Ian Nicholls, AROnline‘s historian-in-residence, has uncovered details of the Triumph TR6 press launch in January 1969. It’s a great snapshot in time…
January 1969: A new style for Triumph’s TR
On 10 January 1969, the media was shown the new Triumph TR6 sports car at Canley. The event was hosted by George Turnbull, Cliff Swindle and Spen King. They apologised for the absence of Lord Stokes, who was suffering from influenza.
George Turnbull said: ‘He has just been notified by The Crown Office that, after the bestowal upon him of a life peerage, as from today he can call himself Lord Stokes of Leyland in the county palatine of Lancaster.’
He went onto say: ‘It is I think without recent precedent for us to introduce a new Triumph car without giving you the opportunity of driving it beforehand. I am sure you will realise, however, that well over 90 per cent of our sports car output is exported and that we are involved in the biggest export drive of all time.’
Early cars are left-hand drive only
Turnbull added: ‘Accordingly, all our pre-announcement production has been thus far entirely devoted to left-hand-drive cars so that we can support the launch of the new TR6 in the United States and at the Brussels Motor Show next week.
‘We are just beginning to produce right-hand-drive cars and the first of these will be used for Press cars so that you will be given the opportunity to drive one well before the car is available to the public in this country which will be in April of this year.’
George Turnbull then handed over to his successor as Director and General Manager of Standard-Triumph International (STI), Cliff Swindle, who he described as, ‘having been my right-hand man here for several years now. I am confident that he will do a splendid job of leading the first-class management team at Standard-Triumph which has reaped such success.’
Triumph’s production successes
Cliff Swindle told the press that Standard-Triumph had manufactured 139,000 vehicles in 1968, 14 per cent more than in 1967. Swindle went on to say: ‘We have had a splendid year in overseas markets with the USA and Western Europe being the star performers. To the USA we have shipped nearly 19,000 units, over 70 per cent more than in 1967, while in Europe sales have increased by 27 per cent to over 25,000 units.
‘We have had a splendid 1968 in overseas markets with the USA and Western Europe being the star performers’ – Cliff Swindle, Standard-Triumph General Manager
‘A great contribution to our success in Europe has been made by the Leyland-Triumph plant at Malines, near Brussels. This produced more than 12,000 vehicles during the year and is now moving towards an annual production rate of 17 per cent of vehicles as a result of expanded and improved production facilities….
‘We are currently producing for the Saab company in Sweden, 400 per week of the new Triumph 1700cc overhead-camshaft engine. What I am not ready to tell you is when you will see this in a Triumph car.’
The enduring success of the Triumph TR Series
Referring to the success of the TR series since 1953, Cliff Swindle said: ‘America has always been its major market and last year showed that there is still room for expansion there – sales of the TR250 more than doubled at a figure of 7000 units.’
The TR5 had sold well in Europe and Cliff Swindle said this had, ‘encouraged us to gild the lily and keep the image fresh, and we have high hopes of even larger exports this year with the TR6.’
Cliff Swindle went on to promise that when the car was launched in the USA, ‘there will be nearly 2000 available on the premises of the distributors and dealers, despite the dock strike over there. Production has already started at the plant in Malines which will supply Common Market countries, whilst the factory at Coventry will supply the rest of Europe…
‘I should now like to introduce you to Spencer King, who many of you may have known at Rover, and who is now our Engineering Director, to tell you all about the car.’
Spen King’s first Triumph launch
Spen King then went on to describe the differences between the TR5 and the new TR6: ‘The main features of the TR6 PI which distinguish it from the TR5 are immediately clear.
‘The body has been extensively re-styled by Karmann-Ghia and this has been done while still using a number of panels – mainly interior ones – common to the TR5. The overall effect achieved is more modern and elegant.
‘Some of you may wonder why we went to Karmann-Ghia – in fact, the first approach was made by them, at a time when we were overloaded in our Engineering Department. Furthermore, they were able to offer us an attractive package deal, whereby they could design and manufacture the dies to produce the modified body panels in the time required by us.’
Triumph TR6 press launch: the changes
The doors and windscreen were still taken straight from the TR4, as were the underpinnings. Wider wheels were fitted, and were steel as standard, with stylish chrome trim rings to maintain the exclusive look. Inside, the seats were given a little extra padding, but under the bonnet things continued as with the TR5/TR250, with fuel injection and 150bhp for most of the world and 104bhp with carburettors for the USA.
The TR6 remained unchanged until 1976, when the TR7 was rushed in to replace it, but the relationship between the two cars was limited to the TR name only – there were no carry-over parts.
The TR6 was officially announced on 14 January 1969.