule over a cheap 1978 coupe. The reason it was so keenly priced was due to copious bubbling under a well T-Cutted body, naff seat covers hiding tired seats and general decay. But the real reason we held fire was because it was an automatic in the most unpopular and unflattering colour TR7s could wear; white. No doubt that for £575 we could have dressed the car up for a quick sale and fast buck, but that’s not we’re about. In the end we found our car last summer while carrying out a Classic To Consider buying guide on the TR7 for our October 2006 issue. Tucked away at Herts-based Robsport International was a rather clean and original coupe. The maroon paint was as flat as a pancake but it was largely dent-free and rust was minimal. The car’s best point was its virtually ‘as new’ cockpit, right down to its Bay City Rollers tartan trim and Unipart push button radio. It ran well and came with a fresh MOT. A proper car for proper money, which Robsport’s Simon and Rob rightly valued around the £1500 mark.

The plan

Initial running around over the Christmas break has revealed what a thoroughly good buy our TR7 was - and how undervalued these last of the line TRs really are. This TR really does run rings around an MGB across country and yet is as comfortable and civilised as a Stag. That 105bhp 2-litre eight valve Dolomite engine was fairly brisk in its day (Autocar test figures quote 0-60mph in a surprising 9.1 seconds and 109mph, which if genuine beats a GT6 and a Stag) and we reckon after a good tune-up on a rolling road will go even better plus see the right side of 30mpg even without the benefit of a fifth gear which later TR7s featured. Our plan is to run the car over the year to see how a TR7 stacks up. We’re not going to slip in a V8 or do anything radical, but instead carry out cost-effective alterations such as ‘poly bushing’ the suspension, uprating the brakes, a session on a rolling road, ‘Hi-Fi-ing’ the lovely period Unipart radio, tidying up the bodywork and so on. So far we’re very happy to own - and be seen in - a TR7. Time will tell whether we’ll join the traditional TR throng with our views though…

More Info

Bodywork

Generally very good indeed. Maroon paintwork initially flat but has cut back okay, although finish is still patchy in places. Rust/filler repair in usual TR7 places, but seems moderate and easily sorted

Interior

Excellent and totally original. Tartan seats are like new, hard-faced dash unmarked and headlining only lightly discoloured at the edges. Only broken heater knob and tatty armrest cover detracts

Engine

Mileometer shows 49,000, can’t be surely? Engine sounds and feels healthy - cooling no problem - and pulls well but needs good service. New exhaust sections recently fitted

Running gear

All in order. Gearbox slick although clutch sometimes judders when cold. No noises on the move from suspension plus feels taut and positive. Standard brakes ok and car handles as it should. Lacks handy fifth gear which may become a bind

Other Comments

Runs fine; simply requires good service to sort exhaust rattles and other niggles. Tyres and wheel trims in excellent shape, passenger door lock faulty, broken aerial, tatty boot mat, bonnet sometimes reluctant to slam lock properly, speedo cable ticks

Overall

A very honest example of a much bodged car which has had only three owners from new. Needs TLC rather than pricey large-scale repairs

Contacts

Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); http://www.robsport.co.uk; Call Rob on 01763 262263


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