The Triumph TR-7 brings a shiver to Triumph sports car enthusiasts. Produced from 1975-1981, Triumph sold more TR-7's than any other TR model, yet many argue that Triumph officials regretted every one of them.
The car's controversial styling, the creation of Austin stylist Harris Mann, reinforced the "wedge" look trend emulated by Lotus, Reliant, TVR as well as continental and American designers. The styling differed greatly from the gentle curves or masculine billet lines of the TR-3, TR-4, TR-250 and TR-6. US dealers wondered how they could sell this car to their traditional customers, particularly when the convertible version did not appear until 1979.
The early year models appeared to be assembled under the watchful eye of an angry Grudge Committee of the British Leyland auto workers unions. Combined with the cheesy cost-cutting of British Leyland's accountants, you had a car with design shortcomings [4-speed transmission, poor choice of rear end ratios, leaky heads and cooling systems] and slipshod assembly. You can imagine the warranty claims in those early years.
By the time Triumph changed factories [a total of three times] and engineered the needed improvements, it was too late to revive the model's sales, particularly at its inflation-driven price range. With an exchange rate working against them, Triumph had to raise TR-7 prices from just under $5,000 to just under $10,000 in just 4 short years.
1980 was a great year for the TR-7. My Spider model [black paint with red reflective tape trim] now has 111,000 miles on it and has provided entertaining and reliable transportation on long and short drives. It is a driver's car, too, great in the curves yet a reasonable cruiser at highway speeds. Most recently, it took me on 600 mile round trips from Maine to Vermont and Connecticut. Other than a faulty clock, it runs as if it was still 1980, not 2009.
I've written often about the TR-7, in my blog and in the following article from The New England Triumph newsletter.
Yes, It's a Real TR
The lovely waitress prefers the TR-7 Spider to the Alfa Spider
Yes, It's a Real TR [Courtesy, New England Triumphs]
By Jeffrey Aronson
It's time to give credit where it's due. The TR‑7, in its Canley‑Solihull DHC phase, is a machine Triumph should claim with pride. After two Spitfires, a '63 MK I and a '78 1500, I'm back to Triumphs with the purchase of my '80 TR‑7 Spider in April 2003.
The purchase was prompted by an attack by a salt‑addicted deer on my '78 MGB last year. A rubber bumper "B" declared a total just wasn't worth the rebuild; besides, that AB@, which was my second, didn't stir the heart the way my '63 "B" did back in the '70's.
I had seen this TR‑7 Spider at the British Invasion event in Stowe, Vermont, back in 2002. It was in superb mechanical and body condition; a bit scruffy but nothing damaged. What struck me the most was how appealing the car was to me ‑ back in the late '70' and '80's when the wedge appeared, I found them repellant and stuck with my '60's sports cars [MG's, Fiat Spiders, Spitfires]. Sitting in one for the first time, I was amazed at the road view, the vision, the ergonomics of the cockpit. Finally, the wedge shape worked on me, too.
So when the deer sealed the fate of my B and I really couldn't find a reasonably priced B in a hurry [these are my daily drivers, you see], I called Triumph afficionado Jack Emery, the owner of the TR‑7, to see if it was still around. When he said yes, I drove up to Glenburn, ME, to view it crowded in a barn. All we could do was start it up and see if the lights worked ‑ it started easily and they did. So did all the electrics, even the clock!
I tried to be reasonable about it. Shouldn't I look for other cars? Because of its condition and 48,000 original miles Jack wanted $5,500. He knew I was thoroughly taken in by the car, reduced the price out of mercy and I took the plunge.
Since the purchase, I've put 14,000 miles of daily driving on the car. Much of it occurred during a 9 month spell when the clutch went sour. It would not disengage properly. I went through all the hydraulics, right down to clutch lines, disc and pressure plate  and finally found a bent clutch fork [lever]. Once replaced with a new one, the clutch works perfectly. Other repairs have included a starter and a fuel pump [the original leaked]. The next major work mightbe a head gasket as I have some seepage near a water chamber on this original one. On the other hand, Woody Cooper of The Wedge Shop in Raynham, MA, says many do that so don=t worry too much.
After another deer pummeled my '66 Land Rover II‑A out of commission in October, Ihad to run the TR in Maine's coldest winter in decades. The TR-7 has started at ‑20 F. and kept its composure in constant snow and ice. Even the heater functions reasonably well, much better than the MGB's or the Spitfire's.
No more apologizing for the wedge! Remember over 115,000 were purchased by someone They're great sports cars; it's a shame they weren't built as well as their competitors in later 70's ‑ early 80's.. We might still have Triumphs today.
Copyright 2003, Jeffrey B. Aronson
This TR-7 challenges Maine winters and wins
The New York Times Features the QE IV
As a shameless media hound I could not pass up the opportunity to include my TR-7 in the New York Times Collectible Car feature. Click here to see the mention.
Purchasing a TR-7 or TR-8
- If you're interested in purchasing a TR-7 or TR-8, the TR7.com site offers a fine checklist. Read it here.
- Join the Triumph Wedge Owners Association. Their website has great online resources here.
"The Land Rover is not a vehicle, it's a way of life."