This was a banner year for the cars that helped build the industry.
The last of the old-school classic Triumphs.
On last year’s Tour Britannia Rally, Octane contributor Simon de Burton showed up in his extremely patinated TR6. Following Simon a long way on deserted Yorkshire roads, I was amazed at how well his old TR went. It had bags of power and on closed special stages he was seen to be throwing the Triumph around with abandon, but the car remained unruffled and completed the tough rally with ease.
Deputy editor Mark Dixon is in no doubt about the TR6’s appeal today: ‘It’s great to have a classic with some real urge – I’ve run a couple of Sunbeam Alpines in the past and I loved them dearly, but they were cruisers rather than fast road cars. In modern traffic, the TR6 puts you on a level playing field and it doesn’t leave you feeling apologetic.’
This was the last of the old-school classic Triumphs. It was a bestseller with 94,000 examples shifted – 90% in American specification – until superseded by its replacement, the TR7. In typical penny-pinching British car industry style, the TR6 is in reality a restyled TR5 PI, which was beautifully penned by Michelotti. The TR6 was a spruced-up design by Karmann which, it must be said, did a very effective job.
The early British-market examples featured the 150bhp fuel-injected engine, and this is just such a car. Later engines (from the end of ’72) were reduced to 124bhp – although some of this power drop was caused by a change from SAE to DIN measurements; effectively the difference between gross and net outputs – to meet ever-tightening European emission controls, and the Stromberg-carburetored US-spec cars had even less power, managing a paltry 106bhp.
Finished in confident Signal Red, with original Minilite alloy wheels, this Triumph TR6 promises the perpendicular, macho, classic sports car experience. Often overlooked because it was so ubiquitous, it has mellowed into a very good-looking machine. The interior is spacious and lavishly trimmed with pile carpeting, plush bucket seats and a wooden dashboard which is well stocked with attractive instruments. The engine fires after a bit of a churn and is wonderfully melodic.
Its clutch is extremely light, as is the gearshift, and the TR pulls away easily on its torque. The shifter eases up through the gears and the Triumph builds speed impressively. This car has had the troublesome Lucas fuel distributor replaced by a Bosch unit to give full thrust with all six cylinders firing as required. Through the lanes the TR bowls along willingly, and comfortably! The independent suspension is surprisingly soft and the rack-and-pinion steering is direct, but the smaller-than standard steering wheel makes it a bit heavier than it should be.
The TR6’s party trick is the overdrive, which operates on third and top gear to effectively give the car a six-speed gearbox. This means you can select exactly the appropriate ratio for every road condition, which certainly speeds up your progress. Push harder and the TR6 does begin to lose some composure due to its soft set-up.
So here we have the Triumph that has been – to use that rather foul description – labelled as the last of the ‘hairy-chested’ sports cars whereas, in reality, it is nothing of the sort. It feels comfortable and refined, soft and gentle, easy and light to drive. Not surprising, as it was designed to meet the needs of the comfort-orientated American market. But with the added grunt of the British-tuned engine it can still get up and go with the best of them. It will hit 120mph flat-out and get to 60mph in around eight seconds. Hairy? Only in a teddy bear sort of fashion.
Mark Field, the amiable proprietor of respected Triumph specialist Jigsaw, says: ‘When buying, always insist that the car is viewed with the engine cold. Starting from cold will produce a deep rumble if the main bearings are worn. Then get the TR6 up on a stand and inspect the underside. The chassis is robust but check the rear saddles and the diff mounting area for rot. It‘s worth looking to see if the original Armstrong lever arm dampers have been converted to strut units. We fit Avo adjustable dampers, which make a huge difference to handling as well as braking because, if you dial out the car’s suspension dive, you will improve braking efficiency. We don’t usually fit firmer springs to road cars because that can induce bump steer and lose comfort and refinement.
‘The TR is sensitive to wheel alignment, and getting all four correctly aligned makes a big difference to road behaviour. Inspect the tops of all four wings for bubbling under the paint, because light soil residue collects underneath and leads to rust. Simply washing this area with a gentle hose will prevent this problem.
‘Most people will be aware of the problem with original Lucas fuel pumps. Check to see if a Bosch pump and filter have been installed, along with stainless steel braided hoses,’ says Mark.
Engine: 2498cc, straight-six, OHV, Lucas fuel injection Power: 150bhp @ 5500rpm Torque: 145lb ft @ 3800rpm Transmission: Four-speed manual with overdrive, rear-wheel drive Suspension: Front: independent by coils and wishbones. Rear: independent by trailing arms and coils Brakes: Front discs, rear drums Weight: 1130kg Performance: 120mph. 0-60mph 8.5sec