When they were new
An original road test taken from the Motor Sport archives, February 1955 | by Bill Boddy
To describe the TR2 as a very good car is to state the obvious, after the splendid showing in competition motoring by this Coventry product, a skilful development of standard components and not a specialised sports car. 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/suspension units and the trusty Standard Vanguard engine, reduced from 2088cc to under two litres and endowed with a new cylinder-head to take two carburettors. In 1952 the developed engine yielded 75bhp and a maximum speed of 90mph.
The immense interest this new Triumph aroused swiftly caused the company to iron out initial bugs. They improved the shape of the tail, stiffened the frame, fitted an overdrive gear and increased the power output to 90bhp. The production TR2 was soon able to present itself as a 100mph two-seater of modest cost and surprising economy. Since then a special version has reached 125mph at Jabbeke, and others have finished in the Mille Miglia and Le Mans races and performed outstandingly in their class in the TT, while rally successes are legion.
It is now our happy task to present our impressions of a normal 1954 wire-wheeled TR2, which came along for test just before Christmas. At this hardly ideal time of year, it 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 road-test ritual and consequently no performance figures were recorded. A very easy indicated 95mph is obtainable, with a few more mph coming up along clear stretches. Acceleration is vivid, while overdrive endows the TR2 with the effect of having, with its tractor-like torque curve, a five-speed gearbox, producing in overdrive top an indicated 112mph, equal to a calculated 97mph, whereas in fourth gear the highest indicated speed was 100mph.
For a car with a basic price of only £625 (£887 with purchase tax), the speed and acceleration are beyond criticism. Besides the performance of the TR2 (which enabled a jaunt from London to Exeter and back to be fitted in between morning coffee and a late dinner), its other qualities are astonishing for so modest a price.
If the outward appearance of the TR2 leaves a good deal to be desired, the interior appointments are for the most part practical and pleasing. The instruments are sensibly grouped, with the speedometer and rev-counter only very mildly masked by the three-spoke spring steering wheel. The minor control buttons are of good quality, but so placed that they lead to confusion of the gloved hand at night. Moreover, we do not love the pull-out combined head and sidelamps switch.
The screen is large, inclined and solidly mounted, providing excellent protection and, most commendably, is of laminated glass. The wipers function well, working in unison, but would benefit from water-squirts. 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. The separate, adjustable bucket seats provide a big range of adjustment and are quite comfortable, although considerably more support of back and shoulders would be a decided improvement. There is an unobtrusive grab-handle for the use of nervous or gymnastic passengers. The pedals are badly placed for a heel-and-toe change, while the handbrake lever is set between the tunnel and the driver’s left leg, not at all a bad place, and has a fly-off action.
The remote gearlever is one of the charms of the TR2. Very conveniently placed, it is truly short and rigid, enabling rapid gearchanges to be made. There is useful synchromesh, but so readily does the engine respond to the throttle that double-declutching will be the usual method of swapping ratios. That about completes the cockpit-drill, except to mention that the horn is rather mediocre, and that the flashing-type direction indicators are self-cancelling, by an excellent flick-switch on the steering-wheel hub.
On the road the Triumph TR2 certainly doesn’t hang about! More than 50mph is obtainable in second gear and nearly 80 in third. The TR2 is reasonably hard-sprung, so that it does not wallow when cornering or dip its nose excessively under braking, and generally the ride is exceptionally comfortable, even on unmade roads. The steering is light and smooth at speed, provides a reasonable turning circle and transmits practically no kick-back. 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, though in cornering there is an oversteer tendency, leading to sudden rear-end breakaway, and wheelspin is easily promoted in the wet. 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. It is also a useful touring car, for the luggage boot is of sensible capacity, with the spare wheel located in a compartment beneath.
Normally the TR2 will be enjoyed as an open car, but erection of the sidescreens renders the car very comfortable even in winter, though the hood is likely to be used only in heavy rain or at the request of a member of the fair sex. Once in place there is ample headroom and good visibility, while a large rear window offers useful vision for reversing. Simple yet sensible, the sidescreens fit snugly into metal sockets on the doors.
Apart from its very fine performance, the Triumph TR2 is surprisingly economical: fuel consumption, driving hard, worked out at 27/28mpg. It’s a very useful aspect of this 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. That it can successfully be 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. This sports model clearly has a rosy future.
Triumph TR2 factfile
Max speed: 105mph
The car that probably saved Triumph. Neat parts-bin special that took off in USA and founded TR line. Cheeky rather than pretty, but many competition successes thanks to rugged components. Notable upgrades were shallow doors and bigger brakes, before TR3 with flush grille came in ’55. Disc brakes from ’56. Highly successful ‘wide mouth’ TR3A followed in ’58, by now with 105bhp.
Perfect spec: for rarity, early ‘long door’; for fun, late 3A with rally mods