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Triumph TR7: Buying guide and review (1975-1981)

Triumph TR7 Triumph TR7 Triumph TR7 dashboard Triumph TR7 interior
Sometimes, perception and reality can be so far removed it’s untrue. There’s no shortage of classics that have a terrible reputation, which is undeserved for whatever reasons, but at the top of the list must surely be the Triumph TR7. Is this the most maligned car ever made? 
 
It’s easy to see why the TR7 is so reviled – usually by those who have never even sat in one, never mind driven one. Early TR7s were poorly built and came in unloved coupé form only, while the 2.0-litre four-pot up front was a let down after the more muscular straight-six of the TR6 – yet until the TR5, all TRs had four-cylinder engines. Later TR7s are undeniably better built, and from 1979 there was also a convertible; these open-topped cars are more fun than their closed counterparts, but any decent TR7 represents spectacular value for money.
 
That’s not to say that the wedgy TR7 coupe doesn’t have its fans, and there are many who find the undeniably 1970s classic a great thing to drive around at the weekend. Styled by Harris Mann, British Leyland’s Chief Designer at the time, it was an extremely radical move away from the very conservative and old fashioned Triumphs of old.
 
The TR7 isn’t quick in standard form, but it’s comfortable, refined and feels surprisingly modern to drive. A few sympathetic mods can make things even better though. Well supported by clubs and specialists, parts availability is excellent, and virtually all maintenance is possible on a DIY basis. 
 
Which one to buy? 
 
With the right engine, brake and suspension upgrades – and they needn’t be costly – the TR7 can be made to go, stop and handle quite brilliantly. However, if you’re buying a TR7 already converted to V8 power, make sure it’s not a home-built job. Properly engineered kits are available from S&S Preparations, Robsport and Rimmers, so ask where the parts came from. Some cars have had a Sprint engine conversion, but the only worthwhile upgrade is the Rover V8, as tuning opportunities for the 16-valve unit are limited and it needs to be really revved to get the best out of it. 
 
The TR7 is easily the most affordable of all the TRs, yet it’s arguably the most usable thanks to its more modern design and construction. However, neglected cars, bodged repairs and restorations are rife, so you have to buy with care. Track down a good TR7 and you’ll soon see that the car’s reputation is largely undeserved, and if you buy one that’s had the right upgrades, you’ll soon be converted. 
 
Performance and specs 
 
Triumph TR7 V8
Engine 3528cc, V8 OHV
Power 133bhp @ 5000rpm
Torque 174lb ft @ 3000rpm
Top speed 135mph
0-60mph 7.7sec
Fuel consumption 21mpg
Gearbox Five-speed manual
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2160mm
Length 4067mm
Width 1681mm
Height 1267mm
Kerb weight 1000kg
 
Common problems
 
• Lots of TR7s have been crushed because of their structural integrity being compromised through rot. Check everywhere, starting with the nose panel and working back. Bonnets rot (especially post-1979 cars with the double hump), and MacPherson strut turrets
 
• The scuttle panel can rust particularly badly, especially if the car has had an unsympathetic windscreen replacement at any point in the last 15 years. 
 
• Have a look at the car in good lighting conditions. Most will have had replacement body panels by now, so you’re looking for a good fit. Front wings and doors are prone to rust, but their bolt-on nature means replacement isn’t a huge job.
 
• Rot in the sills is also common, and if the corrosion has spread it can often mean the end of the road for a TR7. Because the sills provide most of the car’s strength, they must be properly repaired, so if any repair work is recent, use a magnet to determine whether the sill is hiding any filler.
 
• The rear wheelarches, front subframes and the mounting points for the rear trailing arms should also be inspected for signs of rust. The best solution is to get the car up on a ramp, as it can be difficult to get a good look at everything when the car is on the ground. 
 
• The headlamp pods are alloy, which causes paint adhesion problems, but the motors are usually reliable – any issues are normally down to faulty wiring. Re-painting the pods is the only way to cure any aluminium corrosion, and must be done using an etch primer if you finish is to last.
 
• If the front bumpers are hanging down at the corners, it’s because the bonded-on rubber mountings have failed. A proper fix is neither tricky nor costly. 
 
• All TR7s came with a 1998cc four-cylinder engine, but many have since been swapped for a Rover V8. Both engines have an alloy top end, so anti-freeze levels must be maintained – the V8’s block is also aluminium, while the four-pot bottom end is cast-iron. 
 
• If maintained properly, the standard four-cylinder TR7 powerplant will notch up 100,000 miles; for this the timing chain needs to be replaced every 40,000 miles and the oil should be changed every 3000 miles. 
 
• The TR7’s water pump is leak-prone and awkward to replace, so check for leaks and low coolant levels. Pumps should be replaced rather than refurbished. Overheating can be caused by a blocked-up radiator or a weak/failed viscous fan; replacements aren’t costly. 
 
• If the head gasket has gone, replacing it is a pain as the retaining studs are angled, so separating the head from the block becomes a battle of wits. 
 
• Some early TR7s have a four-speed gearbox, but from 1978 a Rover SD1-sourced five-speeder was standard – it was optional before this. The five-ratio box is much stronger than the four-speed, and it also features a usefully high top gear ratio, which makes cruising much more relaxed and helps fuel economy. 
 
• The first thing to go on both boxes is second and third gear synchro. If there’s any baulking, replacement will soon be necessary, although second gear tends to be quite notchy even when the box is in good nick. 
 
• Something that’s become popular is a roller bearing top strut mount conversion for the front suspension. This makes the steering significantly lighter (it replaces steel turning in rubber), but it’s also possible to convert to electric power steering. 
 
• The brakes are poor, so upgrades are desirable. On standard cars, the easiest option is to upgrade the front brakes with fresh callipers and vented discs, as these fit under the standard 13-inch wheels. If you have the car in the air, take some time to inspect the brake lines. If they haven’t been upgraded to copper items, then they might be in need of replacement any time soon. 
 
• With V8 power it’s possible to fit an all-disc system, which involves fitting a replacement rear axle (with limited-slip), but this requires the fitment of bigger (14-inch) wheels, to clear the callipers. Some people fit wheels from the much newer MG F and TF. 
 
Model history 
 
1975: Speke-built TR7 debuts in the US, with twin Strombergs. 
1976: TR7 on sale in UK, with twin SUs, optional five-speed manual or three-speed auto. 
1977: Run of 60 or so TR7 Sprint experimental cars is built. 
1978: Five-speed gearbox now standard, production moves to Canley, TR7 V8 homologated for motorsport. 
1979: TR7 convertible on sale in US, alongside TR8 coupé and convertible. TR8 coupé dies soon after. 
1980: TR7 convertible reaches UK showrooms: just 20 or so RHD cars are built though. TR7 production moves to Solihull. 
1981: US cars get Bosch L-Jetronic injection. TR7 and TR8 production ends. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites 
 
• club.triumph.org.uk
• www.trdrivers.com
• www.tr-register.co.uk
• www.tssc.org.uk
 
Summary and prices
 
You can pick up one of the best coupes for £4000, with usable cars coming in at £1500-£3000. Projects can still be picked up from around £500. Roughly add about a £500-£1000 premium for the convertible. 
 
Genuine TR8 models are significantly more expensive, and although most were left-hand drive models sold in the US, expect to pay £7000-£10,000. You’ll pay significanly more for one of the very few UK cars. A professionally-converted TR7 V8 is much better value though.
 
Words: Richard Dredge
Triumph TR7 Triumph TR7 Triumph TR7 dashboard Triumph TR7 interior
Last updated: 23rd Mar 2016
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Triumph TR7 cars for sale

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Triumph TR7
6000 8950 GBP
  • Triumph TR7

    £6,000 £6,000

    1 owner excellent condition. Original throughout. Gold

    • Year: 1981
    • Mileage: 30000 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
    Wayne Hulse
  • Triumph TR7

    £7,995 £7,995

    JUST ARRIVED IN A VERY NICE 1 OWNER TR7 BEEN STORED FOR YEARS IN A DRY GARAGE JUST BEEN RECOMISSIONED AND READY FOR ITS NEW OWNER PLEASE CALL FOR FULL DETAILS

    • Mileage: 23000 mi
    • Engine size: 1998
    For sale
  • 1979 Triumph TR-7 Roadster

    POA POA

    This Triumph TR-7 roadster is a very nice and original California Blue plate example of one of Triumph's most popular models ever made. As a newer classic, this TR-7 is not only a fun sports car that is a blast to drive, but also acts as a great investment, given the burgeoning interest in newer classics from the 70s and 80s. This TR-7 is in good running and driving condition, and has received a comprehensive servicing by Triumph professionals at Classic Showcase. The car includes the original bill of sale, and a picture disc of work performed. Don't miss this chance to obtain an affordable classic that is not only a great entry level collector car, but one that is fun to drive as well.

    • Year: 1979
    • Mileage: 23399 mi
    For sale
  • Triumph TR7

    £7,995 £7,995

    JUST ARRIVED IN A VERY NICE 1 OWNER TR7 BEEN STORED FOR YEARS IN A DRY GARAGE JUST BEEN RECOMISSIONED AND READY FOR ITS NEW OWNER PLEASE CALL FOR FULL DETAILS

    • Mileage: 23000 mi
    • Engine size: 1998
    For sale
  • Triumph TR7

    £6,995 £6,995

    Head Restraints, Cloth Upholstery, Front Fog Lamps, CD Player, Electric Aerial, 13'' Alloys This stunning unique Triumph TR7 is a worthy addition to any classic collection or can be used and enjoyed by the next lucky owner.The TR7 is the last ever registered car in the UK hence the very unique 1993(L) registration. The vehicle was built in 1979 and remained the property of an elderly BL dealership in Scotland until the owners death in 1993, the Triumph was then first registered and the business was sold off. During it's life it has only passed between very lucky TRDC or TR Register members and the full documented history has invoices in excess of £10000 to maintain the car in it's superb condition. There are several worthwhile improvements that make this car one of the most usable classic cars we have ever marketed and it drives like a new car. We will consider a Part-Exchange and can also arrange FINANCE on this beautiful example. Please call the office to arrange an appointment and test drive.

    • Mileage: 37000 mi
    • Engine size: 1998
    For sale
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