TRIUMPH TR2, TR3 & TR3A
Oozing period charm and relative affordability, sidescreen TRs hold massive appeal, but with the right upgrades these great cars can be even more appealing
Few cars are more quintessentially British than a sidescreen Triumph TR2, TR3 or TR3A – but it’s more than six decades since the first was produced and as a result the driving experience is pretty archaic. For many owners that’s part of the charm, while others are happy to make significant changes in a bid to make their Triumph more reliable, faster or just easier to drive.
Marque specialist TRGB’s Gary Bates says: ‘It’s worth spending significant money on the engine to increase power and reliability. Fit 89mm pistons and gas-flow the engine, fit an extractor manifold along with a fast-road camshaft. Also fit a TR4A-6 clutch with a lightened flywheel for a lighter pedal and to make the engine more free-revving. Budget up to £10,000 for everything.’
Gary recommends sticking with SU carbs for road use as these give ample torque if set up properly: ‘ You can then fit a 3.45:1 diff (same as the TR6), so at 70mph the engine is turning over at just 2000rpm, yet there’s big torque from 1500rpm.’
For cooling you can fit a highdensity quality radiator and use an original bellows thermostat, which shuts off the by-pass pipe. Another worthwhile move is to fit an electric fan, with a six-blade engine fan. ‘Standard cars are sprightly, but fit a later cylinder head or a slightly wilder camshaft and things can be even better’
Tuned engines are par for the course. These cars are sprightly even in standard form, but fit a later cylinder head, extra carburation or a slightly wilder camshaft and things can be even better. Twin Weber carbs are popular, but they’re often not set up properly.
If everything is modified so it all works well together, that’s fine, but be aware that just one upgraded component could lead to dynamics that are worse rather than better.
LIGHTS Halogen headlights are a must. Some owners add indicators or fit TR3A rear lights. These incorporate a separate indicator in the rear bodywork whereas earlier cars have weedy brake lights that flash – a dangerous feature. BRAKES Front disc brakes were fitted to the TR3 from September 1956. They’re more reassuring than drums and the servicing work is also made easier if you fit TR4-6 front suspension – something you can do yourself. ENGINE Most cars came with a 1991cc four-cylinder engine but some TR3As were supplied with the 2138cc unit fitted to the TR4 and TR4A. The bigger unit will slot straight in, although the performance gains will be marginal. STEERING Many owners ditch the original box for a rack-andpinion system. You’ll lose the horn and indicator buttons on the steering wheel plus you might have to make some changes to your cooling system as the fan might be in the way. GEARBOX All sidescreen TRs had a four-speed manual gearbox. It can be swapped for a TR4 allsynchro box, which bolts into place with minimal changes, or for £2500 you can fit a Toyota-sourced five-speed gearbox. OVERDRIVE Some TRs don’t have overdrive, some on top gear only, others on second, third and fourth. Essential for long trips, kits are available with a rebuilt gearbox and overdrive, the wiring and a recalibrated speedometer. AXLE £50+ £1300 £1500+ £2400 £2000+ £2500 £500 The TR2’s Lockheedbuilt back axle is weak. Halfshafts break, but stronger replacements are available. Alternatively, you can swap to the Girlingbuilt axle of the TR3 and TR3A. It’s much stronger and rarely gives problems.