Concepts and Prototypes : Triumph Lynx (1972-1978)

The Triumph Lynx was a victim of not only a lack of funds, but also the ongoing battle between Michael Edwardes and the Trade Unions.

The car had promise – it had Rover V8 power, four seats and ample performance.


Lynx: the Capri fighter that never was…

Triumph Lynx 01

The ideology behind the Triumph Lynx was straightforward enough – and the fact that strategists identified the need for the company to produce to a sports coupé proved that they were doing their job correctly.

In 1972, the Lynx project was resurrected from an earlier sports car project with the same name designed by Michelotti. The second-generation car emerged as a wholly predictable extension of the TR7 platform, although it wasn’t as stylish as the original Triumph Lynx.

Maybe that was because its front-end styling was retained almost unmodified, but from the scuttle line back, the car was almost entirely new. The Lynx was central to the planned expansion of Rover Triumph announced by Lord Stokes in May 1973.

Developing the new Triumph coupé

Triumph Lynx
Left: Project Lynx was re-evaluated in 1972, following the establishment of the TR7 as BLMC’s corporate sports car. Unlike the earlier Lynx, this one was related to the fixed-head coupé already in development: this time, the TR7. The objective was to extend the TR7 and improve its accommodation. Initial ideas centred on a sports estate version, somewhat akin to the Reliant Scimitar GTE. Right: The sporting estate theme can be seen again in this double-sided proposal (the other side is shown below). Interestingly, the rear end treatment of this model was less pleasant to look at (being reminiscent of the AMC Gremlin), but more in keeping with the razor-edged front end. Either way, it was overlooked in favour of an all-out coupé in the mould of the Ford Capri
Triumph Lynx
A slightly more sloping roofline was investigated for this Lynx proposal – the beginnings of a move away from the sports estate version – towards the final, definitive coupé
Triumph Lynx
This incarnation of Project Lynx was a promising four-seater coupé, to be available in four-cylinder and V8-engined forms, badged as either a Triumph or an MG. This is the MG version, which according to plan would have been powered by a 2.0-litre version of the O-Series engine, leaving the V8 for the Triumph. Certainly, the plan had been that the Lynx would replace the troublesome Stag. (Picture: MG: The Untold Story, by David Knowles)
Triumph Lynx
The Lynx shown from arguably its best angle. The bumpers and rear lamp clusters may have been a little heavy handed, but the car was on a different planet to the TR7 (and MGB) when it came to practicality. Rear seating was surprisingly effective, as was the boot area – the only downside was the high boot sill… Not too much of an issue in a sports car, though! (Picture: MG: The Untold Story, by David Knowles)

The TR7 platform had its wheelbase extended by 12 inches and longer passenger doors were incorporated in order to balance the side view of the car and improve access to the rear seats. The rear end of the car looked vastly different to the donor car and was somewhat unhappy in its detailing – losing the Harris Mann tapering belt line in the process.

The intention was that the car would also incorporate a hatchback, like the MGB GT, in order to offer a practical, as well as stylish package.

Development of the Lynx was stepped up following commencement of TR7 production in September 1974 and, again, extensive use of the BL part bin was made. The gearbox would be the LT77 five-speed unit planned for the TR7 V8 rally car and Rover SD1. There would be two versions of the Lynx – the MG version was to be powered by the O-Series engine and supersede the MGB GT, while the Triumph would get the Rover V8, pitching it as a Stag replacement.

What happened to the Triumph Lynx?

The rear suspension of the Lynx would also be shared with the Rover SD1 – a solid rear axle with intelligent location and damping. The package looked very viable and, once it became clear that Speke would have the excess capacity to produce it, the BL Board gave it the go ahead for production.

The problem was that, by the time the tooling was ready to be installed at Speke, the factory was experiencing industrial relations problems of biblical proportions between its workforce and the company’s management.

In 1978, the TR7 assembly plant in Speke was closed after the long, much-publicised strike that broke out on the day Michael Edwardes became Chairman of British Leyland (1 November 1977) – along with Speke went the Triumph Lynx. By closing Speke No.2, Michael Edwardes dealt a blow to the jobs-for-life culture that permeated BL.

Triumph Lynx
The styling of the Triumph Lynx might have been an unhappy mix of Harris Mann’s front and the Canley studio’s rear, but the concept was impressively on target. The V8-engined hatchback Lynx would have comfortably beaten the V6 Ford Capri at its own game
Keith Adams

29 Comments

  1. How it can be said that the rear of the Lynx is arguably its best angle is beyond me with its
    ridiculously oversized lights & bumpers. The lack of an opening metal section to the tailgate doesn’t look right either.
    The rest of the car has grown on me over the years

  2. What I don’t understand is that this car was dropped because Speke closed, but the tooling had been made and paid for, as well as development costs. Wouldn’t it been better to find room in one of the underused plants elsewhere and get some money back on this investment?

    • I believe it’s right to say that the principal reason Lynx was dropped was opposition to it from the American management of BL … Mike Dale / Bruce McWilliams. They just didn’t want it. They ran a customer clinic on the west coast and got very bad results and concluded it would be unsellable in the USA. If they had expressed enthusiasm for Lynx it’s very likely it would have been built at Canley (and/or Solihull) along with TR7/8, after Speke closed (and TR7 tooling was transferred) – but without any enthusiasm from the US the car was dead (as BL were very weak in continental Europe so North America would have been the principal market beyond the UK).

      • Surprising, seeing that plenty of 240Zs, Celicas etc were sold in the US.

        Surely UK sales would have reasonably important too, seeing how well the Capri sold in the 70s

        • Yeah though of course the Capri in the seventies was selling in substantial volumes in the UK, continental Europe and North America (where imported from Germany and sold as the Mercury Capri). Without US sales volumes the Lynx would have been largely confined to the UK (as BL were weak in Europe) and thus would have been unlikely to deliver a return on investment. It’s been reported the US management were really hoping for a replacement for the MGBGT rather than a four-seater (and maybe were thus “set against” Lynx from the start – and had invited the “wrong sort of people” to their US styling clinic). The appearance of the Lynx was disliked (and of course in the Coupe market styling is crucial) but there were perhaps other factors (I am speculating a little here) – Dealers would remember the disaster of the Stag in the USA during 1971-73 and be wary of a vehicle aimed at the same segment, and some US Triumph dealers remained “dualled” with competing brands which already offered such a coupe. (This was much less of an issue for the traditional sports cars). The decision to drop Lynx was apparently taken during 1978 (in a meeting at Longbridge attended by US management). If it had been given the green light that would have implied a US launch more or less on top of TR8 (and Rover 3500) – and TR8 would have been seen as offering more potential (so better to concentrate on the marketing of that) …. I regret they didn’t persevere with Lynx but of course the coupe market is notoriously fickle and has been the scene of many expensive disasters (eg Renault Fuego) so I suppose in the tight financial climate then prevailing, and with the Americans not keen, it was bound to get chopped.

  3. Well I think the Lynx was a pretty good looking car that would have appealed to those wanting a decent 2 litre coupe or a powerful V8 (funds permitting). It would have been a viable competitor to the Capri and at that time the Cavalier/Manta Sportshatch. It’s a shame as Dave says, that this car wasn’t built at another Leyland plant as development was advanced.

    If I turned back the clock to 1978, I would have added the Lynx to my wish list! The green one looks good

  4. Liking the style of this car. It’s a real shame how the selfish, lefty militant issues killed off great concepts like this and ultimately the Brit owned motor companies. Would’ve been a very nice MG and Triumph for the 1980s – stylish and great driving dynamics. Can’t help but feel the Honda Integra took some ‘inspiration’ from this car. Would’ve had a certain amount of access with the Austin and Triumph tie-ups of the time…

    • The Lynx also bears a slight similarity to the early 1980’s Toyota Celica & Supra in profile, which also had pop up headlamps. I agree the car would have suited coloured bumpers but they didn’t come into fashion till the 80s

  5. Interested to know more about the pre-TR7 Michelotti-styled Triumph Lynx project, am assuming it was connected to the Bobcat and Puma projects likely derived from the former. Perhaps Lynx and the related Bullet can be best described as sporting versions of Bobcat?

    As for the TR7-derived Triumph Lynx, while largely biased against pop-up headlights having integrated body coloured bumpers at both ends would have certainly helped to improve the styling as featured on RT061.

    Have previously mentioned the Lynx and related TR7-based models featuring Grinnall TR8 styling at the front, though thinking about it further a face-lifted version with Roverized front styling similar to the Rover CCV would have been more suitable.

    While understanding the O-Series was more cost effective compared to the Triumph Slant-4 and was capable of being tuned to produce roughly the same 127 hp as the Dolomite (and prototype TR7) Sprint, could the engine have been a significant improvement even with turbocharged O-Series variants?

    The MG version could feature both regular and turbocharged O-Series engines, yet the Triumph deserves an entry-level 6-cylinder variant below the Rover V8 or even a reduced displacement version of the latter.

    • The slant 4 was a better engine than the O Series – SAAB showed that it was a very strong durable unit when given a slight redesign and manufactured properly – in fact during the 80s SAAB 900s were more desirable than the equivalent BMWs and Mercedes amongst the trendy set. As I said earlier it was a shame that BL did not have the right people at the top.

      • It is indeed a shame yet the fact is the Slant-4 was not properly developed and unlike the O-Series, could not be counted on to be mass produced for more mainstream cars within the range due to cost and limited production capacity.

        In order for the Slant-4 to be produced at greater numbers as a more mainstream engine and with further collaboration (or even later acquisition of) SAAB, it would likely require BL not being formed to begin with.

      • @ daveh:

        Agreed! The Slant 4 was a better engine than the O Series and would have been more suited to a sporting coupe because it offered a superior mix of torque and higher revving abilities. The O Series was never known for its smoothness or rev-ability, so was hardly a great engine to take on those found in sports cars and coupes from continental competitors such as Alfa Romeo and Lancia (and even SAAB). From the early 1980s the list of competitors would have extended to Toyota and Mazda.

        The Slant 4 would also have given both the Triumph and MG offerings greater engineering independence from the corporate saloon car parts bin, thus giving the ‘Lynx’ project more standalone halo appeal. Hypothetically speaking, if the Slant 4 engine could have been assembled to higher manufacturing standards and the ambition had also been there to engineer and assemble the rest of the car to much higher build quality standards, then something called premium pricing might have been achievable rather than potentially maintaining the mindset of price undercutting the competition.

        One final thought – how would MG purists have taken to ‘Lynx’ being offered in O Series form for them, while Triumph buyers would have had the more powerful Rover V8 engine? MG enthusiasts would have possibly complained of being short-changed in preference to Triumph. Let the war between MG vs. Triumph enthusiasts recommence at a nearby pub or classic car gathering!

    • I’ve always liked the Michelotti Lynx and Bullet from the early 70s, both are great looking and fit better into the Triumph range of the time.

      • Agree

        The fact is that the styling of the TR7 and TR7-derived variants originate with the MG ADO21, so it would have been fascinating to see how Triumph’s design language would evolve without such influence. With the MG ADO21 / Triumph TR7 styling language instead being adopted by MG for its Midget and B replacements.

  6. I worked on Lynx and would say it was clearly a Capri killer (UK & Europe)and a great companion to the about to be launched TR8 convertible for US consumers. To say that it would have been unlikely to deliver a return on investment is bemusing as the tooling investment, by far the greatest, had already been committed. The very 1st picture in this post shows it in the Canley d&d workshop and with lowered suspension compared to the “production” green photo show Lynx at its best. I think this would have been perfect for the market and in particular for the US.

  7. I tried to do a modern update of the Lynx and failed miserably! There used to be a few people on here that were really good at that stuff, does anyone fancy a go?

  8. Unlike the open sports cars that were BL USA’s bread and butter and had a niche to themselves with only the equally ancient Fiat 124 Spyder for competition, this would’ve faced a LOT of competition both American and Japanese (as well as the VW Scirocco and imported “Capri from Lincoln-Mercury”). Even a Rover V8-powered version would go directly against Ford’s new-for-1979 Foxbody Mustang. There simply would’ve been no compelling reason to buy one over a Toyota Celica which was just as stylish but much more dependable, or a Chevy Monza that was even more stylish with parts as cheap and widely available as car parts ever get.

  9. Nice car, but Michael Edwardes saw it as an expensive dead end and as the Leyland sports car range was being run down at the time, the Lynx had no future. Possibly the last chance was the TR8 that could have done very well in America, land of the V8, but when the TR8 was launched in 1980 in America, an energy crisis, a strong ppund and a recession killed it. This then led to the complete cancellation of the TR range in 1981 and the end of Leyland’s sports cars.

  10. The wierd side-treatments [the ‘sweep spear’ line in some examples like the TR7, and then the concave scallop along the sides in others [rather like the Maestro/Montego] just look totally wrong.

    They accentuate the narrowness. Look at a Datsun 240/280/300Z and you have no nasty sice deformities, they bulge smoothly out like a well-muscled athlete.

    If they’d done something lore like a Reliant Scimitar [which thankfully lacks the stupid Lynx-type side-deformities] and fitted it with, let’s say, a triple-Weber-carb 2.6 E-series putting out 150+ BHP it _might_ have tempted punters.

  11. The idea was good: the Stag had been blighted by reliability issues with its V8 and needed to be replaced and the TR7 was only a two seater, so Triumph needed a new top of the range sports car with a 2+ 2 interior. Lynx could have worked if Leyland had more money, but it was 1978 and the company was desperately short of money and this car was seen as an expensive niche product. What little money Leyland had for new cars was being channeled into the Metro and modest updates to existing mass market cars to keep them selling.

  12. Never mind this Lynx – wouldnt a stretched TR7 platform with SD1 rear axle and saloon body have been a perfect mid 70s Cortina fighter? If this had happened instead of the dead-end Princess maybe the economies of scale would have also allowed the Lynx to proceed as well.

    • Thought there was already some degree of commonality between SD1, SD2 and TR7/Lynx?

      From the info on the British Motor Museum Online Collections, it seems to suggest the SD2 prototype shared the same width as the SD1 yet was shorter with a length of 165 inches, whereas the Lynx prototype was for some reason wider then the SD1 at 76.8-inches yet with a length of 182.4-inches.

      Sadly the wheelbases of the cars on display is not shown, except for Lynx being about 97-inches when taking into account the 12-inch increase over the TR7.

      The reputedly distantly related SD2-sized P82 (by way of the P76 allegedly sharing some mechanical relation to P10 / SD1 during development), had a length of 170.9-inches, wheelbase of 100-inches and width of 65.7-inches. While the proposed overall dimensions for the post-SD2 TM1 meanwhile were 168-inches in length and 68-inches in width.

      Taking the above into account one it is surprising the company never considered adopting a modular platform approach for the D/E-Segment and Sportscars, where all share roughly the same width yet with varying wheelbases / sizes.

      Similar to what has been suggested elsewhere with regards to AMC with their large Senior platform being based on the Junior platform, the Pacer was likely derived from the Senior platform as its width was pretty much the same as the Matador.

      • You would think that planning would have come up with designs using community of parts and platforms, especially with Roy Haynes promoting this to the newly formed BLMC before his departure. But I suspect that there was too much hostility and bad management for this to happen, as if there had been the SD2 could have been developed in conjuction and then only tooling costs would have an issue. However, looking at the profile of the rear c pillar/window arrangement on the Lynx there definitely is a touch of Michelotti’s proposal of Bobcat about it?

        • It was something that was potentially within their capability to realise, however the company from its misbegotten formation up to its bankruptcy was pretty much an unmanageable perfect storm. Although not yet confirmed, maybe they attempted such a route with the stillborn TM1, Bravo and Broadside projects?

          Had the Australians prioritised P82 over P76 instead of making do with the Leyland Marina, at least some form of Bobcat/SD2-esque model would have ended up reaching production and unlike the evaluation of the P76 on the prospect of selling it in the UK, would have had some remote chance of being approved.

          There were also a similar rear C-Pillar / Window treatment between the P76 Force 7 and 67-71 Michelotti Lynx proposal.

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