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Triumph Stag

Published: 26th Jul 2013 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Buyer Beware

Major corrosion can be an issue, especially in the sills, floorpans, wings and seams between the inner and outer wheelarches. Also check the base of the A-post, which rots out after filling up with water that’s drained from the guttering on the side of the windscreen pillar. Repairing the A-pillar base is tricky as even with the front wing removed it’s not very accessible.

The base of the B-post can also rot badly, and this is also an awkward area to repair properly. Underneath the car there are two outriggers on each side; those at the front rot first, with the corrosion soon spreading to the sills and the rest of the floorpan.

The Stag V8’s poor reputation was deserved when the car was 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 temperature gauge. Blown head gaskets don’t necessarily lead to the oil and coolant mixing; a more reliable method of checking is to look for bubbling in the cooling system’s expansion tank as unit is running.

With the engine idling and the bonnet up, listen for tapping noises from worn cam followers and their bores; something that costs around £300 per head to fix.

The first problem with the gearbox is usually worn second gear synchromesh, so change quickly from first to second, and third to second; baulking or crunching means worn synchromesh. Also flick it in and out of overdrive; if it’s sluggish or doesn’t engage, it needs servicing or there’s an electrical fault.

Vague steering suggests worn suspension and steering rack mounting bushes. Polyurethane items are a popular upgrade; there are 18 in total. Twitchy handling on the corners points to binding telescopic splined joints in the drive shafts. A good clean and a bit of CV joint grease is the solution, and it usually only occurs with infrequently used cars.

All Stags have a mohair hood, which should be jet black. If what’s fitted is grey, it’s a double duck roof, which isn’t as durable. While the hood itself is usually long-lived, the plastic windows go brittle and disintegrate.

Try as many Stags as you can as they can vary in standard, especially ones fitted with alien engines where workmanship differs.

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Animal INSTINCT

Stags just get better and better over the years! Owner Vicky Kitchen tells us why she loves hers so much and gives advice to other potential buyers

Just like the Daimler SP250, the Triumph Stag is a V8-powered British convertible that’s come in from the cold in recent years. For decades both of these cars were downtrodden fi xtures within the classic car scene; now they’re both appreciated for being the great cars that they are. But unlike the Daimler, the Triumph can seat four and remains resolutely affordable – just £7000 still buys you a suited and booted Stag.

Vicky Kitchen didn’t even spend that when she bought her 1975 example three years ago. She comments: “I had a budget of just £5000 and decided to see if I could fi nd a usable Stag.

“Priced at £4995, my car was OK, but needed some TLC to make it good. In the event, as is often the way with classics, the car now owes me a bit over £10,000, which would secure a really good example – but I’ve been able to spread the expenditure over three years and I’ve had some great fun with the car in that time”.

WHICH MODEL FOR YOU?

Triumph only ever tweaked the Stag during its seven years of production, so there aren’t any specifi c models to home in on as such. But that’s not to say that all Stags are the same; it’s worth tracking down the right car that’s right for you.

For starters there’s a choice of manual or automatic gearboxes, and while it’s nice to have control over your gears, that torquey 3.0-litre V8 is well suited to the lazy nature of cruising with a slushbox-equipped car, even if it was never the slickest transmission going. The majority of Stags are so equipped but even if you’re a man fan don’t let it put you off.

If you go for a Stag with a manual gearbox, just make sure it has overdrive. As only a few early cars didn’t get those two extra ratios, it’s unlikely that you’ll end up with a car without it; too fussy otherwise.

However, many buyers rush to buy an earlier Stag because of the free road tax that goes with it; recent road tax changes mean a whole extra year’s worth of Stag production is now eligible for free VED (all cars built up to 1 January 1974). Whether you buy a tax-free Stag or not, it’s worth going for one that’s had a few sympathetic upgrades. There are few original Stags left now; any car that’s been rebuilt should have had its cooling system fl ushed through and an electric fan should have been fi tted too, but only if the rest of the cooling system is in good order.

Also carburettor upgrades and electronic ignition are worthwhile, which combined can release a reliable 175bhp, while also giving smoother running and more reliable starting.

Other worthwhile improvements include re-valving the steering for more feel, fi tting ventilated discs up front to increase stopping power plus the fi tment of Datsun driveshafts in place of the splined items usually fi tted. The originals can stick, leading to snatching in corners, so the Datsun parts can really improve the driving experience.

Most Stags have had a few improvements, so factor this into your budget. The best Stags command £15,000-£18,000, although such cars rarely come onto the market. These are the Stags that have either been cherished from new and have few owners plus have covered a low mileage, or they’ve been well restored with photographic evidence. More common are the merely very good Stags, which fetch more like £8000-£12,000, while a reasonable example that needs some work is £6000-£8000; restoration projects start at £2000 but you need to take great care at this level.

Manuals are more sought after than autos, but there isn’t a huge price difference; they’re just easier to sell.

What can be a real pain to sell on is a car without the Triumph V8; Rover 3.5 V8s, Triumph straight-sixes and Ford V6s have all been fi tted over the years – indeed for reliability it seemed almost mandatory.

However nowadays, thanks to over 40 years of development, Stag buyers want the original – and best – powerplant. That’s not to say that a Stag using any of these alien engines isn’t a good bet; it really depends on the workmanship performed.

Many transplanters didn’t bother to reset the front suspension for example. The Rover V8 was the most popular fi tment but increasingly at Classic Motoring we’re drawn to a Triumph 2.5 conversion.

BEHIND THE WHEEL?

As long as it’s set up properly that 3-litre V8 is a fabulous unit; smooth, torquey, muscular and with a deep, bassy burble that’s worth the money alone – especially as you rev towards the red line. Most Stags have a rather smooth but (naturally these days) ineffi cient three-speed automatic gearbox, so ratio swaps can be on the slow side. However the 167lbft available torque goes some way to compensating for it.

More sought after is the manual/overdrive transmission which allows you to have more control over which gear you’re in, but it doesn’t have the most precise of gear changes, so whichever transmission you choose it’ll be less than perfect but fi ve-speeds have been fi tted by specialists.

The same goes for the steering, which has power assistance – too much of it. As a result there’s very little feel through the wheel so you’re never really sure what the front wheels are doing. It’s possible to re-valve the set-up to increase feel, and if you’re aiming to buy a Stag for the long term it’s worth doing. Leave it ex-factory and you’ll never enjoy driving the car all that much – the steering just feels too remote, especially in the wet and respected road test reports quickly picked this point up.

However, even in standard form there’s much to love about the Stag; it makes the perfect affordable cruiser for the summer. Just buy an auto, shove it in Drive and cruise, lapping up that smooth woofl e from the twin pipes. And all the time you can enjoy the view from the expansive dash; classic seventies Triumph with the real wood veneer, Lucas dials and a commanding driving position that offers an excellent view all round of what’s going on.

Even better, the fi tment of four proper seats means you can take the whole family along for the ride – so long as they aren’t too grown up. Four-up, you’ll all be able to sample the Stag’s best qualities; the soundtrack and the smooth ride, although if you corner too enthusiastically there’s a touch too much body roll so your passengers might just lose their lunch.

In short, if you’re expecting a TR6 but for families then the Stag disappoints; it’s more like a chop top 2.5PI to drive.

DAILY DRIVER?

It’s possible to develop a Stag where it could be run reliably all year round, but with typical fuel consumption of 25mpg it would potentially be costly and you’d have to keep on top of any corrosion that might develop.

Crucially though, the Stag has plenty of performance on tap so there’s never an issue with keeping with modern traffi c but we’d fi t an electronic ignition to displace the twin points set up and an uprated radiator just be on the safe side.

Because many cars come with a hard top as well as the soft top, you can have the security and refi nement of a seventies coupé – then when the spring arrives you can revert to soft-top mode easily. That said, the hard top is a heavy old thing that requires at least an aide to remove and refi t and it does promote a fair bit of wind noise.

EASE OF OWNERSHIP

This is where Vicky Kitchen is well qualified to offer an opinion. She comments: “There’s an army of specialists and enthusiasts out there who can help with parts availability and expertise. I’m in the Triumph Sports Six Club and membership of the group has paid for itself many times over thanks to the generosity of other local members who have been happy to help me keep my Stag going.

“Parts costs are generally pretty good and you don’t have to wait long to get the bits you need. My Stag has needed quite a few new seals and gaskets, while an array of hoses and pipes have had to be replaced too. Much of the extra expenditure for my car was on a respray and some rechroming, which weren’t essential, but it did mean each panel is now the same shade of yellow – unlike when I bought it. Since buying the car it’s taken my family of three to all sorts of places, returning up to 30mpg on a run. We can all fit in – complete with our luggage – and the car has generally been reliable. The car has needed to have its gearbox rebuilt and the diff needed some fresh seals at one point, but it’s never failed to get us home, even if it has needed TLC at various times”.

When Vicky bought her Stag, thousands had been lavished on it years before, but the car had been used very little since. As a result, seals had hardened and parts had corroded or seized, which meant lots of recommissioning needed to be done.

On such a tight budget, using specialist help would have been prohibitively costly so drafting in other Stag owners allowed Vicky to pay for parts only, along with lots of pints of beer, to keep it working as intended.

We Reckon...

The Stag’s potential was never realised in period, but decades of development means it’s now possible to create a car that’s great to drive and reliable. Values aren’t likely to dip below current levels, so if you’ve been playing with the idea of owning one of these stylish family-sized drop-tops, do it!



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