24 Triumph TR7
Our new features editor reflects on the first 12 months with his Triumph TR7. It’s been fun, but expensive…
My appointment as CCW’s new features editor means a fresh classic on the team fleet, in the splendid wedge-shape of a Triumph TR7. Not that I’d set out to buy a TR7. In fact, with around £4000 to spend, I was sure that I’d end up replacing my old Toyota MR2 MkI with a Volkswagen Golf GTI MkII, or maybe even a Corrado G60 or VR6.
By the same token, I’m not going to pretend that I wasn’t completely captivated by my car’s Lotus John Player Special-aping paint and decals the first time I saw it. Elements of it appeared on a lesserknown limited edition TR7 called the Premium, which came complete with rear spoiler, fog lamps and a V8-friendly double-bulge bonnet, even though there’s a standard four-pot underneath. That it was also a fixed-head sealed the deal; the market might prefer drop-heads, but I favour the looks of the increasingly rare coupés.
Mine was for sale at Rob-sport and well within my budget. It had recently been recommissioned following a prolonged period of storage, so much of the thorough restoration work done to it in the 1990s ( back to bare shell, with plenty of fresh panels) had been preserved. It drove nicely enough, being keen to accelerate from low revs, but I’d just about made my mind up even before the test-drive. It’s now almost exactly a year since I bought LBY 934V. The first few months were great – almost fault-free, in fact ( barring a condenser mishap I’ll get on to later) – but then I noticed a coolant leak towards the end of summer. I initially suspected a perished rubber hose, but having removed the carburettors for further inspection, I diagnosed a blown cylinder head gasket. The head turned out to be badly corroded and at the limit for skimming, which presented me with something of a quandary – I couldn’t afford a fully reconditioned engine, but Rob-sport advised against fitting a new cylinder head as it would raise compression and increase strain on the bottom end. In the end, I decided to find a suitable secondhand cylinder head.
It became evident just how generally unloved the two-litre TR7 engine is once my search got underway; decent cylinder heads are few and far between. It took a few months to find one, but Rob-sport eventually came up trumps. The guys there cleaned and painted it before reassembling the engine with a new head gasket, studs and timing chain. I collected my TR7 in February and have since returned after 300 miles of driving to have the head studs torqued – they can loosen off following head work, so I need to to have them checked periodically.
A few weeks later, the TR7 became reluctant to start – a surefire sign that the points and condenser were on their way out yet again.
I’ve tried – and failed – to replace them myself twice now. My first attempt, in July last year, arguably went better than the second, inasmuch as I managed to replace both components and even gapped the points correctly. But incorrectly earthing the condenser burnt it out within 15 miles of my Monday morning commute, leaving me stranded on the A47 into Peterborough. Luckily, I managed to get the car recovered and local garage Ellingworths was able to replace the points and condenser for me.
I convinced myself that this job would be easier second time around, but of course it wasn’t. Although much of what’s inside the TR7’s engine bay is freely accessible, the distributor is positioned towards the back of the engine and all-but obscured by the bulkhead-mounted bonnet catch. It took far longer than last time to change the components, leaving me little time on a rushed Sunday evening to get the points properly gapped.
I gingerly drove the somewhat lumpily-running TR7 to Ellingworths before work the following morning for them to once again finish the work I’d started.
I decided that the chances of it being a case of ‘third time’s the charm’ were about as likely as LBY 934V being worth as much as a Jaguar E-type one day, so I invested in an Accus-park electronic ignition conversion kit at the Practical
Classics Classic Car and Restoration Show. I’ll fit it in due course and hopefully cover it next time.
Tr7 Premium elements include the V8’s double-bulge bonnet. But not the engine, sadly.
is this the classic car world’s least-accessible distributor?
He looks smug now, but it’s the night before an imminent breakdown...