Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR3A

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Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR3A

1953 - 1962
United Kingdom
4 cyl.
1991/2138 cc
90-100 bhp
4 spd. man
Top Speed:
165-177 km/h
Number Built:
4 star
Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR3A
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


In 1952 the Type 20TS (often referred to as the TR1) is introduced at Earl's Court Motor Show. Built on a prewar Standard chassis and sporting a dual-carb version of the Standard Vanguard engine, this show car looked much like the TR2s and TR3s that later followed, although rear body styling was quite different, with a more rounded, traditional look featuring exposed spare tire.

Ken Richardson was soon hired by Standard-Triumph to oversee development of the car into what became the TR2. The car eventually gained its own purpose-built chassis frame, which incorporated front suspension originally developed for the Mayflower. The Vanguard engine (2088cc) was further developed into a reliable 90hp, under 2-litre (1991cc) engine.

The rear of the body was redone to provide a trunk and an enclosed space for the spare. A prototype TR2 was run on a closed stretch Jabbeke highway by Ken Richardson in spring 1953, achieving close to 125mph in "speed" trim and around 105mph in "street" trim. The first "off-tools" TR2s were produced in summer 1953. Various continual developments, changes and improvements to both body and mechanical specifications led to the TR3 model for 1956 and the TR3A version around 1958.

Triumph TR3

Prior to the launch of the TR3 a 100 mile per hour sports car was a thing to be admired and regarded with awe and wonderment. By the time TR3 production ended 100 mph plus cars were common, not only in the form of a sports car, but also in the large family sedan. The Triumph was one of those cars which got in on the 100 mph act almost as soon as it was fashionable. But it was not the perfect sports car - although it could be argued that the perfect sports car would never actually be perfect. What was more important to the Triumph buyer was the feeling and spirit that the car imparted on the driver. Foibles could, it seemed, give a car personality - provided they did not ruin the ownership experience too much.

The TR3 was relatively economical to operate, providing a heavy foot was not used too often on the accelerator. Maintenance costs were reasonably cheap too, and at the time spare parts were plentiful. The car used a modified version of the 2.1 litre Vanguard and Ferguson tractor motor. In the Triumph it was sleeved down to 1991cc for eligibility in the 1501 to 2000 cc International class. The design of the motor was very straightforward with four cylinders in line and inclined overhead valves operated through a side camshaft and push-rods. Twin SU carburettors were used (bigger on the TR3 than the TR2), fed by a mechanical fuel pump.

The Mechanicals

Under the bonnet, hinged from the rear, most of the components were easy to get at for routine adjustments. This type of bonnet lid, as a rule, did not win great favour with enthusiasts because, if it accidentally opened at high speed, the result would have caused the driver a few anxious moments. However, the Triumph's bonnet was held down in three places, and would never come adrift. Ground clearance was good too. Purely by saying six inches would not give the true picture. That was the minimum clearance and it was directly under the sump. Most other parts were much higher up and the lack of overhang at the front and rear was a commendable point, regardless of where and for what purpose the car was being used.

Space in the luggage compartment was cut down from the previous Triumph Sports to make room for the bigger cockpit and by the time the hood and side-screens had been stowed, the usable space was adequate, rather than generous. Of course, a couple of cases could be carried on the rear seat if need be. The rear "occasional seat" was just that - suitable for at best two small children of modest proportions - and only then provided the driver and front passenger were prepared to move their seats forward to give some leg room. It was best used by only one small child, sitting at an angle. While not ideal then, the occasional seat was more than just a sales gimmick. Far from it. It was an honest approach to a difficult problem - and the car did look better for the inclusion.

Behind the Wheel

Comfortwise, driver and front passenger were well looked after. The seats, upholstered in plastic, at first appeared narrow. It was just an illusion. Road testers and owners alike were to heap praise on the seats, even in the hot Aussie summer sun. After plenty of hours behind the wheel motoring journalists claimed they alighted without any of the usual aches and stiffness normally associated with a smallish British sports car. The squabs could have been a shade higher perhaps to give more support for the back. A nice touch of tradition were the cutaway doors. Not only did they look sporting, but gave the driver a chance to throw their arms about during more emotional moments.

Instrumentation was concise and easy to read. The dials, all of them round, had black faces and white numerals and the tachometer and speedometer flanked the steering column. Minor instruments had their own panel in the centre of the dash and consisted of gauges for oil pressure, amps, fuel level and water temperature. The overdrive control switch was on the far right hand side of the panel and could be flicked up and down by one finger without the driver releasing their grip on the steering wheel. The gearbox was nice to use, and even better when the overdrive ratios were exploited fully. The stubby little gear-lever felt as though it knew its business, although the knob was made of some kind of black, rubbery compound which left dirty marks on the hands. But if you were buying a TR3 today, these would have been replaced long ago.

Italians probably would not have liked the driving position. The greatly-loved long arm position was impossible in the TR3, short of cutting a length from the steering column. It was all a matter of personal taste, naturally, but more and more people in those days were sitting further back from the wheel. High geared, the steering needed two and a third turns from lock to lock to swing the car around in 32 feet. The cam and roller system provided almost neutral steering characteristics. Braking from high speeds produced no frightening effects. Hard driven on the road, fading was nonexistent and, the car could be ground to a stop in 32 feet from 30 mph.

On the Road

Cruising down a highway, the Triumph sat comfortably on 80 mph, but not so comfortable for the occupants with the hood down. Around town the Triumph was pleasant and easy to drive, although it didn't work too well under 25 in top. Keeping to 30 mph, thethen legal speed limit in the built-up areas of most Aussie capital cities, required some concentration. Third and overdrive third made a very useful combination in traffic. Overdrive third was a shade lower in ratio than direct top, making it just about right for the suburbs.

The really nice thing about the TR3 was that it was not overcharged for normal road use. It was the type of car you could climb into and drive to work in without a second thought. Yet, on the other hand, it was a car to get out at the weekend and charge around country roads in true sports car style. The TR3 was a nice car to drive anywhere. It was more than fast enough for the road, it was economical, comfortable, held the road well, and was great fun - provided you could afford it. At release it sold for A£1630.

Production of the TR3 largely ended by 1961, replaced by the mechanically similar (but with much more modern styling and comfort features) TR4. A small number (approx 3,331) of TR3B's were built for the North American market in 1962, largely to TR3A specification, although most of these had the larger 2138cc engine and all had the all-synchro TR4 transmission. Total TR2-3B production was something under 80,000 cars. Also, several other cars shared basic TR2-3 running gear, such as the Swallow Doretti, Peerless, Warwick, and the (Vignale) Italia. TR engines also powered versions of the Morgan sports car.

TR3 Performance

Standing mile, 18.6 secs.; 0-20, 2.1 secs.; 0-30, 3 secs.; 0-40, 5.2 secs.; 0-50, 7.1 secs.; 0-60, 9 secs.; 0-70, 14.4 secs.; 0-80, 18.3 secs.; 0-90, 27.7 secs. 2nd gear: 20-40 mph, 3.2 secs. 30-50 mph, 4.1 secs. 2nd O/D: 20-40 mph, 4 secs.; 30-50 mph, 4.6 secs. 3rd gear: 20-40 mph, 5 secs.; 30-50 mph, 5 secs. Top gear* 20-40 mph, 6.8 secs.; 30-50 mph, 8.2 secs. Speeds in gears at recommended 5000 rpm limit: First, 31 mph; second, 54 mph; second O/D, 67 mph; third, 80 mph; third O/D, 96 mph; top (mean average of four runs in opposite directions over a quarter mile), 98.43 mph. Petrol Consumption: Overall, including all tests, 28.9 mpg. Braking: From 30 mph in neutral, 31 feet. Fade, nil. Handbrake from 30 mph, 92 feet. Would hold car on steep hill.

TR3 Specifications

Engine: 4 cylinders; bore and stroke, 83 x 92mm: capacity, 1991cc; Valves, pushrod ohv; compression ratio. 8.5 to 1; power, 100 bhp at 5000 rpm; car-buretion, twin inclined SU's, model H.6.
Transmission: gearbox, four forward speeds, synchromesh on 2nd, 3rd and top; overdrive on 2nd, 3rd and top. Clutch, single dry plate, 9 ins diameter Speed at 1000 rpm in top gear, 20.2; speed at 1000 rpm in top overdrive, 24.6 mph.
Steering: Steering gear, cam and lever. Number of turns lock to lock of steering wheel, 2 1/3 Turning circle, 32 feet.
Triumph TR3

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The History of Triumph
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