Triumph TR4 and TR5

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Triumph TR4 and TR5

1962 - 1969
United Kingdom
6 cyl.
2498 cc
150 bhp
4 spd. man (optional overdrive)
Top Speed:
191 km/h
Number Built:
4 star
Triumph TR4 and TR5
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4


Triumph's new-generation sports car with body design by Italy's Giovanni Michelotti. Originally based on the TR3A chassis and running gear with a larger engine (though the 1991cc unit was available optionally to qualify for 2.0-liter class racing) and new all-synchromesh gearbox.

Michelotti's styling was contemporary and good-looking, with a squared tail and a curvaceous nose featuring high-set headlamps with "eyelids" formed by humps in the hood. A "power blister" offset to the right on the hood provided clearance for the air cleaner/carburettor. In 1961 the TR4 arrived to replace the TR3A. It was built with wider tracks and rack and pinion steering.

The larger 2.1 litre engine was fitted as standard as were a new all synchromesh gearbox. The body styling was entirely new, based largely on the Zest experiments. It incorporated a number of important refinements like wind-up windows, through-flow ventilation and a uniquely designed hardtop. In this hardtop the rear window was a rigid structure bolted to the body.

The roof section between the windscreen and the rear window was detachable for open air motoring. A fabric roof option for this section was called the "Surrey top". Vynide was still the upholstery material, but this was no longer used as a covering for the fascia. The metal fascia was painted white and incorporated two large outlet vents at either end for the through-flow ventilation system.

The two main instruments were still directly in front of the driver with the smaller instruments in a black panel in the centre of the facia. Switches were positioned in a separate panel below the smaller instruments while the warning lights were placed between the two main instruments.

The North American distributors were hesitant about accepting the new model, so they ordered a supply of the old model which became known as the TR3B. This used the old body and chassis but incorporated the new gearbox and offered the choice of either the 2.0 or 2.1 litre engine. This version was only supplied to the North American market.

The Leyland Motor Corporation took over Triumph around this time and they were unenthusiastic about competition, so the LeMans cars were sold. A racing coupe had been designed by Micholetti and built by Conrero, a respected Italian tuning expert, and this project was cancelled. The Triumph management were obviously very persuasive as the following year a works team was re-established and four TR4s were prepared for competition. These cars were fast, light and possessed excellent road holding. They distinguished themselves in the 1962 Alpine Rally and proved their reliability in events as diverse as the Tulip Rally, RAC Rally and the Canadian Shell 4000. Their last outing was in 1964.

Tenacious TR4 - Excerpt from Sports Car Road Tests Number #2

SINCE the TR4 was introduced by Triumph more than three years ago it has undergone minor trim and engine changes, which while not having the effect of changing the car's personality in any way, have improved its performance and comfort. Some time ago, our sister magazine ran a test on a TR4, but this was a soft-top, older model, without the engine changes. When the opportunity to test the latest model TR4 with all the "goodies" came up we quickly snaffled it. The car, painted in a virginal white, was fitted with the optional Surrey top, wire wheels and overdrive.

The rugged masculine look of the TR line is well-known to all enthusiasts and the Four is the nicest looking sports oar to come from the STI Coventry factory. In the manner which is conventional now, the car has a completed lateral upper edge; the doors are not scalloped like those on the TR3. The nose and tail are very blunt. At the front set in the grille are the parking and turn lights, on the outer extremities, while the headlamps reside under two little lips of the bonnet. The lights are Lucas sealed beam units. Both bumper bars front and rear carry overriders and special numberplate lights are incorporated into the back overriders.

The bonnet, a large piece of metal with a power bulge pressed into the right-hand side, hinges forward to give easy access to the motor. A small knob inside the car actuates the bonnet locking mechanism and there are no secondary catches or latches. There is a metal stay to hold the bonnet open. The boot is quite a large, deep rectangular affair for a sports car. Being used to sports cars with nothing more than a square foot or two in which to squeeze soft baggage, the TR4 is a relief in that at least one and maybe two normal sized suitcases will fit into it. The tools and spare tyre are located under a wooden tray on the floor of the boot.

Wide, well shaped and easy in operation, the doors provide more than adequate room for entrance and exit. Push-button door handles are used on the outer door locks and both doors can be locked by an ignition/switch key. A separate key is required, however, for the interior glove locker and the boot. During the brief period we were with the car and during our acceleration runs, the weather was a little "icky" so the Surrey top was left in place. According to STI the Surrey top gives the ear the best of both worlds: it can be a GT car or a soft-top. This thinking is not hard to justify when it is realised that if one does leave the metal centre section out one day and it starts to rain while away from home, then a special hood-fabric insert may be clipped into place.

The metal section of the top is well finished and thoroughly lined and is held in place by two twist studs above the front and rear windows. On a sunny day, with the centre section removed and both side windows fully wound up, there is hardly any blustery effect inside the car, except in the high speed bracket. Vision all round is first rate. The wraparound rear window eliminates any side blind spots but, as is natural with curved glass, there is a little distortion of images when viewed from certain angles.

The interior design is functional, but very much in the Standard-Triumph vogue. The seats are adjustable for length, but not for height, and the backrest is integral with, and immovable. On a sunny day, the Surrey top can he removed. To be safe and sure, rather than soaked and sorry, it is best to carry around a small fabric hood insert. Rubber matting is used on the floor while carpet covers the transmission tunnel and the two small occasional seats in the rear, which could at best be only used to carry two small children in the Surrey top version. Headroom becomes the problem and the times we did carry a 5 ft 10 in. passenger in the rear, he sat transversely and had to hunch over. A most uncomfortable position, and we are of the opinion that this area would be better used for one or two small children — nothing over the age of eight years — or as supplementary luggage space to the boot.

Both the upper and lower edges of the facia are crash padded and all the instruments and controls are within easy reach of the driver. On the far left hand side of the dash panel there is a lockable glove-box and next to this, immediately above the transmission tunnel, are the push/pull switches and knobs for the lights, wipers, windscreen washers and choke. The turn action ignition switch/starter is also in this grouping. Above the switch panel there are four dials — a water temperature gauge, oil pressure gauge, fuel gauge and ammeter — set around a small plastic ash-tray. To the right of these is a large speedometer, calibrated to 120 mph, which includes a tenth drum trip meter and an odometer and a high beam indicator light.

Matching this on the other side of the steering column is a wavering mechanical tachometer marked to 6000 rpm, but redlined at 5000 rpm. Above and in between the speedometer and tachometer are two small warning lights — one for the ignition and the other for the turn indicators. In front of the driver is a black plastic, three spoked steering wheel with a horn button in the boss. The straight-arms position is almost impossible to attain and as far as the position of the wheel is concerned, it seemed to be a little hard to manipulate. The steering column is adjustable and has a safety feature in that it telescopes in the event of an accident. Behind the steering wheel on the column are the two stalk switches for the turn indicators and the electric overdrive. The overdrive switch has been placed on the right hand side to allow the use of the gearbox and overdrive at the same time. The self-cancelling blinkers are operated by a similar stalk on the left side.

Of the fly-off type, the handbrake is situated beside the driver's left knee and the test crew found that even when the rear linings were quite hot, it would hold the car on a steep incline. Topped by a black knob, the cranked gearshift seems to be at just the right distance for the driver's hand and, although very free, had a notchy feel about it. Air is circulated throughout the car by two variable vents at either iside of the facia, which draw from a common duct in the centre of the car immediately in front of the windscreen.

Noise level inside the car is at all times low. Below 2000 rpm, the muted burble of the exhaust seeps through, but there is little noise from the engine. When things are really put to work and the engine is constantly running in the high rev range, the exhaust note becomes louder, crisper and harsher and hiss of the air being drawn into the carburettors becomes audible. With the metal Surrey top on and the driver's window open, a severe draught blows across the nape of the passenger's neck; a similar thing happens to the driver if the passenger's window is left open and the driver keeps his shut. At high speed with both windows up, the car is virtually wind-free, although there are some slight gaps where the window joins the bodywork. This, however, does not let wind into the car, but promotes whistling wind noises.

The motor of the TR4 is a really torquey, low-revving four cylinder gem. Developing 100 bhp at 4600 rpm, it propelled the test car to a maximum speed of 102 mph on the flat in fourth and exactly the same speed was attained in fourth/ overdrive. On a slight downhill run, whero a little extra urge was needed, the needle swept towards 115 mph which, according to the tacho and our subsequent speed calculations, was close on 111 mph. On the wet to damp hot mix bitumen test strip, the car cut standing quarter miles of 18.2 seconds with ease and, in one particularly quick run, got down to 17.9 seconds. With a completely dry road and ideal conditions, the test crew felt it would be possible to knock another half second off the quarter mile times.

Slightly undersquare, the motor has a cubic capacity of 2138 cc and runs on a compression ratio of 9 to 1 which does not dictate the use of, but prefers, 100 octane fuel. During the performance runs, the vehicle, as do all SCW test cars, ran on local super grade fuel. This brought on pinking and running on after switch off and there did not seem to be that much power low in the rev range. After the performance runs, as an experiment, the car was filled with 100 octane pertrol and the difference was amazing. The pinking stopped, the car definitely had a lot more go and pulled extremely well low down in the rev range.

All told, the gearbox has seven different forward ratios if the gearbox ar.d overdrive are used in conjunction with each other. There is synchromesh on all four forwa::: iirect gears and the Laycock de Nonnanville elertric overdrive operates on second, third and The step-up ratios provided by the overdrive immensely during the acceleration runs, but in around-the-town running we found no benei:: in using it. Perhaps the only complaint that could be made about the overdrive was that third-o/d was a little too close to fourth direct. The synchromesh, while being quite effective, could be beaten on both up and down changes and the test crew found that for more positive results it was better to ease the shift through, rather than try any ham-fisted tactics.

The rack and pinion steering was precise and had no slack in it, but there was a definite vibration somewhere in the column. Over really rough roads, it was best to hold the wheel lightly to stop the vibration being transferred to the driver. Braking was another highly commendable feature. The disc-front/drums-rear combination pulled the car up very quickly in a straight line. Even when the brakes were very hot, after a series of stops from 40, 50 and 60 mph, the car still pulled up without any fuss in a straight line and without any noticeable fade. Unlike most systems which incorporate disc brakes, those on the TR4 required quite high pedal pressures and did not feel at all spongey.

Suspension at the front is independent by wishbones and coil springs, while the live axle at the rear is located by sem-elliptic springs. Stiff springs combined with telescopic damper units with a high compression setting give the car a choppy, but not uncomfortable, ride. Roadholding is good. It would be hard to define it any other way. It is much better than the average sporting sedan, but far inferior to many sports cars we can name. The test car was fitted with English Goodyear All Weather tyres and these were far from ideal in the wet. In the dry, they were a deal better, but to get the best from the car's suspension a set of Pirelli Cmturatos would be a must.

Pushing the car to its limit, we found that understeer set in at first and got progressive until suddenly the tail would snap out, quickly and without warning. The change to oversteer was far quicker than any of the staff would have liked, but this has always been an inherent trait in the TR series. Rushing through a sweeper between 90 and 100 mph, it was best to try to get the car to a point where it was just about to break into oversteer. That is to say that the car was coming back from an understeering attitude towards a neutral position. We felt that once the tail went out at velocities in excess of 80 mph, there would be Very little one could do to get it back into line. In the wet with Goodyear All Weathers, it is quite different to achieve this high speed neutral steering attitude.

As a car, the TR4 impressed the testing staff. Its ability to cruise in the high 90s, good brakes and cockpit comfort and indifferent handling all go to make up today's conception of a modern sports/touring car. This the TR4 is. The TR4 has now, of course, been replaced by the TR4A, but as the latter is still not freely available we felt it appropriate to include this comprehensive test of the older car. The "A", as most will know, stands for a new independent rear end, a little fiddling with the brightwork. and a slight cleaning-up of the interior. "But all this has not changed the character of the TR at all. Like the very first TR, the TR2, this is still a rugged, intensely masculine, hair-on-the-chest sports car with the commendable habit of endearing itself to its owners. We know people who have owned every TR since the first one and are now mortgaging their wives to be able to afford a TR4A.

The TR is expensive as sports cars go, but if you look it over carefully and evaluate the equipment and design know-how packed into it then things fall into perspective. You may not always agree with the way they go about it, but Standard-Triumph certainly builds one hell of a gutsy sports car. The test car supplied by the courtesy of John Wilson and prepared by A. P. North Pty Ltd, Parramatta Road, Croydon, NSW.

The Triumph TR4A

By 1965 potential buyers were complaining that the TR4 had a very hard ride compared to competitors like the MGB and Sunbeam Alpine. To cater for these views the company introduced the TR4A version. It had a new frame with a coil sprung independent rear suspension. The body and styling remained almost identical to the TR4 model. The most notable change was the grille which now consisted of plain, horizontal slats, in place of the egg-crate design used for so many years previously. The side lights were moved from their former position in the top corners of the grille and placed in chrome plated plinths on the front wings, which also incorporated side repeaters for the direction indicators.

A chrome flash ran back from these plinths to the door handles. As with the original TR4 five years before, the North American distributors demanded a live axle version in case buyers did not take to the irs model. (The North American market was beginning to get troublesome around this time.) Performances were improving all round and it was necessary for Triumph to take steps to stay ahead of the competition. However, exhaust emissions regulations in the US were starting to strangle the output of all but the largest capacity engines.
Triumph TR4

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