Combining Michelotti’s glorious lines with six-cylinder power and fuel-injection, the Triumph TR5 is arguably the pinnacle of the TR series.
Continuing the type of innovation that the TR series had become known for – the TR3 marked the first production application of front disc brakes, while the TR4A was the first quantity produced sports car in its class to benefit from independent rear suspension – the TR5 brought new-fangled petrol-injection to the masses.
Launched as a stop-gap model in 1967, it’s sixcylinder engine was basically a longer-stroke version of the Triumph 2000 unit, with most of the additional oomph coming from the PI setup, improved exhaust manifolding and a much fiercer camshaft. Power was a claimed 150bhp, achieved at 5500rpm, providing the new model with impressive levels of both grunt and performance.
Appearance wise, not a lot differed from the TR4A it replaced, with the fabulous Michelotti lines largely unfettered. The reason for this was that Triumph simply weren’t in the position to stump up for a completely retooled body, especially for such a low-volume production car. Exterior revisions were restricted to a modernised grille, matt black sills, a bright sill trim strip and prominent tail badging, including the allimportant ‘injection’ motif. Moving to the cockpit, ventilation was improved with the use of eyeball vents, while the array of switches were now concealed by a safety conscious hood.
With a purchase price of just over £1200, the TR5 was great value for money compared to many of its contemporaries; indeed, almost 3000 found homes in just over a year of production. However the improved performance wasn’t enough to mask the fact that the basic body-shell had been in the public eye since 1961 – something which was addressed in late 1968 with the following TR6.
The annals of history show the TR5 as something of a shooting star then, one that burned brightly, but not for very long.
On the road
The TR5 is anything but subtle – when you turn the key you really know about it, your ears assaulted by an aural commotion of impressive proportions. The venerable straight-six kicks into life with gusto, while a prod of the accelerator pedal yields a satisfyingly throaty rasp. The 5s weren’t known for their smoothness on tickover when new, and this one is no exception. Idling at just 600rpm, the engine is endearingly lumpy, to the extent that you almost begin to wonder if all is well under the bonnet. Thankfully it all starts to make sense once you head out onto the open road. Once that hairy cam comes on song you’re rewarded with silky smooth delivery, while there’s impressive amounts of power available from as low as 1500rpm.
Once good and warmed up, the car absolutely implores you to drive it in a determined fashion. With that celebrated 150bhp to play with, thanks to the once infamous Lucas fuel injection, it remains one quick piece of kit too. There’s more than enough grunt to press you back into the slim short-back seats as you accelerate away, the rear end squatting as all that torque explodes onto the tarmac. The IRS suspension inherited from the TR4A means it rides well too, although there’s still lashings of the scuttle shake evident with all short-chassis Triumphs. As you’re moving along the road, one thing that does strike you is just how low down you feel in comparison to everything else on the roads today. This isn’t a problem though, as the height of the doors are sufficient enough to envelop all but the tallest of drivers, giving a reassuring sense of security as you hustle along.
With a gearbox descended from the very first TR2s, the change is somewhat notchy and agricultural in nature. That’s no real criticism however; it’s precise enough and easy to get the hang of, and as long as you don’t try and rush things when a change of ratio is required, you can slot the gearlever home like a good ‘un. The rack and pinion steering feels nicely weighted, though its not the most progressive of setups it has to be said; initial understeer can turn very quickly into lairy oversteer if you put your right foot down too vigorously, especially mid-corner. Cornering ability is undoubtedly high though, despite the power oversteer, and once you become accustomed to the rather ragged progress that is at times almost forced upon you, then the 5 is great fun to drive.
No wonder then that the Triumph TR5 is one of the most sought after TRs that money can buy.