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Triumph TR-8

I saw a gorgeous TR-8 last weekend, at Hampton
Beach, NH. The car was a dark metallic green, and
the interior was immaculate. Even though it was
quite an old design, the car looked pretty nice.
How many were made? And, are they reasonable in
price? And what am I likely to face inthe parts and
service dept.? Is this V-8 the same as used in the
current land Rover?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    They made something like 3,000 of the TR8s, most of them convertibles, with the coupe being rarer. That doesn't make it worth more, it's just rarer.

    Auto writers have been touting that the TR8 would become a collectible, but they've been saying this for 20 years and it hasn't happened yet. The TR8 prices stay fairly steady or creep up with inflation, but it's quite apparent that overall there is still very little interest in the cars from the majority of collectors.

    Basically nobody cares about this car.

    That being said, it isn't a bad car per se. Probaby the reason it never caught on as well as the Sunbeam Tiger, it's closest relative, is because of the awful TR7, which it resembles to an uncomfortable degree. It really is a different car, but it looks like a TR7 and that hurts its marketability quite a bit.

    The engine is the Rover 3.5 unit, a basically sturdy engine that guzzles gas like there was no tomorrow. I believe the current Rovers use a bigger V-8, but I don't know if it has roots with this older 3.5 unit.

    Acceleration is about 0-60 in 8.5 seconds, and the suspension is a bit soft. Yet, having a V-8 in a small car is fun, and I think that with some suspension work it could be fun to drive. The fuel injected models, 1981 on up, are the best of the lot.

    As for pricing, around $7,500 should buy you a very clean, no problems car....a #2.

    So for the money, you'll get decent performance and you'll have the only one on your block. As an "investment", it's not a good choice and isn't likely to catch on anytime soon. With the Sunbeam Tiger as the alternate, selling upwards of $18,000 for really nice ones, the TR8 has some attraction as a fun toy. Reliability and build quality will be, of course, typically British.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    How much different is it than the TR-7? A friend bought two for his kids, got tired of the continual maintenance and gave me the dirty job of selling them. One of the mechanics at Burnett's in Palo Alto told me a TR replacement part was as likely to be defective as the part that had failed. These guys had specialized in British cars for years, but I guess the romance was over for the owner--he drove a '70s Lincoln Continental. One of the TR-7's problems was overheating, and that would have been alleviated with the V8, but what about the other systems?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I guess it might share some switches and things with a TR7, but in all the major components it is a different car. The problem is it LOOKS like a TR7, but is more different than it is the same.
  • The demise of Triumph and the fairly low production numbers may make parts difficult to come by, though I think that most mechanical parts are interchangeable with the Tiger.

    I just have a hard time liking the car, too many memories of TR7s at the side of the road in the English countryside I guess.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    As I recall the TR7 really didn't offer much of a driving experience. Quite a one-two punch: boring and unreliable.

    Wasn't the four the same unit SAAB used at the time?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, also Saab figured out finally how to hold the cylinder head on. The original TR7 head usually requires 3 head gaskets on top of each other to work (for a while). Still, even after many improvments, the Saab engine was plagued with overheating into the early 90s even.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    The brits do have a difficult time, don't they.

    Mr. Lucas strikes often and without warning.

    And, they just love that 1961 Buick Special 215 cubic inch aluminum engine too!

    The engine that Buick ended up dumping after only three years turned into one of the better components in British applications!

    A "Land Rover" engine indeed!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Three head gaskets? What did they hold down the head with, bolts or duct tape?

    For some reason this reminds me of a Fiat 128 I had briefly, a remarkably fun car even on three cylinders. I bought it knowing it had a bad valve, but you just pop the head and bring it to a machine shop, right? That's when I found out how dissimilar metals bond chemically, in this case an aluminum head to steel threaded rods pressed into the block.

    The head just would not come off. First I tapped gently and used lots of WD-40. Then I tapped less gently, using more WD-40. Then I tried popping the head off using engine compression. Then I tried very carefully prying it off--I know, but I was desperate. Then I rented a rip saw and tried to cut the head away from the rods.

    In the meantime my father had helped by installing a complete set of $100 seatcovers, which of course exceeded the market value of the car. When the next step appeared to be installing a junkyard X1/9 engine, I called it a day.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I just remembered I also heated the head with a torch to get it to expand. Shiftright, what would you have done? Stopped before the rip saw?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I would have used the special tool they make for getting this type of head off. It's the only safe way to do it.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Well sure, I guess I could have done it the right way and used the special tool (they have one?) and sure, I guess I could have thought a little before I got creative, but...

    It's better that I don't work on cars anymore. Better for me, better for the cars. Is this how you get material for your strip?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I get material for the strip from my own stupid mistakes. And having owned tons of British cars over the years, there have been plenty of unfortunate decisions on how to fix something. But generally I haven't done the same dumb thing twice, so that's how I learned about the cylinder head tool for the Fiat.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    Shifty, I spent 20 years in the tool business and don't remember a tool for that.

    Nor can I picture anything that would work. Was it a dealer supplied item>

    I can visulize using a big Morgan Knocker with arms on it that could somehow grab the sides of the head?


    There were worse ones too...:)
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    The only thing I can think of is that it somehow uses the head studs for leverage. I'd like to see Pippa Garner work up a design.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 20,225
    Once, I watched a top notch mechanic get frustrated trying to pull a head off a flathead Ford V-8. He had tried everything. He ended up busting it into pieces with a large hammer. That way he able to save the block.

    He found a used head and all was well!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    That's what's nice about working on a Ford. You don't have to worry much about destroying anything, you can just go out in tot he backyard and get another part. But you break something on a rare Ferrari, you are screwed for life, or at least off to the Italian specialty foundry or machinist's shop, where they will make your socks roll up and down when you get the bill. Would be believe on a very rare Ferrari, to restire a set of Weber carbs with missing parts + reconstructing a proper manifold cost the man $20,000?
  • Mr. Shift right hit the nail on the head on the TR8. They're basically nice enough, in a predictable way.
    They are, however, not becoming the "classic" many car magazines predicted 15 years ago. The $7,500 price range for a solid #2 with low miles is right on. In fact, considering the low prices of these cars, there is no reason why anyone would get a cheaper car with the exponential chances of more repairs. Like most British cars, find the absolute best one you can and pay the extra money. The difference between a # 1 or #2 car and a #3 or #4 is not that great price-wise.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Yes, the TR8 values seem to be steady and a bit stagnant right now. It's the type of car you can really enjoy if you buy the best you can afford. It's not a car I would recommend doing a total restoration on at this time. I'd do a few things to a TR8 if I bought one...

    1) Upgrade the brakes somehow, maybe with better pads

    2) Investigate ways to stiffen the chassis (shock tower brace? Frame supports?)

    3) tighten every damn nut and bolt on the entire car before driving it hard.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    How good is the TR7/TR8 series as a daily driver? Would these vehicles function well in every type of weather (i.e. rain, sleet, etc.)?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    Beats me. There is a TR7 owner who checks in here now and then. We should ask him.

    I'd say the biggest challenge to everyday driving would be reliability.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I had a friend who bought one for each of his two kids and then asked me to sell them. I drove them for a few weeks so I have a fair idea of how they drive. During that time I talked to a mechanic who had lots of experience repairing them.

    My main complaint is that to me they're just not much fun to drive. When you take fun out of the unreliable sportscar equation there isn't much left.

    They run hot and they blow head gaskets. A replacement part can be as bad or worse than the part it replaces.

    But a TR-8 might be worth it. They're not bad looking and they make the right noises. Maybe a poor man's version of the Sunbeam Tiger.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I've driven the TR8....they are pretty much fun to drive but they aren't fast like the Tigers, since they use the old workhorse Rover V8 aka Buick, which is a bit of a slug and a gas hog. It's maybe an 8.5 second car on a good day, so Honda Civics are going to rough you up. But of course a car does not have to be fast to be fun...look at the old Minis or the AH Sprites.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    BTW I was mainly talking about the TR-7s my friend had (blowing head gaskets, not much fun). I guess there's parts to modify the Rover V8 and for that matter I'll bet a Buick 300/340/350 would drop right in but as you say, fast and fun don't have to go together.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    I don't think a TR8 with a Buick 350 would be a very pleasant car to drive, and really, I don't think it would fit without actually hingeing the body off it.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    No, a small block Buick would be one of the dumber swaps but I mention it because the layout should be similar to the aluminum V8 and because some people think there's no substitute for cubic inches.

    Not too many people know or care about this but the Buick 300/340/350 was based on the old Buick 215 aluminum V8 used in Rovers and the TR-8. The '64 300 even had aluminum heads and intake manifold, and the 300/340 had the same bore and valve sizes as the 215. None of these engines were stemwinders.
  • Well I'm probably the TR7 guy Speedy mentioned. So could a TR7/8 be a good all weather daily driver? Depends on what you're willing to put up with. I live in So. Cal. so I can't comment on sleet or snow (thank God!) but it does occasionally monsoon here. If the weather seals that go up the door pillars to the top of the windscreen aren't in good shape then you'll get water leaks where the windscreen door and top meet. Also the top has to be installed properly so the door glass seals along the top right. My biggest complaint are the windshield wipers. I've been playing with mine off and on and I've never been happy with them. They're just too slow. As with most converts, the visibility with the top up isn't too good.

    Reliability is a relative term. My TR7 was a one owner, dealer maintained, 26k mile car when I bought it in 1995. From then until October this year (blew the head gasket, surprise!) it has been very reliable, the starter motor went out when my wife was at the market about a year after we got it and it tempoarily stranded me when a wire in the distributor got pinched under the cap but that was it. My neighbors M-B has died more than that. The one I have is a 1980 Spider which was a special edition trim package. Being a California car it has Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection. I specifically went looking for a fuel injected car because they have far less smog equipment. Most 1980 California TR7s and all 1981 US spec cars were fuel injected. FI make the car pretty reliable and almost all the parts are available from Bosch. Understand, I have four other British cars (3 Triumphs and a thing called a Doretti) a garage full of tools and a nice work area. I like working on the stupid things so I am willing to put up with a lot. If you are like me then a TR7 could be a reliable daily driver. I know people who use their's a lot and enjoy them. The same goes pretty much with TR8s, they have their own set of problems.

    In short, a good TR7 can be an enjoyable car especially on nice weekends. If you want a reliable convertible look at used Miatas. If you decide you want a TR7, get the best one you can find, it's real easy to buy a car for $1200 and spent $6000 on it. It's smarter to spend $3000 on a car that needs very little. TR7s will never be a classic in the same way as a TR3. TR8s will always be worth more than a comparable TR7 but still won't be worth a lot.

    Since people were talking about TR7 head gaskets here's what I know about that. Stacking gaskets is a no no. There are thicker head gaskets available. The problem with the head design is that the head bolts and studs are not parallel. If you have to shave the head more than about 10 thou then the holes in the head won't line up with the ones in the block then you use the thick head gasket or get a new head. The trick with TR7s is to replace the head bolts and studs. The factory pieces were too soft and stretched, so the factory sent out a bulletin to retorque them every 5k miles. So they stretched some more until torqueing didn't help. You can get replacement head bolts and studs from ARP that are far superior. There is a guy who races a TR7 in SCCA that solved all his head problems by using the ARP hardware.

    Hope this helps.
  • Everything I have read on them says how prone to rust they are..

    I'd reconsider using one heavily in the white fluffy stuff.

  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    I suppose it depends on the modifications...

    Of course, if your last name isn't Buffum you may be out of luck.

  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Anyone interested in the BOP/Rover V8 and its similarity to the later Buick 300/340/350 (probably a small but select group) should check out these sites:

    I got out '62 Olds and '66 Buick shop manuals to compare the 215 V8 with the Buick 300/340 V8 and 225 V6. It's amazing how much mileage has been pulled out of one fairly marginal design. The Rover V8, GM's corporate 3.8 and even the Buick small block that lasted from '64 until I guess the '80s.

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,490
    It's amazing to me that such a mediocre engine as the 215 had such a long life. Probably originally its size helped it to survive, but it was never a very efficient or powerful engine, and it ate gas. I suspect the 340 weighs more even though it is in the same family?

    A TR8 doesn't need even more weight in the nose. Then you end up with a very ornery "steer by gas pedal" type of car, which is scary in the corners.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    I could maybe see a Buick 350 in something that could use more cubic inches like a Land Rover but I hear you, with a sportscar balance is more important than power. Doesn't sound like anyone's done it so there must be a reason.

    I don't know the 300-up engine weights but the block is a little taller than the 215, the crank is beefier and if it's like the 3.8, there's excess material in the block because it was originally designed to be cast in aluminum.

    One site says Rover completely redesigned the oiling system a few years ago, which had been one of the big drawbacks. It also says the heads were redesigned around '86 but they're still not the greatest. That would probably explain the lack of efficiency, unless there's something else going on like internal friction or poor manifolding. Maybe it's the whole package.
  • ndancendance Posts: 323
    Seems to me that since a V8 short block is a V8 short block (assuming you're not turning 8000 rpm all the time) that the 215 could be respectable if somebody tooled up a decent head and intake manifold design. With all the advancements in CNC, casting, etc in small batches, I'll bet that's not such a goofy concept.

    The trick then would be finding reasonably rebuildable blocks and reciprocating parts. My assumption is that most BOP 215's have had ditch water used in them rather than anti-freeze with the attendant corrosion.

    Just out of curiousity...who builds the lightest and/or smallest external dimension V8?
  • speedshiftspeedshift Posts: 1,598
    Who would you get to do the design work, now that Smokey is gone?
This discussion has been closed.