7 is a special number
Of the first 10 numbers, 7 the most prime. You can’t divide or multiply it within the group. It’s special. And 7 is also a very cool number: Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, 7 Up and one of British Leyland’s and Harris Mann’s finest creations, the TR7.
Purdy drove a yellow one
I saw my first TR7 as a child. It was bright, bright yellow and was parked on St Peter’s Avenue in sunny Cleethorpes. I thought it was the coolest shape I had ever seen and it had flip up headlights! Headlights that actually popped up yeah? …by magic ..or at least a magic switch! And what a shape. The wedge. Mmmmmm. If that wasn’t enough Purdy drove a yellow one on ‘The New Avengers’ – and she was very cool.
Here she is driving along in a grainy clip badly dubbed into French to prove it.
And there was also a Revell kit:
Okay, okay so it wasn’t the first ever wedged shaped car in the world but it was more wedgier than the Fiat X19 and bigger and more yellow and the seats were checked… So that was it, I was in love!
Maybe not super-fast…
Now I’m the first to admit that the build quality might have been a tiny bit off on the first few cars and yes the older TR fans asked why it wasn’t open top and some of the motoring press wondered why it wasn’t mid engined. But, the main market for the TR7 was North America and they wanted a simple, front-engined sports car and at the time it did look like soft tops would be prohibited in the States. And I think these issues are why some people still sneer a little today. But it did\does actually drive very well. Maybe not super fast and would have been better with the Sprint engine. BL did actually make a few Sprint versions so they could use the engine in their works rally team. These are almost mythical now as no one really knows how many were made exactly and obviously lots of people have since slotted old Dolomite sprint engines in.
Watch a slideshow video featuring more Triumph TR7 advertising, set to music of the era!
TR7 x V8 = TR8?
Now the TR8 really was a thing and BL made many more of these. Sadly, for the North American market mainly but what a machine! Now, you’d expect Triumph to use it’s very own 3litre V8 developed for the Stag but it was a bit heavy and also had a few, shall we say ‘issues’. It overheated. So the magnificent Rover 3.5 litre v8 was used and gave the Triumph a 0-60 time of just over 8 seconds. Very impressive for today, not to mention the 1970’s.
And the TR8 with that huge engine and light body was really something, piloted by ace rally driver, the great Tony Pond. Here’s the man himself with the best 70’s tache in the UK… and possibly the world:
Cheap as chips?
I now have to admit that the TR7 is one of the few British Leyland cars I have not owned…..yet. But back in the 90’s when a TR7 could be picked up for chip money, my mate bought a tatty one in orange and decided to make a TR7/8. I went to his house in rural North Lincolnshire for the inaugural drive around a few farm tracks. He proudly showed me under the bonnet where the mighty engine had been shoe horned. It was pretty impressive and he’d even managed to get the fuel injection working. Clever lad. He fired it up and it roared I tell you. Impressive. In we climbed and he gingerly navigated past the expensive tractors in the farm yard, past a few chickens and up onto the rough tarmac farm tracks. Then WHOOF we were off. I can honestly say that was the fasted 0-100 mph I have ever experienced, although the speedo wasn’t actually connected so I am only guessing but by Christ it was scary. And it went around muddy corners pretty well too with a nice rally slide and then WHAM along the straight again. This being Lincolnshire farmland there were a lot of nice flat straights.
Fit bigger brakes!
Now things did go a little wrong after about half an hour when we hurtled down one of those lovely long straights to a tight bend. Unfortunately my dear mate had left the original TR7 brakes in place so when he hit the pedal the discs glowed red, the pads turned to glass and we sailed on and on through the rapeseed field and into a nice ditch. Not such a clever lad after all and the end of the TR7/8 project.
Buy into the TR7 dream!
I don’t think I can stretch to the price of an original TR8 and it would be LHD anyway but I am now on the look out for a nice hard top TR7 in yellow I think. In fact just like Purdy’s and also the one driven by Toby Jones’ character Lance in the utterly sublime Detectorists.
Naturally I should have bought one back in the 90’s for chip money because their true value is now slowly being realized and people who loved them as children are starting to buy into the dream. So, if like me, you want one then be quick before the prices go nuts.
Come on – release your inner Purdy or Lance! But please, if you decide make it into a TR8 …just don’t forget to fit bigger brakes!
Beans’ TR7 blog
Honest John – TR7/8 review
Adrian Flux – the wedge that divided opinion
Triumph TR7, TR7V8 & TR8 Information website