Triumph TR7 Profile

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Triumph TR7 General Information

The Triumph TR7 was one of the most characterful cars in group4 rallying. Triumph was a bit of British Leyland's sporty brand and concentrated on sporty, lightweight but powerful saloons as the Herald and later the Dolomite and 2.5Pi, or full blown sports cars as the TR-series. In character, at least the Triumph TR7 V8 version did not disappoint. It looked different to its predecessors, but the famous wedge shape had huge character. Only the 4-cylinder version seemed out of place. It was a relatively big, yet 2-seater sports coupé that would have aimed at a similar market to the likes of Porsche 911 or Lancia Stratos and it had a V8 engine that had a bark to it as if it wasn't from this planet. The TR7 V8 is easily one of the most characterful and most fantastic sounding cars the WRC has ever seen!

There is often a confusion with the name TR8, which is linked back to a difficult life for the TR7 as a road car. BL had hoped for a major success with the TR7 in USA and Canada. But this was not to happen. Well the first mistake concerns the European market and rallying as well. Even its predecessors TR5 & TR6 always had 6-cylinder engines, so a TR7 with a 4-cylinder Triumph Dolomite Sprint engine, and that even minus the 16v head, was very much out of place and underpowered for a car with such design and name. At 105BHP the road version would be struggling against Ford Escort RS2000 or Talbot/Hillman Avenger Tiger, which had similar power and were around 100kg lighter. At the same time the USA introduced new rules concerning headlights and huge bumbers, which meant the TR7 had to be withdrawn from the USA market anyway and could only come back after a big makeover. This triggered the TR8, which was a TR7 with the USA design changes, huge bumpers that never suited its wedge design and a V8 engine. And to market the in USA so important V8 engine the name game TR8 was invented. Interestingly this engine was the Rover V8, and not Triumph's own 3.0 V8 as found solely in the Stag. In retrospect nobody knows why Triumph developped their own V8, except for in-house vanity. So the TR8 is the US version, always V8, mainly (but not only) sold as cabriolet and with automatic transmission. This USA dilemma turned the USA business into a loss for BL when they desperately needed the income from this market, which, alongside strikes, largely contributed to the very sudden end of the TR7 & TR8 (or in fact the entire TR-range plus the Abingdon competitions department) in 1981. The TR7 V8 seems less known than the TR8. But honestly to introduce the TR7 with underpowered 4-cylinder engines was a mistake also in Europe and on rally stages, which is why nearly at the same time as the TR8 the TR7 V8 was launched. The TR7 V8 is basically the same Rover V8 engine as found in the TR8, but keeping the original TR7 coupé design for a car that now in Europe was available with an alternative choice of the original 4-cylinder and the V8 engines. However on BL's main market, the UK, the insurance quotes for the TR7 V8 went through the roof, so despite all this the 4-cylinder remained the biggest seller and therefore again the far more famous TR7 version in Europe over the TR7 V8. In Australia there was even a TR7 V8 (hence European design) with the 4.4 V8 engine from the Leyland P76. But the works rally car being mainly used on European rallies was based on the European 3.5 litre TR7 V8.

In this last chapter you see that BMC/BL may have done many funny things. But helping towards their downfall even more, the USA law changes and the TR8 is only one of many examples that BMC/BL had far more than their fair share of bad luck. And it seems the exact same applies to the TR7 as a rally car:

The TR7 rally car was delayed, yet came the first moment it could. BL hoped for a late 1974 debut of the TR7 road car, but for strikes the market launch was delayed twice and eventually happened in May 1976. The rally car debuted still in the very same month on the BRC Welsh Rally 1976. The WRC debut then was only the RAC 1976. At this time a big fight between Ford Escort BDA and Fiat 131 Abarth was the norm, with the Vauxhall Chevette HS round the corner. Not only was the road version TR7 already underpowered for what it was meant to be. BL competitions somehow managed to increase power from the original group2 Dolomite's 162BHP to 220BHP in this TR7. What sounds good, if it wasn't even pushing the engine's limits, suddenly is not so good if you see a much less sporty looking Ford Escort was long at around 265BHP with it's main competition not far behind. Basically like this the TR7 could not get the results that its looks promised. The big V8 engine made the car more front heavy, but generally the car had a good handling anyway. And with the sound sensation not to forget, V8 was absolutely the way to go. But the problems (design changes) in USA meant the V8 was not available for yet another two and a half years. And this was already the next problem, because from 1978 there was an overdue rule change in group4 that the number of valves could no longer be altered. Since there was no road TR7 with the Dolomite Sprint 16v head (strangely 59 pre-production cars called TR7 Sprint had this exact Dolly engine, but this was never carried over to the final road version) and the group4 rally car used this Sprint 16v engine, from the start of the 1978 season the TR7 4-cylinder group4 car could no more be used in international rallying, with the V8 not yet available for a few months.

-- This is normally a thing for the "evo/variation" sections or even registrations, but it fits well here to show the chaotic and unfortunate situation at BL: The original TR7 rally car had the 2.0 16v engine from the Sprint, when the TR7 road car for reasons beyond anyone only had a 105BHP 8v engine. A 16v road version of the TR7 was always planned and in line with the Dolly it should be called the TR7 Sprint. As was sadly typical for BL at the time, strikes first delayed the TR7 full stop. Especially the sole TR7 plant in Speke (near Liverpool) was very often on strike - the TR7 was only later produced at MG Abingdon (exactly because of the problems in Speke), with the end of the TR7 spelling the end for Abingdon. So we can't blame Abingdon for the strikes. But then came the USA law changes which meant more work for BL. For the TR7 there were huge production delays with customers waiting for months if not years and at the same time a very urgent need for the development of not just a V8 but the USA TR8. So with both production and development in more urgent problems the TR7 Sprint never had a chance to come to reality, even though for its comparatively light engine and UK insurance quotes many BL insiders and fans regarded the 16v as the perfect engine for the TR7 even more so than the V8. Only 59 pre-production Sprints existed - 59 actually seems a lot for pre-production prototypes and curiously 400 would have been enough for the 16v group4 homologation from 1978, just to add to irony - and I know of at least 30 of them being registered SJW 521S - SJW 550S, only to still be hidden away in a corner of the factory. Now you note that the first four V8 rally cars were registered SJW 548S, SJW 546S, SJW 540S & SJW 533S. Story is these numbers with the gaps came as the BL Competitions people went into the TR7 Sprint enclosure and picked the first 4 cars nearest to the gate that were without sunroof. OK, they quite likely worked on the TR7 V8 group4 rally car before these V8 cars left the production line (see also rally V8 prototype OOM 515R). But this bears quite some irony, as the 16v road car was an extremely rare thing. So while all 4-cylinder rally cars were converted from 8v to 16v, the first four V8 rally cars were actually extremely rare and valuable 16v road cars converted to V8! --

The V8 rally debut then was the next typical case of BL's bad luck. The V8 should eventually debut on the WRC Tour de Corse in October 1978 in the hands of Tony Pond and local ace Jean-Luc Thérier. Thérier later publically insisted the cars were sabotaged by the FISA president Jean-Marie Ballestre himself! This Thérier claim followed on from a big argument between Thérier and Ballestre a few weeks before the event, that Thérier as a Frenchman should drive French cars, yet he had just signed at BL/Triumph coming from Toyota! I do not want to support a speculation like that, but thinking of the nature and point of a parc fermé, it is at least very much a mystery how a team can drive their cars through scrutineering into pre event parc fermé in perfect condition, blow their gearboxes driving out of parc fermé and then discover on both cars the gearbox oil release screws were missing! Although on the RAC Pond finished 4th, Triumph ended the 1978 season with hardly any stage miles put on the V8 cars, so it needed until early 1979 to discover the gearboxes - even with oil in them - were not strong enough for the V8 power. Although a BRC program was going well, in the WRC we didn't see a TR7 V8 again until the 1000 Lakes Rally (FIN) in August 1979. This meant until 1980 we never saw the TR7 V8 in something like a decent WRC program, with the premature end of the TR model range announced in the very same year!

But even in this prematurely last and best season for the TR7 there was something about the TR7 that refused it to show its true potential, or even let people doubt it had any. It showed some flashes of brilliance. In the ERC 1980 Tony Pond won Ypres and Manx. In the WRC Per Eklund as a non-Finn managed to get it to 3rd overall behind an insane Vatanen vs Alen battle on the 1980 Rally of the 1000 Lakes and on the Lombard RAC Rally in 1978-1980 it regularly was good enough for fastest stage times. But gearboxes and engines seemed to blow not that often but just at the worst possible moments. British Leyland decided to stop production of the TR7 in 1981, so the RAC 1980 was decided to be its last rally. And on this event, Per Eklund would blow his engine when fighting none less than Mikkola for 2nd place, Roger Clark would retire as well with a rare engine failure only 2 stages from the end of a 70(!) stages event, only Tony Pond would bring a works TR7 V8 home – in 7th place, exactly he was the Triumph driver out of contention from the moment the event started: Pond (spot the similarities to his Rover 3500 Vitesse drive on RAC 1984) had spent huge time in SS1 to crash the car under a lion's feeding trunk out of all things! To add to irony, any other car but that wedge shaped TR7 would have never fitted to get stuck tight under that lion feeding trunk in the first place! As it was, Pond lost so much time in this accident that he was down in 124th, and by the end of the rally he moved back up to 7th, how impressive is that?! As if this car was cursed, always the speed was there, the result was not. - all in all a fitting farewell to the car as it was just a perfectly typical rally in the life of the TR7 V8!

Kind of a sad story really. Today you find TR7 V8s as absolute jewels on many oldtimer convention days and historic rallies, and all for the right reasons. A brilliant car, unfortunately with a fate so typical for about anything BMC, BL, MG Rover....

Triumph TR7 Related Content

Triumph TR7 Evolutions

Model & Evo. (Activity)
Triumph TR7 _ (76-78) 220/7000 235/5200 4065.1680.1268 1000 (4.5) RWD (2160)
Triumph TR7 V8 (78-80) 295/7500 340/5500 4065.1680.1268 1070 (3.6) RWD (2160)

Random Triumph TR7 Photos

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Triumph TR7 Results

This is an unofficial Car Results list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego hh:mm:ss
3rd. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland P. Eklund H. Sylvan #15 [UNKNOWN] 4:35:25
22nd. 1980 WRC Rally of Finland T. Mäkinen E. Salonen #11 [UNKNOWN] 5:17:59
7th. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond F. Gallagher #15 [UNKNOWN] 8:46:43
8th. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland P. Eklund H. Sylvan #4 [UNKNOWN] 4:17:48
17th. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Lampinen F. Gallagher #15 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
16th. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain G. Elsmore S. Harrold #32 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
13th. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Eklund H. Sylvan #9 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
5th. 1978 WRC Canadian Rally of Quebec J. Pérusse . UNKNOWN #8 [UNKNOWN] 5:36:56
4th. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond F. Gallagher #7 [UNKNOWN] 9:03:09
12th. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Haugland I. Grindrod #24 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
4th. 1977 WRC Canadian Rally of Quebec J. Buffum . "Vicky" #10 [UNKNOWN] 5:55:54
8th. 1977 WRC Canadian Rally of Quebec W. Boyce R. Edwards #9 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
11th. 1977 WRC Tour de Corse B. Culcheth J. Syer #17 [UNKNOWN] 9:04:52
8th. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond F. Gallagher #24 [UNKNOWN] 8:45:04
37th. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain M. Saaristo I. Grindrod #57 [UNKNOWN] 0:00:00
9th. 1976 WRC Rally of Great Britain B. Culcheth J. Syer #24 [UNKNOWN] 6:22:54

Triumph TR7 Retirements

This is an unofficial Car Model Retirements list and may be incomplete.

Pos Event Driver Co-Driver # Rego Reason
Ret. 1981 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Buffum N. Wilson #24 [UNKNOWN] SS51 engine
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Buffum I. Grindrod #22 [UNKNOWN] SS70 rear axle
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Eklund H. Sylvan #11 [UNKNOWN] SS30 engine
Ret. 1980 WRC Rally of Great Britain R. Clark N. Wilson #20 [UNKNOWN] SS67 engine
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal P. Eklund H. Sylvan #14 [UNKNOWN] SS27 fuel pump
Ret. 1980 WRC Rallye de Portugal T. Pond F. Gallagher #18 [UNKNOWN] SS2 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain J. Buffum J. Brown #26 [UNKNOWN] SS16 crash
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Kaby B. Rainbow #34 [UNKNOWN] SS16 oil pipe
Ret. 1979 WRC Rallye San Remo P. Eklund H. Sylvan #10 [UNKNOWN] SS51 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rallye San Remo S. Lampinen F. Gallagher #5 [UNKNOWN] SS43 suspension
Ret. 1979 WRC Canadian Rally of Quebec J. Woodner . UNKNOWN #7 [UNKNOWN] SS26 engine
Ret. 1979 WRC Rally of Finland S. Lampinen J. Markkanen #9 [UNKNOWN] SS24 distributer
Ret. 1978 WRC Rally of Great Britain S. Lampinen M. Broad #15 [UNKNOWN] SS47 clutch
Ret. 1978 WRC Canadian Rally of Quebec J. Buffum D. Shepherd #7 [UNKNOWN] SS99 disqualified
Ret. 1978 WRC Tour de Corse J. Thérier M. Vial #7 [UNKNOWN] SS2 gearbox
Ret. 1978 WRC Tour de Corse T. Pond F. Gallagher #2 [UNKNOWN] SS1 gearbox
Ret. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain P. Ryan M. Nicholson #42 [UNKNOWN] SS57 gearbox
Ret. 1977 WRC Rally of Great Britain B. Culcheth J. Syer #29 [UNKNOWN] SS18 suspension
Ret. 1977 WRC Tour de Corse T. Pond F. Gallagher #21 [UNKNOWN] SS99 gearbox
Ret. 1976 WRC Rally of Great Britain T. Pond D. Richards #21 [UNKNOWN] SS52 rear axle