1979 Triumph TR7. Click image to enlarge
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Article and photo by Bill Vance
The Triumph Cycle Company of Coventry, Warwickshire, established in 1887, was known for bicycles, motorcycles and motorized three-wheelers long before it began building four-wheel cars in 1923. It became the Triumph Motor Co. in 1930, and built a variety of sedans and sporty cars, including the Super Seven, Super Eight, Gloria and Dolomite.
Its most daring venture was the complex 1934 Triumph Dolomite Straight Eight, powered by a double overhead cam, 140 horsepower, two-litre inline eight. It was a knock-off of the Italian Alfa Romeo 8C 2300, but due to financial constraints only three were built.
Triumph went into receivership during the Second World War, and in 1944 was bought by the Standard Motor Co., becoming a subsidiary of Standard. After the war, Triumph cars, now Standard-based, came as 1800 (later Renown) and Mayflower sedans with razer-edge styling reminiscent of some 1930s luxury cars such as Rolls-Royces. A rather baroque 1800/2000 Roadster with the world’s last production rumble seat was also offered from 1946 to 1949.
Standard began exporting Triumphs to North America in 1948, with modest success. That changed with the arrival of the car that really brought Triumph to North American attention, the 1954 TR2 sports car. Its twin-carburetor, 90-horsepower, two-litre, modified Standard Vanguard four’s performance far overshadowed the popular MG, and approached that of the larger engined Austin-Healey.
The Triumph TR series was very successful for the Standard Motor Co. It evolved into the TR3, TR3A, TR4, et al., until it became the TR6 of the 1970s, now with a 2.5-litre, overhead valve six. TRs were all based on the original TR2 platform, and by the time the TR6 arrived it had reached the limit of its development.
Following a series of acquisitions and mergers, by 1975 Triumph was part of largely state-owned British Leyland Ltd., and former competitors MG and Triumph found themselves under the same corporate roof. To the chagrin of MG enthusiasts, BL management decided to concentrate on the Triumph sports car and allow MG development to languish.
Thus while the MGB soldiered on virtually unchanged, an all-new Triumph TR7 arrived in 1975. And “all-new” it was. Whereas the TR6 was a body-on-frame roadster with four-wheel independent suspension, the TR7 was a unit construction coupe with a solid rear axle.
It was powered not by a six, as was the TR6, which would continue for another year, but by a two-litre (1,998 cc) single overhead cam, inline four. This engine was also fitted to the Triumph Dolomite sedan (post-war), and sold to Saab who used it as the basis for its 99, 900 and 9000 engines. In the TR7 it was tilted 45 degrees to the left, allowing easy access to the two Stromberg carburetors.
Rack-and-pinion steering was used, and suspension was via MacPherson struts in front and a beam axle and coil springs at the rear. Brakes were disc front and drum rear.