Triumph Sports Cars

Triumph TR8

The TR7 and TR8 were British Leyland’s version of a modern Triumph sports car.

Be careful what you draw, it might become a car. That's what happened with the Triumph TR7 and its V-8 sibling, the TR8.

In the early 1970s, British Leyland was eyeing a new sports car to replace those of its member marques, the Triumph TR6 and the MGB. Just for fun, stylist Harris Mann doodled a sort of bubbletop wedge with a big upswept curve on the bodysides. Somehow, management saw this design and deemed it perfect for the new two-seater. Others didn't. After walking around the TR7 on its 1975 debut, Italian master stylist Giorgetto Giugiaro eyed the bodyside sculpting and lamented: "Oh, no! They've done it on this side too!"

Unlike the TR6, the TR7 was first sold only as a coupe, used a beam axle rather than independent rear suspension, and had a 2.0-liter overhead-cam four instead of a pushrod six. A four-speed gearbox was standard, but a new five-speed was optional in lieu of electric overdrive. A three-speed automatic also was available.

Being relatively wide, the TR7 had a roomy cockpit and a broad stance that contributed to stable handling. It also had room for the 3.5-liter V-8 from corporate cousin Rover and that's what went into the TR8 that bowed as a 1980 model. The TR8 also got firmer damping, standard power steering, and nicer trim.

The TR8 used a 3.5-liter Rover V-8 and was satisfyingly faster than the TR7. Handling was good and the wide cockpit comfortable, but with a solid-axle rear, subpar quality, and debatable styling, neither did justice to the Triumph legacy.

Unfortunately, both these Triumphs suffered mediocre workmanship and erratic production that only accelerated BL's fast-falling fortunes. Convertibles were added in 1979 with hopes of improving sales. Arguably prettier than the coupes, the ragtops were also far more flexible -- enough that parking on shallow inclines could twist the unitized hull sufficiently to prevent opening the doors. Despite all this, BL built more than 112,000 TR7s but only 2497 TR8s, of which 2,308 were U.S. models (including just 202 coupes).

Though pleasant and satisfyingly quick when working right, the TR8 was too little too late. By the time it arrived, BL was on the ropes, and the firm's 1980 British government takeover left no future for any TR -- or MGB, or Triumph Spitfire. BL has since become the privately held Rover Group, which has a dandy new sports car in the MGF. That leaves the TR8 to be mourned as the last sporting Triumph and a promise unfulfilled.

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