First off -please don't use this as a definitive
guide when purchasing your TR7 or TR8! There is plenty of good advice
available and you should do your research thoroughly prior to entering
into any agreement. It may be advisable to join a Triumph or TR specific
club before buying your vehicle, as they may well have a member in your
area who will go with you when viewing a car, or maybe a member who
lives near the vehicle if it's a fair distance for you to travel. If
the TR7 is just one of several classic cars that you are considering,
and club membership may not be cost effective then dip into one of the
TR7 forums... like
What's the best model to buy?
It's true to say that the early TR7s suffered from a lack of build
quality. As with any new model the early vehicles tend to suffer teething
problems, this is as true now as it was in the 1970's - look at the
BMW mini... it's better to get a later model than one built in the first
18months or so, problems are found and improvements are made along the
production line to rectify these. In the case of the TR7 the problems
ran deeper, a relatively new factory in Liverpool was used to build
the car (rather than the TR marques ancestoral home of Coventry) disaffected
staff and poor quality control lead to a poor finished product. The
move to Canley (in 1978) saw over 200 improvements made to the vehicle,
including a new source of the steel used for the bodywork.
Towards the end of it's life production moved again - this time to
Solihull. These very last vehicles are seen as the best of the bunch,
with the drop-head (DHC) being the most desirable.
Generally the DHC carries a greater value than the closed top models,
with the latter being particularly undervalued. If you are not too fussed
about open-top motoring then the FHC (closed top or 'tin lid') is likely
to return a better car for the same money. If you are intending to use
the car regularly or for long journeys then the FHC does make practical
Whatever it is you are after - a drophead, fixed head, one in need
of rescuing, a fully restored concours model or an okay vehicle for
daily use you should decide what you want and stick to it. There are
enough examples available for you to find the right car at the right
price. Also consider the cost of restoration and the time!! Most TR7
specialists have a waiting list for restoration work - if you want a
car restoring and want it on the road in two or three months time you
had better start phoning around very soon!!
Things to look for.
Before we go too deep there are some basic visual checks which may
highlight problems or maybe a shady history. Decals are one thing we
can check. During the production of the TR7 the decals were changed
on each move of the assembly line, at a glance we can see just how original
the car is - decals are only a minor point but they may show up a dishonest
Other markings include coach lines along the vehicle length - these
had 'TR7' on the rear wing close to the cruise light (or blanking plate).
The stripes were either gold, silver or black depending upon the colour
of the vehicle. Early models also had a small square 'BL' badge on the
front wing (close to where modern cars may have their side markers),
during a restoration these are usually 'lost'! The last of the vehicles
(those from Solihull) had a plastic '2.0 litre' badge on this wing.
It sounds obvious but if the car has been restored ask to see the photo's.
Most owners who have restored themselves or forked out for a professional
restoration will have enough photographs to lull even the most dedicated
insomniac to sleep. What you don't want to do is pay top dollar for
a restored car only to face having to pay for major work a year down
the line, as the corner-cutting becomes apparent.
Rust proofing has improved immeasurable on modern vehicles, back in
the 70's anti-corrossion warranties were but a product of a tin-worms
worst nightmare! The TR7 was a taste that rust had a liking for, the
'shape of things to come' was the advert slogan, not many realised at
the time that 'rot' was the thing that was coming. To be fair the TR7
was not really that much worse than other British Leyland cars of the
time, and possibly better than the little Italian that was a rival in
the wedgey two seater market. Rust was more of a problem due to the
lack of esteem the TR7 had, people didn't want them due to maintenance
costs and reliability issues. The early models especially were quickly
handed onto a succession of owners, none of them really caring for the
car - hence a good early FHC is quite hard to find. Those that do exist
tend to have had just one or two owners from new. If the car is cared
for, like any vehicle, rust can be kept at a distance. Where do you
check? A few pointers when hunting for rot:
- Sills - some people skimp when it comes toreplacing the Sill. You
shouldn't!! The sill provides a fair amount of strength and rigidity
to the car, so check that the sill is a full-length one and not an
inferior 'sill cover'. The full-length one will continue behind the
- Inner Sill - again a common check
on new cars, especially checking for crash damage. Peel back a bit
of the carpet if you can - depending how well the carpet is fixed
and whether sound deadening has been used this may be easy or not
possible! If you can pull back the carpet have a look along the seam
of the floor to the sill. The picture here is a bit extreme but does
show what you may find.
- Rear inner sill - the is susceptible to letting in water, this isn't
a problem if the drainage channels are clear. Behind the rear wheels
there will be a 'well'... hopefully not water filled! It is common
for the drainage holes to become blocked, thus trapping water. Ensure
the holes are clear, don't be afraid to poke around on the rust check,
more so on the radio antenna side.
- Spare wheel well - as with No.3 above there should be water outlets
within the recess, so remove the spare and have a look.
- Trailing Arm mounting points are a notorious problem and can be
costly to fix (more so in isolation rather than part of a restoration).
From inside the car you will need to pull back the carpets behind
the seats and look for cracks along the bulkhead. Ideally check the
car from underneath - an angled mirror on a 'stick' may help in the
likely event that the seller doesn't have a pit or access to a hydraulic
lift!! (most mechanic's will have such a mirror which is like a smaller
version of that used by security personnel at ports for checking under
- Some areas of the car cause more rust issues than others.... seams
from the front headlamp surround (front apron) where it ajoins the
front wing is one such area, as is the rear deck where that fixes
to the rear wings. The latter is more of a problem on the FHC where
the wing is higher than the deck.
- On the FHC check the sunroof fixings - in the case of a webasto
(vinyl sliding sunroof) problems can be costly to rectify due to the
lack of availability of parts and specialists. The frames used on
this type of sunroof are wooden... do they feel wet or spongey? Trapped
moisture may rot the roof from inside, a visual check would be to
look for staining of the vinyl headlining inside the vehicle.
- Nearly finished on this section! Another big problem area, and one
that is difficult to spot until the problem is advanced is the condition
of the windscreen surround. There's two issues here (or just the one
if you are viewing a DHC!). The first being that hidden by the chrome
trim, during inclement weather water will run UP the screen (errr
only if you're moving!) and will go under this trim. If the windsreen
bonding is not 100% water can get into the car or sit along the top
of the glass, inviting rot to eat away the front edge of the roof.
Check the alignment of the chrome strip, it should be fitted snug
to the window with an even fitting along it's length. The other problem
can be hidden by the black finishing strip at the base of the windscreen
- water will sit behind here and eat away unhindered (a good tip is
to drive the car after washing it to force the water out!). Excessive
corrossion can be seen if the flat areas at either side, lift the
bonnet here, have rot intruding into them. Windscreen fogging can
also be an indication of a deeper problem.
- What about the bonnet though? The air intake into the heater (for
the interior) has nice round bits and a mesh.... devilishly difficult
to get the paint to stick in these areas, and tricky to de-rust, as
with the vents on either side of the bonnet. Check the underside of
the bonnet for rusting and look for chipped paint in these areas too.
The TR7 electrics were put together by some mad man who was probably
a plumber by trade. Fickle is the by-word here and many a TR7 owner
has been seen to be barking at the moon in the early hours after a night
spent chasing some gremlin through the miriad of cables. It's not possible
to check for all wiring problems so just check that everything works...
and in combinations! Despite rumours to the contrary the headlamps are
remarkably reliable. Lifting problems are frequently caused by no more
than a dodgy switch or faulty relay - do check for an 'even' lift though,
as it can be tricky to adjust them to lift in a uniform fashion (mine
are a little out, and that's how they'll stay!)
The mechanics are simple which is one of the great things about old
cars... most problems can be easily diagnosed without the hassle of
finding the 'diagnostic' inteface and a laptop computer. The TR7 like
all British Cars is fitted with an external lubrication system which
protects the engine! Otherwise known as 'yes it does leak oil'. Check
for excessive oil usage, the leak should not be so much that you need
to top-up weekly, but will be enough to require a tray if you don't
want to ruin the block paved drive!!
If the vehicle you are looking at is an early model does it have a
4 or 5 speed transmission. The USA got most of the early 5 speed vehicles
- due to a supply problem European vehicles in those early days tended
to get a 4 speed box. If you are looking at a 1976/7/8 model and it
has a 5 speed transmission check the history - if this has been fitted
later has the vehicle got the correct differential?
On The Test Drive
Ideally you want to take the vehicle on a decent test drive, ensuring
the car gets warm and a good mix of driving conditions - built up areas,
open road and
dual carriageway. Do not be suprised by a 'clunky' gearbox when the
vehicle is cold, the gearbox (5 speed) is 'splash lubricated' and can
be quite awkward in the first mile or so (as with an automatic car you
should not attempt to tow a 5 speed TR7 unless you raise the rear wheels
clear of the road). If you can't drive your chosen vehicle away it's
better to get it home like on the back of a trailer than on the end
of a rope being pulled by your 'daily' car.
Again on the 5 speed transmission.... When travelling does the gearbox
whine? If you think you hear a whining put the car in 4th gear, has
the noise gone? Fourth gear is direct drive and will not whine like
the other gears, if your vehicle has this problem the gearbox may need
replacing/reconditioning. Spares are plentiful and not too costly -
the cost is in the labour charges. A problem of this nature should not
preclude an agreement but can be used as a bargaining chip.
Warped heads are a problem and can be difficult to spot - hence the
need for a good test drive. The issue is the uneasy alliance of a cast
block with an alloy head, the rates of expansion between the two are
the root cause. If the temp needle rises to 3/4 (considerably before
the red) it's too late the damage has been done. First off check for
a heater by-pass... you may not notice this until you need to blow hot
air into the cabin one day! If the heater matrix has been by-passed
it's a good indication that a hose split, if that's the case the car
may have got too hot and warped the head. The best way to check is take
the car for a run. If possible sit at a constant 60 or 70 on a dual
carriageway for 10 miles or so (if possible 20!) the car should behave
impeccably. Come off the dual carriage way and sit in a layby with the
engine idling (or revving at around 1500rpm), if the head is warped
the temp guage should rise significantly toward the 3/4 mark within
5 minutes. This is not a foolproof method but should help spot any problem.
During the test drive check for warped brake disks, again this a standard
test that you would undertake for any prospective vehicle purchase.
If you get steering vibrations at 50-60mph don't worry!! This appears
to be a 'feature' of the TR7 and not necessarily an indication of a
buckled wheeled or a balancing issue.
This is not the "buyer's bible"!!! Merely a guide with some
pointers... continue to do your research, seek advice from other owners
and don't be afraid to ask questions. A genuine seller will not be worried
by the time taken - in fact they should recognise that you are not a
time-waster by the research that you have done. If you are buying from
a dealer check them out! Are they a classic car dealer, a Triumph specialist,
or just a backstreet Harry who happens to have come into possession
of this 1970's sportscar? If the latter will he really know anything
about the car? The TR7 is usually maligned by those who've never sat
in one, let alone driven one and an uneducated dealer is probably best
Always consider the options... is it better to buy a tatty cheap vehicle
and carry out (or commission) the restoration yourself, or buy a restored
vehicle? If you follow the former route you will at least know the car
is solid, and you'll also get a set of photograph's to bore that insomniac
we mentioned earlier into a coma!
Any other questions or remarks please contact