Forget the price – is the Triumph TR5 one of the best sports cars of the 1960s, bar none?
There’s certainly a lot in its favour. It’s compact, handsome, and has independent rear suspension for good roadholding. Most important of all, it has a sweet and powerful (150bhp) fuel-injected straight-six engine. That’s why concours cars are now nudging Big Healey prices, with £30k being asked – and received – on a regular basis.
Meanwhile its similar but restyled successor, the TR6, commands prices in the mid-teens for really nice examples. The British in particular have always had something of a love affair with this macho, slightly unsophisticated sports car; a relationship that shows no signs of cooling.
Sadly, American customers were never offered the fuel-injected cars and instead made do with the carbureted TR250 version of the TR5 and a similarly weak-spirited TR6. However, the US-spec cars were made in far greater numbers and have at least proved a useful source of rust-free donor shells to restore rotten home-market cars.
Superb parts availability and specialist back-up make the TR5 and TR6 well worth considering, if you put badge snobbery aside.
John Sykes is the amiable and straight-talking boss of TR Bitz, which has specialised in separate chassis TR sports cars for the last 30 years. He’s in no doubt that the TR5 is the one to have:
‘It’s the fastest, rarest, nicest to drive and hence most desirable, and it costs £50k to restore one properly, which is why the best TR5s will always fetch £30k now.
‘TR6 values are all over the place but range from £7 or 8k for a usable car to £14-15k for a really nice one, with the mildly detuned 1973-on TR6s worth about two grand less. Colour is important – customers’ tastes have matured, so Royal Blue is popular but Magenta hasn’t quite made it yet...’
IN A NUTSHELL
As with any 1960s car, rust is the number one enemy for a TR5 or 6. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to spot in the separate chassis – though you need to look out for poor-quality repairs, too.
Tapering door-to-wing gaps are the obvious giveaway of a sagging or bodged chassis, while rust is most likely to have attacked wing to body tub joints. Check that both sides of the car have its characteristic widening-curve ‘fish’ shape: many TRs will have been in a prang at some time.
Ironically, while brand new Heritage bodyshells were available a few years ago, they’re not widely liked due to early production inaccuracies that saw the rear deck sit an inch higher than the front scuttle – you can’t fit a hardtop to a Heritage shell for just that reason. A Heritage-shelled car is therefore worth less than one that’s been reshelled using a rust-free body from the USA.
Gearboxes on pre-’73 TRs shared oil with the overdrive, where fitted: damage can mean both or either need replacing at a potential cost of £800 plus fitting. And the correct Laycock clutch covers are almost extinct; AP substitutes give a heavy clutch pedal and knock out the crank thrust washers.
Otherwise mechanical parts aren’t troublesome or expensive. When unleaded petrol was introduced in the UK, there was a problem with rubber seals failing in fuel-injection metering units and fuel pumps, but most cars have now received Viton seals and Bosch pumps that cure the problem.
If you want the ultimate Triumph, the TR5 is a no-brainer. It has those pretty Michelotti ’60s looks and, says John Sykes, was better made than the TR6: ‘The engine was properly balanced and had a cross-drilled crank, whereas the TR6 was slightly cheapened in assembly.’
TR6s offer similar thrills for considerably less money, however. Popular myth has it that the more powerful, pre-’73 cars are much preferable – but, as John Sykes points out, the difference at the rear wheels amounts to no more than 10bhp. Pre-’73 cars (CP chassis prefix) are road tax exempt, but ’73-on versions (CR prefix) have a more reliable Laycock J-type overdrive.
Be wary of a temptingly cheap US import. The carbureted engine is less powerful, rear axle ratios were lower to compensate and overdrive was a rarer option. However, if the bodyshell on an import is really good, it might be worth buying as a basis for upgrading the car to UK-spec.
1967 Autumn: TR5 launched with 2.5-litre, Lucas fuel-injected straight six. US-only TR250 has twin Stromberg carbs and go-faster bonnet stripe.
1968 September: TR5 and TR250 end production after 2947 and 8484 cars built respectively.
1968 Autumn: TR6 debuts, with body facelifted front and back by Karmann. Running gear similar to TR5’s: US cars again have Stromberg carbs while rest-of world gets Lucas injection.
1972 Autumn: injected TR6 given revised camshaft that drops power from 142 to 125bhp max.
1975 February: injected TR6 ends production after 13,912 made. Cars still being sold months later.
1976 July: final carbureted TR6 made, bringing US total to 77,938.
TR5 & TR6
Engine: 2498cc in-line six, OHV, Lucas fuel injection
Power: 142bhp @ 5750/5000rpm; 125bhp @ 5000rpm ’73 on
Torque: 149lb ft @ 3500/3000rpm; 146lb ft @ 3000rpm ’73 on
Transmission: 4-speed, opt O/D, RWD
Suspension: Independent via coil-and-wishbone (front); coils and semi-trailing arms (rear)
Brakes: Discs front, drums rear
Performance: 0-60mph 8.1/8.5sec; Top speed 117mph
Triumph Sports Six Club
John Sykes at TR Bitz
+44 (0)1925 861861