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Early Triumphs - The Venerable Sports Car Part I


by Bob Kennon

The industrialist Sir John Black, of Standard-Triumph Motor Car Company, wanted his company to share in the lucrative, money-earning, international sports car market of the early 1950's. In order to achieve this goal, his company developed the TR-2. The primary competitor was the immensely popular Austin Healey 100.

After several false starts in 1951 and 1952, the prototype of the eventual production TR-2 was tested in early 1953. It was a serious sports car with a 125 m.p.h. top speed. Public interest built up but production did not. The first two production cars were built in July of 1953, but by the year’s end, only 305 cars were completed.

The performance of the TR-2 was equal to the Austin Healey but it was considered cheaper. This performance at a lower price and many racing victories created long waiting lists of customers. In an attempt to meet this demand, 4897 units were produced in 1954.

Development of the next model continued with input from the successful competition department. In November 1955 the first production TR-3 was built. Many of the improvements for the TR-3 were fitted to the TR-2 as running production changes during 1955.

The most apparent changes of the new car was the cellular "eggbox" type front grill and the fender beading was changed from the body-colored fabric-type front to stainless steel. Engine modifications increased the horsepower from 90 to 95. This car was known as a "small mouth" TR-3. The total production of the TR-3 cars over the three years were 13,437 units.

The improved TR-3 was introduced as the TR-3A in December, 1957. The initial production went to North America, later becoming available in England. There were many changes to the "small mouth" with the most noticeable being a new full-width radiator grill, a new bumper, and the headlights set further back from the front. There was new badging, new doors and a revised interior. The engineering development had improved the car until it was arguably the most reliable, rugged and competitive sports car available at a reasonable price in the late 1950's. A total of 58,309 TR-3A's were produced between 1957 and 1961.

The relatively rare TR-3B cars were produced at the request of Triumph's North American dealers after the introduction of the TR-4. The TR-3B's were basically a continuation of the TR-3A except that they were all left-hand drive and some of the last cars were fitted with the new TR-4 synchromesh transmission and the larger TR-4 front disc brakes. A total of 3334 TR-3B's were produced in 1962.

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