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“Sometimes legends arise from the most unlikely places. After all, who would have thought that a sports car that was, in essence, a quick engine and tape-stripe update designed to tide its maker over for a year until its more comprehensively updated successor was ready for launch, would become a cult favourite in the classic British sports car world? Triumph's TR250 may have been a stopgap marketing exercise, but for many enthusiasts, it symbolizes the best of the two worlds it straddles.” Hemmings, August 2011.
Given we have another example currently listed we are not going to dwell on the background of the TR4; simply jump over to Lot 160 for the model’s details and summary of its place in the Triumph TR line. We pick up the story in 1965 when, as its minimal mechanical upgrades vis a vis the TR3 started to catch up with the ‘4’, the TR4A was introduced which, most significantly, bought a worthwhile improvement to the rear suspension; a fully independent set up replacing the live axle and cart springs that dated back to the early 1950s. Thankfully (some might say) this was a semi-trailing arm system rather than the, how can we put it, less predictable, swing axle arrangement utilised on ‘inferior’ machines such as the Herald, Spitfire and 300 SL ‘Gullwing’ Mercedes. Though at the time the toss was argued as to whether the TR’s handling was significantly improved or not, the general consensus was that the ride certainly was. Tweaks to the cylinder head and its manifolds upped power and torque while a smart walnut dash moved from the options list to become standard equipment. Badging aside, visually the exterior’s biggest change was a new grill with the front indicator lights repositioned from within it into rather lovely deco-esc flowing housings on the front wings from which chrome strips ran back to near the trailing edge of the doors.
Hear endeth the lesson on the TR4A though, with particular relevance to this car, the TR line continued with the TR5 and its American cousin the TR250. These models enjoyed possibly the most significant upgrade for the TR line, namely its engine with a game changing move from the worthy if slightly agricultural four pot to a silky smooth six. Intended to coincide with a ‘face and tail lift’ to visually update the TR line, the engine was ready to go before the new bodywork could be put into production and hence the relatively short and small production run TR5 and its American counterpart the TR250 were born; the sweet spot of the early beautifully curvaceous Italian body-style married to the British brawn 2.5 litre six cylinder engine. All very good and desirable but by age and chassis number, this is ‘just’ a 4A I hear you say and you would be correct – sort of, please bear with us.
Though not much is known of the TR’s early history other than the fact that it was first registered on 7th June 1966 with its Chassis (or as Standard Triumph referred to it, Commission) Number confirming it to be a right hand drive 4A fitted with an overdrive ‘box. The trail warms up considerably in the late 1980s thanks to a pre-GDPR ownership trace provided by the DVLA. This reveals a series of private and Trade owners including a Mr Raymond Chapman of Ely who seems to have been a long term custodian in the 1970s and 1980s. The then white TR passed to Mr Ivan Wise of Burghfield Common in 1989 before it arrived with renowned dealers Autodrome in London by which time it was finished in red. It was quickly sold to a Professor Taylor who bought it with him when he moved down from Shap to Long Eaton near Nottingham. In 1997 it was sold, via Heath Court Classic Cars, to Mr Glen Jones of Wrexham who passed the car on a couple of years later to Mr Peter Hinson from Burnham, Buckinghamshire. The new owner was looking for something he could use both on the road and for perhaps some mild competition work.
As detailed in the history file, the TR was fitted with a tuned if somewhat tired TR4 engine and this was removed by Mr Hinson who then acquired a very late (circa 1976) ‘low compression, recessed block’ “CF” engine from TR Bitz which had first resided in a US specification TR6. Cruising the boulevards of California this unit, running standard twin Zenith-Stromberg carburettors, would have generated a lazy 106 BHP, barely enough to get the attention of the horses never mind scare them; for Mr Hinson it was simply a stepping off point to far more respectable power with which to motivate his home grown TR250/TR5. He quickly set about rebuilding the engine to a very high specification and standard, the full details of which are listed in the TR’s history file. Highlights include an increase in compression ratio (to 10:1) courtesy of a skim of the cylinder head by Vulcan Engineering along with porting and gas flowing to ensure the Stage 2 valves from TR Bitz and Moss’ “Fast road 89” 290 degree duration cam could work effectively. Roller rockers (as shown in the photo gallery) with supplementary external oil feed, lightweight tubular pushrods, lightened and hardened cam followers and a duplex timing chain with alloy sprockets concluded the impressive valve train set up. The crank was crack tested, polished and balanced by Vulcan who also trued, lightened and balanced the rods along with taking some weight off the flywheel, again ensuring it was perfectly balanced. An improved late inlet manifold was matched to both the head ports and a pair of 1 ¾” SU carburettors whose springs and needles were carefully selected with the help of a rolling road. A Moss six into two tubular exhaust manifold was selected and mated to one of their twin pipe stainless steel systems with straight through boxes sporting chrome tail pipes. The result, verified on a rolling road at a Malory Park TR day, was an impressive 161.7 BHP; something like 60% more than a TR4A or TR250 and comfortably exceeding the 150 BHP of a TR5.
This attention to detail, use of the best components and doubtless associated considerable expense was evident throughout the rest of the car’s rebuild and again the work carried out is comprehensively documented in the history file.
The gearbox, with overdrive working on 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears, was checked over and found to be in perfect condition as was the 4.1:1 differential which was installed using poly-bushes. The propeller shaft was rebuilt utilising heavy duty universal joints and it was then dynamically balanced while the drive-shafts were treated to rare and expensive needle roller constant velocity joints.
The suspension was stripped, repainted and rebuilt using Superflex bushes, Moss 390 lb springs all round and a TR Bitz rear telescopic damper conversion kit. Damping itself was entrusted to a combination of GAZ rear and Koni fronts, adjustable in both cases. Negative camber rear wishbone spacers were employed along with a TR Bitz poly-bushed 7/8” front anti roll bar and poly-bushed steering rack mounts.
The braking system was, given the engine’s power, sensibly uprated using EBC vented discs and Green Stuff pads clamped by new standard callipers fed by braided hoses and copper pipes while 6”X15” Minator alloy wheels were fitted.
A 28 amp alternator and high torque starter motor upped the reliability game and the engine was fed from a Moss aluminium fuel tank via a Facet solid state pump and Filter King fuel filter and pressure regulator.
The chassis was found to be in good order and it was reinforced utilising a Moss plating kit and TR6 front suspension turret brace.
The bodywork was left fairly standard though the TR had already acquired a fiberglass rear off-side wing. Some welded repairs were made to the inner body and floors with strength rather than cosmetics being the priority.
Inside an alloy firewall was installed between the cockpit and boot along with Corbeau reclining seats (since replaced with leather items), Sabelt harness’ and a Safety Devices roll bar which is currently with the car but not installed. Instrumentation was ‘period’ upgraded with a GT6 7,000 RPM tachometer (redlined at 6,000).
The TR was used in the TR Revington Sprint and Hillclimb Championship driven by ‘Ollie’ though Mr Hinson was still paying the bills until at least 2007. On file is a disc of photos (please see the gallery for a selection) of the Triumph competing at such venues as Goodwood, Castle Coombe, Prescott, Curborough, Shelsley Walsh, Lydden Hill and Colerne between 2003 and 2009. A second disc contains ‘in car’ video footage of the TR sprinting at Goodwood (including a lurid spin and excellent recovery at Woodcote), Prescott and Longleat in 2007.
Today it is fair to say the TR’s condition is very much in the ‘use it’ camp with function taking priority over cosmetics and personally we love it all the more for that!
The bodywork seems commendably straight and rot free with, by separate chassis cars’ standards, fairly decent panel fit. The TR’s paintwork is slightly less good, if thoroughly in keeping with the car’s roll in life. It is a bit flat in places and carries a few chips, some of which have allowed a little surface rust to develop as shown in the photo gallery. However, this, the lack of any bumpers, matt finish roof and its purposeful stance give it something of a ‘rat rod’ look. Fun fact; the ‘Surrey Top’ is actually the name for the fabric centre section with the rest of the roof technically a ‘hardtop’; regardless, both cloth and fibreglass items are with the car along with the associated framework. The fiberglass rear section is fitted with a Perspex screen free from major scratches or clouding.
The chrome-work on the Triumph is in pretty good condition with just some very light pitting in places though fortunately the tricky to refinish Mazak components such as the front indicator housings are not badly affected. The inner headlight rims have some rust on them and the outers are missing.
All five alloy wheels are in good, un-kerbed condition and shod with premium Goodyear Eagle 205/60 R15 sized tyres which still retain plenty of tread.
The interior is for the most part presentable with the black leather seats now nicely worn in. The walnut dashboard is a little scruffy but the dash top, door panels, carpets and so on are all in good shape. A nice riveted wood-rim steering wheel is a lovely touch as is the alloy gear lever knob. Overall, for a competition oriented car it is really pretty civilised.
In the boot the spare wheel is accompanied by a dipstick for the fuel tank, plus a jack and wheel brace. As can be seen in the photo gallery, the boot floor is solid with nice sharp seams.
Under the bonnet the Hammerite paint finish is not especially beautiful but it has clearly lasted well and overall the engine bay is clean, supremely functional and well laid-out. The TR5/6 specification radiator, Newtronic Electronic ignition, big SUs and Ramair foam filter, braided oil cooler and external rocker gear oil feed pipes, alloy rocker cover and catch tank all point to a well modified machine. The engine is remarkably oil tight being pretty much bone dry, rocker cover to sump.
The chassis remains in very good condition with the Hammerite paint applied some twenty years ago clearly still doing a fine job of protecting it. There are just one or two areas of light surface rust but even the notoriously susceptible outriggers look to be in great shape. Please see the selection of photographs in the gallery and draw your own conclusions or better still, inspect the car personally on the vendor’s car lift.
Mechanically the Triumph looks and sounds to be in rude health, the 2,498 cc engine starting well enough with some choke and a prolonged period of idling did not push the engine temperature up or oil pressure down unduly though a blip of the throttle is enough to remind one that it is much more about higher engine speeds. Having not had much use recently, it would seem sensible to put some ‘sighter’ miles under its wheels before exercising it as vigorously as its previous owners intended.
The TR comes with a decent history file containing paperwork focused on the more important post 2000 period during which it has been developed into its current form. A large number of bills from the likes of Moss, Demon Tweaks, TRGB, TR Bitz, TR Shop, Triumph Sports Six Club, Vulcan Engineering, Canley Classics and Revington TR document the modifications carried out. There is also a dynamometer printout from Gaz-Matic pertaining to the rear dampers.
The current V5C is present, correctly updated with the six cylinder engine number and capacity, along with the copies of historical registration documentation mentioned above and thirteen old MOT certificates covering the period 1991 to 2011. Various spare parts catalogues and the two discs previously mentioned are also present.
“All go and no show” admirably sums up the ethos of this hugely capable machine. Hot rod, rat rod, resto-mod, call it what you will, it is indisputably the very antithesis of the proverbial trailer queen. Have a ball blasting over to your speed event of choice, empty the boot, pump up the tyres and when the competition is over, drive home; sounds like a great idea to us. Not easily pigeonholed, is it a TR4A with a tuned TR6 engine in it, a right hand drive TR250 or even a TR5 without the troublesome fuel injection? Who really cares, at the end of the day it’s a super-solid, purposeful sports car with a massive mechanical specification that would cost a fortune to replicate today for a fraction of the cost of a factory TR250 never mind a TR5.