The converters : Crayford Engineering TR7 Tracer

Crayford Engineering sought to produce an interesting variation on the TR7 theme, and ended up hatching out this little beauty. The Crayford TR7 Tracer looked awkward, and only one survives, but it’s a fascinating might-have been…

The hatchback Triumph that wasn’t

Crayford TR7 Tracer (1)

By the mid-1970s Crayford Engineering had established itself as one of Britain’s foremost producer of estate and convertible versions of mass-produced cars. When the company turned its attention to the Triumph TR7, it might have been expected to produce a convertible, given its expertise in the field.

However, this wasn’t to be – frustrating as BL’s own drop-top would not arrive for several years. And as we all know, the Triumph TR7 looked a million dollars one it had been shorn of its awkward turret top. However, instead Crayford came up with this rather awkward-looking sporting estate, developed in 1976-1977, and in doing so, created this rather interesting misfit, which it called the Crayford TR7 Tracer.

Although it wasn’t a looker (far from it), it was interesting and potentially practical. As well as the extended roofline and narrow-opening hatchback, the Tracer gained a folding rear seat, making it a 2+2, and making it slightly more practical than the car it was based upon.

Tracer was no Lynx – and neither would make it…

Crayford TR7 Tracer (3)

Interestingly, the Tracer’s extended roof and opening rear end were a concept that mirrored what Triumph Engineers were putting together at Canley. The company’s own three-door, 2+2 version of the TR7, codenamed Lynx, was rushing headlong towards production – and it wasn’t exactly an oil painting itself. However, neither this nor the later Triumph Broadside project ever saw the light of day.

Crayford had hoped to build the car in decent numbers, as the car had been commissioned by BL dealer Page Motors Limited (hence the logo on the side of the car), but it wasn’t to be. Despite several motor show appearances and appearances in various car magazines and annual guides, it never got off the ground, perhaps a victim of its own unhappy styling.

Had the Tracer ever entered production, it would have had it tough. It would have needed to deal with the internal competition as well as the infinitely better-looking Reliant Scimitar GTE and Lancia Beta HPE. However, the project folded after only a handful of prototypes had been completed and just one example survives today.

Crayford TR7 Tracer (2)

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  1. Anybody see a hint of Citroën DS3 in the rear? With some tweaks, this could have worked. DS3 meets RX-8.

  2. I quite like it – shame BL didn’t take the idea and put it into production. With the v8 it would have sold like hot cakes, especially with a split fold rear seat.

  3. In my view the standard hard-top TR7 always looked very awkward, although the soft-top is much better. This is somewhere in-between. A bit more continuity from the rear edge of the door to the rear window would’ve improved things massively.

  4. The Tracer would have made an interesting and more modern alternative to the Reliant Scimitar, and could have taken on the Lancia Beta HPE in Europe. Also by 1980, the quality was much better and the TR7 was maturing into a decent cut price sports car.

  5. To me, the Tracer looks a bit ugly from the 3/4 rear views. I preferred the Lynx which could have been a Capri rival in those days? Neither to be of course

    • @ Hilton D, maybe if the rear windows were improved, it would look good. HPEs did have a fair size following in the late seventies with the Reliant Scimitar and Lancia Beta HPE being popular. Also a TR7 HPE with a two litre engine would have been cheaper to run than the V6 Scimitar.

  6. The name Tracer made a reappearance within Rover Group in the early 90s as the codename for the Rover 200 cabriolet.

    • The joke at Rover at the time was, it was called tracer because they just traced round the Escort convertible. Tomcat was thus named because it would piss on everything……

  7. There was only one Tracer built, the partners at Crayford had different views on why they did not make more. There are pictures of a Yellow one and a red one.
    These are the same car with a different paint job, the now red car, still has Inca yellow paint in the engine bay and on the underside. It is now starting a full restoration and will be back on the road later this year. I acknowledge that every one has an opinion about the looks of the car, I like it and have waited over 20 years for the opportunity to buy it. I have also had both the Scimitar GTE and the Beta HPE, I prefer the Tracer , I won’t see another one at any of the car shows we attend. Once it is finished I will add some photos as the car looks a little sad at the moment.

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