“Let us get the Triumph TR4 in correct perspective from the start. It is a sports car pure and simple, not a G.T. machine, and is intended to instil fun into your motoring rather than provide effortless long-distance travel across Europe.” Motor Sport, January 1963.
Into the ‘export at all costs’ post-war sports car market the Standard Motor Company launched the immediately successful Triumph TR2 in 1953 (the “TR1” having been labelled a ‘death trap’ by its development engineer), which morphed pretty seamlessly into the TR3 just two years later. Well-engineered with good performance they were visually very similar if a little ‘pre-war’ perhaps with bodywork showing the remnants of the separate wings that the market was inexorably evolving away from. Without the spare capital to develop a replacement, the TR3 batted on like a stubborn tail end batsman, earning valuable foreign currency particularly from the USA, for the next seven years. Come 1961 the corporate coffers had recovered sufficiently to facilitate the launch of the next generation TR, not surprisingly (or that imaginatively) titled the TR4. The tried and tested running gear hung off an effective separate chassis was for the most part left well alone though the introduction of rack and pinion steering was a significant dynamic step forward. The available cash was instead splashed on the area most needing attention, namely updating the TR’s looks and incorporating such by then ‘must haves’ as wind-up windows as opposed to separate side screens. To this end Triumph, as they had been for all their new models since the Herald of 1959, turned south-southeast to the styling house of one Giovanni Michelotti. Dressed in its sharp new Italian threads, the TR4, despite its rather more staid homespun M&S underwear, proved to be just the ticket for the 1960’s sports car market.
Pitched naturally between the MGB and Austin Healey 3000 on both price and performance, the TR4 sold well, though frankly its numbers were dwarfed by rivals from Abingdon which makes it a far rarer machine today.
According to the V5C on file this TR4 was first registered on 7th April 1964 and it has had just five former keepers. The chassis plate confirms it was originally supplied in Signal Red (Paint Code 32) with Black trim piped in White (Trim Code 11), a combination it pleasingly still sports today.
Though being sold as something of a project, there could well be very little needed to return the TR to the road as some basic issues have already been addressed. New clutch master and slave cylinders have been fitted and the system is working well. Work has started on the brakes with a new master cylinder already fitted which just needs connecting to evaluate the condition of the rest of the system. A new fuel pump and filter unit has also been fitted along with a new, decent capacity battery (along with a cut-off switch) so the Triumph does start and drive, even if stopping is at this stage another matter. A new windscreen and seal have just been fitted along with four new Avon ZT7 tyres in the correct 165 width, plus corresponding inner tubes. New Coverdale carpets in ‘Blenheim Claret’ have been loosely fitted prior to final fixing.
The TR appears to have an excellent, straight bodyshell with very good panel fit, especially by separate chassis cars’ standards, while the floors are solid and display no evidence of major repairs.
Strangely the paint on the off side of the car is presentable but on the near side it is flaking off on the top of rear wing and door allowing some surface rust to form, though bright metal is also evident. We can only surmise that these areas were not properly prepared prior to painting and we would suggest that this could be reprepared and painted relatively easily but please see the photo gallery and draw your own conclusions, or better still view the car in the metal. Though apparently freshly painted, the wire wheels could have been better prepared before this was carried out.
Generally speaking, the brightwork is all in fairly poor condition though on the upside the radiator grill, being alloy, will probably polish up quite nicely. Unfortunately, the scuttle vent grill seems to be missing.
Fun fact; the ‘Surrey Top’ is actually the name for the fabric centre section with the rest of the roof technically a ‘hardtop’. There is metal rigid centre section with the car plus a pair of Surrey Tops though unfortunately the hardtop’s rear screen has a crack in it.
The cockpit of the Triumph is for the most part just in need of a little TLC; the new carpets are very smart but as mentioned, their fit needs finalising and while the what looks to be original vinyl seats and trim panels are nicely mellowed, some stitching is starting to come adrift and a good clean would not go amiss. The dashboard is less smart having been somewhat crudely spray painted but at least all the instruments are the original Jaegers with just one Lucas ammeter interloper. Though again in need of a little light refurbishment the aftermarket, slightly dished, rivetted wood-rim steering wheel is rather nice. The lower dash plastic covered foam has cracked and broken away around the passenger grab handle, perhaps evidence of a particularly white knuckled ride in the past... Overall, we would suggest this is an area that could be dramatically improved with time and effort rather than significant financial outlay.
Correctly finished in body colour, the engine bay is currently presentable with just a little surface rust to the inner wings as shown in the photo gallery. The new battery, master cylinders and fuel pump are all evident and the fan belt looks fairly young too. The Stromberg carburettors are fitted with ram pipes and mesh filters though the TR looks to be highly original down to the paper type oil filter (hopefully not the actual original filter), radiator and metal cooling fan.
The lack of brakes prevented a full mechanical evaluation but at least engine-wise the Triumph seems to be in rude health, starting well with some choke and showing healthy oil pressure of around 60 PSI at idle rising to 80 with a few revs, albeit when cold.
The underside seems remarkably sound and original having been well protected in the past. There is just a little surface rust evident but the floors and chassis look to be very solid with no repairs we could see having been done or indeed needed. Even the susceptible outriggers and jacking points seem to be in good order. There is some surface rust on the suspension components but also encouraging evidence of the use of a grease gun. The new clutch slave cylinder is evident and though there is a small drip from the differential nose piece and a misting of oil around the sump, there do not appear to be any major fluid leaks.
The history file contains the current V5C registration document along with recent bills for the new parts referred to above.
Virtually complete and very original we had debated marketing this Triumph as an out and out restoration project but we are now more inclined to put it in the ‘use and improve’ category with some mechanical fettling and recommissioning prior to returning it to the road. Once this had been achieved, attention could then turn to cosmetic issues such as paint, chrome-work and trim. Having said that, a new owner might choose to take advantage of the TR’s very solid and original condition and treat it to a full but relatively straightforward restoration. Decisions, decisions…