Whilst they are more widely known for their motorcycles, between 1953 and 1981, Triumph were producing some of the most coveted sports cars in the world.
First unveiled as a prototype at the 1952 London Motor show, the Triumph 20TS (unofficially referred to as TR1) would grow and evolve over the next 12 months to emerge at the Geneva Motor Show the following year as the Triumph TR2.
The TR2 quickly become a crowd favourite as it rocketed around racecourses across Europe gaining success as a very competitive rally car. This reputation quickly earning the TR a fitting nickname, The Bullet. Further adding to its universal popularity was the TR’s modest price point– base models could be picked up for £625 plus tax. Having a base model available at all was a great advantage for the TR, since competitors like the Austin Healey came with overdrive and wire wheels as standard, which pushed the price tag over £1000. Other competitors like the Jaguar XK140 were simply too expensive to be a real threat (Jaguars starting price was £3000 plus). These factors combined to help the TR2 move over 5,000 units a year.
The Triumph TR3 was launched in 1955, came with a beefed up engine and the front drum brakes were upgraded to discs. This upgrade, whilst not seeming like much now, was hugely significant in the mid 1950’s. Drum brakes were a standard all around the world and with Triumph’s early adoption the TR3 became the first mass produced, disc braked car. Coupling this fact with the still affordable price tag gave Triumph a commanding lead over competitors. To add further insult to injury, Triumph released a comparison document stacking up the TR3 against the brand new Austin Healey 6 cylinder. To summarise the findings, the TR3 came in at £120 cheaper than the Austin Healey, with no notable yields in performance or specifications.
It seemed that Triumph could do no wrong and with the released of the TR4 in 1961 their dominance continued. The TR4 boasted a refined, attractive and modern body with the time-tested mechanics, a truly winning combination as evidenced by the waiting list, which quickly grew into the thousands. However criticisms began to arise when it was pointed out that despite 10 years difference the TR4’s performance statistics were only marginally better than the TR2.
In 1965 the TR4A was released which boasted an upgrade from a live axle to independent rear suspension. Live axle suspension means the wheels are connected laterally via a shaft, which eliminates their ability to move freely.
The move to independent suspension would have greatly increased the ride comfort and handling of the TR4A.
The TR5 was released with an updated 2.5 L straight six but not much else in the way of changes.