Practical classics
Practical classics
Magazine Cover - Classic Cars For Sale - 1000s of Classic Car Reviews, How To Service & Maintenance Guides

Triumph TR6

Triumph TR6 Published: 5th Mar 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph TR6

Fast Facts

  • Best model: Early 150bhp cars
  • Worst model: Anything bodged
  • Budget buy: Ex-US examples
  • OK for unleaded?: Should be fine
  • Will it fit in the garage? (mm): L3937x W1480mm
  • Spares situation: Excellent
  • DIY ease?: PI apart, piece of cake
  • Club support: Typical TR terrific
  • Appreciating asset?: Surprisingly slowly
  • Good buy or good-bye?: Last of the true TRs
The latest issue of Classic Cars For Sale is on sale now - Pick up your copy from all good newsagents including WHSmith or click here to subscribe now

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 20%

Subscribe NOW

Available at all good newsagents including WHSmith

Heir apparent Healey successor that’s easier to drive and own plus notably cheaper. Excellent owner support but you need to buy with care warn TR experts

Even if the hairy Healey had not been killed off, Triumph’s TR6 – which turned 50 in January – would have utimately taken over as the he-man’s sports car in its own right. In their respective, highly non PC road tests of half a century ago, Motor quickly latched on to the hairy-chested aspect of the TR6. “It takes a man to get the best from it”, Autocar further commented that “It is very much a masculine machine, calling for beefy muscles, bold decisions and even ruthlessness on occasions”.

There’s little argument that this TR was the last of the traditional beefcacke Triumph sports cars but it’s also one that, five decades on, is strangely cheaper to buy than either a TR2 or TR4. Amazingly, TR6s can cost little more than an MGB to both purchase and maintain plus parts and specialist supply is brilliant. But be quick as this anniversary year is bound to create renewed interest in Canley’s last hurrah.

History

1969 TR6 appears in January, essentially as a clever update of the fuel injected ‘150bhp’ (142bhp net) TR5 but with fresher, squarer styling (care of German Karmann), a front anti-roll bar and wider wheels. US federal cars did sport fuel injection but instead sipped fuel from twin Stromberg carburettors yielding only 104bhp (126bhp gross) as a result.

By November, the TR6 had already received an early revise with extra standard equipment while reclining seats were now fi tted while the plain steel wheel design was also refreshed.

1971 As early as January there’s more revises such as a standard anti-theft steering lock while the supports for the rear springs and trailing arms are uprated. For K-registration cars, carb-fed engines received revised manifolds for a touch more power and cleaner emissions. On all models, the transmission gains a heavier duty gearbox.

1972 Sacrilege! Models are now categorised as CF for carb-fed models and a CR-prefi x for the PI but ‘CR’ from this point onwards denotes a car with a lower tune 125bhp injected engine that became standard ware on all fuel injected engines, including the 2.5PI saloon and estate cars.

1973 In January, the tougher J-type overdrive (that’s still an option) replaces the A-type unit previously fi tted. Also, from this point, wire wheels are no longer listed as an option. Cosmetic changes include a slightly revised frontal featuring a fresher grille plus a chin spoiler to improve high speed stability. The Instrument dials are also refreshed.

1974 From that October, all Stateside market models feature those obligatory black impact bumpers with ugly, over-sized overriders although it’s nowhere near as blatant as the MG types. The gearbox now gains similar ratios to those used on the Stag. 1975 In January the final injected car rolls o the production line. Production of carburetted cars would continue until July 1976, when the TR7 arrived. By then, a highly creditable 94,619 TR6s had been built, in total of which just a paltry 8370 were for the British market. This means that there’s a fair chance some converted US cars are on our shores. If you find a LHD car remember that thanks to massive interest abroad it may well be best to leave it unconverted as a selling point.

Driving and press comments

First we have to kill the ‘150bhp’ myth. Yes, the engine was lightly detuned with its less racy, camshaft and manifold changes for an easier time in town although specialists in the know say the reduced horsepower fi gure was also due to Triumph realigning its quoted fi gures because the 2.5PI saloon was always rated at a mid way 132bhp – arguably a truer mean fi gure.

Although it’s nice to have the 150bhp powerplant up front, the downbeat 125bhp tune provides respectable enough performance and in the real world there’s not a lot of difference between them. Don’t let this over-hyped aspect become the be all and end all, advise TR experts – condition is far more important as this engine can easily be brought back to spec and then some.

Apart from a lustier engine, a TR6 is little different to the TR4 to drive although as there’s more weight up front due to the bigger engine the steering’s heavier plus it’s less wieldy across country. It’s entirely in tune with a 1950’s design and stiffer dampers and wider tyres help.

Many cars have these improvements already fi tted, but if you’re not a press-on driver, you might fi nd the ride, already unyielding, further suffers too much as a result.

When Autocar drove one of the earliest TR6s, it loved the lusty performance but criticised the car’s slow steering, strong understeer, heavy clutch, notchy gearbox and firm ride – yet despite all these things it reckoned the TR6 was a “tremendous fun car”. Unsurprisingly, this weekly (as did many others) made direct comparisons with the recently discontinued Austin-Healey 3000 and even went so far as to claim the TR6 was the last of the real sports cars, because it was “tremendously exhilarating to drive anywhere”.

Motor put another through its paces in 1969 and was more or less in agreement with its deadly weekly rival; citing value and excellent performance as the main selling points but said the handling could only be described as “reasonable”.

Despite this, Motor summed up the new TR by saying: ”The succession of TR models through the years has been a story of old wine in new bottles followed by new wine in the old bottle. The latest, with a new bottle holding contents which are very much in their prime, is unquestionably the best yet; we drank our fill and enjoyed it”.

Hot Car in 1972 said the TR6 was the “last of the real sports cars” and no wonder – it clocked ‘WHP 854J’ to 60 in just 7.8 seconds! “People moan about the loss of the good old hairy Healey – they should take a look at the TR6”, it concluded.

That same year, Custom Car published a twin test with the new Capri 3000E (and how many of us flitted between the two back in the late 70s when you could buy either for less than a grand?-ed) and while liking the TR6 reckoned even back then that it didn’t handle as well as the fast ageing MGB (Motor inferred much the same) and slated the ride, hood and what it considered “the worst placed ignition switch of the year”.

They say that opposites attract, and that’s what Car discovered when it pitched the vintage Triumph against the much advanced Elan. Of course, the Lotus trounced the TR in virtually every department yet for all that conceded that the ‘Six’ remained “a highly manageable, indeed enjoyable, car to drive.”

Values and the marketplace

While values of many of its predecessors have rocketed over the past couple of years (you can easily pay £40,000 and above for a terrific TR5), the TR6 remains far more affordable as values have stalled after a spell of pushing ahead.

Restoration projects can start from £5000 and something that’s fairly roadworthy pitched around £10,000. Far nicer more sensible cars will fetch £17,000 while minters command up to £30,000+. All prices are for genuine right-hand drive cars; knock around 10-15 per cent off if you’re looking at an ex-US car that’s been converted from left-hand drive. TR6s that are still to federal spec are typically worth around 25 per cent less than an equivalent RHD example and given that there’s so much gear around for modifying TRs they must seem tempting.

Enginuity is a London-based Triumph specialist and says that while TR6s are fine cars they can vary greatly in condition with ”a lot of shiny cars out there” that are anything but underneath. Having said that, owners are now spending sizeable sums on them and the standards are rising. Condition and provenance counts the most but the company says that a lot of ex US cars are “usually driven to death” and not the bargain buys that you would believe.

Gary Bates of TRGB differs slightly. “LHD and US cars are really good buys, as if you look carefully you can get a really rust free car for much, much less money. But if you do buy a LHD car or a LHD conversion, make sure it is from a rust free state and always has been. It is no good buying a rusty LHD car,” he warns.

“The general standard of TR6’s is good, but there are still some real hounds out there so get an expert/ knowledgeable person/club member to inspect the car. And whatever TR6 you go for, get one with overdrive, if you intend to do journeys of any length”. Best models according to Gary are the early batches. “Most valuable cars are early 150bhp cars – the earlier the better! 1968/69 ones now very sought after with later 125bhp cars worth less, and ex US/ LHD versions even less”.

How come the TR4 can outstrip TR6 values? TRGB puts it down to the latter being more plentiful. “The TR4 now looks much older (and prettier) than the TR6. People are now not so concerned about the extra performance a TR6 has over the TR4 – let’s face it most modern hatchbacks are quicker (especially round corners) than any TR”, admits Gary.

Improvements

The list of possible TR6 upgrades is pretty much endless and why most cars aren’t left as standard. There’s aftermarket parts offered to improve the performance of just about every aspect of the car, including the brakes, suspension, interior, lighting, engine and transmission.

Even if you want yours otherwise as standard, swap the original canister type of oil filter with a spin-on version – it’s an essential investment for under £50 as the original lacks an anti-drain valve, leading to the bearings being starved of oil on first start up.

Another common conversion on the fuel injection system is the replacement of the Lucas pump with a relocated Bosch item, which solves most of the problems of overheating for which the British component achieved such an infamous reputation.

The sky is the limit when it comes to performance tweaks – including a larger bore engine of 2.7-litres. There are numerous fuelling options, such as triple Webers (although these are only worthwhile if the engine is in higher state of tune with a racier camshaft) and modern electronic fuel injection, the latter being the most efficient but also the most expensive although the original is pretty good too say experts and can handle 200bhp easily enough.

Where a lot of ‘lost’ bhp can be rediscovered is by ensuring the throttle linkages aren’t worn and not giving their full; specialist Revington TR says its kit revitalises most TR6s for a few hundred quid and may make you quite contented with the new-found performance just as it is, especially if you have the engine fine tuned on a rolling road – always worth a few extra bhp – after fitting electronic ignition.

Stopping power is best boosted by a four-pot braking system, while the suspension can be upgraded with alloy hubs, thicker anti-roll bars and so on, although most TR experts agree that the best and most cost effective improvements lie in polyurethane bushes to the chassis and suspension along with a thorough geometry reset. Good quality tyres that aren’t over-sized completes the job.

What’s six of the best?

Out of the 92,000 made only 8370 UK models made up the quota. Most desirable TR6 will always come 150bhp fuel-injected powered, but these accounted for just 10 per cent of production. The later 124bhp injected edition accounted for just five per cent – the rump were 104bhp carburetted cars, exported to the US, even though the emission stifled engines provide scant more power or pace than a good TR4…

While there are plenty of standard TR6s about, many have been modified in some way, which can completely alter the driving characteristics. Before driving any prospective purchase, ask if the car is non-standard in any way – better still drive several to set a reliable datum. With worthwhile mods they made this good classic even better.

The interior trim is straightforward and everything can be bought new, either standard or modernised. Seams can give way in the seat trims and there’s a good chance there’ll be a tear or two in either the seat covers or the door trims, while carpets wear through eventually. As far as exterior trim is concerned, just about everything is available, although early front bumpers are tricky to obtain.

Talking rot about TRs

The chassis needs careful vet but at least replacement sections and even new frames can be purchased – although not new body shells. BMH, who markets MGB and Midget Heritage replacements, tried it over a decade ago with little success, due in part to poor build reckons Triumph specialist Enginuity. Perhaps it’s time for a rethink as it can cost well over 20 grand to professionally right a wrong ’un.

Potentially the most important are the mountings for the rear trailing arms, the area just ahead of the rear wheels where the five main chassis members meet up between a pair of bracing plates. These rot to the point where the trailing arm mountings are weakened. Patching this point is easy; long-term fixes are much more involved. Other areas are the mountings for the front lower wishbones and steering rack.

The wings corrode along the top and around the headlamps. Corroded inner wings are what you’re looking for. With the bonnet up you can also see the bulkhead and front flitch panel; look for signs of past crash damage, especially on LHD cars which can suffer from side swipes. With the doors open check the base of each B-post, which rots badly where it meets the sill. Easier to see is rot in the rear deck, between the bootlid, rear wings and hood well. A good quick test is to jack the car up and see if the body sags and panel gaps alter…

What To Look For

Running gear rules

The first gearbox casualty on all is usually the layshaft bearings; this will be evident by a rumbling noise in all of the intermediate gears, which disappears when top is engaged.

Revington TR’s Roller Thrust Washer Set specifically for use in TR gearboxes to bring it up to Stag spec while still utilising the TR layshaft. An economical solution to an old TR problem if you already have a sound gearbox, although machining is needed. Overdrive ills are usually electrical.

Universal joints on the prop and half-shafts wear; listen for clonks as drive is taken up. Also get underneath the car and look at the differential’s mounting points, which can be distorted or even torn away.

Front suspension uses bushes, trunnions and ball joints. All wear but are fitted with a grease nipple although the recommended procedure for the lower trunnions is to use EP90 gear oil but most are greased instead as it’s much easier.

That PI is the least of your worries…

A very sturdy and smooth performer that’s usually longlasting. As with most Triumphs, the biggest bugbear is crankshaft thrust washer wear. Check play by depressing and releasing clutch – there should be no more than 0.015” movement. Any detectable movement or a rough acting clutch operation means the thrust washers may have dropped out.

Oil leaks, and rattles at start up are pretty common. Blue smoke when the car is accelerated points to bore and/or piston wear but a black smokescreen signifies the fuel-injection metering has been set up to run rich – which aside from gulping the unleaded down also promotes premature bore wear.

Other fuel injection problems revolve around hot starting issues, fuel vaporisation and misfiring on start up. All parts for the Lucas injection system are readily available and most importantly, this once tetchy system is now pretty trustworthy so long as you get an expert to service and set it up. And you leave it well alone afterwards…

Three Of A Kind

TVR models
TVR models
TVRs have always produced cars in the Big Healey mould and modern alternatives starts with the Tasmin and 350/390 ‘wedges’ but the better buys are the later S Series (V6 or V8 powered) and, of course, the brawny Chimaera. All offer old school thrills and meaty performance, especially the ‘look-at-me’ Chimaera where up to 5-litres are provided. Rust and build quality are always worries but parts supply is ok.
Triumph TR7-V8/TR8
Triumph TR7-V8/TR8
If only the TR7 had stayed in production longer and the TR8 had been properly launched (only a handful of UK models were sold), then this car would have surely eclipsed all that went before. The TR7 was always designed with the evergreen Rover V8 in mind and converted TR7-V8s are plentiful and make great value so long as the conversion was done well. US TR8s are around but engine is detuned and the chassis settings softened.
MGC & RV8
MGC & RV8
Built for just two years and also often accused of being a lame duck, the MGC was something of a duffer in period. But the handling issues that killed it can easily be fixed and the car can now be turned into a great grand tourer. The later 1990’s MG RV8 is a good slightly cheaper alternative and very fast with its sorted suspension.

Verdict

It’s become a cliché to describe the TR6 as the heir apparent Healey but there’s more than a grain of truth in this. For the price of a top MGB you can own this restyled TR5 and run one for a similar budget. The trick is to buy a good one, be it a US ex pat, a LHD conversion or a 125bhp car – they all ooze the same style and character which basically is all that matters, surely?



User Comments

This review has 0 comments - Be the first!

Leave a comment

Keep it polite and on topic. Your email address will not be published. Please do not advertise products, all posts of this nature will be removed. We do not stock or supply any of these products, we independently review these products.

Latest Issue Cover - Click here to subscribe

Subscribe to Classic Motoring Magazine and save over 25%

Subscribe