A British sports-car that is practical, economical and represents excellent value-for-money
To review our road experiences with a Triumph TR2 for the benefit of the large number of potential buyers of these cars is not as easy as it might seem. The TR2 is by now a well-established sports model, and to describe it as a very good one is to state the obvious, after the splendid showing in competition motoring by this Coventry product which, after all, is a skilful development of standard components and not a specialised sports car designed for such tasks. Further, so many satisfied owners of these cars meet and discuss their virtues and shortcomings that a full test-report of the TR2 would be repetitive ground. However, although this car has come to us for review rather late, we are convinced, from the many inquiries we receive as to its character and manner-of-going, that some impressions will be acceptable to the majority of our readers.
Before embarking on this task, let us get the sports Triumph in proper perspective. Design of the TR2 was commenced in about March 1952, and the first production example was exhibited at the Earls Court Motor Show of that year. The idea was to meet the growing demand for a compact, fast and not-too-expensive two-seater of modern lines and this the Triumph design-team did with some skill, by using a Standard Eight chassis, with Triumph Mayflower axle and suspension units, powered by the trusty Standard Vanguard engine linered-down from 2,088 c.c. to under 2 litres and endowed with a new cylinder-head to take two carburetters. The Vanguard four-cylinder long-stroke wet-liner engine was a “safe bet” for the job, for it had already proved its reliability and freedom from servicing snags in tractors and the versatile Vanguard saloon, besides being employed by the Morgan Motor Company in single carburetter 68-b.h.p form to power their Plus Four sports car. The developed engine gave 75 b.h.p., was mated to a modified Vanguard gearbox providing four forward speeds, and gave the 1952 TR2 a maximum speed of 90 m.p.h.
The immense and immediate interest which this new Triumph aroused caused the Company to swiftly iron out the initial bugs. They improved the shape of the tail, stiffened the frame, fitted an overdrive gear and increased the power output to 90 b.h.p. It is to Standard’s everlasting credit that, having come thus far, instead of sitting back to admire, they sent their test-driver, K.Richardson, to Lindley, where he was set to lap the M.I.R.A. track for hour after hour at over 100 m.p.h. The chassis proved satisfactorily stable, but the hard-tried engine flung big-ends and broke its exhaust valves. Valuable lessons were learnt and the production TR2 was soon able to present itself as a 100 m.p.h. two-seater of modest first-cost, surprising economy and freed of earlier weaknesses. Since then we need hardly remind our readers that a special version has reached 125 m.p.h. at Jabbeke, and others have finished in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans races and performed outstandingly in their class in the T.T., while the rally successes of the TR2 are legion.
It is now our happy task to present our personal, detailed impressions of a normal 1954 wire-wheeled TR2 which came along for test just before Christmas and which, at this hardly ideal time of year, covered a four-figure mileage in the hands of various members of the staff, to their general complete satisfaction.
The makers had requested us,not to submit the car to a full roadtest ritual and consequently no performance figures were recorded. The abilities of the TR2 are by now well known, so it suffices to say that the engine ran up to a limit of 5,000 r.p.m., with only slight vibration towards peak speed to reveal it as a four-cylinder power unit. In top 100 m.p.h. (5,000 r.p.m.) calls for favourable conditions. A very easy indicated 95 m.p.h. is obtainable, with a few more m.p.h. coming up along normal clear stretches of highway. On good roads, at this pace, the Triumph has a commendably straight path, it is perfectly happy when cruised at upwards of 90 on the speedometer. The car we tested had wire wheels shod with ordinary Dunlop tyres.
Acceleration is vivid, to express oneself mildly, and third gear sufficiently close to top to be useful, although the other ratios are somewhat low. The exhaust note is rather prominent, while speed is thus rapidly increased, but in top gear the car is unobtrusive. If completely quiet negotiation of a town or village is called for, overdrive top is the gear to employ. Overdrive, with its convenient control-button, endows the TR2 with the effect of having, with its tractor-like torque-curve, a fivespeed gearbox. As the engine is willing to pull the high (3.03 to 1) o/d ratio from 1,500 r.p.m. upwards, this is normally employed, a rapid change being possible into normal top (or fourth speed) by operation of the aforesaid button, so useful for overtaking fast-cruising traffic, as 500 r.p.m. is gained on the power curve. The highest speed achieved was an indicated 112 m.p.h. (3,900 r.p.m.) equal to a calculated 97 m.p.h., whereas in fourth gear the highest indicated speed was 100 m.p.h.
For a car with a basic price of only £625, the speed and acceleration are beyond criticism and of high merit. Besides the performance of the TR2 , which, as we proved, enables a jaunt from London to Exeter and back again to be fitted in comfortably between morning coffee and a late dinner, taking lunch en route and never fully extending the car, its other qualities are astonishing for so modest a purchase price.
The body is comfortable, and snug when the hood and screens are erect, the ride is comfortable, and the controls pleasant to handle. If the outward appearance of the TR2 still leaves a good deal to be desired, the interior appointments are for the most part practical, pleasing and of good quality. The instruments are sensibly grouped, with the 5-in. Jaeger speedometer and rev-counter in front of the driver and only very mildly masked by the three-spoke, spring steering wheel. On the centre panel are separate dials showing oil pressure (normally a healthy 60 lb./sq. in.), water temperature (mostly 185 deg. F.), petrol contents and dynamo charge. These dials have black faces with white lettering and as unobtrusive recorders in good taste, convenient to read, could hardly be bettered. The rev-counter needle is remarkably steady; the speedometer reads to 120 m.p.h. and incorporates trip and total mileage recorders. The panel lighting is over-bright, but the dynamo warning light is tolerable. That for the direction-indicators, however, is not only too bright but flashes in unison !. The speedometer has a full-headlamps-beam indicatorlight which, it so happens, enables the welcome outline of the speedometer needle to be seen at night, when the panel lights have been extinguished. There is no clock.
The minor control-buttons are likewise black with white lettering, of good quality, especially the push-in starter-button, but so grouped that those controlling lamps, wipers and panel lighting are set one above the other, leading to confusion of the gloved hand at night. Moreover, we do not love the pull-out combined head and sidelamps switch. The overdrive-button is very conveniently set for operation by the right hand and beside it is the heater-knob, its on-off action a thought indecisive.
Full marks for the heater fitted to the TR2, which sends a fine volume of warm air over one’s feet and lower-half, so useful in an open car, and which can be easily regulated from the single knob, the heat released on one or both sides of the cockpit by the use of flaps, or the flow of water turned off by an under-bonnet valve for ventilation in summer.
The screen is large, inclined and solidly mounted, providing excellent protection without promoting dazzle, and, most commendably, is of laminated glass. The screen-wipers function well, working in unison, but would benefit from water-squirts, and neither they, nor the heater, can be used unless the ignition is switched on. There are heater outlets behind the screen, and the back of the bonnet-top is slotted to direct hot air onto the screen face.
Before the passenger there is a generous, lidded cubby-hole, but a key is required to open it and this can only be withdrawn after the lid has been shut, which is unnecessarily complicated.
The entire body gives the impression of being well made and it is virtually free from noises, except for a prominent rattle from the passenger’s door. The doors shut well and possess usefully commodious rigid pockets. On the car tested they fouled high knobs when opened and there are no outside handles, which is somewhat inconvenient when the sidescreens are erect. The inside handles are worked by “pulls”, the attachment screws of which take a considerable load, and to reach these with the sidescreens up zip fasteners are provided in the screens.
The separate, adjustable bucket seats provide a big range of adjustment, easily effected, and are quite comfortable, although considerably more support of back and shoulders would be a decided improvement and the cushions are just a little on the hard side.
The pedals are badly placed for a heel-and-toe gear-change, and set to the offside of the steering column; those for clutch and brake are rather loosely hung, but convenient to the feet. The interior of the cockpit is carpeted and there is a rubber pad where the passenger’s left toe might rub. The seats and dash are Vynide-covered and the body-sides nicely padded. The gearbox and transmission tunnel is not so big that the clutch-foot cannot find anywhere to rest; there is ample room, although a stronger spring for the foot headlamps-dimmer would prevent inadvertent alteration of the lamps’ beam.
The hand-brake lever is set between the tunnel and the driver’s left leg, which is not at all a bad place for it. It is necessary to reach only slightly for the grip. The lever has a fly-off action, being locked by a button. It holds the car securely.
The remote gear-lever is one of the charms of the TR2. Very conveniently placed, it is truly short and rigid, enabling rapid gear changes to be made. The action is somewhat harsh, but this is largely masked by the short travel of the lever, which is springloaded to safeguard selection of reverse. There is useful synchromesh, but so readily does the engine respond to the throttle that double-declutching will be the usual method of swopping ratios. Some idea of the step-up of the gearbox is afforded by remembering that 2,000 r.p.m. is equal to a speedometer 10 m.p.h. in first gear, 20 m.p.h. in second gear, 30 m.p.h. in third gear, 40 m.p.h. in top gear and 46 m.p.h. in overdrive top. In normal top gear the needles of speedometer and rev.-counter move upwards in roughly the same plane. The speedometer has about the usual degree of optimism, so that the magic 100 m.p.h. is indicated at an actual speed of about 94 m.p.h.
The clutch is smooth, light and slip-free but the pedal has to be pressed down fully to ensure easy engagement of bottom cog.
That about completes the “cockpit-drill,” except to mention that the horn button, in the wheel centre, operates a rather mediocre, blatant horn, that the central rear-view mirror is a trifle shallow and that there are normally no fog or spot-lamps. The flashing-type direction indicators are self-cancelling, brought into action by an excellent flick-switch on the steering-wheel hub.
On the road the Triumph TR2 gets along as its performance on paper suggests it will, which is certainly not hanging about ! The engine only begins to sound and feel as if it is working at beyond 4,000 r.p.m. and is quite happy up to its maximum, although normally not much above 4,000/4,500 r.p.m. is necessary to obtain full acceleration. Over 50 m.p.h. is obtainable in second speed and nearly 80 in third (indicated speeds).
The TR2 is reasonably hard-sprung, so that it does not wallow when cornering or dip its nose excessively under braking. This gives rise to some up and down motion of a rather lively kind, but generally the ride is exceptionally comfortable, even during negotiation of unmade roads. The steering is light and smooth at speed, is geared 2 1/3 turns lock to lock, provides a reasonable turning circle and transmits practically no kick-back. There is mild castor action, a minimum of free play at the wheel, and column vibration is evident only when bad surfaces set up scuttle-shake, which becomes considerable under adverse conditions, and is particularly evident to the passenger.
Although the occupants sit rather low, both front lamps and wings can be seen, in spite of the wide bonnet.
The Triumph holds the road very well under conditions known to enthusiasts as 6/10ths.*
*This refers to the Birkett Dicing Analysis, which expressed briefly, can be quoted as follows;
1/10th, Elderly dodderer taking it easy.
2/10ths, Elderly dodderer going somewhere.
3/10ths, Commercial Traveller concerned mainly with mileage between overhauls.
4/10ths, Most leisurely progression practised by one of us.
5/10ths, Slowest form of rally-driving when right on time.
6/10ths, Everyday motoring when a trifle late or getting time-in-hand on a rally.
7/10ths, No risks taken and could maintain all day, but glad elderly dodderer is not on back seat.
8/10ths, Keen type taking editor of a motoring journal for a demonstration run. This constitutes the main risk in this profession.
9/10ths, Racing driver doing his desperate best under a faster signal from his pit.
10/10ths, Dangerous motor-bandit hotly pursued by entire C.I.D. in Ferraris. Inevitably results in an accident.
In cornering there is an oversteer tendency, leading to sudden rear-end breakaway. The steering feels light and would probably be improved by increased castor action, and could be higher geared for speed work. The rear wheels hold down well when accelerating, wheelspin, however, being easily promoted in the lower gears. There is a faint suspicion that the rear axle is not quite positively located, but in general the TR2 is a safe, charming motor car in which to travel.
The Lockheed hydraulic brakes are reasonably powerful but fierce under a light pedal depression, whereas more progressive braking would be preferable. Under the conditions of our test they proved vice-free and had the merest trace of a squeal. Tyre squeal, too, was at a minimum.
It is also a useful car from the touring viewpoint, in spite of its sports-car characteristics, for the luggage boot is of sensible capacity. Its broad lid requires a carriage-key to open the two locks, which isn’t exactly convenient, and there is no handle by which to raise the lid, but we can forgive this due to the amount of luggage which can be carried, with the spare wheel located in a compartment of its own, beneath and entirely separate.
Powerful rear lamps, three in number, are reassuring and the headlamps, which, being neither completely built-in nor “oldschool,” are ugly, give ample light in the full-beam position but require adjustment. Normally the TR2 will be enjoyed as an open car, when the cut-away sides to the doors and absence of folded hood provide excellent all-round visibility. Erection of the sidescreens renders the car very comfortable even in winter and the hood is likely to be used only in heavy rain or at the request of a member of the fair sex. It is separate from its frame, which is substantial. The material is good, with good-quality press-buttons requiring strong manipulation. once in place there is ample head-room and good visibility, while a large rear window offers useful vision for reversing unless obscured by rain or condensation. We had no opportunity of testing the waterproof qualities in torrential rain and a few gaps where such rain might penetrate were noticeable, but under ordinary wet conditions the protection is 100 per cent. Simple yet sensible, the sidescreens fit snugly into metal sockets on the doors, with clamp screws, and press-slots to hold them to the doors.
The interior of the car provides plenty of room and does not become contaminated by fumes or heat. There is space behind the bucket seats for stowage of soft objects, but the curve of the boot-wall and cover over the back axle prevent provision of a flat floor. No tonneau cover came with the test car but one is normally provided. There is an unobtrusive grab-handle for the use of nervous or gymnastic passengers.
Under-bonnet accessibility is good; the top panel is openable after pulling a knob beneath the dash on the off side and releasing a simple safety-catch. The Vanguard engine in sports form is vice-free, not pinking and only running-on after being switched off towards the later part of the test. Oil consumption worked out at 2,800 m.p.g., and fuel consumption, driving hard, at 27/28 m.p.g. It starts easily in cold weather, given sufficient choke; the choke-knob has to be held out by hand, not appearing to lock, although it constitutes also a hand-throttle. Apart from its very fine performance, the Triumph TR2 is surprisingly economical. The splendid fuel economy of the TR2 was a feature of last year’s sports-car races and owners can congratulate themselves on this very useful aspect of this highly-attractive car.
In conclusion, the Triumph TR2 may not possess “character” to any appreciable degree, but as a vice-free sports car of modest price and fuel-thirst, no one with £887 to spend can afford to ignore it. It is a desirable addition to the British market and that such a car can be successfully constructed from standard components is a tribute to the more sober cars for which such components were intended. The Triumph Motor Company, moreover, will obviously develop its excellent TR2 still further, and as it operates a TR2 owners’ club with mods, log-book, badge and promulgation of competition success by amateur drivers and offers a useful list of optional extras for improved comfort and performance, this already firmly established sports model clearly has a rosy future ahead of it. W.B.