It may be the black sheep of the family, but the final TR iteration is also by far the most affordable – and it has a strong following
• Project £400-600 • Good £2000-3000 • Concours £4000-5500
• Most expensive at auction: £11,500 (TR8)
Running costs ★★★
DIY Friendly ★★★★
After the six-cylinder classically styled TRs, the arrival of the four-cylinder TR7 was seen as a step too far, especially when it was produced by a company as conservative as British Leyand. With its wedge styling and pop-up headlights the TR7 was clearly a child of the 1970s, and pretty much ever since it was launched, the Harris Mann-designed sportster has been in the doldrums.
Always by far and away the most affordable of the various TRs made, the TR7 has started to be appreciated at last. Usually that’s in convertible form and often it’s because with a Rover V8 under the bonnet it’s one of the most affordable ways of enjoying some serious performance. Either way, it’s good to see that this flying wedge is getting some love.
It’s not just the radical styling that makes the TR7 so reviled; early cars were badly built and they came in fixed-head form only; all previous TRs had been convertibles. Then there was the fitment of a 105bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine; a bit of a come down after the muscular six-pot in the TR6, but until the TR5, all TRs had four-cylinder engines.
Now, many TR7s have had V8 engines fitted (or other powerplants) to give them the sort of go that perhaps it should always have had. But whether the TR7 has four cylinders or eight it’s a sports car bargain as it offers immense amounts of fun for peanuts.
Your AutoClassics Triumph TR7 inspection checklist
All TR7s feature a 1998cc four-cylinder engine with an alloy head and cast-iron block, so it’s essential that anti-freeze levels are maintained if corrosion in the cooling system isn’t to strike. Once this gets a hold the engine will overheat so look for evidence of a failed head gasket.
A TR7 powerplant will give 100,000 miles of faithful service between rebuilds, as long as the oil is changed every 3,000 miles and a fresh timing chain is fitted every 40,000 miles. Check for leaks around the water pump as they’re weak; the pump can be repaired or replaced but it’s awkward to get to so it’s often overlooked.
Check for corrosion in the radiator as these can spring a leak, but high-quality replacements are readily available. Giving the cooling system a helping hand with an electric fan is a good idea, as well as (but preferably instead of) the original viscous fan.
Buy an early TR7 and it will have a four-speed manual gearbox (unless it’s an ultra-rare auto), but a Rover SD1-sourced five-speed unit was fitted as standard from 1978. The five-speeder is far stronger than the four-speed unit and it also provides more relaxed cruising thanks to a higher top-gear ratio.
Whichever transmission is fitted check for baulking when changing to second or third gear, as the synchromesh is weak. Bear in mind though that second gear tended to be notchy even when new. There’s no point rebuilding a tired four-speed gearbox; much better instead to swap it for a five-speed unit.
Suspension and brakes
The steering didn’t get power assistance, which simplifies things somewhat, and as a result it tends to be very reliable. The same goes for the suspension, with MacPherson struts at the front while at the rear are a live axle, coil springs and radius arms.
There are no weaknesses as such, but any TR7 is getting on now so there’s a good chance that something will be worn out. Everything is available though, whether it’s a new rack, shock absorbers or springs.
Because there was never a power assistance option for the steering, some people find it quite heavy. A conversion is available for the front suspension top strut mount. A roller bearing can be fitted, which lightens things considerably.
Even when in good condition the TR7’s brakes are poor. If they’re completely standard you’ll almost certainly want to upgrade them; there’s a multitude of kits available to improve things, most of which centre on fitting ventilated discs. You’re limited by the fitment of 13-inch wheels but if you move up to 14-inch items you can fit bigger discs – something that should have been done to any V8-powered car.
British Leyland is synonymous with poor build quality including inadequate rustproofing. That’s why you need to check absolutely everywhere for corrosion, starting with the nose panel and working back.
Remove the cover plate that sits at the base of the windscreen. It often hides rot and once holes have developed the scuttle will rust leading to waterlogged footwells. Repairs are very time-consuming, to the point where you’re probably best to walk away.
The front suspension turrets may be showing signs of rust and because they’re made up of three sections it’s not a simple job to effect repairs – so look for bodged welding. Also make sure the bonnet hasn’t corroded; later cars with the two humps are especially rust-prone. The front subframes rust around their mounting points but more serious is corrosion in the mounting points for the rear trailing arms.
Sills rust from the inside out and repairs are involved as they’re made up of four sections. Door bottoms also rust, as does the joint between the sill and rear wheelarch. Spare wheel wells fill up with water because the boot seals leak.
The TR7’s interior is trimmed in vinyl and cloth. It wears well but if there’s any damage or wear, kits are available to make it as good as new. If a convertible’s roof has been replaced you need to check that it seals properly – a lot of DIY jobs aren’t done that well so there are gaps all over the place.
If any of the electrics don’t work as they should it will probably be down to a dodgy earth. This could be at the base of one of the front inner wings, on the A-pillars behind the dashboard or near to the rear light clusters. The wiring can also go brittle and the connections at the fusebox can also play up, but it’s all easy enough to put right.
- 1975: The Speke-built TR7 debuts in the US, with twin Strombergs.
- 1976: The TR7 goes on sale in the UK, with twin SUs and a four-speed gearbox; a five-speed manual or three-speed auto are optional.
- 1977: A run of 60 or so TR7 Sprint experimental cars is built.
- 1978: A five-speed gearbox is now standard, production moves to Canley, the TR7 V8 is homologated for motorsport.
- 1979: The TR7 convertible goes on sale in the US, alongside the TR8 coupé and convertible. The TR8 coupé dies soon after.
- 1980: The TR7 convertible reaches UK showrooms. TR7 production moves to Solihull.
- 1981: US cars get Bosch L-Jetronic injection. TR7 and TR8 production ends.
While values are creeping up, years in the doldrums means there are plenty of TR7s out there that need a lot of TLC, or perhaps are even only fit for parts – yet they’re being passed off as good cars when they come up for sale.
It’s hard to justify sinking significant money into a TR7 but with very good parts supply, most problems can be fixed and because that’s often on a DIY basis the TR7 can make an excellent project – especially if you incorporate some upgrades into the rebuild.
In terms of which one to buy, it’s a convertible because it’s the most fun, comes with a five-speed gearbox as standard and is less likely to have been neglected. But the coupés have a certain curio value and they’re much cheaper to buy, so don’t turn your nose up at one if a superb example presents itself.
TR7 coupé 4-speed