24 Tri­umph TR7

Our new fea­tures ed­i­tor re­flects on the first 12 months with his Tri­umph TR7. It’s been fun, but ex­pen­sive…

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week - CHRIS HOPE

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...

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