In the early ‘70s, right when British Leyland was thinking of conceptualizing a new sports car to replace the Triumph TR6 and MGB, stylist Harris Mann doodled a kind of bubbletop wedge with upswept curves on the side. While Mann made the doodle just for fun, the management thought otherwise the moment their eyes landed on it. They actually thought it could be the perfect design for the new two-seater they’re thinking of producing. That’s how the story of the Triumph TR7 and Triumph TR8 started.
The TR8 was the eight-cylinder version of the wedge-shaped TR7. When it was introduced, the TR8 had been praised for its outstanding performance, which made it earn the “English Corvette” moniker. Most of the TR8 produced by British Leyland were sold in the American and Canadian markets.
1978: The pre-production Triumph TR8
In 1972, during the early stages of TR8’s development, Triumph decided to make prototype units. But due to British Leyland’s labor problems, financial status, as well as lack of engines, production of such prototypes was delayed. It was in 1978 when the prototype cars were built, featuring V8 engines. Even though these cars didn’t have identifying badges and they were all coupes, they were made out TR8’s concept. So, they were sometimes dubbed as the anonymous TR8s. These prototypes were evaluated by various dealers, and then afterwards sold by British Leyland as used cars.
1980: The official U.S. launching of the TR8
In January 1980, the TR8 was officially launched in America as a convertible, though the prototype coupes were still available. It got power from a 3.5-liter V8 engine that was able to produce a respectable 135hp. This engine, however, wasn’t Triumph’s single overhead cam V8 with unreliable service record; instead, the TR8 was fitted with Rover V8 engine, the one that powered the Rover SD1. History proved how extremely reliable and powerful the engine was.
Models for California market, however, were equipped with a Bosch L-jetronic fuel injection system. The Triumph TR8 was outfitted with dual exhaust, power steering, leather steering wheel, alloy wheels, and five-speed manual transmission.
1981: The final Triumph TR8s
For the 1981 model year, which was also the final year for the TR8, the car got standard fuel injection system and other minor updates. However, these new details and the 1981 TR8s haven’t got the chance to prove their worth because production came to an end with just 2,715 units made.
Though the Triumph TR8 was a great car, it came out a little too late. By the time it was introduced, British Leyland was already on the ropes. Also, the British government’s takeover of the company also meant end of production for the TR as well as other vehicles like the Triumph Spitfire. The demise of the TR8 was mourned as it was Triumph’s last sporting model and it was a promise that the automaker didn’t seem to fulfill.