Pick of the Day: 1980 Triumph TR8, when they finally got it right

The V8-powered sports car was a major improvement over the 4-cylinder TR7

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Triumph added a V8 engine and improved quality for the TR8

The mid-1970s were a difficult time for the British sports car industry. Every company building cars in the U.K. were experiencing serious financial and labor difficulties, and most designs were only merely updates of older models from the 1960s.

Triumph had the only true new car in the TR7 and though in many ways one of the best small sports cars to come from England, its lack of power and sometimes serious build-quality issues at the original Speke plant made it a poor seller.

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Then Triumph offered a V8 version of the TR7 for the North American market, the TR8 announced in 1978 and built at the improved Canley plant. Sadly, the TR8 was a “too little too late” situation and by 1981, the TR8 was discontinued as a model along with the entire Triumph brand.

That is a shame as the TR8 was everything that the TR7 was not, offering good design combined with strong performance for the period along with much-improved build quality.  The engine used was the ubiquitous 3.5-liter Rover V8 that was based on an earlier Buick design, and delivered 137 horsepower that did well in motivating the lightweight car. 

The Pick of the Day is a 1980 Triumph TR8 convertible, described by the Bluffton, South Carolina private seller as being a completely rust-free car that still wears its original Cashmere Gold Metallic paint and original Golden Tan Check plaid and vinyl interior. Just over 68,000 miles show on the odometer.

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Upgrades include a wood steering wheel, Holley carb, Edelbrook manifold, new AC, new cam, rebuilt power steering, new brakes, electric fans, and high output alternator, according to the advertisement on ClassicCars.com. The seller states that this is a true TR8, not a conversion of a TR7, has a total of 68,000 original miles and runs and drives flawlessly.  The seller is the third owner of the car and has owned it since February 2010, the ad says.

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The TR8 is the last of the affordable British sports cars, and it is too bad that they did not forego the TR7 completely and just launch with the TR8. If they had, there is a chance that Triumph might still be with us today.

Car magazines in period raved about the TR8. Car and Driver featured a TR8 on its August 1980 cover and proclaimed it as “Nothing less than the reinvention of the sports car.”

Triumph built only about 2,722 to 2,815 TR8s, a figure that is murky due to poor record keeping at Triumph during this period. That makes the TR8 a low-production British roadster with a V8 engine, yet it’s valued at bargain prices. The asking price here is $16,000. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Hey guys
    I had a ’77 TR-7, AUTOMATIC. Loved that little car. Traded my ’72 Nova for it. So much fun to drive.

  2. Hi Andy, yes….too little too late. As the driver of a 1980 MGB, I get the idea. A little strange the inside of the TR8 reminds me a lot of my 1979 Fiat/Bertone X1/9. Guess I have a thing for fun little cars. The MGB, starts every day and is at 140K miles on (mostly) original parts….kinda. Thanks Joe.

  3. Bob Tulius and Group 44 had these cars developed and sorted and were starting to win when Triumph pulled the plug on financing.

  4. Having had one of the first and a “good” TR7 – it was a very enjoyable – stylish, comfortable, car for the 4 years we owned it. The “wedge” modern design very much a thing!

    Not a performance freak myself…it was adequate as a (long) commuter driver and (hardtop) secure in any weather.

    I should think the TR8 added much – an in a sort of comparison is like the MGC or Tiger for this Era.

    All in all a good car for dun and show, although because of the still lackluster acceptance and interest….priced fairly.

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