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Triumph TR2-3

Triumph TR2-3 Published: 12th Feb 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR2-3
Triumph TR2-3
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Why not own a…? Triumph TR2-3

Many people compare these Triumph TRs with the Austin-Healey of that era and rightly so because it’s a lesser known fact that they shared their DNA as Donald Healey was a chief engineer for the company. The TR2 went on sale in July 1953 after Triumph teased the public with its TR1 concept car a year earlier. When it came to post war sports cars, nobody did them quite like the British and the TR2, TR3 and TR3A ooze charm, simplicity and nostalgia like few other classics – Morgan and Healeys excepted .The TR was a true hairy-chested sports car just like the Healey compared to the rather genteel ‘after you old boy’ MG TD and TF yet more affordable Then and now) and that’s why you should consider one if you’re in the market for this kind of sportster.

Model choice

Three models but based on one shared design. The TR2 was founded on a revamped pre-war Standard Flying Nine chassis and used a Standard Vanguard 2088cc four-pot engine, albeit downsized to 1991cc but, tweaked to give a healthy 90bhp. Initial cars of 1953 featured the famous, curious ‘long-door’ design which could snag high kerbs, so by November 1954 they (the doors not the kerb!-ed) were shortened and a sill inserted to take up the gap.

Popular options include an overdrive (on top ratio only, unlike later TRs) a hard top and wire wheels. The TR3 superseded the TR2 after 8628 of the latter had been built in 1955. Changes were slight however; there was more power and an ‘egg-crate’ grille, but that was about the extent of the original differences. However, in September 1956 there was a signifi cant power boost, with the engine now capable of producing between 95bhp to 100bhp depending upon age, while front disc brakes (a first for the class of car) became standard equipment.

Come September 1957, TR3 production ended, although the model was still available for several months, replaced by the TR3A (unofficially as Triumph still called the car a TR3) identified by a full-width grille, along with improved seating and trim (which was still pretty stark however). From 1959, the car was optionally available with a lustier 2.2-litre engine, but there was no further developments of the model which was replaced in late 1961 – after over 58,000 sales – by the completely modernised TR4. That said there was a TR3B; for export only, it was a TR4 but with the familiar old style bodywork for traditionalists – the best of both worlds if you can find one, that is.

Apart from the TR3A, there’s so little difference between the pair that condition and availability are the chief priorities to worry over and many earlier cars were upgraded to the later spec anyway but the long-door cars will be most collectible for purists. However, far more TR3s and particularly TR3As were produced, most going to the States.

Behind the wheel

You certainly wouldn’t buy an early sidescreen TR for its practicality or refinement – because there’s scant on offer. These early TRs aren’t for cissies; refinement is minimal and it’s not really a relaxed tourer – but no worse than any 50’s rival. Instead, as payback you get a cast iron guarantee that every drive is a blast from the past just like a Morgan. A minimal kerbweight coupled to a torquey overhead-valve four-cylinder engine gives a surprisingly brisk performance and best of all, you don’t need to row the gear-lever constantly to extract the most of this Triumph.

Buying Tips

Body & Chassis

With the bulk of cars going overseas, left -hand drivers are common, ditto RHD conversions. It’s not dififcult to do, but has to be done properly. Given that LHD markets are more widespread, financially you may be better off leaving the car as it is.

Most have been restored to varying standard; check everything lines up. Panel fit may be everywhere and if the bodyshell has been separated from the chassis, it might well be twisted out of true. If the car is a US import, crash damage is more likely than corrosion so check everything closely for ripples and kinks.

Outriggers can rot badly – as can any of the car’s steel parts, but everything is available. Floorpans are especially rot-prone, along with the A-posts, inner rear panels and the quarter panels behind the doors. Also particularly prone are the bottoms of the front wings, inside walls of the spare wheel compartment and the battery tray.

Engine

The engine is simple, so signs of wear are straightforward; rattling (timing chains, small ends and so on) and blue smoke under power. Tappets can also get vocal after a while, but in the main these engines (which saw service in Ferguson tractors) are very hardy units.

Running Gear

All TR gearboxes are tough, but synchromesh can give up eventually. The first thing to go though is usually the layshaft bearings, given away by a chattering noise at tickover in neutral, then silence when the clutch is dipped. More of a problem is clattering in first or reverse gears, signifying that a gear has lost a tooth.

TR2’s Lockheed-built back axle isn’t very durable if the car is driven hard on modern radial tyres. The problem is that the half-shafts break, which is why many cars have been upgraded to the Girling-built axle of the TR3 and TR3A – it’s much stronger and never gives problems because of it. Whatever axle is fitted, you need to make sure there isn’t oil everywhere; leaks are common.

Steering box leaks are common and if the oil level isn’t maintained, rapid wear is inevitable – especially if wider tyres are fitted. Undue play means the box has clearly worn; similarly, tight spots indicate somebody has overtightened things to mask wear.

Suspension is simple and durable. The most likely fault is trunnion wear because of insuficient lubrication; every 1000 miles, LM grease needs to be pumped in. That’s at the front; at the rear there can also be broken springs or lever arm dampers that have seen better days, but it’s all cheap and easy to fix.

The electrics are much like the trim; simple, durable and everything is available. Poor earths and brittle looms are the most likely age related issues. Starter motors can also prove fragile, but a high-torque unit effects a complete cure, at the expense of originality.

What to pay…

Thanks to their popularity in historic motorsport, pre-TR4 Triumphs are appreciably dearer than the TR6 and not far short of TR5PI residuals. Tidy cars come up for about £20,000 but harder to find top TRs can command £30,000 and above if original as so many aren’t. In complete contrast, a shed needing a full restoration may sound tempting at around six grand but the cost of proper build will soon see you losing out. Like-forlike the later TR3/3As warrant slightly higher prices although it’s not a given – in fact the increasing rarity of worthwhile owning TR2s is predicted to see values surpass them.

Here’s six of the best reasons to buy one

  • Rustic Morganlike character
  • Entertaining to drive
  • Easy to maintain
  • Cracking specialist/club support
  • Potential to improve
  • Great for classic motorsport


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