8 February 2005

1976 Triumph TR6

Produced from 1969 to 1976, the Triumph TR6 marked the end of the line for the traditional sports car. As such, they have become much sought after by collectors and sports car enthusiasts.

The TR6 offered here is a good-looking car in very presentable overall condition. The subject of a complete nut-and-bolt restoration in the mid-1990s, this TR6 has been frequently driven since. Despite its use, the car has remained in tidy overall condition and would be highly suitable for continued use and enjoyment as-is.

This TR6 runs, drives and operates very well, and is a true pleasure to drive. Finished in the sporting livery of blue with brown interior, the low-slung and aggressive TR6 looks as good as it sounds. This is truly a driver’s car, and offers an authentic British sports car experience.

SCM Analysis
This car sold for $17,600 at the RM Monterey sale, August 19–20, 2005.

The TR6 was the last of the classic, open headlamp series of Triumph TR sports cars that began with the TR2 in 1954. By the TR6’s belated debut in 1969, Standard Triumph was scrambling to hold onto a position of eminence in the vast U.S. market while grappling with having been subsumed by the British Leyland conglomerate. Triumph recognized the need to replace the aging TR5 body style, as well as provide a fresh design to flaunt its 2.5-liter inline-six.

Triumph’s longstanding styling firm Michelotti was fully occupied with other British Leyland projects, so the German coachbuilding firm Karmann was tapped for the new model. It was given the mammoth task of executing the design, as well as manufacturing the necessary tooling, while retaining the basic inner structure of its predecessor as a cost-cutting measure, all within 14 months.

Karmann executed its assignment well, as the new TR6’s inner panels, floor pans, bulkhead, doors, wheel arches and windscreen were virtually identical to the Michelotti-penned TR4 that dated back to late 1961 (and had evolved over the years into the TR4A, TR5 and TR250). The redesign was contained mainly in the inner and outer wings, front and rear ends, as well as the bonnet and boot lid. The result was a purposeful, modern design that disguised the aged underpinnings.

Those used to the raw, no-frills, “buckboard with a motor” feel of an early TR will initially fi nd the TR6 a bit mushy, as its softer independent rear suspension seems to squat under acceleration. But the TR6 is well-suited for long touring with its many improvements, including a redesigned soft top, comfortable seats and an attractive optional hardtop.

Like the Jaguar E-type before it, no extraordinary effort was expended by the factory in regard to the fit and finish of body panels and it is rare to find a true, un-restored, unmolested, original TR6 with perfectly symmetrical panel gaps. Excellent panel fit is usually only found in carefully restored cars with the work performed by those well versed in the art of panel fitment.

The TR6 is the only model of the open-headlamp TR series (as opposed to the disappearing headlamp TR7 and TR8) that has replacement body panels available through British Motor Heritage approved suppliers and produced on factory tooling. The available 60 percent of the original body tooling was saved, and the rest remanufactured. Fit and accuracy of these panels is mostly excellent, with the exception of the bonnet,which usually needs a bit of tweaking.

The 2.5-liter six, fed by a mechanical fuel pump through twin Stromberg 175CD carburetors in U.S.-spec cars, is smooth and durable, easily able to achieve 200,000-plus miles without major problems given correct maintenance. Gearboxes and overdrives will also hold up well with proper care and maintenance, though it should be noted that fluid levels in gearboxes can only be checked on a lift. This means that regular attention in this area is often ignored, with owner-induced failures common.

From 1969-73, a Laycock “A” type overdrive with actuation on second, third and top gear was an available option, similar to the units used on earlier Triumphs, Big Healeys, and Jaguar MkIIs and XKs. From 1974-76, a Laycock “J” type wired for actuation on third and top gear only was used, similar to those fitted to Spitfire 1500s, Triumph Stags, and certain Volvos. Many bits for the “J” type units are still available from Volvo dealers, as well as some aftermarket sources. Parts for the earlier “A” versions, however, are becoming diffi cult to obtain.

Our subject car, with its serial number having an “O” suffix, should have been factory-fitted with a “J” type overdrive, its lever sharing the same escutcheon with the turn signal stalk on the left hand side of the steering column. Be aware that many cars originally fitted with overdrive no longer have the unit due to failure, and many cars without the “O” suffix have been retrofitted. Total costs associated with a conversion can approach $4,000, but an overdrive car is certainly desirable for touring.

The TR6 suffers from a few design flaws, mainly in the frame and suspension. It has a tendency towards severe understeer, making it nearly impossible for a single individual to push a dead car either forward or backward when under full wheel lock. Stress when turning under full lock can even crack or break the front lower suspension wishbone mounting points, which are essentially small sheet metal boxes welded to the top of the frame. Correct repair involves complete removal of the old mountings after suspension dismantling, replacement of the mounting boxes in their exact locations, and the addition of strengthening gussets welded in place. The suspension can then be reassembled and aligned. Trust me when I tell you that you do not want to pay for this sort of repair.

The rear differential assembly is bolted to the frame via four threaded pins that are welded to the frame, and steadied by an open, two-sided sheet metal box that is prone to cracking from repeated torqueing. You’ll know it has failed when you hear a metallic click under acceleration or deceleration. The weak point is always the right forward mount, which then needs to be repaired by removing the exhaust, axles and suspension assembly, opening the cracks and welding them, then welding in some strengthening gussets. Again, this is not cheap or easy.

There has been a tendency of late, due to the scarcity and cost of correct 185/70R15 tires and Armstrong knee-action rear shocks, for owners to fit readily available wider, lower profile tires and poorly engineered rear tube shock conversions. This just further exacerbates both of the aforementioned conditions, as well as leading to stress cracks in the rear shock mount cross-member. Let’s just say that I advise most people to keep their TR6 to original specs.

Like most old sports cars, TR6s were frequently run into the ground by poor students and the like, with body and mechanical repairs made under tight budgets, and parts usually coming via cannibalising other cars. A potential buyer would be well advised to look closely, check numbers, and buy wisely, seeking expert assistance if necessary.

That said, the car pictured here should easily be worth the $17k paid if it was indeed subjected to a “nut-and-bolt restoration” in the ’90s, and has had careful care and maintenance since. Prices for just about every sort of inexpensive sports car have been rising, and it’s increasingly difficult to find fully restored TR6s with asking prices below $20k. Well bought, and well sold.

DETAILS
Years produced: 1969-76
Number produced: 94,619
Original list price: approx. $3,500
Revised SCM Valuation: $12,000-$18,000
Tune-up/major service: $450
Distributor cap: $25
Chassis #: on plate on left inner wheel well (later cars on the left B-pillar)
Engine #: on horizontal flat on engine block to rear of coil
Club: Vintage Triumph Register, Howell, MI
Alternatives: 1968-74 MGB, 1972-75 Jensen-Healey
SCM Investment Guide: C

– Mark Jones owns and operates Britsport of Seattle, a restoration business. Historical and descriptive information in the profile courtesy of the auction company)

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