Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The TR6 (1969
) was the best-selling TR in history when production ended in 1976. Of the nearly quarter million TR's built, more than 94,000 were TR6's, ninety percent of them to US specifications. The TR6 has a reputation as a car that looks good and sounds right. The chassis and running gear of the TR6 were essentially the same as those of the TR5/250.
The big difference was the body, which for once wasn't left to Giovanni Michelotti. The Italian was tied up on other work for Leyland
when the new TR was needed, so Triumph
turned to Karmann of Osnabruk, West Germany, well known for its work for VW
. Given only fourteen months, Karmann completely altered and modernized the TR sports car, without changing the TR5's cowl, doors, or inner panels.
Karmann shaved off the hood bump and the bright metal trim from the fenders; went to a single bar grill set against a flat-black meshwork instead of the tubular grill; and reshaped the tail into a sort of Kamm-back, painting the upright section flat-black and wrapping the tail lights horizontally.
The TR6 was a refined sports car. It featured pile carpeting of floors and trunk, plush-looking bucket seats, a wood dash and the usual full complement of instruments. It featured the six-cylinder motor that was carried over from the TR250. Mechanical changes included a front anti-roll bar
and wider tyres
and wheels. While it was a remarkable facelift, achieved in record time, it was still an evolution of the old TR4
and this put off potential buyers, who went elsewhere.
Despite the production figures stated above, the TR6 never sold at the rate of the TR3A or the TR4. But it was a steady, consistent seller which appealed to the tradition-minded. The development of the TR6 was a slow, evolutionary process from the first TR2. The TR7 that would follow the TR6 was a complete change. So much so, that for a lot of people, the TR6 was were the TR story ended. There was a great deal of change between 1969
Most of the changes occurred to meet US safety and emissions regulations. Other changes were requests from the Triumph North American office, such as the UK flag decal, and the wheels. The US cars used carburettors, while the UK-market cars were fuel injected. The worst changes occurred in 1971
when the compression was dropped form the original 8.5:1 to 7.75:1, and performance suffered accordingly.
A True Sports Car
Today, as then, the first impression of the TR6 is one of sleek, modern, purposeful beauty, with all the creature comforts and bags of power on tap. It was shod with wide rubber, had a mean-looking twin tailpipe set-up thrusting out the back, a sawn-off tail treatment to the body, really comfortable-looking seats, easy-operating hood and all the gear that went with the best of 1970s Sports Cars. The engine access was excellent, and the hood, when folded, just fell in place behind the seats.
But that was only a fraction of the Triumph picture. What it also had, and what set it apart from most of the others, was the “bags of torque” 2.5-litre six-cylinder fuel-injected motor and fully independent suspension
all round. It was true that Triumph independent rear suspension
had a reputation for beating itself to death on the road under acceleration – and the TR6 could be made to do the same - but under normally hard acceleration you were hard pressed to get more than a typical squatting attitude. And even this was offset by the enormous advantages it had in terms of handling
, roadholding and getting the power to the road.
Scuttle Shake You Would Enjoy
Another problem with Triumph’s was the scuttle shake. They all had it to some extent – and the TR6 was, again, no exception. But despite the “shake” the TR6 did not seem to suffer in the handling
department – leastwise not from what we have been able to tell, nor what many road testers from the time noted. Rather, the scuttle shake on a Triumph seemed to add to the cars innate character. If there is one marque you could forgive for scuttle shake – it’s a Triumph. If you don’t believe us, get yourself along to one of the many Triumph car meets and ask an owner. The handling
remains exceptionally well balanced, despite – or perhaps because of – the shake. Somehow when you feel it in a Triumph, you know you are driving a true and pure sports car. We would be far less forgiving today of course, but then technology has improved to the point that it simply should not exist. Volvo perhaps needed to take a leaf out of Mazda’s book with the exceptional MX-5. But we digress.
It may seem like we are waxing lyrical about the TR6 – and that is true – but of course any car is not without fault. The TR6 had plenty, but it had so much damned character that it made them so easy to live with. It got you in, to the point that a current owner would probably not recognise them as faults at all. But, for the record, here is what we think is wrong. The drilled-spoke leather-bound steering wheel looked the goods, but was way too large in diameter, and too small around the rim – making it feel flimsy in the hands. Sure, steering wheels were much bigger back when the TR6 was rolling off the production line, but even when judged on what was the norm at the time, the TR6’s wheel was too big – and made getting the perfect driving position all the more difficult.
Behind the Wheel
The seats looked the goods, but offered little support under the thighs for height challenged drivers, being too short in the squab for comfort. And they had no support behind the shoulders if you were tall. But, if you fell into the 5ft 8 to 6 ft range, they were remarkably well proportioned, near perfect. The seats were mounted such that there was simply not enough adjustment of the slides, and no adjustment at all for the angle of rake.
The dash itself was something of an enigma - while it was, in fact, genuine wood, it somehow managed to look faked and rather cheap. But the layout of instruments and controls was brilliant – and maybe we have spent too much time behind the wheel of Nippon plastic wood-grain to appreciate the TR6’s interior.
At the risk of being petty, we would also suggest that perhaps putting the fuel filler cap in the middle of the front of the rear deck was probably not a good idea, either. It made it had not to slop petrol all over the rear deck trying to fuel the car. But maybe that is our experience.
The hood was truly a thing of beauty - one of the best sports car hoods during the decade of wide ties and flared jeans. Apart from the easy erection and folding down, it exhibited no flapping at any speed, and did nothing to detract from the lines of the car. It was perfectly watertight too – a rare thing on a British sports car.
Again, a very small criticism here - the hood was fitted with plastic press-studs, and these proved useless after a little wear and tear. Metal press-studs were obviously chosen by owners when it came time for refurbishment – but Triumph really should have fitted them as standard when the car left the factory. Another great feature of the hood was the zip-in zip-out rear window, like the Honda S600
and S800 had, and operating it was almost a one handed operation — two levers and half-a-dozen press-studs either way, going up or coming down. The TR6 came standard with a great many creature comforts and gadgets, like heater-demister-ventilation system, carpets, electric windscreen washers, two-speed wipers, headlight flashers, a brake-line failure indicator, trip meter, good quality reversing lights, interior courtesy lights, boot light, sun visors, night-and-day rear view mirror, etc.
On the Road
The mighty 2.5-litre six-cylinder fuel-injected engine was generously set back in the interests of handling
– and the handling
was exceptional. The 1970s was an era when many other sports cars became less sporty and tended towards the boulevard cruiser. Not so the TR6, which kept the traditions of true sports cars alive. It has been described on some web sites as a slightly updated TR5 – but this is not true. It was a completely redesigned unit, sharing only its chassis and door panels with the TR5. The rest of it was all new, from the Karmann-Ghia body style onwards. As a driver's car, with the exceptions (seats and steering wheel) already noted, it was hard to fault, unless you had some kind of peculiar aversion to scuttle shake.
The ride was excellent, in the sports car tradition. Roadholding and handling
were fine, and performance was little short of shattering. It was a really brutal motor car. It would do the standing quarter in 17 sec and 0-60 mph in 8.5 seconds, and it would cruise happily at 100-odd mph for hours on end. At 5000 rpm in top, without overdrive
, you would be travelling at around 110 mph with a little in reserve. The brakes
were excellent, though a little squeaky in the classic disc brake style, and hauled the car down from high speeds time after time with little fade and no slewing. Wind noise at speed was marginal. Fuel consumption was quite reasonable at about 20 mpg overall.
The TR6's ride height was raised to meet US minimum headlamp height requirements. This naturally affected the handling
was also the last year for wire wheels, although the steel disc wheels are much prettier than the dummy units used on the TR250. Changes in 1973
included a reprofiled camshaft, a front spoiler, and a re-designed hardtop. Then bumper guards were later added, which to some, destroyed Karmann's clean, nimble lines. The last TR6's were sold in the US in 1977
, and for that reason some may be titled as 1977
models. This stylish six-cylinder sports car is regarded by many as the last true Triumph.