After the end of World War II, car makers were forced to do a lot, with very little. Material shortages and frequent strikes made getting anything to market was an ongoing struggle, however Peugeot, a rising force before the war, managed to launch come back from the brink and launch the genuinely ground-breaking 203 in 1948 after five years of difficult development.
The first cars hit the streets in 1949, and although it had lost some of the older 202’s beautiful styling features – this was after all Peugeot’s first all-new design following the war – it made a number of quantum leaps elsewhere. The independent front and transverse spring rear suspension remained fundamentally the same, offering great ride quality, but the 203 actually featured an all-new monocoque body structure – hugely advanced for the time.
Peugeot was also pushing the boundaries with its engine building techniques, being one of the first manufacturers to offer an aluminium cylinder head for reduced weight, as well as hemispherical combustion chambers for improved power and efficiency.
Over its 11-year production run, more than 700,000 203s were built, helping the company to begin its meteoric rise over the next few decades. Sleek looks and a range of body styles kept the 203 popular throughout its production run – good news considering it was Peugeot’s only proposition until 1955.
Performance was pretty good for the day, but times have moved on and a 203 will really struggle to keep up with the hustle and bustle of modern motorway traffic. Stick to the back lanes however, and the 203 remains in its element, offering a fantastic and supple riding cruiser. They remain great value classics today too, lacking the high prices , being equally useable on vintage rallies as they are for weekend trips with the family.
Which one to buy?
The TR2 was only in production for three years, however continuous incremental development meant that despite its modest origins, this little sports car gained a loyal following. The twin-carb 90bhp engine, much improved from its duty in the Vanguard, gave spirited performance with the TR2 capable of exceeding 100mph, one of the cheapest cars available that could achieve this feat.
This engine and the basic running gear was used for the duration of production. Other than a handful of minor trim changes, your choice is limited to left or right hand drive and whether you prefer the earlier long-style doors or later short-door versions. The change was made as the earlier cars tended to scrape kerbs when the doors were fully opened, although they are now slightly more desirable. Wheel options were either wire or steel discs.
Many TR2s have been through at least one restoration since they left the factory so there may be a lot of changes under the skin that were not part of the original specifications. Prices for totally original cars are appreciably higher than modified examples, but they are generally less usable, so it really depends how you intend on using your TR.
With 8628 cars built and 5805 of these exported overseas, your search may need to extend to the US to find a good example. There are still a number of good cars in the UK however and the TR range has a very healthy following.
Performance and specs
1953 Triumph TR2
Engine 1991cc 8valve OHV I4
Power 90bhp @ 4800 rpm
Torque 117lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 107mph
0-60mph 12.0 seconds
Fuel consumption 25.0mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
• Almost all trim and mechanical parts, from a simple interior clip to a, are available off the shelf for the TR models, from a number of specialists in the UK and in the US, which makes restoration much less complicated than most cars.
• To ensure that your car is original, check the commission number against the TR type number under the bonnet. There’s a lot of useful information that can be gleaned by joining the TR register, and it’s worth talking to the specialists if you have any doubts about a car’s identity.
• Rust is an unfortunate inevitability, so look out for bubbling paint and check the inner wings, floorpan, boot lid and boot floor for any signs of rot. These areas can all suffer from extreme corrosion due to the poor drainage system used on early TRs. Drain holes on the corners of the bulkhead and the bottom of the boot can also get clogged up, leading to rust in these areas.
• Almost all will have been restored to some extent by now, so it’s more about checking the quality of the work than looking for a perfect original example.
• The standard front and rear drum brakes provide adequate stopping power, although the front brake diameter was upgraded in the second year of production. Many owners have carried out upgrades, generally using disc brakes from later TRs for much improved stopping power.
• The basic running gear is robust but regular evidence of maintenance should be provided as these cars benefit from frequent filter and oil changes.
1953: Triumph TR2 starts production, majority 198 of 248 manufactured destined for US. First 500 TRs featured aluminium bonnets and spare tire covers
1954: Door style shortened mid-year due to flexing issues. Water filler position changed from thermostat housing to radiator. Front brake diameter increased from nine to ten inches, and side windows added to fabric top to improve visibility
1955: Distributor modified. Final TR2 rolls off the production line with 8636 units built. The majority of cars being exported to the US
Owners clubs, forums and websites
• www.vintagetriumphregister.org - excellent source of information on TRs
Summary and prices
Restoration projects with most of the running gear still attached start at £10,000, while a good example will trade for between £30,000 and £55,000 for something very special. If you are looking for a restoration project you could do a lot worse than a TR2, the number of specialists at your disposal means that for a price even the saddest car can be brought back to life.
The TR2 arrived on the 1950's motoring scene as a well priced sports car with spirited performance and sharp handling. It remains a great little classic car, being the perfect companion down a twisty road on your weekend drives. Values have been steady over the last few years, and with parts readily available a TR2 can prove to be a solid investment.
Words: John Tallodi