Categorized | All, British Classics, Triumph

Triumph TR6 PI Driven

They say you should never meet your heroes and certainly in the case of film stars who are better at delivering killer lines than holding engaging conversations that might well be the case, but in driving a Triumph TR6 PI for the first time I was left in no doubt about this car’s iconic status.

Dubbed the last real sports car, a strapline I’m sure TVR, Morgan, Lotus and many other marque owners would dispute there is definitely still something about the macho looking Triumph TR6 PI that makes you appreciate why that comment was made. After all if Triumph as a car manufacturer is going to be remembered for anything then the TR6 PI must surely be right up there as one of their best.

Triumph TR6 PI

TR6 was a real Triumph

True the far rarer TR5 and TR250 model for the North American market will always trump the TR6 in terms of value but with some 83,480 cars produced the reach of the later model is far greater. In both cases the PI bit remains extremely important because only available in the UK it puts our test car in the much rarer bracket of just 8,370 TR6s originally fitted with Lucas Petrol Injection. That represents 10% of total TR6 production and so with the number of cars being repatriated from drier climes buyers need to be aware and do their homework to be sure they’re getting an original UK car.

Triumph TR6 PI

Lucas Petrol Injection makes this a rarer UK car

To give you a feel for the challenge according to howmanyleft.co.uk there were 4,000 TR6s registered in the UK in 2007. At the close of 2013 that number had climbed to 4,500 cars which can only be from the import of less desirable models bucking the trend of any natural wastage in UK car stock. Just to confuse matters further British Motor Heritage offer brand new shells that enable original V5 logbook details to be maintained on any TR6 and so also worth making sure all numbers match.

At launch early UK cars earned a reputation of being wild to drive on the road with a high lift cam producing a full 150bhp where as our later 1975 Triumph TR6 PI left the factory with a more driveable 125bhp. By comparison North American market cars used twin Stromberg carburettors to deliver a far less impressive 104bhp which is why the Triumph TR6 PI stands out and the reasoning for emphasising the importance on being clear about any potential purchase if in the market to buy.

Externally the Triumph TR6 PI looks true to its TR origins, in fact the screen and doors are the same as the TR5/ TR250 that went before as is the chassis. Styling updates, most notably the nose and tail came courtesy of Karmann in Germany at a time when in-house design guru Michelotti was engaged on other British Leyland projects. The result is a handsome look that is both strong and quintessentially British. Something enhanced further by the walnut dashboard, optional wire wheels and centrally mounted almost race car like filler cap immediately in front of the boot lid.

Triumph TR6 PI

Karmann of Germany re-styled the nose and tail of the TR5 for this next incarnation

Getting in is a relatively straight forward affair, the doors open wide and both occupants can stretch themselves out fully once sat inside. Shoulders are close but not forced to touch which makes the compact size feel about right. Shut the door, lock the inertia reel seat belt in place and it is time to power up the 2.5 litre straight six. Oddly the ignition key is mounted below the steering column, presumably to incorporate an essential by 1975 steering lock. Turn it and with some coaxing the Lucas injection system adds the necessary fuel for the Triumph engine to fire into life.

The noise and smell that fills the cockpit, largely from the rear exit exhaust is both distinctive and at the same time purposeful. Having previously reviewed the earlier 2.2litre four cylinder TR4A which was certainly torquey but not overtly sporty it was going to be very interesting to see what happens next. The Triumph TR6 PI did not disappoint; the extra two cylinders and subsequent increase in capacity maintain the same high torque whilst introducing a certain spirit that encourages the engine to be revved higher than before. This car for me was already looking like the hero I wanted it to be.

Triumph TR6 PI

Plush walnut dash and leather interior (Note: headrests unique to TR6)

Combine rev happy and yet still torquey six cylinder power and connect that to a firm feeling Triumph Stag sourced manual four speed gearbox with overdrive in third and fourth gears and the result is a car that will punch forwards easily up to the ton with considerable ease whilst providing an opportunity to keep the revs nice and low again as soon as you’re ready. The feel of the gearbox is quite superb being mechanical and precise in equal measure and containing some very well judged ratios. Overdrive yet again proves to be a great companion particularly when a quick down change is required. No real effort is needed either, just a quick flick of the column mounted switch.

All Triumph TR6s came with decent servo assisted anchors combining disc brakes up front and large drums at the rear to ensure no unwelcome dramas whilst slowing things back down. The all-round independent suspension on our car works well with the rack and pinion steering ensuring the Triumph TR6 PI can be hustled through bends with considerable ease. The only disturbance comes from the front end’s sensitivity to road imperfections which can cause it to skip left and right.

Triumph TR6 PI

Ample boot ideal for a weekend getaway

When driving one of these cars a brisk pace can easily be maintained pretty much everywhere right on the outer limit of the legal speed limit. Overdrive is terrific at filling gaps between third and fourth where a quick flick of the lever loses or gains a ratio right at the point of need with minimal delay or effort. Once engaged in top gear it also means a relatively high cruising speed can still translate into decent and welcome fuel economy. Official figures at the time suggested low twenties but I think these days on a well maintained Triumph TR6 PI at least 20% better than that is realistic.

The Triumph TR6 PI is utterly satisfying to pilot and has absolutely no issue keeping up with modern day traffic, even those clearly in a rush to be somewhere else. In fact on a few occasions it showed a few a completely clean pair of heels. This is one car hero that for me remains very much on top its game and significantly in these times of instant celebrity that after spending quality time together.

How does this car make you feel?

In one word: British

As a favourite meal: Breakfasts featured highly on this trip and so smoked haddock with poached eggs.

Anything Else: Perfect two seat package. Triumph six with Lucas Fuel Injection is a gem mated to a strong feeling Stag sourced gearbox with useful ratios and the benefit of overdrive which means you are never in the wrong gear.

Key Ingredients: Triumph 2.5litre engine, competent chassis and good brakes that mean the TR6 can be hustled along at a decent pace with ease.

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With thanks to The Open Road for arranging and Classic Car Hire North for providing the car.

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8 Responses to “Triumph TR6 PI Driven

  1. You mention the column mounted overdrive switch in passing. I think this deserves a little more praise. At the Open Road in Warwick we have overdrive on our Austin Healey, MGB and our Triumph Stag. The switch on the Healey and MGB is on the dashboard to the right of the steering wheel. On the Stag it is on the gear knob.

    The TRs are unique in having a column mounted switch – the TR4A we used to have for hire had this, as does our TR6 in Warwick and the Yorkshire TR6. Most younger drivers who haven’t experienced overdrive before are very impressed at the idea of changing gear at the flick of switch. Combine this with a perfectly timed blip on the throttle and it really adds to the driving experience.

    What make the TR column switch unique is its ease of use. In a very early example of proper ergonomics, the overdrive switch is long enough and perfectly positioned so that the driver can switch in and out of overdrive without moving his hand – it is literally a case of just extending the fingers and flipping the switch.

    The TRs are the only car I have come across where you can literally change gear with a flick of the fingers!

  2. Matt Nichols Matt Nichols says:

    Tony – Thanks for commenting. Yes the column mounted overdrive switch couldn’t be more convenient and particularly handy when you require a quick down shift. Matt.

  3. Joshi says:

    Great information! But Triumph TR6 has an issues include a low level radiator top-up bottle, poor hand-brake and it can be prone to overheating.

  4. Matt Nichols Matt Nichols says:

    Thanks for commenting. Agree with the handbrake but of course a bit like for the Triumph Stag problems like overheating get resolved by enthusiasts and specialists over time. We didn’t have a problem over the two days we had the car. Matt.

  5. Mike Butlion says:

    I live in Port Elizabeth South Africa, and have a 1974 TR6 PI on which I have a modified head with old specs Triumphtune cam, cut here in SA. It gets pretty hot here in summer, and I have never had any overheating problems, even in traffic. I have heard of that problem though, and have recently tuned my brother’s Canadian import TR6, on which we fitted 1&3/4″ SU’s, which he’s had for about 20years, and last year for the first time got on the road. It didn’t have a thermostat fitted, and ran too cold, in that it took long to warm up. I fitted a thermostat last year, and last weekend used it in stationary traffic, and it had no problems, running at the same temperature as when using it on the open road.
    My TR6 PI handbrake never has had a problem, but must admit that my brother’s TR6 doesn’t have a wonderful handbrake, working properly when it suits itself! I’d say it all has to do with adjustments?
    Oh, by the way, my brother’s TR6, I was able to tune it that it idles SO smoothly, that I can put a glass of water on the tappet cover without falling off! It really is a smooth motor.

  6. Matt Nichols Matt Nichols says:

    Testament indeed. I must admit we didn’t have a problem with either in the test car, so like you say maybe it’s all about adjustment. Matt.

  7. Brian says:

    This ‘M’ registered TR6 (1973), can hardly be a 1975 model can it?

  8. Matt Nichols Matt Nichols says:

    Good point well made. Matt.

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