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Triumph Stag

Published: 23rd Jun 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buyer Beware

  • If there is sign of overheating, you’ll need to find out why (often a blocked radiator) and cure first, have heads skimmed (new ones now available).
  • If the oil light flickers at idle, the main bearings are worn and the crank will need Tuftriding after it has been re-ground by a machine shop.
  • Check the oil light hasn’t been disconnected to hide this, and listen for a rumble when you blip the throttle.
  • A timing chain rattle at hot idle that disappears as the revs rise means the chain must be replaced immediately to avoid terminal problems.
  • If the rear wheels display negative camber, then the nose of the differential has dropped and repairs can get pretty expensive to fix it.
  • Poor idling and high fuel consumption could be down to nothing more than leaking breather pipes: suspect this if the idle speed drops when you remove the oil filler cap.
  • Fore and aft movement in the viscous fan coupling is a sign that the unit will soon fail.
  • Rust by the damper mountings in the hood well is often missed by bodgers, and could indicate serious problems elsewhere.
  • More obvious rust will show in the wheelarches, valences, front panel and floors. Also check the doors where the skin folds around the frame to ensure that good metal hasn’t simply been welded over old rotting stuff.
  • Sills can be hard to check behind trim covers, but the quality of any repairs where they join the rear wings can be a useful indicator.
  • Open the doors and inspect where the top of the wing joins the screen pillar: rust in the pillar is tricky to eradicate.
  • Look for evidence of regular and thorough wax injection into the box panels.
  • Repair panels are not available for the hardtops, so check their front and rear edges carefully.

Fast Facts

  • Driving: 3/5

    Feels quite modern still but is more GT than true sports car

  • Usability: 4/5

    If maintained right then Stags make effective daily classics

  • Maintaining: 4/5

    Few problems thanks to vast club and specialist support

  • Owning: 4/5

    Costs little more than a MGB to run, fair fuel economy and insurance rates

  • Value: 3/5

    Not the bargains they once were and cheap Stags are still a liability

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Fancy a proper classic Two Plus Two that oozes style and sensibility but won’t break the bank? Then there really is only one choice – and it’s not a Mercedes SL!

If ever a car has come good then it’s the Triumph Stag. Once known as the ‘Snag’ this stylish and cultured 2+2 is has evolved into one of the most desired GTs around. It’s had a chequered history, but this Triumph has made it as a bona fide classic – and the best news is that it’s still affordable. Some cars are created after careful analysis of the marketplace, while others come about almost by chance. Triumph had been toying with the idea of a convertible version of its 2000 saloon as far back as 1963, but in early 1966 company boss Harry Webster chanced upon a coupe version that Italian stylist Michelotti had fashioned in Turin to advertise his own prospering business.Webster liked it so much that he instantly claimed it for Triumph. Back in England, the project was briefly given the TR6 name before the Stag moniker was adopted, and talk about more speed, less haste. In turning this into the flagship car that eventually made it into the showrooms, the 2000 shell was modified to such an extent that the two vehicles ended up without a single body pressing in common. And that V8 engine! Many think that it was a last minute lash-up by the factory, but nothing could be further from the truth. The decision had been made in 1963 to move away from the ageing sixcylinder powerplants and develop a family of related straight-four and V8 units. Of these, the slant-four made it into production first but all initial production was sold to Saab for the 99 (who still use the basic design to this day), and it was the V8 that first appeared in a Triumph. Typically for British Leyland, the Stag was to be its only home when it could have worked wonderfully in the company’s saloons to create a whole Stag family!

Which model to buy?

The Stag was born into a turbulent time in the British motor industry. Leyland-Triumph had merged with Rover at the beginning of 1967, the new group merging in turn with BMH the following year. The Stag found itself up against internal competition from Jaguar in the 2+2 sporting sector while its engine squared up against Rover’s formidable Buick-derived V8. Colour can play an important role in the buying process and the presence of a decent hard top should also be considered a bonus – but bear in mind that the weighty Triumph affair takes two people to fit and remove and it creates a disappointing amount of wind noise – that’s why so many Stags simply wear their double-duck roof. When they were younger, Stags often suffered the indignity of having their engines ditched in favour of Rover’s V8 or a straight six from the 2000/2500 saloons. Now this trend has been reversed, and such cars can provide a cheaper way into Stag ownership. Just be aware that a six will feel underpowered and the Rover V8, because it is considerably lighter, needs to be accompanied by suspension mods to preserve the handling. These modifications are often lacking though, which makes the car unsettled on the move. The straight six Triumph engine isn’t a bad fit and weighs about the same but bear in mind that alien-engined Stags are command less than a proper car and this is why an increasing number are being brought back to spec. Prices have just started to break the five figure barrier and some absolute minters can command £15,000 or more these days. However there are still affordable examples available for half of this if you look hard enough.

Behind the wheel?

Most Stags are automatics and it suits the lazy GT feel of the car

The exterior lines of the Stag clearly show the Triumph family genes. In many ways they are conservative, lacking the unnecessary embellishment and adornments that can date a car so quickly. Access to the driver’s seat is easy thanks to generous door openings. Seats were covered in vinyl, more down-market than leather (which was never an offical option anyway) but so much more practical in a convertible where they can be cleaned with just a wipe. They’re comfortable too, and legroom in the back, while not quite up to 2000/2500PI levels, is more full fourseater than cramped 2+2 and better than many rivals. The wooden dashboard is pure Triumph. Many owners have since fitted walnut dashes, as the original light wood veneer and simple dials lack the panache of Jags or similar rivals plus the finish fails over time. Triumph’s cluster of triangular warning lights is still a masterful combination of form and function that even now is so easy to fathom. Any V8 engine is going to sound melodic, but the Stag’s soundtrack is particularly so. There is a manual choke, but achieving a smooth idle through the twin Stromberg carbs is easy on a properly tuned engine, even from cold. Most Stags came with a three-speed automatic which suits the lazy GT feel of the car, but the four-speed manual/overdrive option offers more driving involvement as well as better relaxation at higher speeds. Relaxing is a good Stag analogy because for all its sporting spec, the Triumph was never intended to be an out-and-out sportster in the TR mould – and it isn’t.By today’s stands the Stag’s performance is adequate rather than outstanding but that’s not to say it can’t be changed. Specialists and enthusiasts have tuned both engine and suspension to produce some formidable racers, and even in standard form it is a tidy handler, while the independent suspension all round means that it’s not as crashy as a TR6 or MGB. Before you start tinkering bear in mind that there’s little wrong with a standard Stag if it’s in good order with a few sensible improvements, and it’s too easy to spoil the car’s inherent characteristics by going too hard core and trying to make this GT into the sports car it really isn’t. The T-brace rollover bar comes as standard on a Stag, added because of concerns over Stateside safety laws. Opinions differ on it’s appearance but it certainly contributes to the rigidity of the shell and the car’s good handling, although looks from the outside as though it might intrude on the open-air feel of top-down motoring. In reality, you do not even notice it on the inside, while in contrast, the hood folds completely away beneath a hard cover, giving unrivalled rear visibility with the roof down.

The Daily Option?

There’s little wrong with a standard Stag if in good order

The number of low-mileage, original Stags that specialists still turn up bear testimony to the fact that few of them are used every day. That isn’t because they’re not up to the job, but rather because the rising cost of restoration persuades people to treat their car with more respect. In any case, with their soft-top and four-seat capability they are ideally suited to sharing the fun of classic ownership on weekend leisure outings. But there is no reason that these outings have to be confined to a few sort weeks in summer. Hoods are quality double-duck or mohair affairs that seal well, and the Stag’s heater (better than any jag of that era!) is more than man enough to keep toes warm in winter when driving al fresco. The ease with which that hood can be lowered and stored under its cover allows you to make the most of any bursts of sunshine. The addition of a hardtop makes the Stag an even more practical year-round proposition – just make sure you have room to store it safely over the summer.

Ease of Ownership?

Everything you need to service a Stag is freely available from a whole army of specialists, and there are few gaps in the supply chain for either mechanical components or body panels – indeed, even brand new, superior design, cylinder heads are now available from the SOC. Prices are not exorbitant either, although they’re certainly dearer than the likes of Spitfires. Examples are around £180 for a water pump, £175 for a reconditioned radiator and £75 for an engine service kit - about the same as a TR in other words. Much has been written about the early shortcomings of that Stag engine and of its poor build quality that ruined sales. Some was fact, many fiction, and much of this is irrelevant today as most cars will have had the bugs ironed out by now, but even with sheltered lives and low annual mileages, servicing cannot be neglected and the Stag can be still a demanding mistress. The engine’s valves and timing chain tensioners are all hydraulically operated, so oil changes every 3000 miles are worthwhile to keep the oilways clear and clean. Timing chains wear quickly though, and most owners reckon on changing them at 25,000-mile intervals. Coolant needs to be flushed out annually, and kept topped up at all times. The twin point ignition fitted can be fiddly to set up and needs regular attention, although an electronic conversion gets around this hassle. As well as the regular greasing points, the sliding couplings on the driveshafts need an annual lube to avoid the back end getting twitchy through corners.

Timelines

1966

Harry Webster spies a sleek looking 2+2 coupe styled by Italian expert Michelotti based on a Triumph 2000 shell and decides to put it into production in an instant. Initial plans are for a 1968 launch date using the 2000’s straight-six engine found in the saloon and the swift GT6.

1970

Stag is launched in June, but production lines are not yet in full flow and it takes several months for deliveries to start in earnest. Convertible hood is double duck with a three window style. Engine had changed from the straight six to a dedicated 3-litre V8 sharing many parts of the new slant four unit.

1972

1973

MkII is introduced with higher compression ratio, new alternator, laminated screen and twin coachlines. Hard and soft tops standard, soft tops now mohair and contain just one window. Best year for sales, but still disappointing at just 5446 cars. Car withdrawn from the US because of horrendous warranty claims!

1974-1975

Seat belt warning lights and hazard flashers are added to the dash layout. Some nice spoked alloy wheels and tinted glass become standard fitment.

1977

Borg Warner 35 auto box is replaced by the Borg Warner 65. Production ends in June after 25,877 cars. Of those,only 6780 were exported.

We Reckon...

Time has been kind to the Triumph Stag. After spending all of the 1970s and much of the 1980s in the doldrums, it is now seen as a cut-price alternative to a Mercedes SL and equally as classy and collectible. And you really can't ask for more than that, can you?



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