TR2 / TR3 Buyer's Guide
The tradition of building sports cars from off-the-shelf sedan bits has been with us for along while. Intrigued by the success of the archaic MG T series, Triumph hurried to bring its own two-place car to market. Triumph took the two-liter Standard Vanguard wet-liner four-cylinder engine and chassis-frame of the pre-war Standard Flying Nine. The front suspension and rear axle, slightly modified, came from the Triumph Mayflower. Walter Belgrove, in charge of styling for the new car, wanted to make a more modern visual statement than that of the MG T series with their old-fashioned cycle-fenders. At the same time, he was under orders to produce a car that could be sold for $2,000. Looking at a TR2, the successful results of budget and vision coming together are readily apparent.
The headlights were fixed in permanent pods rather than having more expensive retractable capabilities, and the fenders are two pieces to avoid the high tooling costs of compound curves. Further, the distinctive cut-down doors are actually a way to avoid dealing with roll-up windows. The extra elbow-room was just an added benefit.
The first TR2 rolled off the assembly line in August 1953, meeting the target price of $2,000. TR2s can be spotted by their small grill openings with the egg crate recessed deep inside. The very earliest TR2s were "long door" versions, produced through the autumn of 1954. The doors extended fully to the bottom of the bodywork, rather than ending at the rocker panels as on later TR2s and TR3s.
In order to keep the price low, the TR2 was offered with a surprising number of options. Overdrive, especially desirable on today's highways, was standard through S/N TS6266, then became an option. Also available were wire wheels, leather upholstery (which later became standard), a cast-aluminum sump and competition springs and shocks.
A first for sports cars was the removable hardtop first introduced in 1954. It made the cockpit a great deal more comfortable, but some purists wonder why someone who wanted a hardtop didn't just buy a coupe in the first place. The first TR3 was produced in 1956, immediately recognizable by its still-small, but now moved prominently forward, egg-crate grille. Changes included a more potent engine (at 95 bhp) and a change in the rear axle ratio to 4.1 for overdrive equipped models, giving them increased acceleration.
A few months later a new, "high-port" 100 bhp engine appeared, along with Girling front disc brakes developed from the Le Mans TR2s of 1955. The TR3 was the first British production car so equipped. Another racing adaptation was the 'GT' kit, first used in competition in the 1956 Alpine Rally. It included the steel hardtop and exterior door handles, which made getting into the car a bit easier. By offering the kit, the factory could enter TR3s in races in either the "GT" or "Sports Car" category. When the TR3A appeared with its "wide mouth" grille, Triumph hit the sales jackpot and produced 61,567 examples. For reasons never completely understood, the TR3A went on to outsell the TR2/TR3 models combined by a ratio of 3:1.
Clearly an evolutionary model, changes included an optional 2.2-liter engine, an adjustable Bluell's steering column (also available on the TR3), two-speed wipers, a redesigned rear axle and a wide range of competition options. Despite the sales success, by 1960 the basic TR2/3/3A design was getting a bit long in the tooth. Other sports cars were available with roll-up windows and more comfortable driver/passenger accommodations. Sales trickled off, and Triumph, never known for its market forecasting ability, was left with a stack of TR3A bodies that stood exactly 3,331 high.
The solution? Fit new, uprated TR4 drivetrains with 2.2-liter engines and all-synchromesh gearboxes to the old bodies, and call this export-only version the TR3B. These are the best-driving of the entire TR series, hence the most desirable for those who actually use their sports cars.
The TR2/3 series will always have a place as an entry-level collectible sports car along with the MGA. Traditionally, the As have had a higher value, despite their inferior performance capabilities. The most desirable TR2 from a collectible perspective is the early, long-door TR2, while the best driver is the final, TR3B. These cars will rise in value with the market at large, and represent a near ideal combination of value and usability.
"Barn find" TR3 for sale
We've just acquired this TR3 from a long-time customer. It is a solid, complete car that is an excellent restoration candidate. For more information, please call 817-557-3493 or send email.