Archive : Triumph TR6 shown to the press

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

Triumph TR6 press launch

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.’

Triumph TR6 press launch

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.

Triumph TR6 press launch

Ian Nicholls
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  1. As James May said on Top Gear, there was no need to ever replace this car. It could have just been updated over the years. It is the perfect incarnation of what a British Sports Car should be. Think of the body with a modern engine, air bags, ABS and improved suspension.

    • Sounds good, Alfa Romeo managed to keep the Spyder in production until the 1990s, even with a messier front end.

      The Stag or Rover V8 would have been a nice addition too.

      • Basically, isn’t that exactly what Triumph had already been doing? TRs 6, 5, 4 and 3 were all largely based upon their predecessors and thus ultimately descendants from the 1953 TR2. Hard to imagine that this base could have served another 20 years, though.

    • Except that under the TR6’s Karmann makeover, there were still an old – world separate chassis and body. Whereas, mass – produced contemporaries like the MGB or Alfa Spyder all had unitary bodies.

      With this underlying architecture, the TR family had no further future, in terms of meeting future requirments for crash worthiness, general structural integrity, and ride / handling qualities.

      Specialist competitors like TVR did of course continue with separate chassis and fibreglass bodywork, but with far more scientifically designed, and expensive to build, space frame chassis.

  2. the very car in the photo, GKV 672E, was featured on one of the magazines not long – ago.

    It was a modified TR4 and, strangely, they removed the TR6 panels and reverted it back to a standard TR4 body afterwards

  3. Actually in the North East where I live, I occasionally see a TR6 in yellow, driving on local roads… looks mint condition. It strikes me how small it looks these days, (like most cars of that era!)

  4. Mechanically speaking could much of the TR5 and TR6 specification (like the IRS, Triumph Six, etc) have appeared earlier in the 1961 TR4 had Standard-Triumph not been indecisive about aspects the Zoom and Zest projects?

    • Probably a lot more. Reading Websters comments in the Classic Car story about Triumph, the Triumph were happened by investment problems before and after Leyland’s takeover. The Triumph Conrero is a perfect example, a project for Le Mans incorporating the Sabrina engine which reportedly had 165 bhp and huge torque, was said to have been tested on the M1 and nearly hit 150 mph. It was canned by Leyland.

      • Makes sense, as the details for Zoom and Zest prototypes were rather ill-defined relative to what later appeared on subsequent TR models given plans for them to utilize much of Zebu later Barb’s mechanicals (as was said to have been the case with the monocoque Fury). Do like the idea of the 2-litre Sabrina Twin-Cam engine, yet for all its potency in terms of power heard it was actually much heavier than the Triumph Six and also loosely derived from the aging Wet-Liner engine.

        Even though it would have logical to have done so on cost grounds against either the Wet-Liner or Sabrina, it is surprising that some within Triumph were actually resistant to using the Six in the TR when it first appeared in the Vanguard in 1960 (and was capable of up to 115 hp via the tuned 2000TS prototype or close enough to the lower 120 hp spec Sabrina unit).

        Much of the effort fruitlessly expended on Sabrina and other unviable projects in retrospect could have been better applied on further developing the Triumph Six (and to a lesser degree the SC 4-cylinder in place of the floppy crank units) a bit more than was actually the case as well as producing a more mechanically TR5/TR6-esque TR4 with the 2-litre Six.

        There is some fascinating parallels between the 2-litre Sabrina engine (whose construction was derived from the Standard Wet-Liner) and the 2-litre DS Twin-Cam 16-valve engine Citroen investigated for the DS Sport in mid-1960s, since the latter was possibly derived from the pre-war Traction Avant (later DS) engine that Standard drew inspiration from for the Wet-Liner.

        • The spitfire is a perfect example of Triumphs issues. It was z design project that appeared near the start of the Herald/Vitesse project, but due to cash flow issues it sat under tarpaulin in the corner of the engineering department until Stanley Markham asked what was under there and gave them permission to go ahead.

          The Fury was probably the biggest miss from Triumph’s engineering team. It would have been launched prior to the Datsun 260Z, had a monocoque with independent suspension on all four corners and a six cylinder lump. Leylands management team loved it but wouldn’t fund it, as the TR was selling well they didn’t think they needed to replace it. Short sighted British management as ever, as the investment would have been clawed back in the long term.

          • Looking back, what could Standard-Triumph have done differently preceding the Leyland takeover that would augment its position and made Leyland inclined to invest more afterwards?

            Heard about the Spitfire story. For all his reputation in cutting waste, it has to be said that even Stanley Markham saw the value in the Spitfire.

            To my mind the Fury at least mechanically should have been the TR5 or TR6. Its possible relation to 2000/2500 makes one think whether it could have been schemed in earlier and ultimately appeared in place of the Stag (if not indirectly inherit the Stag’s exterior at front and rear on a TR5 Ginevra like body).

            In retrospect Triumph should have probably deferred on having the 1300 be FWD on grounds of cost (thereby allowing it to underpin a Spitfire successor beneath the Fury) and wait to see what FWD engine / gearbox layout to commit to, yet still retain the 1300’s semi-trailing arm / coil-spring layout at the rear as well as a provision for the platform to eventually be converted to FWD in the future if needed (possibly in collaboration with Saab for a sub-99 model to directly replace the 96).

            They could have also listened to the likes of Kas Kastner who preferred a Kugelfischer / Bosch based fuel injection system for the PI instead of Lucas.

          • Personally I have no problem with the TR6 being launched. It looked good for relatively little investment, and sold respectably.

            The Michelotti Bullet and Lynx were perfect replacements for the TR6, and unlike Fury, the fastback Lynx provided a direct competitor to the 240Z which the convertible Fury wouldn’t have managed.

  5. I saw a TR6 today, very nice looking car, and quite an outlier in the BL world with its Karmann-Ghia styling.

    BL made a mess with its sports cars in the 70s, producing a TR7 which was more of an MGB replacement, rather than producing an MG replacement for the aging MGB and a TR8 from the start to better replace the TR6.

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