1976 Triumph TR7

   Back in antiquity a “Wedge” was a workaday item, simple, cheap and cheerful. Little wonder it became used in a derogatory manner when describing cars; in particular some British Leyland designs of the 1970s with all the associated problems the BL label. One such car was the TR7 produced from September 1974 to October 1981 and an object of ridicule from many quarters for much of its production life.

   The British Motor Corporation (Austin/Morris/Wolseley) and Leyland Motors (Triumph/Rover) could both demonstrate a long, and proud, tradition of producing wonderful sports cars that were particularly loved in the United States of America. MG’s and Triumphs enjoyed great popularity but with the merger of BMC and Leyland to form BLMC the MG Midget, MGB, Triumph Spitfire, GT6mkIII and TR6 were now under the same umbrella group and competing against each other in the same markets.

   BLMC now had several dilemmas to ponder. Two of which were how to most effectively use resources (limited finances) to develop a new sports car that could replace the aging models from both sides of the company, and, under what Marque to put the new car when it went on sale. As with the “Princess”, BL found it had to smooth the feathers of rival firms with strong loyalties and traditions in order to get the project moving.

   Both MG and Triumph already had new cars on the drawing boards prompting many discussions at British Leyland Motor Corporation around which design had the most merit for BLMC’s future. At Abingdon MG had put nine months of intense work into their ADO21 project and Roy Brocklehurst’s team had created an adventurously styled body over a mechanically advanced car. Looking more like the Dino 206GT than any previous MG the rakish body covered a mid-engined configuration and Hydrolastic suspension. The mid-engined design was useful in hiding the rather tall E-Series engine which allowed the front to be low and the rear to remain sleek and balanced with the front-end design. The ADO21 was so advanced it was decades ahead of its time. At Triumph the much more conventional looking "Bullet" project was moving along and was in stark contrast to the direction taken at MG. Triumph were working on a much simpler traditional front engined car running on the company’s saloon car suspension and engineering.

   Diametrically opposed conceptually BLMC had some difficult decisions to make in their search for what would become the company’s corporate sports car. The final design would incorporate elements from both design ideologies but considerable thought would need to be put in to create something saleable across all markets but especially in the U.S. were the Datsun 240Z and Porsche 914 were making strong inroads into the traditionally British sports car markets. Whatever BLMC produced would need to meet the new US crash legislation, be quick and, most importantly, be reliable.

   With the ADO21 model waiting for a decision about its future the Board had to act. The decision was to send people to America, the largest sales market opportunity, and ask the what the American buyers wanted. In late 1970 Charles Spencer "Spen" King (Triumph’s Chief Engineer) and Mike Carver (BLMC Central Product Planning manager) travelled to the USA to garner the thoughts of the American dealers in a series of “extended conversations with relevant parties.” What the pair discovered actually surprised BLMC. The Americans wanted a conventional front engine, rear wheel drive car that was simple and easy to fix should it break down.

   Sir Donald Stokes, head of BLMC, was pushing to have the new sports car ready to go on sale by the mid-’70s which squeezed the development time considerably. For the company it made sense to share the car across the company and make use of the best talent, and existing components, from both Triumph and MG. Given what the American dealers had asked for it seemed the more conventional Triumph “Bullet” concept would be the most sensible route. This also helped keep costs down and reduce some of the development time allowing the company a better chance of making the mid’70s launch; the ADO21 was doomed by circumstances. However, the decision about which brand to sell the car under, or whether to badge engineer the car with minor differences, was still being debated. Both MG and Triumph were vying for superiority and the problems of internal conflict that dogged BL throughout its lifetime were rife. Interestingly the ADO21 didn’t officially get cancelled.

   BMC/MG engineer Rod Lyne recalls work on the project simply stopped, “I never got told it had definitely been canned: I was simply told to leave it on the side in order to get on with other urgent work.” The prototype sat in the development shop for about 12 months until Charles Griffin, Austin-Morris’ director of until engineering and initial backer of the ADO21 concept, paid a routine visit to the workshop. Rod Lyne was told “You might as well chop it up”, and with those words a little part of history was entirely destroyed.

   The marketing discussions finally settled on the new car being a Triumph product largely as MG was still doing well with the MGB. The TR6 and GT6 would be dropped from the triumph range superseded by a new TR7. At this point the car was not the striking shape that eventually took to the roads. The TR concept was along the lines of the previous Giovanni Michelotti TR4, GT6 and Spitfire. It wasn’t particularly startling compared to MG’s ADO21, as the company was looking for something that could take them into the future a bolder design was needed. Spen’ King, who was in overall control of the project drafted in Harris Mann and the body work design took off.


   The early MG proposal did have some influence on the new TR7 and as design work had already started before the branding had been decided, early Longbridge (an Austin-Morris site) mock-ups carried the ‘MG Magna’ nameplate and MG logo. Considering the simpler underpinnings, the decision to make a coupé, in order to meet expected American safety regulations banning convertibles, and the decision to market the car as a Triumph with a higher price than the current MG models, management thought the car lacked enough pizazz to tempt people to pay a higher price; especially considering the more exotic spec’ and visual impact of European competition.  As such the body design was redeveloped by Austin Morris design boss Harris Mann and his team.   Actually approaching the idea from a new perspective Mann created a car aimed more at the American market than the home market. It followed a similar route to the ADO71 “Princess” and the Zanda Concept car. This new coupé utilised a monocoque shell and had what was fast becoming a fashionable "wedge" shape. It was bold and futuristic, but it also had to incorporate 5mph impact absorbing bumpers and other safety features to comply with future US regulations. At the time what was put into production was shocking to many and ridiculed relentlessly. 40 years later the design looks considerably softer and even attractive.

   From the half integrated front bumper, and low nose with pop-up headlights, the sloping bonnet rose to the decidedly rakish windscreen (not just a wind resistance reduction objective but a thought towards seeing the overhanging traffic lights used in America), and a short roof. The rear of the roof cut off sharply, for a vertical rear window, the flat boot lid also cut off abruptly at its rear. While considered ugly at the time, especially with the protruding bumper, it has since been found that a sharp cut off at the rear of a car causes a rolling effect in the air immediately behind it which acts as part of the car allowing air flowing over the top of the car to detach more smoothly and actually reduce drag. The car also had a deep swage line curving down from the tip of the rear wing to just behind the front wheel. This curve softened the angular ideas while accentuating the low nose and high rear stance. Annoying to some, this line proved to be a useful idea when the racing and advertisements departments started looking at colour scheme options.

   Having briefly mentioned safety perhaps we should remember that the TR7’s monocoque was beyond the expected requirements of the US crash regulations. The designers used some intelligent ways to protect the passengers in the event of a crash while keeping the structure straightforward to build. Although not technically having a roll hoop the rear roof pillars incorporated box sections, which made them extremely strong, all the way up to the roof line. A cant rail went from the front A pillar to mate up with the B pillar, together with the box section B pillar this provided excellent safety in the event of a roll over occurring. Frontal impact protection came from the 5mph impact bumpers made from steel box-section unit covered self-skinning methane foam. The X-shaped front subframe added strength but worked with another passive safety design idea. In the event of a front-end collision the area around the engine and the up to the scuttle were designed to absorb energy as they, and the engine, crumpled rearwards.

   The final production TR7 still contained the original character of Harris Mann’s early sketches. The further tweaking of the styling created a car that looked like nothing else on the road. The TR7 was sleek, bold, futuristic and head-turning; it looked expensive! Compared to the MGB the TR7 looked out of this world. The criticisms of the styling were common but in retrospect British Leyland should be commended for their bravery in breaking with the traditional British style and creating this innovative look. For the mid-1970s this car’s look really broke new ground in British motoring, but, while it looked like (and was indeed advertised as) “The shape of things to come”, it had the great misfortune of being produce at a time when the British motor manufacturing industry wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Powertrain and suspension.

   The American recommendations fitted well with the money saving requirements of BLMC and the simple mechanicals consisted of the traditional front engine rear wheel drive layout. In fact, the powertrain and suspension had no technical innovations at all. The simple four-cylinder 2ltr engine was mechanically simple and easy to maintain, reliable but grossly underpowered. It soon got a reputation for being “all show and no go”. Spen’ King’s original idea was to have a range of engines available, a standard 4-cyl 8-valve version, capable of 125bhp, a “sprint” version with the 130hp 16-Valve development of the Triumph Dolomite engine and a Triumph straight-6 motor. The straight six idea was soon dropped in favour of the torquey Rover V8 engine that was then being used in the Rover P6B, P5B and Range Rover. Power provided by the Dolomite based unit stood at 105bhp but was significantly reduced for the US market because of their emissions laws being only 92bhp. 0-60 times were less than the TR6 and the 16v unit proved to be very unreliable but the funds for development were scarce.

   In all fairness to Spen’ King, and his development team, they did a great job of re-engineering off the shelf parts to make a sports car that was comparable with some quite exotic rivals. The 4-speed manual gearbox was from the Morris Marina, an optional 5-speed manual was developed and a 3-speed automatic would come online from 1976. Front suspension was independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs and lower single link, but the rear wasn’t. Instead it was a live axle with four carefully positioned links. The thoughtful development of the rear axle location, with coil springs instead of leaf springs, front and rear anti roll bars and plenty of suspension travel resulted in car that surpassed any previous Triumph or MG sports car (and even several expensive European rivals) in road holding, handling and ride. Stopping power came from disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear.

   The 0-60mph tome of 9.1sec and a top speed of 109mph were not going to get the TR7 status as a supercar but then that is not what MG or triumph were really about anyway. The fuel economy figures came in at 33mpg which was quite good for the sports car market. MG and Triumph history put them in the position of an affordable sporty/sporting car and the TR7 was just that. In truth, it was plenty of show with just enough go to be an attractive proposition for the man who aspired to turn heads and have a little fun too.

Launch and Public reaction

   BLMC unveiled the new TR7 it to the public late in 1974. The motoring journalists were soon split into two camps; not so much love it or hate it, but, startled and confused!

   The Wedge shape and styling were unlike anything previously sold but MG or Triumph causing much consternation. What really upset the Triumph purists was the coupé styling; it just wasn’t what a Triumph sports car should be. The “horror of a fixed-lid” couldn’t be avoided, the fact is the US safety regulations would have to be met. BL had looked at the Porsche style Targa Top and rejected it, again on the grounds of meeting the safety regulations, leaving no other option than a coupé. There was even speculation that the convertible would become illegal in the USA and that the whole concept of the drop head/soft top was coming to an end. An example of how seriously BLMC took safety can be found within the body shell itself. Impact absorbing areas and a Bodyshell strength over 7500lb ft per degree created a 70s style safety cell even though the TR7 didn’t actually have a roll hoop!

   This new TR was simple and affordable, and BLMC worked hard on that angle. Telling the prospective customers that this was an expensive looking car that was so keenly priced they could park on their own drive. A sports car more civilised than any British sports car that had come before, the exceptional interior design was well appointed, “luxurious” (even though the TR7 was the first massed produced car to go on sale with a plastic moulded dashboard) and spacious; and, thanks to the aforementioned handling, the TR7 was fun to drive.

   Adverts heralded a car that “knifes through the air, forcing the front wheels down,” providing “solid” and “uncannily precise” handling. The TR7, a low-drag shape that gave “enhanced fuel economy” was a particularly big hit with buyers who hadn’t forgotten the oil crisis’ that left price rises and fuel shortages in its wake.

   But as is common, especially in Britain, people had to find things to complain about. Of course, the shape and styling was mercilessly hammered by detractors but so too were the mechanicals. The “cheapskate” live rear axle, poor brake performance, no six-cylinder motor (and the slant-four seemed determined to shake itself to pieces whenever it was started), and constant questions about it not being mid-engined like the Porsche 914 or the Fiat X1/9.

   In hindsight, knowing the financial problems BLMC was struggling with, the TR7 should have been hailed as a step into a brave new world, but back then this refreshingly radical look was a huge contrast to the earlier TR series cars that many people thought were what a sport car should look like, not a wedge-shaped brick that looked like it belonged in the top of an arch somewhere! But then, the familial look shared with BLMC’s Allegro and Princess saw them being heavily criticised for their body styling too. Quite how the Bond Bug got off so lightly is an ongoing mystery.

   If you were a fan of the new car then the real fly in the ointment was that you couldn’t get one; the TR7 was only available to the Export market!

   In January 1975 the TR7 was launched in the U.S.A. at the Chicago motor show, after a lot of hard work behind the scenes to prepare launch presentable cars and press demonstrators, was generally well received. Here the simplicity and traditional layout were what was wanted and the fixed roof was more easily accepted as Americans were already being persuaded down this road by the Datsun 240Z which was becoming very popular. Although accepting of the fixed roof viewers were left unimpressed with the ‘challenging’ styling. Overall US journalists reported no complaints regarding the TR7s ride or handling and were very impressed with the comfort and “habitability” of the passenger compartment. The new TR7 was soon very popular; so much so that the UK launch was put back twice as BL hadn’t got the capacity to build enough cars.

   The TR7 went on sale in the UK in May 1976 and “Autocar” magazine painted a largely positive picture saying “Performance-wise, the TR7 is no sluggard. It tries hard, a little too obviously, and is great fun in the tighter country road that is its favourite going. On motorways and wide, gently curving roads, its sporting pretensions are not backed up with quite enough power.” In a reversal of reports from the launch of TR5, which was described as “an engine in search of a chassis”, the TR7 was pronounced “a chassis in search of an engine.” However, the roof remained an issue for some, with comments like “… it will find a wider public when they hack off the lid and give it a soft top”.

1/24th scale kit.
Built by Rod.


   Manufactured from September 1974 to October 1981 the TR7 production history is littered with interruptions and controversies, later referred to as “a car without a home” the TR7 is another BLMC ‘what might have been’ story.


   Initially production started in Liverpool at the Speke factory in September 1974. This production was geared up for the American market but this new facility was going to be a thorn in BLMC’s side as many of the workers were unskilled ex-Dockers, a particularly militant unionist element, and product quality, and control thereof, was poor. In defence of the inexperienced workforce BLMC management had foregone the usual process of final product testing in order to get the car on sale as quickly as possible and issues that should have been attended to were missed.


   As we have mentioned the US launch came in January 1975. This market was perceived as so important the European and British launches would be delayed until the Speke plant could raise its output levels to meet the expected demand. With the pressure on the workforce at Speke the Achilles heel was discovered and the TR7s fate was sealed. The build quality quickly deteriorated to the point that one of BLMC’s senior US managers even said, “Unfortunately, the (styling) buck was the only TR7 where the panels fitted and the wheels filled the wheel arches,”.

   A secondary issue affecting the already underpowered TR7 in the US was the strict emission laws. To meet the different states legal requirements two versions the single-carburettor Californian tuned version put out just 76bhp while the other 49-States could have 90bhp from twin-Stromberg carburettors. Both well below the meagre 120-130hp available from the slant-four engine. BLMC had no real ‘federal’ engine alternative and calls for more power were very quickly being heard. BL didn’t worry too much at that point as the V8 engined version was already in hand.


   The TR7s UK and European launch final came on the 19th of May 1976. There had been some changes to the car for the British and European markets. First to go was the US style steering wheel, the large central crash pad not being needed for UK safety law. The rear bumpers were reduced in size for a rear end that looked a little less like a step ladder but the changes that mattered were made to the engine. BLMC raised the compression ratio and fitted twin SU carb’s. The increase in performance raised the standing of the TR7 which could now do 0-60mph in 9.4sec’s, markedly better than the US time of 11sec’s! The top speed of 110mph was still easily beaten by the 3.0-litre Ford Capri, but then, that is a bigger engine and a more expensive car. BLMC had priced the TR7 at just £2999, approximately 20% less than the price of a Capri.

   Considering the changes and boosted performance the motoring press generally treated this long- awaited launch as a they would a new model rather than a new product and coverage was not as big as one might have thought.

   Sadly, the industrial, managerial and political problems at the Speke plant were ongoing and quality all over the car continued to fall. The Speke workforce may have been prone to frequent strikes but providing the assembly line with doors that were too big to fit in the hole because of inaccurate body tooling didn’t help.  Electrical systems were shorted out by rain leaking into places it shouldn’t be, particularly affecting the headlights, and windscreens that popped out during an emergency stop because the heat-bonded seal failed to bond made owning a TR7 a misery. Had the TR7 been properly built and finished from the start the TR7 might have had a better chance of sustainability.


   Some small improvements for the interior went into the TR7 in 1977. From March 1977 the seats, previously covered with a “broad-cord” material, were given red or green "tartan" check inserts with black vinyl leather effect edging. This tartan and vinyl trim was also used on the door cards. Many critics openly professed this wasn’t an improvement at all.

   However, BLMC was moving along with the V8 engine version using the 135bhp, 3.5Ltr, Rover V8 engine. Primarily an answer to the US demands for more power only a very small number of what became dubbed the TR8 built at the end of 1977 stayed in the UK.

   Sadly, quality continued to let the TR7 down. When “Auto, Motor und Sport” magazine released its preview edition for the Frankfurt Motor Show, in September 1977, it carried a report about a TR7 press car. Undertaking a road test included testing Triumphs stated top speed claim and while hammering along a 2.5mile, 4km, straight the engine "started to boil". Abandoning the test, the authors of the article could not give any reason for the issue. BLMC’s own technicians had been trying to trace the problem for nineteen days before publication, but they couldn’t, or wouldn’t, provide a causal reason. Confidence in the TR7 continued to fall.


   The crisis’ at BLMC had been playing out nightly on Television news for years and everyone knew the government had been financially backing the company through the National Enterprise Board. Almost at breaking point something had to change at BLMC and in October 1977 a 47-year-old South African was invited to fill the role of Chairman and turn the company around. Michael Edwardes was charismatic and self-assured; a proven manager, having been awarded The Guardian Young Business Man of the Year in 1975, and he was keen to do the job. Most importantly, having serve on the NEB board was familiar with the issues surround BLMC and he had the backing of the Labour Government.

   Edwardes believed he knew what needed to be done to save BLMC and he also believed in “Management’s right to Manage”. Tough decisions needed to be made and “management by committee” didn’t work. On the very day the new Chairman started work; Speke stopped work. A strike that was to last five weeks and didn’t sit well with Edwards. But this tough new manager knew his role and took his first major step forward by renaming the company “British Leyland”

   The Speke factory was beset by strikes through 1977 and into 1978. The hardworking staff at the plant were undermined by a small but very militant group whose rebelliousness was stoked, whenever the slightest opportunity arose, by International Socialists and Workers Revolutionary Parties. The arrival of the new chairman’s managerial ideology did nothing to smooth the feathers of the unions who strongly believed that he was only interested in making a profit for the company and didn’t care about the workforce at all.

    This was not at all the case and in February 1978 Michael Edwardes gave a presentation to 720 Shop Stewards, Union and Employee representatives. Laying out his plan for the company’s future he told it like it was; change was the only way for BL to survive. Of course, this would mean some ruthless cuts, but in the end he had total faith he could save British Leyland and he made disciples out of almost everyone present. When the workers representatives held a ballot, 715 of the 720 voted to back Mr Edwardes.

   Finally, the management had told the workers openly what needed to be done and why, this sort of thing usually helps to start the process of rebuilding company morale and repairing labour relations, in a mutually beneficial manner it also raised Mr Edwardes spirits too. In November 1978 Mr Edwardes was reported in “Autocar” magazine as saying ;-

“the remarkable reception I got (made me happy) when I addressed the shop stewards and the national union officials. Also, when I went around SU carburettors, I got a standing ovation from the work force, who shouted support for what we are doing’.”

   As it became obvious sales of the TR7 were being affected by atrocious build quality and long delivery delays, the BL Board eventually started to look at their options in earnest. It was beginning to look like the TR7 was going to have a rather short life span, it made no money and even the Prime Minister thought the sound business idea was to scrap the TR7 altogether. Mr. Edwardes had faith in the car though and decided on shutting Speke plant. Once the Labour Government got to hear rumours of the Speke plant closures Prime Minister Jim Callaghan insisted Mr. Edwardes explain why he thought the plant should go. In a frank meeting between the two men Mr. Edwardes went through his reasons for the TR7 to remain in production and that the production be moved elsewhere.

   In May 1978 the Speke plant shut with production moving to Canley, near Coventry. This obviously caused a disruption to production and delivery times were almost insufferable. Many of the planned improvements were also delayed and the little money that might have gone to the TR7 development went to more pressing or profitable areas. 127bhp Sprint engined cars started pre-production, managed a total 25.

   There was some positive news in some other areas though. The TR7 Drophead Coupé was revived as the rumours of extreme American safety legislation proved false.

   Once production was up and running at Canley, from October 1978, quality started improving quickly. The five-speed gearbox from the Rover SD1 was engineered into the package and the bonnet received a “power bulge” in readiness for the V8 engine.  A raft of small changes, that would have been normal production upgrades but for the many strike issues at Speke, were introduced too. Electronic improvements included new instrumentation and simple things like a reset button for mileage trip being moved from beneath the dash to a “through the glass” push button type. BL increased the number of body colour options and options for the interior, which now had navy blue or tan plaid added, with the appropriate matching ruched velour or leather effect trim for the seats and door cards. Another small but sweet change was the old round BL internal lock buttons being replaced by more stylish rectangular ones more in keeping with the overall look of the car. Most importantly, the urgently needed fixes for the cooling system problems were introduced.


   Since the truth about U.S. roll-over protection legislation was now known Giovanni Michelotti was drafted in to rework the Harris Mann TR7 design. The new convertible car he penned was far more in keeping with the traditional Triumph sports car. the TR7 Drophead Coupé (DHC) was to join the Fixed-head Coupé, or FHC, in production. In America the prospects of the TR7 V8 and the convertible looked good, despite the earlier quality issues.

   Creating a convertible from a coupe requires changes to the shell structure, and while you are doing that you might as well do other changes too. Around 200 improvements, a lot of them quality related, were made.

   To redistribute strength and turning forces the TR7 had additional box section strengthening set in behind the seats to join the two B-posts together. The quarter panels were also strengthened and BL engineers changed the front bumper an end-weighted version with the intention of reducing the effects of scuttle shake. Surprisingly the end result was actually slightly lighter than the original coupe. Externally the convertible had a smaller fuel filler cap as space was limited by the need for hood stowage. Wheel trims were changed from the small black hub coves to stylish full-sized silver ones. In the passenger area the interior lights, with integral switches, were positioned in each of the door cards, there now being no roof to hang it from. BL decided to incorporate some of the changes, such as the smaller filler cap and bigger wheel trims on the FHC model too.

   In Mid 1979 the long awaited TR7 convertible was launched in the America, but once again the UK and European customers would have to endure another delay; sales were strictly limited to the USA. An open top roadster with more elegant lines and a more powerful engine, turning out 135bhp, was exactly what many people thought the TR7 should have been right from the beginning.

   While the TR8 label became the accepted name for the new DHC car it was originally called the TR7 V8, and, even had several FHC versions built with the V8 engine too. Largely these FHC cars were grabbed by the competition dept’ or sold to specific racing customers making them very rare today. The TR8 was now an attractive, fast, open top open top sportscar; it was, perhaps, what the TR7 should have been from the beginning.

   As 1979 drew to a close another BL project did too. There had been some discussions about badge engineering the TR7 as an MG model in order to replace the aging MGB. The project, codenamed “Boxer”, saw several concepts put forward including one by BL's American headquarters, but ultimately, the designs were considered insufficiently different to the TR7 to make an impact on the market.


   The TR7 Drophead coupe/Convertible was launched on the UK and European markets in March 1980. At this time the Coupé sold for £5,230 and the Drophead for £5,050. For a short while the TR7 had a period of stability, then Triumph’s Canley plant was shut in August 1980 with production being transferred to Rover’s relatively new Solihull factory. Another round of upgrades and the possibility of a full V8 TR8 rollout were put forward.

   The US importer had called for a limited edition TR7 convertible called the TR7 Spider. Only available in Maraschino Black, with "pewter grey" carpet and grey striped upholstery, black striping, badging and accents for the interior trim. They were fitted with alloy wheels and the steering wheel from the TR8. 1,070 normally aspirated US spec’ “Spiders” were built at Solihull and 548 Bosch Jetronic fuel-injected cars can be added to that number specifically for sale in California.

   The V8 powered drop-top, with its stylish and spacious interior, was an agreeable machine but did not sell well in the States. The poor quality reputation hurt the car but the nail in the coffin was the strength of Sterling at the time pushing up the overseas prices. The TR8 plans were dropped and instead the viability of the whole TR7 project came under review.


   The move from Canley to Solihull was effectively the end for the Triumph TR7. Michael Edwardes and BL had plans to shut Solihull too. Plans to cease production of the TR7 were announced although Ray Horrocks, Manager Director of BL Cars Ltd, did say the TR7 would be saved if sales “improved significantly”. They didn’t.

   The Solihull plant was closed, Speke and Swindon body pressing plants were shut down as was the Wellingborough foundry in Northamptonshire, with the loss of 3000 jobs at BL and many more at other associated industry partners.

   As the unsold TR7s began to stockpile production was stopped on the 5th of October 1981. This the death knell for the TR7 - TR8 and Triumph itself, and MG too. Their Abingdon factory was being wound-up as BL no longer intended to make sports cars. Sales of TR7s continued into 1982 but in the end, dealers were forced to give fantastic discounts in order to free up showroom space.

   Somewhat unfairly the names of Triumph and MG did resurface. MG was kept on for use as the 'performance' versions of Maestros, Montegos and Metros, while Triumph had to suffer the indignity of the Acclaim, a re-badged Honda. In both cases this is an ignominious end for what had been the basis of a huge export market that helped establish Britain as the place to go for classy, no-nonsense sports cars.

Production Figures

   The TR7 was produced over five turbulent years between 1976–1981 and it never turned a profit. However, the TR7 outlived the MGB and out sold all other triumph models with a record total of over 143,000 units across the TR7/8 range. 112,368 Coupes, 28,864 convertibles and around 2,500 V8 engined TR8s.


   Last of a great Triumph sports car range the TR7 was much more than the failure it might first appear to be. The startling looks were cutting edge for the era and the safety elements were also ahead of their time. While we can’t really call it a car ahead of its time as the mechanicals were quite conventional but that too should have made the TR7 a big seller, indeed early on in its life the car did sell well.

   Sadly the 1970 was a tumultuous period globally. Oil crisis’, the labour relations issues and the strong pound all conspired against the motor industry across Britain. BL’s own lack of cash just added to the problems. Staggeringly poor build quality and reliability issues (not always the fault of the assembly line workers) saddled the car with a reputation it could get rid of even when quality control did improve the product. Time magazine actually listed the TR7 in its “The 50 Worst Cars of All Time” article. That said, overall the TR7 was a good car and those still on the road today are beloved family members to their owners. In 2013 David LaChance, Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car editor, borrowed a TR7 and used it as his daily car for a week. His conclusion was the TR7 was “an excellent commuter” for daily running and a “pleasant overall experience”.

   The TR7 did do what BL needed it to do though, it put Triumph back in public view and attracted buyers into the Triumph showrooms. TR enthusiasts still complained it wasn’t a real Triumph as it had a roof, amongst other things, and the TR8 was out of order as that nomenclature should have been saved for the next body style leaving the V8 cars to be called the TR7a. Everything and everyone seemed to be stacked against the TR7. Unfortunately, due to the American requirements and cost issues the original car just couldn’t match the show with enough go.

   In the end, Unlike the simple wedge that does its job reliably every time, the TR7 didn’t.

   Given the generally poor reputation of the TR7 it is surprising how many kits there are of this car. Cult status rather than racing results or motoring perfection must be the reason for this. Whatever the reason for the prolific number of TR7 kits is here is a brief rundown of them. Bandai released two TR7 kits in 1/20th scale and Entex one, probably the same kit.

   The kit we are featuring here is the Airfix version of Triumph’s TR7, kit #05411 released in 1992. It is a re-boxing of the earlier 1979 Airfix TR7 kit, #04406-2, which also had decals hinting at a rally machine. I both cases, as far as we can tell, the decals don’t represent any real team or race car. Interestingly when the kit was released in the North America by USAirfix in 1980, kit #8136, it didn’t have any sort of race decals but fashionable street graphics. As far as we know the plastic was the same in all the releases.

   Gunze Sangyo released three TR7 kits, two of which have decals and box artwork that is very     similar to the Airfix releases. The first is Triumph TR7 Rally kit G-136-600 Released in 1985. This was followed by Triumph TR7 Rally kit G-112-600, the first Airfix style rally decals, and Triumph TR7 Rally kit G-121-600 being the ADVAN version.

   Monogram and Revell have released a host of TR7 kits, Monograms art in 1/24th but the Revell kits are stated as 1/25th scale. There are many more versions of the TR7 in 1/43rd scale from GrandPrix Models, K&R Replicas and more. 

   Rod built this model in the early 1980s and although the car is nice the decals are showing their age.The kit is quite simplistic but builds into a nice representation of the TR7. The model is painted with Humbrol enamels, applied by brush, throughout. A  mild renovation might do a lot to improve the look of this model, i.e. Remove the deteriorating decals, and the rally lights, polish it and add number plates perhaps?