Triumph

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Triumph
Triumph 1800
Developed primarily as an export car for the US market, the 1800 was the last ever car to come with a folding “dickey” seat...

Triumph TR2
The TR1 was a disaster, thankfully the designers were able to create the wonderful TR2 the following year...

Triumph Herald
Triumph used the Herald as donor car for the Spitfire, including the engine and transmission...

Triumph Spitfire Prototype
The very first Triumph Spitfire prototype was affectionately codenamed the "bomb"...

Triumph Spitfire
In total some 314,342 Spitfires were built over an 18 year period – each model consistently out-selling the Sprite and Midget competition...

Triumph TR4
The new TR4 was revealed at Earls Court in 1961, and featured far superior creature comforts over the previous models, such as wind-up door windows...

Triumph TR4A
The TR4A's rear end was borrowed from the Triumph 2000 sedan - providing a more supple ride but dulling the sporting characteristics of the car. US buyers were therefore offered an optional rigid rear axle...

Triumph TR6
While many bemoaned the fact that the new TR6 was mechanically identical to its predecessors, few could resist the flowing lines derived from West German designers Karmann...

Triumph Stag
The TR8 may have only been sold in the US, but Australian and European buyers could get their hands on the wonderful V8 Stag...

Triumph  Dolomite Sprint
Considered by many to be the best Triumph sedan ever built, the Dolomite Sprint was launched after Triumph were swallowed up by British Leyland...

Triumph TR7
In 1975 Triumph released the TR7, undoubtedly the most controversial of all the TR’s and regrettably the last incarnation...

You don’t have to look far to find numerous car companies that have made the successful transition from motorcycle to car manufacturer. Japanese companies such as Honda and Suzuki immediately spring to mind, but the undisputed pioneer in making such a transition is Triumph.

The first Triumph car was announced in 1923, although it would take until the 1930’s for the company to develop cars of a more sporting nature. Strangely the company choose the name “Southern Cross” for the car, although we are unable to establish any Australian connection.

Using a conventional chassis, the Southern Cross was fitted with a Coventry-Climax four cylinder 1018cc engine having overhead inlet and side exhaust valves, this engine soon being upgraded to 1122cc. A new generation Southern Cross was released in 1934; the new model used a more advanced chassis and was fitted with either a 1232cc four cylinder engine or 1991cc six. But the most notable of the pre-war Triumphs was the stellar 8 cylinder “Dolomite”, although only 3 would be built in 1934/35.

Based on the Alfa Romeo 8C2300 model, the Triumph was near identical to the Alfa mechanically and, with supercharger, the 1990cc engine was good for 140bhp.

But like so many automobile manufacturers the period between wars proved extremely difficult financially, and the Dolomite was soon shelved. In 1939 as the world held its collective breath hoping Chamberlains peace mission would be successful, Triumph would declare bankruptcy.

The Standard Car Co. purchased Triumph in 1944, and in 1946 released the first Standard-Triumph, the “1800 Roadster”. After the war much of British industry had seen the necessity to enter the lucrative US market simply as a means of survival.

And so the 1800 was developed primarily as an export car. The 1800 had three-abreast seating, a steering column gear-change and, from what we can determine, was the last ever car to come with a folding “dickey” seat.

Standard used the same 65bhp 1778cc engine for 1800 as they were supplying to Jaguar for their 1.5 litre models. In 1948 they swapped this unit for the Vanguards 2088cc 68bhp engine, and re-named the car the “2000 Roadster”.

The management at Standard-Triumph was very astute, watching and learning as other British manufacturers enjoyed export success - it seemed the US had a predilection for British made sports cars! But although the market was sizeable, going head to head with more established players such as MG and Jaguar seemed illogical.

The 1250cc MG TD was very popular at the lower end of the market, while the 3442cc Jaguar XK120 enjoyed success at the other. Standard-Triumph’s answer was to build something in the middle ground, with a price and engine capacity to match.

Using a modified Vanguard engine and gearbox, the prototype TR1 was first shown to the public at the 1952 London Motor Show, but auto commentators soon revealed several weaknesses in the car, not the least of which was poor road-holding and performance! . The designers went to work on a major makeover of the car, their aim being to have a new version TR2 available and on sale for the summer of 1953.

While the original TR1 used a modified Standard Flying Nine frame and 75bhp engine and had an exposed spare wheel on the tail, the new TR2 had its own special frame featuring coil spring independent front suspension and an engine specially tuned to develop 90bhp.

Styling changes included a now longer and more elegant tail. Its reputation was founded on competition success, and right from the start of development the car achieved 124mph (199.5kmh) on the Jabbeke autoroute in May 1953.

The TR3 was introduced in October 1955, modifications including a front grille in the air intake and a 95bhp engine. As already developed for the TR2, overdrive, wire wheels and a hardtop were optional extras. A year later the TR3 broke new ground by becoming the first series production British car to have Girling disk brakes on the front wheels.

Then in January 1958, came the final style change for the body shape; the TR3A now featured a full-width front grille and 100bhp engine, and a 2138cc engine was on the options list for 1959.

For their all new model Triumph enlisted the services of stylist Michelotti. The new TR4 was revealed at Earls Court in 1961, and featured far superior creature comforts over the previous models, such as wind-up door windows and better interior appointments.

The chassis and running gear was modified from the TR3A, however the wheel tracks were now wider and the 2138cc engine became standard. The TR4 was good for a top speed of around 109mph (175.4 kmh) and could do the 0-60mph dash in just under 11 seconds.

In 1965 came the TR4A, using a new chassis frame and incorporating coil spring independent rear suspension. The 2138cc engine was carried over from the previous model, and the rear end was in much the same layout as used in the Triumph 2000 sedan.

This latter modification made the ride far more supple, but perhaps dulled some of the sporting characteristics of the car. Worried of a backlash in the US, American purchasers were offered the option of ordering a TR4A with a rigid rear axle as an alternative.

Externally the TR4A was nearly identical to the TR4. To identify one, look for smaller indicator lights at the front of chrome strips along the flanks and a revised grille. The TR4A’s engine was good for 140bhp and a top speed of almost 110mph (177 kmh).

Next came the 1967 TR5 – the big news being the introduction of an all new fuel injected 2498cc six cylinder engine (having evolved from the Triumph 2000 sedan). The new model still used the same basic chassis, suspension and body shell as the outgoing TR4A, but now offered true sports-car performance.

What a shame then that the engine, being good for 150bhp in Europe, would require the fitment of carburettors and anti-emission controls for US exports and, in the process, loose a whopping 45bhp! Provided you didn’t have a US version you could now travel the autobahns at a lazy 120mph (193 kmh).

As is so often the way with the make-over afforded a car during it’s lifespan, the TR’s were gradually becoming larger, faster and more sophisticated – changes necessary to maintain consumer interest in the model. But this left Triumph without a cheaper entry level sports-car, and knowing the importance of this sector they set about designing an entirely new but smaller sports-car.

The resulting “Spitfire” had a unique steel backbone-type chassis frame and a Michelotti-styled two-seater body style. Triumph relied heavily on raiding the parts bin of the Herald as a way of keeping costs and therefore the price down, and so many items including the engine and transmission were used.

The Spitfire featured all-independent suspension, and quickly established itself as a direct competitor with BMC's Sprite/Midget models. The first Spitfires used an 1147cc 4 cylinder engine good for 63bhp and a top speed of 90mph (145 kmh). But the car was somewhat utilitarian, and US consumers were demanding of more comfort.

Triumph quickly established an options list that would include overdrive, wire wheels and detachable hardtop to name a few. In the spring of 1965 the Mk 2 Spitfire was launched – the engine was now good for 67bhp; this was followed in 1967 by the release of the Mk 3 that came with a1296cc 75bhp engine and close to 100mph top speed.

At the end of 1970 the Mk IV Spitfire was released. The new model incorporated a rather more radical “swing-spring” type of rear suspension – which resulted in greatly improved road holding. Changes were not confined to the suspension however, the restyled body shell now including a cut-off tail and a more angular optional hardtop.

The final derivative, produced from late 1974 to 1980, used a 1493cc engine which afforded a genuine and undisputable 100mph top speed in European tune. In total some 314,342 Spitfires were built over an 18 year period – each model consistently out-selling the Sprite and Midget competition.

The GT6, first seen in 1966, was essentially a Spitfire structure, modified with a smart fastback/hatchback top and fitted with a 1998cc six-cylinder engine of Triumph 2000 type, closely related to that of the TR5/ TR250. Many people compared it to a scaled down jaguar E-Type.

With 95bhp on tap it was good for over 100mph – it is unfortunate that the cars road-holding did not match its performance! The Mk. 2 of 1968 was a much improved machine, with 104bhp and a revised rear suspension incorporating wishbone linkage.

The Mk 3 was introduced in 1970 and, like the Spitfire Mk IV, featured a restyled body most notable for its cut off tail. Finally, for 1973, the GT6 reverted to the “swing-spring” rear suspension, but that was dropped by the end of the year. A total of 40,926 GT6s were manufactured.

After just 2947 TR5’s and 8484 TR250’s (US only) had been produced, these models were superseded by the beautifully styled TR6. Many bemoaned the fact that the new TR was mechanically identical to its predecessors, but few could resist the flowing lines derived from West German designers Karmann.

In fact the car used the same basic body shell as the previous model, Karmann given the brief to simply modernize the front and rear of the car. By 1976 a total of 94,619 TR6’s had been built, with only very minor cosmetic changes ever being made to the original Karmann design.

In 1975 Triumph released the TR7, undoubtedly the most controversial of all the TR’s and regrettably the last incarnation. Breaking with tradition, the TR7 used a unit construction body/chassis structure and - for the first four years - was only sold in notchback two-seater coupe style.

The wedge-nose style featured concealed headlamps, yet another brake from TR tradition. It used a 1998cc SOC four cylinder engine borrowed (and slightly modified) from the Dolomite sedan. The independent front suspension was by MacPherson strut, but there was rigid rear axle on coil springs with radius arm location.

The new TR was smaller, but heralded great improvements in comfort, handling, road-holding and economy. Initially fitted with a four-speed all-synchro gearbox, in 1976 you could option an auto transmission - the first time ever on a TR! A more robust five-speed gearbox soon replaced the aging 4 speed, this unit being borrowed from the new and much larger Rover hatchbacks and Series III Jaguars.

The TR7’s engine was good for 105b and a top speed of 109mph (175.4 kmh), perhaps not the last word in performance but with fuel consumption figures approached 29mpg not too many were complaining.

From 1978 BMC started rallying a Rover 3528cc V8 engined version of the car, naturally enough called the “TR7 V8”, however the true TR8 production car was only ever sold in the US in 1980/81. In 1979 a convertible joined the existing TR7 coupe, while other versions included a 16-valve 'Sprint' derivative.

But in 1977 a protracted strike by the Liverpool factory workers would all but kill off the car. The management switched production to Coventry, and then finally to the Rover plant at Solihull, but the car was always dogged by controversy, a poor quality reputation, and finally by adverse currency movements between the British pound and the US dollar. Production ended in October 1981, after 86,784 TR7 coupes, 24,864 TR7 drop-heads and a mere 2,815 TR8s had been built.

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