By on February 20, 2012

We’ve seen a couple of “poor man’s TR8” race cars in the 24 Hours of LeMons: you take a TR7 and drop a junkyard V8 out of a junked Land Rover into it. This works better than both the “really poor man’s TR8″ (a TR7 with Buick V6 swap), in the sense that it sounds a lot cooler, and is (slightly) more reliable than a Triumph Slant Four-powered TR7. Plenty of folks did this swap to their street TR7s as well, and I’ve found an example in a Denver self-service wrecking yard.
For a crash course in the history of the TR7/TR8, check out the latest Ate Up With Motor essay. It’s all there.
Somebody got the intake from this wrecked ’80, but the rest of the engine is still there. The junkyard next door always has several complete V8-equipped Rover SUVs, which no doubt make for easier engine extractions than you’d get with this car.
The interior in this car is in very nice shape, so let’s hope that some TR7 owner grabs the good stuff before the whole mess gets fed to The Crusher. Hey, look— manual tranmission!

Note: As several readers have pointed out, this car does not have a V8 swap. It has a V6 swap. I failed to look closely at the engine, no doubt because I was so preoccupied with mental images of angry, just-got-off-the-picket-line British Leyland workers assembling this car with pickaxes and monkey wrenches.

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32 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Triumph TR7 With V8 V6 Swap...”


  • avatar
    Zackman

    Seeing that sad case just broke Educator_Dan’s heart! It was a V8! Tears of sadness…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Till we saw the crash damage picture I was amazed it was in a wrecking yard. I do hope someone gets the good parts off of that car. That has to be the cleanest one I’ve seen since the early 80s.

  • avatar
    erik_t

    Family lore holds that my mother purchased one of only about 300 automatic TR-7′s ever imported to the States, so I would certainly expect to see a manual (or a post correcting me).

    Turd brown. Great fun for a five-year-old, as it felt approximately like a spaceship. My father was less fond of it, as it required a spaceship level of maintenance.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    Unless I’m mistaken, this car has what looks to be those ultra cheap Kraco shallow depth 5.25″ speakers in the doors that hail back to the late 80′s, early 90′s, sold alone or with a cheap cassette deck as a complete sound system kit.

    I had bought 2 of these, the first the full kit, the second, the head unit around 1988 or so to install in my then new to me 1978 Ford Fairmont I’d gotten for Christmas 1987.

    The first deck had a loose playback head, it was replaced with a second head unit that had the head properly secured in place and worked fine. Sound was decent enough but nothing to write home about either.

    This one looked to have been in cherry shape, that is until either the driver ran into something or someone ran into it. Either way, obviously a very nice, clean example before a nasty fate befell it.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    What a shame – even the engine looks nice. Were the manual transmissions really up to dealing with a V8 ahead of them?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      The original (4sp?) transmissions on the first models that came over weren’t up to dealing with the original four cylinder. What killed this car was the absymal depths of construction quality, even by British Leyland standards.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      @gslippy
      Yeah, a pity, this must have been a good-looking car up until recently.

    • 0 avatar

      All the V8/manual cars had the five-speed box and sturdier rear axle from the Rover SD1 — the earlier four-speed wouldn’t have been up to the task, but it was gone by the time the TR8 finally went on sale. A fair number had the Borg-Warner auto, anyway (Model 65 or Model 66, depending on build date).

  • avatar
    jkees

    Am I missing something – from the heads, it looks like a V-6 to me.

  • avatar
    LeadHead

    V8? With 12 rocker arms? This is a V6, probably a Buick 3800.

  • avatar
    cfclark

    When I was a kid, I thought the TR7 was the coolest car. Operative phrase being, “when I was a kid”. I also really liked the Fiat X1/9, FWIW. Fortunately, I never had to keep either of these running.

  • avatar
    CougarXR7

    That is a Buick-derived V6. The angled front distributor hole, vertically angled spark plugs, and GM banana-shaped alternaator upper bracket give it away. This car was probably a hoot to drive before it picked a fight with something bigger than itself- which is just about everything bigger than a Miata.

    Speaking of British / American hybrids- I’ve seen several Chevy-powered Jag XJ-series sedans in the local wrecking yards over the years, but I haven’t discovered a Chevified XJS coupe yet.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      I saw one on a car lot here about five years ago. It was running and driving but half-assed unfinished swap with no operating gauges. And a bright blue metallic paint job.

    • 0 avatar
      outback_ute

      Saw one a few years ago with a 454 – still lighter than the V12 I understand. Helps they already run a Turbo 400 trans.

      Strangest thing I’ve seen a 3.8 V6 in was a MB W123 230D

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    IMHO You can never go wrong with a Buick 215 and a V6 swap is swell as well. For the longest time there was a MGB on Craigs list with a unfinished swap of a Ford 3.8SC out of a T-Bird.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine bought a TR7 with a Ford Cologne V6 swapped in. The steering column dropped into his lap on the drive home. He never drove it again but I believe still has it.

    • 0 avatar
      bmattb

      I had one of those Cologne TR7 conversions as well, about ten years ago. There was a hole cut in the hood around a chrome air filter, only indicator that it wasn’t stock. Was a pretty quick little car with that German V6, automatic tranny with a slapstick shifter, Ford rear end I think.

      If it rained it would never start… that got tiring pretty fast.

  • avatar
    PintoFan

    One look at those panel shut lines is all you need to realize how far cars have come over the past 30 years.

  • avatar
    mzr

    Most TR7 V-6 conversions are Buick V-6s. If you’ve got the 5-speed, the engine bolts right up. I had a ’80 TR7 30th Anniversary. I think I got the only good one made, it came from the Coventry plant and only had the fog light switch fail on it. It was my only car for three years. I had a removable hardtop that I found in a local British-only junkyard.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      Probably not the only good one – the general consensus is that the later the year, the better the quality. Certainly matches what I have seen on Craigslist – the only running ones I’ve seen advertised are the 1979-81 models. 1980 California and all 1981 models even have fuel injection – a pity there are so few of them. I almost bought a 1980 California TR-7 convertible with fuel injection two years ago – only the objection of She Who Must Be Obeyed prevented the purchase.

      I had the chance to drive a cherry TR-8 convertible once – truly a holy grail of British roadster motoring. Too bad a Miata is an even better car…

  • avatar
    Lokki

    The convertible isn’t so bad (as bad) looking as the hardtop but these doorstops were really offensive after the beauty that was the TR-6. Perhaps they look better if you get them off those tiny 13 inch rims they came with and then lower them. Few owners did that though , largely I suspect because all their disposable income went for tnings like headgaskets, and subsequently, engine swaps.

    Sigh, the mid 70′s were such a dark time for motor-heads. These cars certainly didn’t give anyone reason for hope. My answer was to buy a 74 Alfa Spider and drive as fast as I could, 55 MPH be damned. At the time, it was sort of the swan song of sports cars. Convertibles were to be regulated out of existence, every car was boing to be foreced to wear bridge girder bumpers, and the engines didn’t run properly. The Spider wasn’t (yet, in that model year) afflicted with any of those maladies.

    • 0 avatar
      Mark_Miata

      Have you ever driven a TR-6? Narrow cabin, ergonomics from the 1960s, suspension from the 1950s? The TR-7 is a revelation by comparison, particularly for long trips, and the TR-8 is divine. Remember, the TR-7 was sold in larger numbers than any other car in the TR series, and for good reason.

      If only British workers could have screwed those cars together decently, and if only British engineers could have designed them to last. By 1980 they were great cars – too bad by then their reputation helped kill them off.

  • avatar
    acuraandy

    A little before my time, but i’ve read about and seen the YouTube and Top Gear expos’es about British Leyland. How any of the brands under the corporate umbrella there made it through to today is beyond me.

    I wonder how many realize the Rover V8 was actually a Buick engine (originally), and thus, a 3.8 ‘Buick’ would probably fit rather nicely under the ‘bonnet’ of a TR7 or Jag.

    One question, would a ‘Series II’ or ‘Series III’ 3.8 GM bolt up to the OEM trans in a TR7 or even…gasp…Rover 3500? Now, THAT would be cool…

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      IIRC GM fiddled with the bell housing bolt pattern as part of the 231 –> 3800 revision. I’m sure the transverse orientation also messes things up. Probably best to find a longitudinal 3800+tranny out of a ’90s F-body.

  • avatar
    Robert Gordon

    “I wonder how many realize the Rover V8 was actually a Buick engine”.

    Wow, that understates Rover’s engineering input. Rover having been a pioneer of gas turbines, were world authorities on alloy casting and design for same. Armed with this expertise and the V8 engine knowledge of Buick engineer Joe Turley the engine was drastically modified by Rover to the point where there is very little commonality.

  • avatar
    hifi

    Wow, this brings back memories. I had a green 1980 TR7 convertible just like this one. I owned it for about five years until I could no longer maintain it. Even though I loved this car, it was a nightmare to keep running. Things that should last a million miles broke regularly. The drive shaft broke… I never heard of such a thing before. The door exterior door handles came off, both of them. The slave cylinder needed to be rebuilt, twice. The convertible top leaked. The headlights may not pop up, or would wink unexpectedly. It overheated. The “dash pots” needed to be constantly topped off with oil. Every electrical switch and exterior light corroded, the gas gauge didn’t work. The low fuel light, which was necessary because the gauge didn’t work, failed. The dashboard with the same quality as a plastic Chinese party favor. Every logo faded. Every rubber seal on every exterior light became brittle, allowing the lights to fill with moisture.

    But still, I loved this car. Makes no sense.

    • 0 avatar

      I know what you mean.

      I have the exact same car. Green 1980 30th Anniversary edition. I loved the way it ran. The transmission was a dream to shift. Short throw, barely needed to clutch. Only drove it in the summer. (In the winter, it would turn into a monoski and slide everywhere.) The last time I had it out, on my way home I heard what sounded like all of my tools in my toolbox being dragged behind the car. The sound didn’t seem to change much depending on speed and I even turned off the engine and coasted while listening to that noise. It didn’t affect the driving so I gently managed to drive it back to its current resting place in my garage…. that was about 8 years ago. Never quite got to my “TR Project” yet. I did manage to get about 48,000 miles out of it before the clunking incident. I agree that bigger tires that sit lower would make it look even nicer, but I suspect that the thought of getting in and OUT of my 30+ year old toy may force me to modify my car project.

  • avatar
    WedgeHead

    I could probably use the seats. How do I find out which wrecking yard it’s at in Denver?

  • avatar

    I am the webmaster of the TR7 Spider Registry and have owned three of these cars. Please refer to the site TR7SpiderRegistry.com and notice this is a true Spider based upon the VIN and Paint Code PMA and the Trim Code RAF.

    Paint PMA was black and only used on Spiders. How this car became red is a mystery for sure.

    What salvage yard is it at? I would like to call them and see if they can look at it a bit closer.

    Thanks
    John Manske (920) 730-0000
    TR7SPIDER@TR7SPIDER.com


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