Triumph TR6: Roadworthy Roadster for the 1970s
By John Gunnell
Introduced in September of 1968 as a 1969 model, the TR6 was anxiously awaited by Triumph enthusiasts. It was actually in development when the TR5 came out. Work progressed so quickly that it was released just 15 months later. Both shared the same basic coachwork, but instead of another facelift by Triumph's favorite Italian designer Giovanni Micholetti, the TR6 was restyled by Karmann of Osnabruk Germany. This gave it slightly more masculine looks front and rear.
The TR6 is often thought of as "Britain's Corvette" — a lot more sports car for just a few more bucks.
Updates included a long smooth hood with no power bulge, additional front overhang, a wider blacked-out grille with a single horizontal bar and center insignia and headlights that sat way out on the fenders. At the rear, a chopped-off Kammback tail resembled those of the GT6 and Stag. Horizontal taillights appeared and the rear panel was finished in flat black. Trunk space grew.
A true "driver's" vehicle, the Triumph's six-cylinder inline engine was big for a British roadster.
The TR remained an open sports car. In the United States, its 1969 East Coast Port-of-Entry price was $3,275. A new one-piece detachable hardtop was about $200 extra. The convertible price went up to $3,595 in 1971 and $3,723 in 1972. By the TR6s last year, in 1976, Triumph was getting $6,050 for the ragtop.
Inside, the TR6 interior had plenty of legroom. Creature comforts included cut-pile floor carpeting and plush-looking bucket seats. Cut-pile carpeting lined the trunk floor. An uncluttered dashboard featured full instrumentation. Interior trim colors included No. 11 Black (all years), No. 12 Matador Red (1969-1971), No. 13 Light Tan (1969), No. 27 Shadow Blue (1969-1975), No. 33 New Tan (1970-1974), No. 63 Chestnut (1973-1975) and No. 74 Beige (1975-1976).
The interior was neat and featured a full array of instruments on the wood-graed dashboard.
A total of 22 different colors were offered for TR6s. They included No. 17 Damson (1969-1972), No. 19 White (all years), No. 23 Sienna (1970-1973), No. 25 Conifer Green (1969-1970), No. 32 Signal Red (1969-1971), No. 34 Jasmine (1969-1972), No. 54 Saffron (1971-1972), No. 55 Laurel Green (1969-1971), No. 56 Royal Blue (1969-1971), No. 64 Mimosa Yellow (1973-mid-1976), 65 Emerald Green (1972-1974), 72 Pimento Red (1972-1976), No. 75 British Racing Green (1975-1976), No. 82 Carmine Red (1973-1976), No. 83 Maple (1974-1976), No. 84 Topaz (1975-1976), No. 85 Java (1975-1976), No. 92 Magenta (1973-1974), No. 93 Russet Brown (mid-1976), No. 94 Inca Yellow (mid-1976), No. 96 Sapphire Blue, No. 106 Mallard Blue-Green (1973-1974), No. 126 French Blue (1973-mid-1976), No. 136 Delft Blue (1975-mid-1976) and Tahiti Blue (1976).
Two engine setups were used in TR6s, but which one you got depended upon where you lived. The 2.5-liter six came with different induction systems here and overseas. Americans got a carbureted engine that was smog-legal, but had considerably less horsepower than the fuel-injected home market version.
U.S.-spec cars had built-in headrests. The headrests on some early cars folded forward, so a flat tonneau cover could be fitted. Later headrests were fixed in position and required a tonneau cover with "pockets" for the headrests. Overseas buyers could order different headrests as an option. A black-finished windshield frame arrived in 1970, prior to the introduction of black-finished windshield wiper arms. U.S. cars also had a fuel filler that wouldn't leak if the car flipped. Later North American models had a Union Jack rear fender badge.
Few big changes were made in the early '70s. The transmission ratios were altered in mid-1971. In 1973, a lip-style front spoiler was added, some bright metal trim was redone and new fire-resistant upholstery was used. The 1974 model had black overriders (bumper guards) to meet U.S. safety standards.
Large taillights doubled as side marker lights and helped the car meet new safety regulations. Many believe the black bumper guards detract from car's appearance.
The TR6 sold better than any other TR-series car and 90 percent of those sales went to customers in the U.S. Production continued into mid-1976, after the TR7 arrived. New TR6s were still being sold in 1977. Approximately a quarter million TRs were made since the early '50s and 94,619 of those cars were TR6s. About 78,000 of these were sold in the U.S. over eight calendar years.
Like other independent rear suspension cars, the TR6 wasn't raced as much when new. Later, in the '80s and '90s, sports car buffs developed parts and setups to make the model more competitive in Sports Car Club of America venues. One of the best-known TR6 racing cars was Bob Tullius' Group 44 TR6.
Both the Home Market and Export engines were essentially the same in-line, overhead-valve six with four main bearings, a cast-iron block and a cast-iron cylinder head. It had a 74.7 x 76-mm bore and stroke. The U.S.-spec version of the engine carried twin Zenith-Stromberg carburetors and had an 8.6:1 compression ratio. The TR6 PI available in Europe had a Lucas fuel-injection system. In January 1973, this engine was de-tuned.
The 1976 Triumph TR6's overhead valve six-cylinder engine retained dual S.U. carburetors.
In the TR6, Triumph retained the ride stiffness the TR series was famous for, but highway handling was improved with the new independent rear suspension. After 1971, the ride height was raised to help the model meet new U.S. requirements for minimum headlamp height. As might be expected, this had an effect on handling. After 1971, the 15-inch wire wheels disappeared, although the steel disc wheels have little affect on the car's good handling. It handles well, quick off the line, a light car so it will drift if thrown into a curve at a high speed.
The Triumph TR6 is definitely a driver's car with its powerful straight six and big wheels and tires. It has really been coming on strong in value lately, but some very nice examples can be found for half the price the top restored cars are bringing in the collector niche. Right now, a great drivable "investment vehicle."
Bruce F. Simon's low-mileage White TR6 is from the last year of the model's production. Auto Trader Classic's main feature car was treated to a body off restoration with the exterior of the body carefully refinished in the original color while the engine bay was merely cleaned and detailed. The seats were rebuilt and then recovered with the original hides. Simon is a long-time Triumph fan and a member of the Fox Cities British Car Club based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
An excellent condition Triumph TR6 can fetch auction bids higher than $22,000 today (2017) and some dealer asking prices are even higher. In fair condition, TR6s fetch approximately $7500. This beats stocks and bonds investments hands down.
Production & Specifications
Number built — 91,850 (about 78,000 sold in the U.S.)
Construction — Unibody
Engine — 2498-cc overhead valve in-line six
Power/Torque — (1969 -1971 U.S. Spec) 104 hp. 142 lb. ft.
(1972 - 1973 U.S. Spec) 106 hp. 133 lb. ft.
(1974 - 1979 U.S. Spec) 101 hp. 128 lb. ft.
Note: The TR6 PI available in Europe produced 150 hp at 5500 rpm and 164 ft.-lbs. of torque. In January 1973, it was de-tuned to 124 hp at 5500 rpm and 143 ft.-lbs. of torque at 3500 rpm.
Transmission — Four-speed manual with reverse
Suspension front — Unequal length A arms with coil springs
Suspension rear — Rigid axle with semi trailing arms and coil springs
Steering — Manual rack-and-pinion
Brakes — Front disc / rear drum
Length/width/height — 155/61/50 inches
Wheelbase — 88 inches
Weight — 2156 lbs.
0-60 mph/quarter-mile — (TR6A) 10.6 sec./17.7 sec.; (TR6B) 11.3 sec./18.5 sec.
Top speed — (TR6A) 120 mph
MPG — 12 (city)/18 (highway)
Price — MSRP (1976) $6,050
Value - (2017) $7,500 to $22,000 (Concours condition TR6s have reached over $35,000)
- Same block and head used for entire TR6 production run
- Good horsepower-to-weight ratio
- Good torque and a great sound from the straight six
- Understated classic body lines
- "Heavy" clutch feel
- Weak rear differential mounts and high torque can result in cracks
- Bad valve springs used in some years
- IRS suspension difficult to service
- Overheating at low speeds and in hot weather
- Soft steering rack mounts lead to vibrations in front end
- Electrical issues if not maintained properly or re-wired
- Rust at the front and rear fenders and around the headlights and taillights. If rust starts it must be addressed quickly or it will get ugly.
- Big black bumper guards post-'74 not everyone's cup of tea
- Never a water tight fit of the top to body.
Estimated Parts Prices
- Brake master cylinder — $195
- Dual Stromberg carburetors — $1,200
- Interior kit — $497
- Fabric top — $650
* Based on information from Moss Motors Ltd www.mossmotors.com
- Triumph TR6 by W. Kimberly
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