TRIUMPH TR6 REVIEW

The car that the clichéd term ‘last of the hairy-chested British sports cars’ was perhaps designed for, the TR6 has been a firm favourite for over 40 years.

The TR6 cabin experience is a snug one, particularly for six-footers, who may prefer a smaller diameter or dished steering wheel to feel more comfortable. Once you’ve settled in though, the controls fall readily enough to hand. The gearbox requires a firm touch, particularly when cold, but offers a change that is both positive and rewarding. Slotting home gears are a pleasure, especially when you make full use of the torque offered up by the sonorous straight-six engine – it’s worth holding off the changes a little longer, better to enjoy the delicious, rasping exhaust note. 

If you’re aboard an original CP-series then all the better – they have that bit more urge than the CR models introduced in mid-1972, which were given a milder camshaft for smoother driving in traffic. Carburettor-fed ex-US cars are naturally down on power, but still have plenty of poke. Whatever model you go for, look forward to masses of grunt and an invigorating driving experience. Standard brakes are more than up to the task, while the independent rear suspension provides much more composed handling compared to earlier TRs equipped with live axles.

VITAL STATISTICS

Engine                                    2498cc/6-cyl/OHV

Power (bhp@rpm)                  150bhp@5500rpm

Torque (lb ft@rpm)                 164lb ft@3500rpm

Top speed                                120mph

0-60mph                                   8sec

Consumption                            25mpg 

Gearbox                                    4-spd manual + Overdrive

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Start from the rear when assessing a TR6’s bodywork. Go to one corner and look down the coach line. There should be a gradual side curve from front to back. Check to see that both sides are the same. If they are not, or one side is particularly curvaceous and the other is flat, then be particularly wary. This could be down to either accident damage, or simply a poor rebuild/restoration. 

Examine each of the four wing panel joints for rust, paint, bubbling or signs of local repairs. More importantly, check that the interface is visible and has not been overlaid and hidden with body filler. The rear wing/rear deck joints are particularly worth studying. You are looking for signs of soft sealer having been coated on the panel faces before the wings were bolted to the shell.

Underneath the car, run your hands along the flat of the chassis,feeling for two things – that the chassis is generally free of corrosion, but is also straight and true. Any rippling suggests accident damage. A key area to check is the ‘T-shirt’ pressing ahead of the differential. Four pieces of chassis meet there, so assess their condition thoroughly. This pressing is a highly stressed part of the chassis, as are the arms that radiate away from it carrying the trailing arm rear suspension. If repairs are required, budget on paying a professional to do the work.

ENGINE

With the six-cylinder engine, it’s vital to check the amount of crankshaft end float. With the engine switched off, lever the front crankshaft pulley backwards as hard as you can. At the same time, have someone depress the clutch pedal. If you see any movement, use a tape measure to check the extent of it. Any more than 11⁄16" or 1.5mm means attention is required.

Broadly speaking, TR6s come in home market/ROW fuel-injected specification (CP/CR), or carburettored US form (CC/CF). Only CP cars have the famed 150bhp. CR series cars, from mid-1972, were detuned for extra driveability in traffic, with only 125bhp on tap. US cars make do with a measly 104bhp. Carburettors rarely give trouble and are seen by many as being easier to maintain. Once in good condition though, the Lucas fuel injection can be made to perform very well however. Most worries stem from the overworked Lucas injection pump – replacement with a modern Bosch style item is thoroughly recommended. Check the correct engine is fitted – MG, MN, MM and MP prefixes signify a Triumph saloon unit, specifically 2.5PI, 2.5PI, 2.5TC and 2500S respectively.

RUNNING GEAR

Gearboxes are generally tough, but make sure all gears shift smoothly. A TR6 driveline features six universal joints, or UJs. Listen for clonking when taking up drive, as this generally means either the propshaft or driveshaft UJs are past their best. The rear hubs are a common malady. The bearings for them are sealed and they often fail, so be wary.

BRAKES

Other problem areas are where the trailing arms for the rear suspension and differential are attached to the chassis. Look carefully at where the trailing arms mount to the chassis. If there is rust there then you’re probably better off looking for a sounder candidate. Repairing or replacing these sections is very time and labour intensive, usually requiring a body off repair. On a test drive, listen for clunks coming from torn diff mounts – aknown weak point on these cars. A recognised – and well recommended – modification is to box in the diff’ mounts for added strength.

OUR VERDICT

The Triumph TR6 ranks as one of the most popular British sports cars ever made. Introduced in 1968 for the 1969 model year, it was basically a re-skinned TR5, complete with fuel-injected, six-cylinder engine mounted to an IRS chassis. Regular coachbuilder Giovanni Michelotti was unavailable, so German firm Karmann stepped up to the plate instead, producing a sharp redesign, but still utilising the same body tub. Both TR5 and TR6 are largely identical within the wheelbase – a nifty trick that probably saved Triumph a tidy amount of money in re-tooling at the time. 

In period, more TR6s were produced than any TR before it. The last fuel-injected TR6 was made in February 1975, while production of the ‘Federal’ car staggered on in strangulated form until July 1976. When it was finally replaced by the TR7 later that year, over 94,000 examples of the ‘6 had rolled off the Canley production line. This means that there are still large amounts of survivors to choose from now, so you can afford to be quite picky in your search. On a sunny day, on a twisting A-road, you’ll struggle to beat a good TR6 for driving satisfaction.

If you are looking ahead to the summer with open-top motoring in mind, you’d do well to consider a TR6. The bare facts make a lot of sense – superb back-up from both clubs and specialists, allied to a relatively high number of cars available mean you won’t go far wrong, providing you buy a good one in the first place. The last point is particularly crucial however. For the more hard-nosed buyer, a decent TR6 will make a good investment too – the rarity and desirability of the preceding TR5 has seen prices of that model skyrocket in recent years. A knock-on effect being that the TR6 is following suit as people cotton onto the fact they are pretty much the same car underneath. Prices are nowhere near ‘5 levels yet, but have certainly strengthened over the last few years, and are sure to rise. Getting in now – at the right money of course – should prove a shrewd investment.

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