Triumph TR3 Road-Test

Latest Version of a Popular British two-litre Sports Model has Commendably High Performance and Excellent Brakes.

As regular readers of Motor Sport may remember, we published a full road-test report on the Triumph TR2 sports two-seater in the issue dated February, 1955. Since that time the TR3 has made its appearance, with an engine giving ten more b.h.p., with a well behind the seats and Girling disc brakes on the front wheels. We recently put a TR3 hard-top through its paces and were impressed by this well-known sports car’s twin abilities, to go and to stop!

In specification and arrangement the TR3 differs little from the TR2. There is the same short, rigid remote central gear-lever for changing gear as rapidly as the driver wishes and the sensibly-placed fly-off hand brake with big grip set between propeller-shaft tunnel and his left leg. The facia has a 120 m.p.h. speedometer and 6,000 r.p.m. tachometer, both by Jaeger (the former embodying trip and total mileage recorders and headlamps full-beam warning light), before the driver, supplemented by a neat central panel containing — refreshing, this — clear dials indicating fuel amounts, dynamo charge, oil pressure (80 lb./sq. in. at 3,000 r.p.m.) and water temperature (normally 140 deg. F.). Left of this panel is a large lined cubbyhole, irritating because its lid can be opened and closed only with a key. Lettered refined knobs spaced about the facia control lamps, panel lighting, choke and wipers (self-parking), and there is a separate ignition key and push-in starter knob. Before the driver further knobs look after the screen-washers, Lucas fog lamp. Lucas long-range spot lamp and heater, while the flip-switch controlling the Laycock de Normanville electrically-selected overdrive (an optional extra) is very conveniently located for operation by the right hand. The T-spoke-sprung steering wheel calls for 2½ turns, lock to lock. A recessed button in its centre operates blatant twin-tone horns. Too bright indicator lights on the facia warn of direction indicators in use or ignition on. The indicators are self-cancelling, actuated by a control on the steering-wheel boss.

The bucket seats are not particularly comfortable; both slide easily and the squab of the passenger’s seat folds forward to induce into the well behind the seats any person or animal sufficiently misguided to occupy it for more than a very brief distance. As the floor of this space slopes downwards it does not readily accommodate luggage and it is difficult to see why provision was made for it, although a proper seat, of restricted dimensions, can be obtained to special order. The trailing doors have catches released by pulling interior leather-cords, sliding Perspex windows in the side-screens enabling this to be done when all is “buttoned-up.” The lined hard-top is securely bolted in place and the aforesaid side pieces peg into sockets on the doors, rendering the car weatherproof when the signalling flaps have been done up. There is a big grab-handle before the passenger. After 10,000 miles rust was forming on the fittings and the driver had to be careful not to hurt his right elbow on the rear metal strut of the off-side side-screen. The doors were not particularly easy either to open or shut; each has a deep rigid pocket, in which small objects can enjoy a distinct elusiveness. They are wide doors, providing an easy exit.

There is a reasonable-sized, quick-action fuel filler on the centre line of the tail and the unobstructed boot is of commendable capacity, its heavy lid needing to be propped open and calling for a carriage-key as well as an ordinary key to unlock it. The spare wheel is properly accommodated in a separate compartment, but jack and starting handle remain to savage my lady’s suitcases.

Visibility is good, the hard-top possessing a large back window, the screen pillars being thin and both headlamps and front wings visible to a driver of average height. The pendant pedals are rather far from the floor and easy heel-and-toe gear changes are not possible. However, there is decent accommodation for the clutch foot and the foot-operated lamps-dipper is well placed. The body is free from rattles, nor do the side-screens contribute any.

When parking the driver finds the steering exceedingly heavy but it becomes almost too light at speed. It transmits little road shock or vibration, while there is mild castor-action. It is, however, rather “dead” steering, lacking in immediate response. The TR3 rides well for a sports car, although on rough roads there is a good deal of up-and-down movement (but no pitching), for the rigid back axle calls for stiff springs to locate and damp it. In enterprising cornering roll is virtually absent. Front suspension is by wishbones and coil-springs. Corners can be taken fast, but a tendency to dart about spoils absolute precision, which vagueness of the steering does nothing to mitigate. If provoked the back wheels will break away in a conventional tail slide.

In normal driving this Triumph goes round corners safely at high speeds and it is only when trying hard that a certain uncertainty and untidiness intrude. Even then, the TR3 is an exceptionally quick A to B motor car, because the performance is of no mean order for a value-for-money 2-litre. The rev.-counter has a red mark at 5,000 r.p.m., equal to maxima of approximately 15 m.p.h. in first, 45 m.p.h. in second, 55 m.p.h. in overdrive-second, 75 m.p.h. in third, 90 m.p.h. in overdrive-third and 105 m.p.h. in top. Translated into through-the-gears acceleration, we did a s.s. ¼ -mile, two-up, in 18.6 sec., finishing at 75 m.p.h. in normal-third gear. The speedometer needle keeps steady at set readings but surged too much for us to record acceleration figures at intermediate speeds, and there is an optimism of 1.8 m.p.h. at 30 m.p.h. and 3.7 m.p.h. at 60 m.p.h. to be taken into account. The mileage recorder was 31 per cent. too optimistic. The needles of speedometer and rev.counter move in the same plane.

From the foregoing it will be appreciated that the latest Triumph sports car will attain a maximum of about 110 m.p.h. given a reasonable run and in this country the speedometer goes quickly to over 100 m.p.h. along normal straight roads.

In normal-third over 70 m.p.h. is available, and a flick into o/d third allows the speed to creep up to 80 or more m.p.h. The possession of overdrive on all three of the higher gear ratios is thoroughly worthwhile to a driver willing to make full use of the indirect ratios because he is thus able to fit seven forward speeds to the requirements of the moment. Bottom gear is for emergency use only, which puts normal-second on the low side. Not only is acceleration from a standstill most impressive but it is exceptionally well maintained, even from 80 to 100 m.p.h. in top gear, for instance.

To match the performance of this 110 m.p.h. car there are superlative brakes, Girling disc on the front wheels. These stop the Triumph without anxiety with a mere caress of the pedal and the only indication of the hard work they undertake so uncomplainingly is a smell of hot-pad after frequent or heavy applications. These disc brakes are foolproof and fade-free and constitute a major attraction of the TR3. The wheels can easily be locked, causing tyre protest, but its fast cornering the Dunlops do not make undue noise. The steering lock is good (turning circle approx. 32 ft.).

The action of the clutch is reasonably light and smooth but the pedal travel is too long; the excellent placing of the little remote gear-lever has been commented on, but it earns a black mark because the knob feels unpleasant to handle. The gear change is apt to be harsh as the synchromesh is beaten; considerable vibration is transmitted by the lever. Over rough roads the scuttle vibrates very mildly but this is scarcely conveyed to the steering column. There is less wind noise than would be expected, although the wind past the side-screens is reminiscent of an aeroplane, and no objectionable exhaust noise, but a good deal of mechanical noise intrudes and the test car had an unpleasant tap in the engine, the breather of which could be heard breathing at idling speed. The Triumph commenced promptly with a minimum of choke and did not exhibit any tendency to “pink” or to run-on after spells of hard motoring. The choke control can now be locked in various positions.

Apart from providing notable speed and acceleration the well-tried wet-liner four-cylinder engine of the TR3 works commendably within itself, 3,000 r.p.m. in top gear sufficing for a cruising speed of over a mile-a-minute, while the same engine speed in overdrive-top equals nearly 74 m.p.h. Driven thus, baby-car petrol economy is obtained and at the more probable habitual cruising speed of 80 m.p.h the engine is called upon to run at only 3,250 r.p.m. in overdrive-top gear. In fast main-road driving we recorded a fuel consumption of 25.4 m.p.g. of Shell and B.P. Super, or 24.6 m.p.g. after milometer correction. After 625 miles scarcely any oil had been consumed. The brake stop-lights were inoperative on the test car.

The bonnet top is unusual in that it is secured by Dzus fasteners that require a carriage-key to release them. It is heavy, has to be propped up, and didn’t shut absolutely flush. Engine accessibility is excellent, as is that of the Lucas battery and the electrical fuses, etc., and it is pleasing to find rod-linkage between accelerator and the twin S.U. carburetters with their A.C. air cleaners. The dip-stick is particularly well located, on the near side. The valve cover is polished on the TR3 engine. There are air vents at the back of the bonnet top to direct hot air on to the windscreen, apart from demisting vents on the scuttle behind the screen. The screen washer has a glass, not plastic, John Sydney water container. A knob on the facia sill opens a ventilator flap in the scuttle to provide the TR3’s occupants with cool air, and no fumes reach the interior.

To sum up, the Triumph offers good performance and possesses superb brakes for a car which, although its basic price has risen from £886 to £1,021 since we tested it in TR2 form (the price of the TR3 hard-top being £1,073 7s. inclusive of p.t. in standard form and £1,219 19s. with the extras, including wire wheels, as tested) is still definitely in the value-for-money class. It is selling splendidly in dollar-markets and should continue to do so for a long time to come, especially if it could be re-styled, because proven reliability and economy allied to potency are qualities sought after in all parts of the world. — W. B.