The final Triumph TR sports car rolled off the line at Solihull exactly 30 years ago this week. It’s difficult to believe that one of the UK’s most influential sporting lines has been out of production now for some three decades – especially considering its enduring popularity, but when that final TR7 emerged from its factory in October 1981, few people would have been prepared to bet that there would never be a follow-on TR9 some time in the future.
The TR line started in 1953 after Sir John Black, Standard Motor Company’s chairman, decided to build an affordable sports car to challenge MG’s dominance – as well as push his company’s export drive in the face of what had been an unexciting performance by the Vanguard saloon. The TR2 was developed in lightning quick time, being based on a shortened version of the Standard Eight‘s platform, and powered by the Vanguard’s well-proven engine. The TR2 might have been a bit of a ‘bitsa’ and considered far from perfect when it was first unveiled at the 1952 London Motor Show, but from these small beginnings came one of Britain’s most successful export products…
The car was quickly developed into 1955’s TR3, which then went through both (unofficially) A- and B-designations during the side-screen cars’ eight-year production run, before moving on to the Michelotti-styled TR4 in 1961. In 1968, the TR4A was restyled to become the six-cylinder TR5. That was then restyled just a year later to become the TR6. Unlike the rest of the Triumph range, the ‘new’ car’s design was handled by the German company Karmann (instead of Michelotti), which knocked out a new front- and rear-end theme.
The big change – and final evolutionary break with the TR2 – came in late 1974, when the TR7 was unveiled to the world’s press, with a US introduction mere months later (and a year ahead of the UK and the rest of Europe). The new car was designed to be simple and visually appealing – as well as being BL’s response to the Datsun 240Z and VW-Porche 914. It was something of a sales success, too, with 112,375 sold between 1975 and 1981 – despite the quagmire its maker found itself in during the 1970s, and the three factories it went through in the process.
But due to the contraction of BL during the late-1970s, the Triumph sports car could no longer carry on, despite continuing strong sales. By 1981, it was being built in Solihull alongside the Rover SD1, and it was one factory too many for its maker to bear. The factory was put on ice, and with it came the end of the TR line – and unlike MG, which had also seen its factory at Abingdon close in 1980, there would be no come-back.
Triumph sports cars were dead… and the marque died out completely a mere three years later, when the Anglo-Japanese Acclaim was replaced by the Rover 200.
[Source (and full story at): Octane magazine]