Dateline: January 1969-Richard Nixon was sworn in as President and NASA chose Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to make the first land ing on the moon. In the UK, Ford unveiled its new sports saloon the Capri, and the QE2 luxury ocean liner was stuck in hatbot because of trouble with her turbines! Yassir Arafat was appoint ed chairman of the PLO a quarter of a century ago.
However it was also in January of 1969 (well, to be specific the first car was produced on September 19, 1968), that the powerful Triumph TR6 was introduced, and today the car commands a strong following among Triumph enthusiasts in the United States despite production having ceased in July of 1976. A spirit of individuality gave these cars the style and performance to make it big-especially in America.
The TR6 was wrapped up in an attractive and impressive re-style of the venerable TR4. However, the TR4’s body stylist, Michellotti, was unable to take on the job so the redesign was undertaken this time by Gcimany’s
Karmann. The re-style managed to give a whole new look to the car while retaining much of the inner panelwork. The TR6 featured more angular and aggressive lines, and the longer flatter tail incorporated a somewhat larger trunk, even if it was a bit more awkward to get to now.
Affordable performance is what the TR6 is all about. To be precise, the ability to reach 60mph in just over eight seconds in the non-U.S.A. 150 bhp versions, and maybe half a second or so more in the later 125bhp versions. The fact that carburetor versions for the U.S.A. would require almost three seconds longer to reach this mark didn’t seem to dampen enthusiast’s spirit.
The 24948cc six-cylinder engine allows all versions to comfortably cruise at 70 mph. The engine’s plentiful torque also makes around town and traffic driving a docile and pleasant experience. The big six engine was conventional enough with it’s overhead valve design The cylinder block and head being of cast iron with cam journals running straight in the block, was a source of perpetual wear and trouble for restorers. Conventional rear wheel drive was through one of the most pleasant, four- speed, all-synchro manual gearboxes to he found anywhere. The optional “A Type” Laycock de Normanville over drive, which operated on 2nd, 3rd and top gears through 1972, was replaced in 1973 by a J-Type unit which functioned only on top gear. Final drive was Hypoid type with articulated rear drive shafts.
Up front, the suspension was by upper and lower wishbones with coil springs, while at the rear the suspension was independent with coil springs and semi-trailing arms. Wonderfully reassuring disc front brakes were complemented by rear drums and were servo assisted. The steering was by rack and pinion and benefited from the addition of a front anti-roll bar. Wheels widths grew in width to 5 inches and then later to 5 1/2 inches to provide a more sure-footed ride than its senior relative, the TR250.
Sales were especially brisk in the export markets. In fact, out or a total production of 94,619 TR6s, only 8370 were sold in Britain.
However, by 1972 Triumph designers were feeling the design a bit long in the tooth and so, for the 1973 model year, some major changes were called for. These included a new aerodynamic front spoiler, blacked out windscreen surround and wiper arms, interior trim revisions, a smaller diameter steering wheel, new instruments, and brightly colored Union Jack transfers for the rear fenders.
Few changes were to come after that aside from an increasing proportion of safety and pollution equipment. Obtrusive looking rubber overriders were fitted to front and rear bumpers in 1975.
The last TR6 was built in July of 1976 and is currently owned by Bob Tullius Racing. However, cars remained on dealer lots well into the 1977 model year, thus making it quite feasible to own a new 1977 TR6!
The handling and roadholding are very good, and not at the expense of comfort either. The IRS system (derived from the TR4A) helps to ensure respectable behavior even on the roughest of roads. A well furnished interior doesn’t hurt things either! There’s even a genuine wood dash fascia to make your trips more enjoyable. In proper running condition, a TR6 should return about 25-28 mpg on the highway, even when driven briskly!
Buying a TR6 – A Few Pointers
We get quite a few inquiries from readers who ask us about the pitfalls of buying a British sports car, and the TR6 is no exception!
The chassis frames can suffer from rust and/or damage, so examine the frame looking for evidence of twisting and corrosion. The front suspension mounting bracketry frequently suffers from curb-side parking damage and is particularly susceptible to cracking and breaks. Fortunately, repair pieces are readily available and easily welded in place. Mounting brackets and bolts hold ing in the differential are another “Achilles Heel” and should be inspected very carefully for cracks. Chassis sections around the trailing arms are worthy of a close examination for rust. Repair sections are available to repair even the most badly rusted frames.
Turning to the bodywork, ensure that the hood is correctly aligned with the surrounding inner front fenders and front valence. Similarity, check the trunk lid for even gaps and rust on the trailing edge. Bad alignment due to accident damage could mean the chassis frame is also twisted. The strong sill assemblies are prone to rust and their condition can seriously compromise the integrity of the body structure. Also, be forewarned of a car that has had cover sills fined in the past – these could be disguising, lather than curing, rust damage. Other areas to disappear through tinworm can be the extremeties of the inner and outer front fenders, front wheel arch splash guards, the rear faces of the B-posts behind the doors, and headlamp buckets. Fortunately, virtually every single body panel is available, most from original tooling.
The TR6s engine is normally a long lasting unit, however oil pressure much lower than 50 psi at idle on a warm engine may indicate that an overhaul will be needed soon. Rocker gear is prone to rapid wear from a poor original lubrication system. Repairs in this area can be costly to fix since rocker arms are not the bushed type and must be replaced once wear is present. Tuftrided rocker shafts (Moss #839-130), and an external oil-feed line (Moss #821-360), will help to avoid these problems in the future.
Driving the car should be part of any pre-purchase inspection. Listen for “clonks” at the rear when the clutch is suddenly engaged. This could indicate worn universal joints (they’re present in abundance on IRS Triumphs!) or, worse, broken differential mounts. Necessary repairs in this area will require removal of the differential and likely the exhaust system, as well. Gearboxes should be checked for weak synchromesh on second gear, and listen for noisy (read worn!) bearings. Otherwise the normal running gear checks apply but it is important that the lower trunnions and upper ball joints have been lubricated regularly. Finally ensure the suspension bushes appear to be in good condition.
Longer wearing polyurethane bushes are available from Moss to insure longer bushing life in the future.
We here at Moss Motors can give you a lot of help when you eventually get your TR6 dream car and we would certainly recommend that you join your local Triumph Club and take someone along when contemplating your purchase. The Triumph TR6 club caters to TR6 and is highly recommended. The Vintage Triumph Register has a large and enthusiastic TR6 contingent.
A belated credit by the way…the superb TR6 on the cover of the Summer issue of Moss Motoring was taken by Michael Hayes of Colony Texas.