The legendary British V8 saved by a generation of enthusiasts
Once avoided by car collectors for its V8 running problems, enthusiasts have ensured the Triumph Stag now flourishes as it should have done back in 1971
The Triumph Stag showcased both the best and worst of British Leyland. A clichéd statement perhaps, but its sentiment rings true. The Stag was a brutish GT car with Italian aesthetics and V8 power, all wrapped up with enough clout and provenance to send any German rival diving for the nearest hedgerow.
Yet, the Stag was blighted with the reliability of a cabinet politician and the build quality of wet mud. Conventional buyers back in 1971 may have been lured in by the Stag’s handsome stance and heritage, not to mention the 007 connection, but that eight-cylinder burble masked demonic and nauseating traits destined to slash values and life expectancy clean in half.
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The Stag’s powerplant has become something of an urban legend, with pub-bound allegations dictating a tale where Triumph was instructed to use the all-aluminum Rover V8, to which Triumph engineers refused.
That’s not strictly how it happened, however. And although we can hear the British Leyland loyalists sharpening their disemboweling cutlasses, we are going to push on with debunking this engine myth regardless.
Triumph may well have been given a stern lecture on the benefits of Rover’s new, Buick-sourced V8 engine, but engineers pointed out two major drawbacks. For starters, to accommodate the proposed eight-cylinder, a substantial redesign would be required. This was going to cost both time and money.
Secondly, with Range Rover production and Rover 3500 saloon sales booming, the V8 engines couldn’t really be spared for Stag production. As a further decision enhancer, the Stag was pretty close to a final production design. To save much-needed budget, Triumph was left to finish the project as they saw fit; by crafting their own V8.
In a sensible world, that would mean a fairytale ending. Engineers achieved their goal and petrol heads could trumpet the arrival of a stonking great sports car. Well, not quite. As it turned out, Triumph’s own V8 was underdeveloped and would self-detonate at a moments notice.
Besides a worrying number of running issues, the worst attribute by an RAC-sponsored mile remained the cooling system. Largely aspirational, the radiator arrangement ensured drivers broke a sweat when sitting in traffic and eventually developed a dependence for Valium when travelling long distances.
Destined to become yet another asterisk in motoring history, the Stag appeared doomed to a fate befallen most of British Leyland’s produce. Yet, with time’s onward march something incredible was already enjoying an underground classic car movement.
Enthusiasts were slowly righting Triumph’s errors. Car by car, the cooling issues and lumpy running maladies were sorted to produce the Stag as it should always have been. After nearly 50 years, most Stags now boast a healthy drivetrain with eradicated overheating problems.
As a direct result, buying a Triumph Stag is nowhere near as terrifying as the process used to be, which leads us to a startling conclusion; the Stag makes a prime investment despite its forgone reputation. With a hefty dollop of infamy to back up the Giovanni Michelotti styling and dominant exhaust gurgle, the Stag now enjoys a second life as an everyday classic climbing the value ladder with each passing year.
Finding a good one isn't difficult, but this example to be offered by Silverstone Auctions stands above the rest, with a fully documented restoration and rebuilt V8. Estimated to sell for between £18,000 and £22,000, this Stag boasting manual transmission and overdrive is a true driver's car. Don't believe us? Delve in and try it for yourself. You'll find an urge to purchase bell-bottom jeans, a cravat and flowery shirt.