Americans post-war love affair with British sports cars opened the door to the idea of imported cars in general and nothing’s been the same since. The very first name that springs to mind in this regard is MG but Triumph was also a very significant player in this small field. Its TR3 was a direct competitor to the MG-A and the later TR4 was the firm’s answer to the MG-B.
We encountered a much later TR, this one a TR6, on the mean streets of Palo Alto, CA a few months ago. Owner Mike Cobb revealed that the car was purchased new in 1974 and he’s been driving it ever since. He’s put 80,000 miles on its odometer that is nestled in a very traditional wood-clad dashboard.
Production of TR6s ceased just two years later as the British auto industry continued its downward spiral towards near-extinction. As with predecessor TRs, the car’s primary export market was the US. Did we say “primary export?” Make that just “primary.” Period. We were shocked to read that, of the total of almost 95,000 TR6s produced, more than 86,000 were exported, most to these shores. A paltry 8,400 were sold in the UK.
Style-wise, the TR6 was something of an update of the TR4 that had been designed by Giovanni Michelotti who had penned all manner cars for Ferrari, Maserati, Lancia and — though the gang in Munich is loath to admit it — the iconic BMW 1600/2002. The transformation to TR6 was undertaken by Karmann, as in Karmann-Ghia. That’s right, the look of an iconic British sports car that actually wears a Union Jack on its rear flanks is, in no small measure, the product of Italian and German minds.
Speaking of the Axis Powers, let’s not forget the Battle of Britain, won in the skies by the RAF’s heroic Spitfires in mortal combat with the Luftwaffe’s Messerchmitts. That valiant fighter plane lent its name to Triumph’s smaller sport cars, a competitor to MG’s Midget and Austin-Healey’s Sprite. We encountered a ’65 Spitfire Mk 2 in our local supermarket parking lot the other evening and we were impressed by the car’s “as is” condition. Clearly, this very original roadster has never been restored. In fact, that babied Palo Alto TR6’s little brother seems to have been trashed to some extent.
Our supermarket Spitfire was sporting a newish soft top, but the rest of the car seemed to not have been messed with all that much over the past 50 years and that’s really not a criticism. We think it’s a vehicular manifestation of that stiff upper lip ethos which we most heartily applaud.
We dug deep into the massive Feral Cars image bank and found another TR6 which — taking a wild guess here — seems to have been painted a non-factory stock color.
Lastly, we found this “missing link” between the TR4 and TR6, logically called TR5. It was captured in Philadelphia a while back and happened to be parked just outside a conclave of the Society of Automotive Historians, giving those scholars lots to consider and discuss. These were sold in the US as TR250 but this example, despite the decorative UK number plate and badged TR5, seems to be a US market car (left hand drive, side markers in compliance with federal regulations) and is equipped with a “Surrey Top,” Triumph’s answer to Porche’s Targa.
We found this very presentable and very, very red ’74 TR6 in nearby Beverly, MA for a mere $9300. In terms of today’s rate of exchange that’s only £6070! See those rubber bumper extensions on Mike Cobb’s lovely blue TR6 at the top of this post? They were Federally mandated from mid-’74 forward and this US-market TV commercial made tongue-in-cheek reference to them.
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