Triumph’s TR6 is an E-Type for the masses
Often overlooked for more dramatic marques, Triumph’s intriguing range of TR sports cars actually enjoyed a glorious 28-year run. The journey began with 1953’s cutaway-door TR2 cutie and finished with the aggressive wedge-shaped TR8 of 1981—seven nameplates and over a dozen distinct models in all. Among these, the 1969–76 TR6 occupies a sweet spot of classic design, ample performance, comfort, serviceability, and affordability.
The silky 2.5-liter inline-six deserves much credit for delivering admirable torque and a seductive baritone song. In its June 1970 “Four Sports Cars” review, Road & Track commented, “The strong, beautiful-sounding engine of the TR6 makes it one of the easiest and most enjoyable cars to drive.”
Such praise, along with four-wheel independent suspension, rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc brakes, and an observed 109-mph top speed made the TR6 a genuine player in the day.
Yet despite its ideal 51/49 percent front/rear weight distribution and a respectable 0.68 g skidpad performance, Road & Track went on to say that handling was “fine until you encounter rough surfaces—then the car’s extremely dated chassis and suspension make themselves known all too harshly.” But such criticism was fair, because in truth, the TR6 was based on the 1961 TR4’s body-on-frame architecture instead of a contemporary unibody.
Even so, the alluring new TR6 offered more than previous Triumphs. From the TR2 through the 1967 TR4A and TR4A IRS (independent rear suspension), all TRs had four-cylinder engines ranging from 2.0 liters to 2.1 liters. Body designs started with the bug-eyed TR2 and TR3 before stepping up to smart Michelotti styling on the first TR4. In 1968 came the one-year-only TR250—a TR4A IRS with a 104-hp long-stroke six from Triumph’s 2000 sedan. This finally gave way to the 1969 TR6, essentially a TR250 with a revised frame and new Karmann bodywork offering crisper lines, a larger trunk, and a decisive Kamm tail in lieu of the nascent tailfins of previous TRs.
Sports cars were getting faster, and clearly an ancient four-pot wouldn’t cut it. With Austin-Healey’s 3000 axed for 1968 and Alfa Romeos, Fiats, and most MGs still sporting four cylinders, the new Triumph slotted into a good market position. It worked, and by the end of production, the TR6 spanned seven model years, with 76,470 examples exported to the U.S.
In period, an optional removable hardtop, air conditioning, and electric overdrive made the TR6 viable for commuting, touring, and rallies. Additionally, Bob Tullius claimed four SCCA C Production national wins in a race-prepared Group 44 entry from 1969 to 1971.
Today’s buyers should know that British Leyland, which owned Triumph at the time, wasn’t exactly revered for build quality, that TR6s are rust-prone if not protected, and that generally, 1969 through 1971 models are considered the purest. Thereafter, ever more complex emissions controls included a carbon canister in 1972, an anti–run on valve in 1973, a super-low 7.5:1 compression ratio in 1974, and an air-injection system from 1975 on. If this wasn’t bad enough, large rubber “baby buggy” bumpers, added for ’75, further diluted the Scotch.
Despite such early federalization losses, though, in hindsight, TR6s from all model years are wonderfully straightforward and honest sports cars. And thanks to good aftermarket support today, there’s no reason a solid example can’t last a lifetime.
Engine: 2.5-liter OHV I-6
Power: 106 hp @ 4900 rpm
Torque: 133 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
Weight: 2156 pounds
0–60 mph: 10.7 sec
Price when new: $3275
Hagerty #3 (Good) condition value: $13,500–$22,100
This article first appeared in Hagerty Drivers Club magazine. Click here to subscribe and join the club.
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