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Concepts and prototypes : Triumph Fury

The Triumph Fury was a little more than a motor show crowd pleaser – it was a hint at what Triumph could really achieve with its sports car range during the 1960s.

Robert Leitch put together this story for the website, explaining how the Fury came about…


Triumph Fury: an E-type for the masses

Triumph Fury prototype

An article by Mike McCarthy in the 3 August 1974 issue of Motor magazine described two Triumph prototypes then in private ownership. One, variously named TRX or Bullet, was a bulky two-seater tourer of 1950 aimed exclusively at the US market. It appeared to be a near doppelganger of the Austin A90 Atlantic, and seemed every bit as undesirable.

Far more intriguing was the Fury prototype, dating from 1965. McCarthy speculates as to the intent behind this graceful Michelotti-styled two-seater sports car superficially resembling a larger Spitfire. The prototype appears remarkably well resolved and production-ready – unlikely either to be a motor show concept car or a development hack.

What’s under the skin?

The drivetrain and chassis components are significant. Built in the same year that the TR4A was launched, the prototype uses the 2000’s six-cylinder engine and McPherson strut front and trailing arm rear suspension in a monocoque bodyshell, a first for a Triumph sports car.

Other notable features were pop-up headlights and a dashboard design perfectly redolent of Canley products of the era.

The author makes mention of drawings of a Fury with a V8 engine, presumably a slant four derivative, and, perhaps more intriguingly, notes that McPherson struts were under consideration for the rear as well as the front suspension.

A new roadster

To any reader with a reasonable familiarity with Triumph componentry, the easy conclusion would be that the Fury represented the first step in the evolution of the Stag. The Motor article correctly rejects this notion, reminding us that the later car was first conceived by Michelotti as a one-off show car at the time of the ‘Innsbruck’ facelift of the big Triumph saloons, and adopted for potential production by Harry Webster before ever appearing in public.

Thereby did British Leyland stumble serendipitously into producing its sub Mercedes-Benz SL boulevardier…

The only credible explanation for the emergence of the Fury is that Triumph management realised, even in 1965, that the separate chassis TR, even in its evolved form, was far too blunt an instrument to remain competitive in the United States market into the late Sixties. Given that even the TR4 was still underpinned by a considerable amount of Phase 1 Vanguard hardware, the opportunity to rationalise components with the then-current saloon range must have been attractive.

With its very characteristic mid-1960s Triumph detailing the Fury prototype pictured conveys the superficial impression of being a ‘Big Spitfire’ – the chosen name reinforces this idea. However, in 1965, it could as readily be seen as a scaled down E-type, with a far broader potential appeal than the rather agricultural TR4.

Stiff competition

It is worth noting the intensity of activity in the sector at the time, as British, German, Italian and Japanese manufacturers launched new products in pursuit of American sports car buyers’ dollars. 1965 was the launch year for the Alfa Romeo Duetto, Fiat’s 124 Spider and Dino would follow a year later and the Porsche 911 was already well established.

The quantity in which the Datsun Fairlady was selling in the United States could not be disregarded, but probably was in Coventry. Closer to home it must have been common knowledge that BMC, still a competitor, were developing a six cylinder MGB, and was shortly to cease production of the Austin Healey 3000, the car probably closest to the TR in character, both being invariably described in journalistic cliche as ‘hairy-chested’.

Triumph Fury prototype

Triumph Fury prototype

The Fiat Dino, in particular, makes an intriguing comparison with the Fury. Although a premium low-volume product making much of its Ferrari-designed and built V6, the resemblance of Pininfarina’s spyder to the Triumph prototype is uncanny. Indeed, the similarities continue underneath, with six-cylinder engines of the same capacity, and far more sophisticated interiors than the contemporary norm.

The state of the competition

The Dino 206 had a live rear axle, but the all-round struts of Triumph’s wish list featured on the 1969 246. The voluptuous front and rear wings of either car may have served the practical purpose of accommodating the required strut towers.

It seems wholly likely that the Fury fell victim to the ‘make do and mend’ mentality, which contributed to the ultimate demise of most of Leyland’s constituent marques, when it was realised that 1940s components and production machinery had no hope of competing in the second last decade of the 20th century.

The opportunity the Fury project presented to Triumph’s management was to offer a product which could be produced in greater numbers, at lower cost and compete in more lucrative market sectors. The downsides were high development and tooling costs in comparison to prolonging the life of the separate chassis TR series.

Missed opportunity

As we now know, Triumph chose the latter alternative, but the company was, perhaps, in some ways vindicated in that decision by what followed. In 1968, the TR5 was launched with the 2.5-litre fuel-injected six-cylinder engine the Fury would almost certainly have used. Only 15 months later the TR5 was itself superseded by the TR6, whose Karmann rejuvenated nose and tail concealed mechanicals scarcely changed from its immediate predecessor.

The TR6 remained in production up to 1976, and until the TR7 was by far the best selling of the series.

Although it has now unquestionably attained iconic status, the TR6 was not the definitive volume-produced sports car of the first half of the 1970s. That car came not from Coventry, UK but from Zama, Japan and mirrored the Fury prototype uncannily in proportions and technical specification. Missing the chance to beat the Datsun 240Z to the market by at least a year can therefore be added to the long list of opportunities missed by our indigenous motor industry.

Triumph Fury prototype


Written by Robert Leitch, all pictures MOTOR magazine.

Robert Leitch

Robert grew up on a street in Glasgow where everybody seemed to own Minis, Minors and 1100s. The hands-on approach these cars required was the start of a lifelong fascination. Despite learning to drive in an ADO16, he confesses to a lifetime of automotive apostasy and an omnivorous interest in cars of all origins. An unexpected posting to Birmingham, for the two years before the axe fell on MG Rover, rekindled his interest in BMC>MG and a number of contributions to AROnline have followed.

As well as contributing to AR’s forums, he writes his own 5ivegearsinreverse blog which he describes as ‘automotive observations occasionally informed by an arcane body of obsessively-garnered knowledge, but more often simply by disbelief, bewilderment, and spite.’

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12 Comments on "Concepts and prototypes : Triumph Fury"

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  1. Julian Mildren says:

    Excellent article – another one of the what if’s that Gaydon is so full of – if only. Just did a quick search of the numberplate and it’s on a VW now – would suggest that Fury has gone the way of much of our heritage – unless someone knows different?

    • Fortunately the Fury is alive and well – albeit now sporting the numberplate TVT990G. It was added to the JHW Classics collection in 2009 and is often driven to car shows round the country and shows off her lines to the press for articles both in this country and abroad.

      After having taken part in the Cartier Style & Luxe at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2010, I drove her almost 1000 miles round Europe and she didn’t miss a beat!

  2. yereverluvinunclebert says:

    looks like a spitfire windscreen surround, slightly narrower than the car itself.

  3. John whale says:

    Mike, further to the article on The TR Fury, how about one on the Triumph TRX, for those of us that like the older vehicles…

  4. Dr Bobby Love says:

    I love reading about this motor… Makes me wonder why there aren’t more pages about the Triumphs.. The Spitfire & GT6 in particular, they share so many parts with the other small chassis triumphs!!

  5. KeithB says:

    http://www.motorbase.com/vehicle/by-id/367/

    @John Whale – Found the above on the TRX

  6. nick graves says:

    What a promising car!

    There is a certain “modern europeaness” about Trimuphs that lends to the conclusion they might have actually been competitive, had they not been crushed in the petty-minded, living in the past mentality of BLMCARG.

    Shame, really.

  7. jemma says:

    wasnt the trx the one where someone had the bright idea of an electric bonnet lock..? cue electrical fire and trashed prototype. The Fury on the other hand looks good and with an I6 would have shifted too. I just wish they’d made it with either the buick or double slant 4 V8. Hindsight is always perfect.

  8. Paul Goldsmith says:

    It seems the Fury prototype still exists & was resold in 2009 & IIRC was featured in Triumph World in recent years

    http://bringatrailer.com/2009/09/07/michelotti-prototype-1965-triumph-fury/

  9. george says:

    The article suggests that the Datsun Fairlady, a/k/a 240Z was a hot seller in the USA, but that car only arrived in 1970, while the above proposal and the market research seems to have occurred three years prior. And, yes, the 240Z indeed was the answer to most anyone’s need for a $3000 sports GT in the early seventies.

  10. Henry says:

    I think the styling cues are fantastic.

    I would propose that though they are handed down from the Spitfire the Stag would inherit them.

    But look how low the driver sits.

    Isn’t that a Camm tail?

    Much smarter than the standard Triumph tail of the seventies.

    What a missed opportunity!

  11. Henry says:

    Hi! All.

    The styling cues are great (but the door fit looks suspect – but then it is only a prototype).

    Look how low the driver sits.

    Triumph Spitfire hands down to Triumph Stag. The lines are still classic in my opinion.

    Somebody will say Coke Bottle but I disagree.

    Isn’t that a Camm tail, though? Much better looking than that awful notched stern finish.

    Oh! what a missed opportunity.

    Henry

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