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“A real dual-purpose sports car that can work all week and win in competition on weekends.” Sports Illustrated, August 1955.
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 ultimately spawned the similar looking TR3, Italianate (Michelotti) TR4 and 5 and Germanic (Karmann) influenced TR6 (we won’t go beyond that…), all with broadly similar separate chassis underpinnings; twenty-three years with just a few tweaks proves just how good the original TR running gear was. Well engineered with good performance it was perhaps visually a little ‘pre-war’ with bodywork showing the remnants of separate wings though with a little imagination, a low light, a squint and perhaps a Bombay Sapphire or two, it is surely not that dissimilar to a late 1930s BMW 328 (go on, try it, especially the gin bit), right down to the prominent headlights and aluminium stone guards protecting the rear wings, and no one complains about their looks. At least with the dawning of the Jet Age, the TR got a suitably styled radiator air intake.
As their quoted Road Test of 1955 ably demonstrated, Sports Illustrated certainly took to the TR2, lauding the “sports/racing” car’s performance, versatility, comfort, finish and luggage space, though they were somewhat less flattering about its looks commenting “When the TR2's bug-eyed headlamps have been removed and the front slightly redesigned, it will also be a handsome car.” They seemed particularly impressed that as Triumph’s Competitions Director Ken Richardson pointed out, in a virtually standard machine at 120 MPH on the Mulsanne Straight during that year’s Le Mans 24 hour race one could “steer with one hand and light a cigarette with the other”. You could certainly choose which way to kill yourself in those days…
It is often the case that the first of the line becomes the most sought after, even if some of an early car’s features were considered less than ideal at the time, quickly being altered. While we are not quite talking ‘Flat Floor’ E-Type here, the early ‘Long Door’ TR2 is a desirable beast. Though the side profile is definitely pleasingly pure and uncluttered with the sill line hidden behind the door (which is actually tall rather than long but we won’t split hairs), issues such as being unable to get out of the car if parked too close to the kerb soon resulted in a light redesign. This particularly fine early TR2 was first registered before that though, on September 14th 1954. Originally domiciled in Herefordshire, by 1967 it was Bristol based under the ownership of a Mr Anthony Paul who passed it onto Mr Barry Simon at RAF Andover in 1974. Mr Simon took it with him to RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire before selling it to Flight Lieutenant Dane Crosby, also based at Lyneham, who was custodian of the TR from 1976 until the most recent private owner purchased the car from him in 1981, some thirty-eight years ago.
A comprehensive ‘nut and bolt’ restoration was entrusted to Worcester Classic Cars in 2002; three years and not far off £40,000 later, the TR emerged resplendent in its red over black livery. No area of the car was overlooked and some fourteen years later the Triumph still looks virtually box-fresh which is a testament to both the quality of the restoration and care given to the car since. Aside from an initial ‘running in’ drive to Berlin and back the TR2 has for the most part resided in the long term owner’s French bolt hole, covering just over 4,000 miles since the restoration was completed and the odometer reset. Recently driven back to the Midlands from France, the Triumph was treated to a new fuel tank sender and a tune of its carburettors in August of this year just to ensure everything was ‘au point’.
In the hit and miss watery autumn sunshine, the Triumph looks superb. The excellent panel fit and shut lines evident are doubtless in part due to coachbuilders Mulliner producing the TR2’s bodies for Triumph originally but also testimony to the quality of Worcester Classic Cars’ work. A couple of minor shallow dinks which proved invisible to the camera are the only blemishes we could find and they could likely be removed by a dent master (other dent removal experts are available).
The chrome-work is in similarly lovely, blemish-free condition and it sits well against the TR’s high quality paint with both finishes having an excellent lustre.
Though it looks to have rarely been used, there is a very full set of weather-gear with zipped side screens (equally handy for both toll booths and fast food drive throughs), a full tonneau cover and three window hood, the webbing of which requires some repair.
Be they glass or plastic, the light lenses are crack and scratch free and top quality Firestone tyres with generous tread depth remaining are fitted to the strangely charming-in-a-forest-of-wires steel wheels.
The leather bucket seats are more ‘Vintage’ in shape than say a TR4’s but are very comfortable and supportive; there is some very slight piping damage but they are for the most part in great condition. A slightly dished, riveted Moto-Lita wood-rim steering wheel is fitted which makes for better leverage benefiting those of us spoilt by modern power assistance and the carpeting is as new. A full set of white on black Jaeger instruments are arranged on the neatly ordered dashboard, though the less period correct oversized gear knob, while comfortable in use, is somewhat out of place; doubtless an easy, cheap, ‘quick win’.
Accessed by releasing a pair of Dzus fasteners with a chunky chrome ‘T’ key, the engine bay is very clean, tidy and orderly as well as being refreshingly simple. Original mesh air filters, a full set of body tags and commission plate are good to see, while an aluminium rocker cover is aesthetically a nice after-market touch which has the practical benefit of keeping the tappet noise down too.
As one might expect given the limited mileage covered since the Triumph’s restoration, it is rock solid in terms of both body and chassis with no corrosion evident anywhere and pin sharp seams throughout as can be seen in photo gallery. Underneath plated nuts and bolts are still pretty bright and oxidation free while the finish on suspension components remains intact. There is just the lightest coating of ‘protective’ oil from the various major mechanical units but for the most part it is admirable dry with just a light smattering of puddle-mud. Aeroquip brake lines and a stainless steel exhaust are fitted while well-greased trunnions point to conscientious maintenance.
The rebuilt two litre engine starts on the first touch of the push button starter, intuitively sited adjacent to the ignition key – and you thought ergonomics were a recent thing. When stone cold the oil pressure reads right at the top of the gauge with a blip of the throttle and even with a little heat in the fluids it settles to a very healthy 70 PSI at an 800 RPM idle. With the fly-off handbrake released and first gear snicked via the positive, close gated change, the Triumph moves off the line smoothly thanks in no small part to the exceptionally torquey engine. The cam and lever steering arrangement appears well set up and gives surprisingly little away to the rack and pinion set up of later TRs.
The well-stocked history file contains the current V5C as well as a green continuation logbook dating from 1967. Photographs and various invoices relating to both the restoration of the TR2 and its general maintenance both in the UK and France are also included.
Having sampled this fine example of the earliest of the TR line we have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. Looking perhaps older than the way it drives, the experience is different enough to be fun but not so alien that it is stressful. A proper cloth cap and headscarf bit of kit, it is worth bearing in mind the TR2 is also Mille Miglia eligible which surely brings us full circle to the point Sports Illustrated made back in 1955.