Black Bullet – 1980 Triumph TR7 Roadster

Out of the many candidates to be my car (and apparently benefit from a lot more financial indulgence than I ever expected), a Triumph TR7 got an interview. It was actually not a bad car, but felt rather heavy and isolated compared to some of the late 60s and early 70s cars I had tried. At the time, it was also just a used car at the time. But the years have been kind to it, and in retrospect it’s a fairly attractive car with a forward-looking shape for the time.

Since they weren’t so well-respected back when they were built and sold, TR7s have had a pretty high attrition rate (especially the hardtops, which were not the most attractive). So in the meantime, they’ve become pretty rare cars (much like, say, Alfettas), and a good one in a desirable color is pretty hard to find. Today’s car is available for $3250 in Wayland, MI (near Kalamazoo).

1980 Triumph TR7 right

It really looks pretty smart in black – it’s a more timeless color than some of the shades of baby-poop brown and baby-vomit orange these came in. Shame about all the quality problems, because with the disappearance of most other roadsters, they would have had a lock on the convertible market in the early 80s. Competition at the time would have been the Alfa and Fiat spiders, both rather long in the tooth at that point.

1980 Triumph TR7 left

You can’t really see it here, but all the original Triumph graphics are present on the car. The owner says it’s never been out in the snow, so there’s some hope that the rust has been kept under control. Cool original Triumph alloys are also on this car, and everything generally looks straight and original.

1980 Triumph TR7 interior

Here’s the one visible issue with this car – cheeseball k-mart seat covers. Pull these off, even if the seats underneath are torn. It’s a long time since my test drive with a TR7 – can any of you with recent experience describe how they are to drive? In the smog-test-free, mild-climate land of my dreams, I’d fit this with a 16v Dolomite Sprint engine and hit the mountain roads.

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4 Responses to “Black Bullet – 1980 Triumph TR7 Roadster”

  1. Chris Says:

    The problem with the TR7, is the TR6. So much prettier, sexier curves. This and the MR2 just scream Max Headroom 80’s angularity.

  2. Chris Says:

    I got one of these used back in the late 80’s for pretty cheap and drove it for a few years until the transmission gave out. Mine was the same color but it was indeed a rusty bucket (it had rusted-through holes in the floors under the floor mats and water would come in when I drove through puddles!)

    As for the drive – it drives like a go-cart – very fun through the curves. Not especially fast and not much for a top speed (with the stock engine).

    Very easy to work on – which is a good thing given the fact that the carburetors (dual Stromberg) and timing need near constant adjustment!

  3. Vino Says:

    I was given a 79TR7 in pretty poor shape. 2 years ago I started restoring her in earnest. Once I got it driving I found it drove like cr@#! I wasn’t sure I should even bother rebuilding the suspension.

    It pulled very hard to the right (I thought for sure something had to be bent – it couldn’t be just misalignment). Once 45 mph was reached a serious shake developed in the steering, that made you think the car was shaking apart. The shake would last until you pushed past 55. It was said by people on the internet, the shake was normal and endemic of TR7s. Oh yea, there was also a serious ‘clank’ every time I’d drive over the bump. At freeway speeds you’d think the engine was falling out.

    The car also suffers from drive shaft lash…even with a new drive shaft…I know firsthand, I wasted my money buying a new one.

    Well thank goodness the info about the shake was wrong. The rear suspension was rebuilt and 60% of the issues disappeared. Rebuilt the front suspension and steering and wow what an improvement – couldn’t believe it was the same car. I then installed a “needle bearing” kit for the steering and the car then felt like it had power steering (turning a low speed with one hand was not a problem). And the ‘Clank’- sound turned out to be the transmission mount that had completely disintegrated.

    With a rebuilt suspension, new struts/shocks, modern low profile tires (sorry you’ll have to dump those 13×6” original Triumph alloys to something like, 15×8” or even 16×9” wheels), upgraded springs, and install a needle bearing kit a TR7 rides and feels better than any TR6 I’ve ever driven and or better than most suspension tuned cars I’ve driven.

    Replace the two CV joins at the end of the drive shaft with two modern, replaceable/serviceable universal joints (have a drive shaft built at a local shop) and you’ll know what a piece of cr@#$ the old drive shaft is…you’ll think the original drive shaft was made of rubber.

    What makes the TR7, (YES I’LL SAY IT) BETTER than a TR6, TR4 or any Spitfire for that matter…making it the BEST HANDLING TRIUMPH EVER MADE…is its modern wheel base. A Geo Metro has a larger wheel base than a TR6. Let’s face it, the short wheel base of a TR6 make it a car built for a passenger of one…you may as well be driving a Vespa (Vespas’ are sexy too… in a dorky sort of away, and they can drive on the freeway to boot…just like a TR6), if you were after performance.

    Finally, while TR6s have an early independent suspension system, the short wheel base, prevents a driver from taking any real advantage from it.

    The huge short coming of the TR7s is power. In stock from they are grossly under powered (with California spec. cars having even less power than the rest). the only simple solution is buying a TR8…the fuel injection versions are bests but they should be upgraded to the later Hot Wire systems found on later Range Rover engines (yes an early 3.5L engine can be fitted with the later Hot Wire system …You’ll get 200+ hp and 28-32 mpg, running regular gasoline…Keep your TR6 curves because I call those numbers real sexiness).

    Consider installing a 16v Dolomite Sprint engine? This could only be a dream in the States. You could import the higher compression parts from GB, rebuild the lower end. Import the other parts needed as well…i suppose it’s possible, given enough time, money and patience but consider, I can father the next Michael Jordon as well…but it’s not FU!@#$% likely.

    One last note…I believe the only back TR7s that came to the US (yours is a left hand drive car so I assume it’s a US spec car) were Spiders (and the only black TR7s sold in GB were all hard tops). The original graphics on the Spider s were red and reflective in the dark…i can’t see the graphics on your car but they don’t look red…they look gray…better check that out.

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