Triumph TR7, TR7 V8 and TR8 Sports Cars

Triumph TR7

The slow decline of a once great name continued with the Triumph TR7 which came with a weedy 4-cylinder engine, not the TR7 V8 that enthusiasts wanted. Many enthusiasts were outraged at what they saw as little more than Triumph trying to cash in on the old TR badge that had graced such classics as the TR2 and TR3, plus the TR4, TR5 and TR6 range, to market a car that was never really seen by many as true to the TR heritage. Some were slightly mollified when the convertible version eventually came along five years after the coupé and the car always sold well enough over its lifetime, with over 110,000 built. The Triumph TR8 had a slightly easier ride due to the extra performance it could deliver. The TR7 V8 only really existed in the Works rally cars, the production V8 engined cars were all the TR8s.

It has to be said some of the complaints about the TR7 can be put down to the fact the British car industry was in turmoil in the 1970s with industrial action rampant. The TR7 wasn't an entirely bad car, just often badly built. One of the reasons for the coupé version were fears at the time that America was going to outlaw convertibles for safety reasons. Fortunately this never came about.

The futuristic wedge-shaped TR7 hit the showrooms in 1974 with the huge black safety bumpers doing nothing to improve its looks. It came with the standard version of the Triumph 2-litre engine, 1998cc, with the eight-valve head and twin SU carburettors giving 105bhp in UK spec. America lost out again due to emissions laws and got Stromberg carburettors and 92 bhp which was further hampered by power-sapping air-conditioning that many American spec cars had fitted.

A Triumph TR7 Sprint?

Performance for the UK spec was on par with the earlier TR6 due to some weight savings but was still poor in the market place for a supposed sports car. The car every enthusiast wanted was the TR7 Sprint (or better still a TR7 V8) using the full-house Dolomite Sprint engine which had the same bottom end as the TR7 but with a sixteen-valve cylinder head giving 127 bhp and a noticeable performance boost. In fact Triumph actually intended this to happen and around sixty prototypes were built including using the five-speed gearbox and stronger rear axle from the Rover SD1. But it is thought that labour relation problems at the main production factory in Speke put paid to the idea. It was reputedly good for 120mph with 0-60mph in 8.5 seconds.

What was thought of as an initial temporary production glitch dragged on and then the TR8 came in to being, creating the TR7 V8 that many had always craved, and so the Sprint idea was permanently shelved. Any of the genuine Sprint engined cars should have a chassis number with the prefix ACH. It isn't thought that any of them reached America but many people in the UK have built there own version over the years so there are plenty of fakes about.

At least in 1976 the five-speed gearbox was introduced on the standard car removing one of the complaints about it feeling undergeared at speed. There had never being an overdrive option on the TR7.

In 1979 the convertible model was launched in the US after several years of major industrial disputes at British Leyland who now owned Triumph. It sold well, generally better than the coupé whose looks had never really caught on and poor build quality hadn't helped.

The wait for TR8 was ended in 1979 (although a few V8 engined cars had being built as early as 1977 for evaluation purposes). But unfortunately it was only shipped to America, the UK didn't officially get the TR8 so buyers had to either re-import one or build their own. There was, and still is, a thriving market in building and restoring TR8s. The convertible TR8 followed a year later in 1980, and Canada and America bought just over 2,000 of them and another 405 just for America in 1981. It is though that the UK got roughly twenty of the convertible TR8s.

The factory car, built as it was for American emission laws, only had 134bhp and so only offered the same performance as the Sprint engined version would have done with a 120mph top speed and 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds. A poor man's E Type, as the saying goes.

Triumph TR7 by Charles01 on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.
Triumph TR7 by Charles01 on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-SA-3.0.

The Triumph TRs Demise

There are still plenty of people converting TR7s to TR7 V8, or TR8, spec to varying standards of workmanship, so it a case of buyer beware.

The plug was finally pulled on 5 October 1981 on the TR line. The exact number built is something of a mystery due to the fractured production schedules from industrial action and the car's production being moved around several factories over the years. Approximately 115,000 in total with less than 3,000 factory-built TR8s. About 15,000 of these are convertibles and around 2,500 of those are TR8s. Most TRs were still exported to the US.

The works rally TR7 and TR7 V8s were around in the mid- to late-seventies. The works TR7 came with the 16-valve engines and in competition spec had around 180bhp. But by 1978 Triumph had got the 3.5-lire V8 homologated for competition use and power shot up to 270bhp plus on early factory TR7 V8 cars with the last models giving around 300bhp on a quad-Webber set up. Fast but fragile is the best way to sum them up. They sounded fantastic and were rapid when they were going (which wasn't often), and on all-tarmac events they could hold their own with any other car. In fact Tony Pond won the Belgian Ypres Rally in June 1978, and later the Manx Rally. The team was shut down in 1980.

Triumph TR7 V8

Simo Lampinen's Triumph TR7 of the 1978 Lombard RAC Rally driven at Race Retro 2008, the International Historic Motorsport Show, at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, England by estoril on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-2.0.
Simo Lampinen's Triumph TR7 of the 1978 Lombard RAC Rally driven at Race Retro 2008, the International Historic Motorsport Show, at Stoneleigh Park, Coventry, England by estoril on Wikimedia Commons. CC-A-2.0.

Triumph TR7V8

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