the fleet: 1981 Triumph TR7 DHC

tr7sMy sixth TR7 and my second drop-top, this lovely late-model wedge comes in the best Leyland colour of the early nineteen eighties, Triton Green! Anoraks will be interested to know it’s a June 1981 model, made just six months before the whole Triumph brand was (tragically) wound up, and it’s a very original car that spent most of its life down in the West Country. It has a rare period dealer fit side-stripe kit, in shagtastic gold and orange!

It’s got 36,000 miles on the clock, and drives well having just had new Spax dampers – although I’ve kept the ride height stock in an attempt to keep it a soft, smooth riding car – unlike some earlier ‘7s I’ve had with the fully rally package. The drop head is a decently taut machine – certainly much more so than an MGF for example – but doesn’t have the fixed head’s wonderful hewn-from-granite feel, so I think super-hard suspension on a DHC is overkill…

As any TR7 owner knows, the brakes are appalling by modern standards, although that’s partly down to the brake lines which swell over time. So a new set of stainless hoses plus some rougher Mintex pads deliver far better stopping power from the stock brakes – although you’d never want to tailgate a modern car! Basically you have to drive the car with respect, and use the engine braking plus a good bit of forward planning to make swift progress.

I’ve opted to keep the stock 13″ wheels for reasons of originality, which means you’re stuck with 185/70 HR13 tyres; you can’t get sticky rubber in this size, which is one more reason why you have to drive the TR7 intelligently. Still, it the dry it sticks well and the wide track gives decent roadholding before the rear end starts bouncing out on the limit. The short wheelbase gives snap oversteer, but it’s pretty controllable and indeed quite a bit of fun when you’ve got used to swift forward progress with only two front wheels in permanent contact (hopefully) with the road! If you think a TR7 is bad, try a TR8 on stock rubber in the wet, and this is a push-over!

This car is still one of the most comfortable two-seaters I’ve ever been in – even by modern standards – and has a lovely tan houndstooth check cloth interior which has great ambience. It’s a great size for two people and takes loads of luggage; the late Canley cars such as this had a higher top gear, making it an easy cruiser at (ahem) 70MPH. The tan vinyl hood is far less of a fiddle than an MGB, although it’s not quite up to the likes of modern rag tops. Still, it’s a charming car to drive and has oodles of character. The 105BHP four-pot twin carb engine is very torquey and makes swift progress with far less gearchanging than an MX5, for example.

I do love TR7s – the well preserved ones are pure pleasure to drive, and they’re simply not like anything else on the road. Long may they run!

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