The Triumph TR4—a rugged British sports car

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Excellent Acceleration and a Top Speed of 110 m.p.h. for less than £950

THE story of how Standard-Triumph developed the Triumph TR2 sports car from components used in their saloon models, until it became such a highly successful sports car that it still refuses to lie down and has had to be kept in production to meet America’s demands, is an epic.

The Triumph TR4 sports model followed the TR3A as a larger-engined, re-styled car of similar design and even greater merit. Using an 86 x 96 mm., 2,138-c.c. push-rod o.h.v. 4-cylinder engine developing 100 (net) b.h.p. at a modest 4,600 r.p.m. on a 9-to-1 c.r., it is a sports car in the best British tradition, able to comfortably exceed 100 m.p.h. in hard-top 2-seater form, having room in addition for one curled-up adult or child or much luggage; and getting off the mark and away towards “the ton” like the proverbial bullet.

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. The very nature of this Triumph’s performance renders it a splendid car for long journeys but the niceties of quietness, spaciousness and scientific road-holding have been passed by, leaving a rugged, fast, typically British sports car, ideal for fun-and-games and rallying.

There is a feeling of ” unburstability ” about any of the big Standard and Triumph cars and an absolute top speed of 110 m.p.h. and acceleration of the order of 0-70 m.p.h. in 16.5 sec. does nothing to impair this sense of dependability in the TR4.

This latest sports Triumph conforms to a pattern laid down long before the war, except that it is fully and effectively equipped, is available with a detachable hard-top, as on the test car, and has a reasonably capacious, conventional luggage boot, whereas pre-war sports cars would have been slab-tanked, or, if of an earlier era, Grand Prix-tailed.

Controls

The front seats are separate bucket-type, of which only the passenger’s squab folds forward to give access to the flat back-seat. They do not seem at all abnormal seats, the cushion being flat and solid, the backs making a snug fit round the body. Yet, after driving the TR4 nearly 350 miles between breakfast and dinner, I was not conscious of more than average discomfort, although pedals offset to the right have to be contended with. A less pleasant aspect of driving the TR4, for a short-legged driver, is the long movement of the clutch pedal and to a lesser extent the positioning of the accelerator well over to the off-side, because this necessitates moving the seat (it adjusts easily and with precision) closer to the steering wheel than would otherwise be desirable. There is only limited stowage room for the left, or clutch, foot.

These objections apart, there are no discomforts associated with conducting the Triumph other than those habitual to a sports car. The view forward is impressive, for there is a formidable “power bulge” (covering the twin H6 S.U. carburetters) directly before the driver (on a r.h.d. car) and the bonnet is quite long, curving up over the hooded Lucas type 700 headlamps, while at each side rise the sidelamp nacelles.

The man-size steering wheel is set nearly horizontal, and has the horn-push in its hub. There are matching faint humps on the scuttle top, and moulding along the bottom of the facia is cut away on the passenger’s side to form a hand grip. At each extremity of the facia are useful fresh-air grilles, with hand-wheels to control the refreshing flow—like tuning-in to 2L0. There is also a scuttle-top ventilator panel, opened by means of a lever under the facia. The glove locker before the passenger is commendably commodious and its metal lid can be locked. The doors have tightly-flush-fitted pockets, so for a sports-car stowage for small objects isn’t too badly skimped.

The two big Jaeger dials are mounted before the driver—on the left the 120-m.p.h. speedometer with decimal trip and total mileage recorders and, on its right, a tachometer reading to 6,000 r.p.m., with red marking between 5,000 and 6,000 r.p.m. Between these two dials are the ignition warning light and direction-indicators tell-tale light. There is a knob convenient to the driver’s right hand for rheostat variation of instrument lighting.

From a control box below the low-set 3-spring-spoked steering wheel two identical stalk-levers protrude, that on the left operating the direction-indicators, that on the right going down to select the Laycock-de-Normanville overdrive that is operative in 2nd, 3rd and top gears, giving a choice of seven forward ratios. The central panel carries four small dials, these being oil-pressure gauge (normal pressure 70 lb./sq. in.), water thermometer (normally reading 145 degrees F.), ammeter and an electric fuel-gauge that registers slowly but accurately, although “empty” is reached some time before the 11.75-gallon tank runs dry. Thus the Triumph TR4 cannot be said to he skimped in respect of instrumentation, and the dials have dear white calibrations on black backgrounds. There is crash-padding of sorts round the facia but many undesirable projections. A pull-out ash-tray nestles between the lower dials.

On a protruding ledge below the central panel are five controls, i.e., from l. to r., side and headlamps’ knob, washers’ button, wipers’ knob, ignition key-cum starter and choke knob. Below this ledge is a panel where a radio can be accommodated and below this again the heater controls, consisting of three knobs which, from I. to r., control the heat, bring in the fan and direct flow between screen and car. Headlamp dipping is by a foot-button and fog-lamp switches live on the top edge of the main facia.

There is a fairly wide transmission tunnel from which emerges a true remote gear-lever—short, rigid, calling for small movements, and with a sensibly-sized knob. It lifts to select reverse, beyond top-gear position. The fly-off handbrake, held by depressing its knob, is located beside the tunnel on the driver’s side. The doors possess wind-up windows (2.5-turns of the winders), conventional door handles which pull back to open them, and hinged metal “pulls.” The doors shut decisively but lack effective “keeps.” The simple rear-view mirror is effective, a rather important item in a car of this type and “voice.” A sports-car item is the quick-action petrol filler cap on the tail.

Driving the TR4

There is nothing complicated about driving the Triumph TR4. It has an excellent gearbox with synchromesh on all forward gears, including bottom gear, changes going through quickly if somewhat harshly. If anything the car is undergeared, for in normal fast motoring top gear and overdrive top suffice very largely and the availability of overdrive on 2nd and 3rd is an asset of more interest to a competition driver.

The engine likes 100-octane fuel but does not demand it, starts easily, but was inclined to run-on somewhat. It goes smoothly and eagerly up to nearly 6,000 r.p.m., with accompanying acceleration that is, shall I say, entirely adequate! There is power from as low as 1,000 r.p.m. for the lazy driver.

This is not a quiet car, the engine responding to throttle with a hearty power-roar, although this is not anything like as pronounced as the exhaust rasp that has earned some TR3s a bad name when rallies are about. There is some wind-noise at high speeds round the frameless windows and body rattles arise from mild body shake over bad roads.

The suspension, with a rigid back-axle sprung on half-elliptic leaf-springs and coil-spring i.f.s., is hard but not quite as harsh as sports-car suspension used to be. Rough roads call for respect and the chosen path round a fast bend may be difficult to maintain over bumps, but on normal main roads the ride, if lively, is not uncomfortable. This is a car that has to be steered and at over 80 m.p.h. a slight tendency to front-end weaving, and the aforesaid liveliness of the springing on rough roads, may result in some drivers acting “chicken.”

The steering is rubber-cushioned rack-and-pinion, giving a faintly spongy effect but being in the main accurate and quick, the gearing such that 2 and two-thirds turns of the wheel take it from lock-to-lock. It is not finger-light steering but the sort of driver to whom a TR4 appeals is unlikely to class it as heavy, and it is pleasantly light for parking. Kick-back isn’t excessive and there is useful castor return-action.

The Girling brakes, disc at the front, are adequate but feel rather “dead.” In the wet the front brakes felt as if they were doing most of the retardation and one had to be careful not to lock the wheels. The hand-brake is well placed and effective, the fly-off action appreciated.

Road-holding has to be qualified by the foregoing comments on suspension, but is typical of a safe sports car in which, however, the suspension seems as if it has just happened instead of having been designed. On slippery surfaces the tail breaks away quite early before the front wheels feel in any way “light,” which would be less apparent on scientifically designed cars, but high-geared steering copes with such oversteer.

The hard-top gave excellent protection without being restrictive; a rain leak at a window joint was noticed but generally it was weather-proof. When a door is opened rain water descends onto the seat. These would be serious shortcomings in a OT car bat pass without comment in a sports car. The TR4 offers excellent value at £949 2s. inclusive of purchase tax in hard-top form. The normal 2-seater costs £906 16s. 3d. It returned fuel consumption figures that varied hardly at all from 25.5 m.p.g. whether driven fast and far or used for local journeys. Although this is nothing like the economy of the TR3, the TR4 cannot be regarded as extravagant. The absolute range on a tankful was 264 miles. After 720 miles a pint of oil was needed. The wheels are shod with noticeably large tyres, over which the Michelotti-designed body provides lips serving as

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