By on May 3, 2019

You read the title correctly. There’s a Triumph TR8 for sale in the urbane and international city of Tampa, which is in Florida. Miraculously, the sporty convertible has traveled just 90 miles since 1981.

It’s beige, malaise, and showroom fresh, so let’s have a look.

By the middle of the Seventies, Triumph needed a new sports car to replace its blocky TR6 roadster. Desirous of a more aerodynamic shape, the company’s designers turned to the presently en vogue wedge. A few years of development later, the door stop-shaped TR7 rolled on to dealer lots early in 1975. Said dealers were only in the United States, as high demand for the new roadster pushed the TR7’s United Kingdom release into the middle of 1976.

The TR7 was powered by a single engine: a 2.0-liter inline four producing 105 horsepower. But it was never intended to be an only child; Triumph planned for a more powerful and upmarket V8 version (TR8) to be sold alongside its lesser sibling. Triumph mapped out the TR8 early in development in 1972, but when the time came to select an engine, British Leyland was in a bad way. A lack of funds (the ever-present BL malady) and a workforce which liked to stand outside on picket lines most of the time meant resources were thin. Triumph had the inline-four in its stable for the TR7, but would need to find a V8 for TR8 use. As the V8 found in the Stag was too heavy and had a terrible reliability record, Triumph engineers decided to look elsewhere. Alas, the TR8 was not a priority for BL, and development resources were allocated to MG and Rover first.

The TR8 had to wait.

Eventually, Triumph found a suitable engine: the 3.5-liter Rover V8 from the SD1. Development prototypes were usually built with automatic transmissions and distributed for testing by BL dealers before being sold as used cars. For production, the V8 was matched to a five-speed manual transmission — as in all officially produced TR8s. In another oddity, though almost all TR8s were fitted with carburetors, the 352 produced in 1981 had Bosch fuel injection controlled by a Lucas ECU. Surely, those are the ones to seek!

TR8 production began in 1978 and continued through 1981, which coincided with the end of TR7 production. The majority of examples were left-hand drive and sold in the United States and Canada. Though Triumph built about 140,000 TR7s, the TR8 was much rarer — just 2,497 made it off the assembly line. It’s estimated that about 1,000 TR8 convertibles remain today, and this beige beauty must be the one with the lowest miles.

The TR8 sold for around $11,000 in 1981, or $32,000 adjusted for inflation. The ask, then, for this one one isn’t too out of line at $43,995.

[Images: seller]

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47 Comments on “Rare Rides: A 1981 Triumph TR8 That’s Both Beige and Brand New...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    Wow ;

    The car no one wanted then or now .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    ajla

    OMG yes. This is probably the worst color scheme possible but I love the TR7/8. I even bought one (a TR7) back when I had no money to keep it on the road.

    I don’t really have $40K to pop on one (Hagerty says a #1 condition is worth $20k FWIW), but sweet car.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      I could want it, but not at that price. Besides, I’d want to drop a new Chevy V6 under the hood rather than that Rover weakling.

      Then again, a modern 2L turbo would be a more-than-suitable replacement for that 105hp sewing machine in the TR-7

      • 0 avatar
        Jagboi

        Consider it in the context of 1981. None of the mainstream Big 3 cars were injected, and power outputs were lower. My Dad bought a Ford LTD wagon new in 1981 and it had the 5.8 V8 that put out 140hp and had the very troublesome variable venturi carb. It never really did run right, and by 80,000 miles the engine was completely worn out because the carb simply was never right. Big clouds of black smoke until it warmed up and then it ran okish. The dealer never could get it running right despite many trips in for service.

        The TR8 in comparison had EFI, and a 3.5 putting out 150hp is much better performance than a 5.8 doing 140hp.

  • avatar
    Drew8MR

    I had a 73 TR6 from 80 to 84ish. Despite being fairly new, it was in far worse overall shape than the 63 Merc I had around the same time. The body was great,but everything else was a joke. And the 7/8s were notoriously less reliable than the 3/4/250/5/6/Spitfire. These were maybe worse than the Stags. CP at any price.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    This one deserves to be put in its own showroom at someone’s mansion a la “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. I can’t imagine driving it anywhere (British Leyland build “quality” and Lucas “Prince of Darkness” electrics – LOL!).

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    …uh, I don’t think MG had development priority over Triumph. In the BMC/Leyland political storm that was BL, Stokes and Edwards wanted the Wedge so they let MG languish – hence rubber bumpers and nothing in the pipeline all through the 70s. MGBGTV8 might have led a charge but the engines were diverted to SD1. The TR7/8 became the albatross around the neck of both Triumph and MG, dragging them both down and eventually killing the British sports car – the Triumph because of shoddy build and MG because of corporate neglect in favor of other marques.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I have seen photos of an MG prototype based on the TR7. It had Porsche 928 headlights and a grill facing up to catch rain where the TR7 decal was placed on the Speke-constructed cars.

      • 0 avatar
        retrocrank

        That was ADO51, it preceded the TR7/8, and in fact was not a progenitor. It was intended as a mid-engine replacement for the MGB and Midget. It was killed (and destroyed) as the nascent decided to put their sports car eggs in the Triumph basket, and withdrew development resources from MG. It’s a real shame, the Abingdon/MG workforce had a strong reputation, whereas the Triumph plants were known trouble. My opinion is that those politics went back to the 50s and maybe earlier. There were plenty outside the long-standing MG core who would have been happy to see it fail – how much was MG stupidly stepped on toes and how much was jealously over MG success in the market and completion/record breaking…well I’m not going there.
        Autoweek did a great story on this (a special issue I recall) back in the 90s.

        • 0 avatar
          retrocrank

          Mistypes—-
          ADO 21 (not 51)
          And
          nascent BL decided (not nascent decided)

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          That’s not what I’m referring to. The car I saw photos of was a TR7 with a different panel between the bumper and the hood as described above and different tail lights. IIRC, it was captioned “BL attempts to make silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” so the TR7 was already a known quantity. There is a description of the car I’m referring to in the Wikipedia page for the TR7, It was called the Boxer.

          • 0 avatar
            retrocrank

            Interesting, and not something I knew about. Must have been something “MG” was ashamed about – – – I’ve collected and read a large library of MG history over the past three decades and hadn’t come across this; but I’ve never read Triumph history. By the time the TR7 was on the market, BL had pretty much pulled the plug on MG, feeling there was no demand for two small inexpensive sports cars. Given all this my guess is that badging a Triumph as an MG was somebody at Triumph/BL’s daydream to salvage a sinking ship by applying a marque that still held a lot of value amongst enthusiasts, and had little or nothing to do with what was left of MG management.

    • 0 avatar
      Guitar man

      The TR7 was intended to replace the MG, because it was becoming increasingly difficult to engineer it to comply with north american safety standards (particularly Canada).
      Both the last MG and TR7 used the Standard engine overtuned to the point of unreliability, rather than the more reliable Austin engines from previous MGs.

      The Stag had a different V8 engine because of the intense rivalry between Rover and Triumph. The Rover V8 worked fine and came out much earlier but no way were they going to have a Rover engine in a Triumph ! (this is why the Rover SD1 never ended up getting a six cylinder, as was originally intended)

      By the time the TR8 came out all such fine distinctions could no longer be afforded by BL.

      • 0 avatar
        retrocrank

        Almost. MG never sold a car (nor to my knowledge built prototypes) using a Standard engine. ADO21 used the small E type OHC engine, and while I don’t know its source, that project preceded BL and so E was not Standard in origin. The only other real prototype (of which one still remains) preceded ADO21 and used the Austin A series engine (from Midget/Mini/Sprite etc…).
        No other serious new MG model reached prototype stage as development resources were diverted. MG was made to continue with the MGB right up to the end in 1980, all of those cars using the Austin B series engine. And while agricultural, that proved to be a very robust engine. At the very end there was an effort to update the MGB with an OHC engine, the O series, and I don’t know the origin of that engine. That project went nowhere. I’m not certain on why that didn’t work out – could have been BL needed the engine for more profitable ventures or could have been that development resources weren’t there (although a private group did step in and try to do it….), in either case O turned out to be a good engine (I don’t think it was the “overtuned Standard engine” you refer to).

        After MGs closed up in Abingdon there were other prototypes (e.g. EX-E) and models (MGF) that were not just badge-engineered Honda derivatives. Sticking to Abingdon MGs, there’s not much other way to look at other than BL management chose (consciously or not) to kill off MG using Triumph. A strategic error, and maybe one that could have been foreseen except for some key biases.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          The MG Midget 1500 used the Standard SC engine.

          The Rover SD1 received a pair of I6 engines in 1977.

          • 0 avatar
            retrocrank

            Sorry I forgot about the Spitfire engine transplant (or had maybe just pushed it out of my memory…). I agree, that engine had a reputation of being a very problematic engine in the MG installation, I don’t know about in Triumphs. I understand that in the subsequent 35 years, workarounds have been found for the problems, though…but I’d be surprised if there is anybody still using a Midget 1500 for daily transport. I had a friend who used his (bought new) for daily transport into the early 2010s right up to retirement (and the end of the commute). We were both fortunate to know an top-drawer British car mechanic (later a victim of mesothelioma) who I’m sure was able to address the 1500’s weaknesses, as I don’t remember Joe having problems other than with rust. I do remember Eric swearing about those cars though.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            You could probably argue that the MG Midget was never an MG at all. It was really a way for BMC to sell Sprites without paying Donald Healey his royalty.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    I’d love this in theory, but not in practice. It’s got all kinds of things going against it, like the Bosch EFI driven by a Lucas ECU. It also has the horrible Delco Air R-4 radial (Scotch yoke) a/c compressor.

    As for the engine, it’s the updated version of the Buick 215 all-aluminum V8 first introduced in the 1961 GM compacts (Buick Special, Olds F-85, and Pontiac Tempest Le Mans).

    I’d probably yank the a/c hardware out, and replace the Bosch/Lucas EFI with a carb – do they a small enough Edelbrock (AFB) carb? Or, some aftermarket EFI like a Holley, FITECH, or FAST setup.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Sisal mats…wow. I forgot those were a thing.

    • 0 avatar
      gearhead77

      I’ve been considering a set of coco or sisal mat for my Mustang once it’s functional. I swear by Weathertech, but they are too industrial for a once in awhile car. Unless anyone from that era can tell me the downside of coco or sisal mats.

      The blue/white weave on the Coco mat website would look good in the car.

  • avatar
    redapple

    I was behind one last week.

    ALL THE TAIL LIGHTS WORKED !!!

    • 0 avatar
      cantankerous

      I have occasionally observed a gold-ish beige TR7 or TR8 in the parking lot at work. I neither know nor care which variant this particular ugly wedge-shaped specimen happens to be. I have no idea who owns it and I’ve never seen it being driven. It doesn’t always occupy the same place in the lot so I assume that it runs — either that or the owner pushes it from spot to spot when no one is watching to give the impression that it’s capable of moving under its own power.

  • avatar
    Goatshadow

    What a terribly ugly design, even for that era. Everything about it screams cheap.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’m trying to imagine the mindset of “I’m going to buy an overpriced British roadster, and it has to be BEIGE!” Can’t get there. Of course, that does explain why nobody has driven this thing.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    The TR7/8 was ‘cutting edge’ design at the time. The wedge shape was just coming into vogue and of course ‘pop up headlights’. In British racing green, with a tan interior it is (or was) actually a handsome vehicle. The seats were actually some of the most comfortable that I have ever experienced. When they ran, they were comparable to other cars of the time fairly nice drivers. The qualifier being ‘when’.

    Had a friend pick-up his new TR7 from the dealership. Pulled out onto the main road, and had the driver’s side door fall right off.

    With new electrics, a modern engine, and manual transmission, one might be ‘blast’ to drive.

  • avatar
    Middle-Aged (Ex-Miata) Man

    Ultra-low miles and (especially) Lucas-controlled EFI don’t exactly seem like selling points here. After sitting 38 years I’d fully expect this thing to fall to pieces and/or catch fire in short order.

    • 0 avatar
      Jagboi

      The only thing Lucas about the EFI is the sticker on the case. Everything is Bosch.

      It’s actually quite a reliable system, although the flap door air flow meter is restrictive. The same system was used in the 79-86 Jaguar XJ6 and the air meter in that application produced 12% restriction.

      • 0 avatar
        -Nate

        Not so much a restriction as the AFC box’s clockwork spring was adjusted tight to reduce power and thereby emissions, it was a simple thing to pry the lid off and _carefully_ ease the spring’s two holding loops so the clockwheel gear relaxed one or two teeth, those who were careless saw it go “Zzzzzzz”, creating a serious headache to get right again .

        The Bosch AFC system was simple and reliable, used on millions of others vehicles too .

        -Nate

  • avatar
    Bocatrip

    Where is the factory decal on the hood? They all had one. I had 3 of these gems and they were far from quick. They were never popular when new or used. Generally speaking with few exceptions, cars that were not popular when new were never worth a ton when became classics….examples: Volvo 1800ES, and Jensen Healey. Unfortunate for this car is the color. I have no idea where it came from since I’ve never seen any TR7 or TR8 that color. Regardless, the price is silly even with the miles. $20,000+ to the right person maybe.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Nice write up. I looked it up TR8 did 0-60 8 sec.Not bad for the era. The 1980 accord my brother and I shared in HS, was this exact same color combo.

  • avatar
    NeilM

    Only 90 miles, so a while before it needs an oil change!

    That’s not really beige, more of a still undesirable cream color.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Back in the day we called these “the doorstop”.

    At 90 miles the seats and door card stretch marks are worse than the Zanzibar Lounge dancers. My ’07 Civic with 120k looks better.

    I was never afflicted with British Car Lust but did work on several Triumph TR-series for friends who were so smitten. These cars were not “engineered” or even “designed”, they were slapped together with build “quality” that had to be experienced to be believed. There was always *something* wrong with them it seemed no matter what. When they ran they were fun to drive especially with the top down. When they ran….

    Edit: Arthur also got to “enjoy” these :).

  • avatar
    TMA1

    I always thought these looked kind of cool growing up. But I never saw them actually running, and even with less than 10 years on them they looked totally worn out.

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    looks like robert decided to “cash out”. paid $15k cash and told dealer not to title it. wonder whether his wife linda told him to get rid of it?

  • avatar
    XK8

    I get tired of the negative comments left about these cars, usually from people who have not even sat in one let alone owned one.

    So, reliability-

    I have owned 3 of them, 1 x silver fixed head TR7, 1 x red drop head TR7 and 1 x red fixed head TR7 V8 conversion. I am pretty well qualified to comment.

    Both standard TR7s were totally standard, slant 4 2ltr engine, no aftermarket add-ons like electronic ignition, ie they had points, standard brakes etc. Neither ever let me down. I serviced them every 6000 miles, had the odd part wear out and generally looked after them while doing 10,000 miles a year or more.
    Now, the red TR7 V8, or TR8 as it was badged was a home coversion, done in the mid 80s. Rover V8 3.5ltr, Holley carb, Mallory twin point distributor. I did 15 to 25 thousand miles a year in that car for about 4 years covering about 80K in total. Do you know what let me down? It wasn’t the unreliable lucas electrics, nor the lovely Rover V8, it was the Holley carb and the crappy awful mallory twinpoint disti.

    Now then, the carb leaked one day, so a full gasket set and a rebuild sorted it, but the disti was a nightmare. For several months every few weeks the engine would suddenly cut out without any warning and no way would it restart ending with me calling the breakdown service 4 or 5 times and they could not work it out so they took me home on a low loader. I tried all sorts, new coil, leads etc etc etc. Took it to 3 local garages, they couldn’t find anything wrong, but it still kept cutting out…. In desperation rang a TR specialist I know and had a chat, ended up driving 120 miles to them to replace the disti, for one of those unreliable lucas units, you know the prince of darkness etc. Cured the problem, IT NEVER LET ME DOWN AGAIN.

    So to confirm, the only times I ever had a major problem with a TR7 or 8 was with American made parts. And from what the specialist told me they had seen the cutting out issue several times before and had fixed it every time with a Lucas distributor.

    All the best

    • 0 avatar
      retrocrank

      I have had exactly this same experience with the Mallory dual point kit (“professionally” set up), which I remedied by a carefully rebuilt and curved Lucas diz. Still using it 20 years on, gets new guys every Spring. No further problems.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Always loved these cars, and the aluminum injected V8 is the class of the class. But one with 90 miles on it belongs in a museum.

  • avatar
    DanDotDan

    The TR7 came out when the wedge shape was popular with mid-engine sports racers and I always thought they were trying to capture some of that, The ads called them “the shape of things to come”.


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