The Very First TR: Triumph TRX Prototype Find

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Jamie PalmerBy Jamie Palmer

When Walter Belgrove, the Standard-Triumph chief stylist in the early 1950’s, designed the original replacement for the Triumph 1800/2000 Roadster, his first attempt looked very different from the TR2 that was eventually put into production. With hidden headlamps, compound curved body panels and a somewhat unusual design, the TRX got a lot of attention but was never a serious candidate for the cash-strapped Standard to produce. One of the three TRX’s built is now for sale in Koeln, Germany, and is listed¬†here in Hemmings with an asking price of $95,000 or best offer.

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Here’s what HKV 20 looked like in it’s prime. According to the seller, the car is complete with the exception of the hood and the soft top cover. It’s said to have been stored for the last 16 years, and certainly looks like it’s been in the garage for a while. It should be noted that of the three built, only two survive. By the way, that’s an aluminum body!

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While the frame hardly looks pristine, it’s certainly solid and shouldn’t be too hard to refurbish. It certainly looks awfully strong!

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Here’s a period shot of what it looked like from the side. That seat sure looks awfully close to the windshield, doesn’t it? On the other hand, do you think you could buy the Mustang I prototype for less than $100,000, no matter what it’s condition? I sure hope someone restores this car to what original specification. The other TRX still exists and appears to be in nice shape–it would be terrific to see the two cars side by side again.

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Getting back to this car, I’m surprised that so much is intact. Yes, you’ll undoubtedly have to re-create some one-off components, but it would be worth it to have a piece of history like this when you were done. And some parts, like the steering wheel here, look like an intense cleaning may be enough. I’d hope the car is kept as original as possible.

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The engine, unlike the TR engines, has a cross-flow head to get as much horsepower as possible out of the package. Believe it or not, the TRX was built with electro-hydraulic power for the windows, seat adjustment and top. I suspect getting those systems functioning correctly will be quite a challenge, let alone getting an engine that’s quite unique running again. Any Triumph lovers out there willing to take this one on? I sure can’t afford it!

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Comments

  1. Dairymen

    It’s cool to find this but not my cup of tea. It will take a special buyer to buy & restore this.

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  2. Van

    Anyone on TV can restore this in a week
    Two if you need fabrication of major components

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  3. RayT Member

    Can’t imagine this won’t be grabbed fairly soon and sent off for a full restoration.

    The kind of person who would take this on isn’t likely to resto-mod it or worry about the cost of making any replacement one-off parts. It will take only one Serious, Serious Collector!

    That said, I hope the next owner doesn’t overdo the restoration. I’ve seen quite a few prototype cars, and nearly all had quite a bit of spit and baling wire under the flawless paint and upholstery. If they were used for development work, the amount of bodging and bending and cutting underneath increased considerably.

    A great find! Hope the necessary deep-pocketed enthusiast picks it up quickly!

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  4. Healeydays

    It won’t last long if it’s provenance is all there. That’s the type of car that will end up on the lawn at Pebble Beach someday…

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  5. James HGF

    Hi Jamie,

    There’s a kink in the link to the Mustang 1 Prototype – it shuttles one to the Hemmings TRX ad again.

    It’s great that this TRX prototype is still around and in “relatively” good shape, but few are going to gasp and think if only I could afford it. An acquired taste maybe?

    The Mustang 1 Prototype was a car I dearly wished they would/could have put into production. Quite a tease at the time to sports car eager teenagers and likely those much older. Small displacement mid-engine, impressive “modern styling”, but a tease. Link to data:

    http://silodrome.com/the-1962-ford-mustang-i-prototype/

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    • Hoos Hoos Member

      O.K. Somebody ripped somebody off. The mustang I prototype and the Mach 5 have the same profile………..
      I think Speed Racer should get Pops and Racer X after Ford.
      Just my 2 cents.
      I’d love this car, but my I would need a few years tax free income up front to buy it, then restore it.
      Anyone want to be the first to chip in?

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Hi, James, I must have fat-fingered it at some point! Thanks! Fixed now, I wanted to show a shot of the car with the engineering team that created it.

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  6. rogerowen

    WOW! Seriously good barn find, will get good money for sure due to its rarity. Not sure the TRX was actually the forerunner to the TR, I always thought that was the TR1 which used Triumph Roadster parts in an attempt to modernise the aged look of the roadster in the late 1940’s.

    Her’s a nice picture of one of the TRX prototypes showing the sideways opening bonnet.

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Rogerowen, you’re correct in that the TR1 morphed into the TR2 once Ken Richardson got hold of it and they finally realized they couldn’t use that pre-war Standard 9 frame. The TRX was Standard-Triumph’s first attempt at a “modern” sports car, something you couldn’t call either the 1800 or 2000 roadsters, and it was also the first use of the “TR” moniker. I doubt that there’s 5% of the parts that carried over to even the TR1, though, but at least it got them thinking in the right direction! Nice picture, too, thanks for adding it!

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  7. Scotty Gilbertson Scotty G Staff

    Maybe if we all chipped in, and then this one was next in line after the Spitfire in the Barn Finds Restoration Garage?…

    I wonder what this car might be worth if it was restored to Pebble Beach perfection? Some Austin-Healeys and Tigers are bringing six-digits so maybe it would be a good investment?

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  8. rogerowen

    Thanks Jamie, this is the TR1 as I remember it. You can definitely see TR2 resemblances. I had TR2’s for many years and never knew there was a TR1 – not sure many were made, but I think it got to be shown at the British Motor Show in the early 50’s.

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      My understanding is that they only made one, and that it was scrapped.

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  9. rogerowen

    I think you could be right, just found this;

    ‘The 20TS was the origin of the Triumph TR sports car line, and was referred to unofficially as the TR1 after the introduction of the TR2

    It is unknown whether the 20TS exists today. According to Bill Piggott, the car might have been scrapped to provide parts for a TR2 prototype’.

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    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Interestingly enough, all TR2/3 commission plates have the “20” moniker still on them.

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  10. rogerowen

    Hmm, I have an original ‘Spare Parts’ manual for my TR4A that also retains the ’20’ designation, but it’s not on the commission plate on my car.

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  11. Andrew S Mace

    As I recall, a second “TR1” (although they were never billed as such) was partially completed. Both were “scrapped” as a few bits of at least one of them went into one or both of the two TR2 prototype cars (possibly MVC575, the “Jabbeke” car). I believe, though, that those TR2 prototypes had long since abandoned the leftover prewar Standard Nine (?) chassis frame in favor of a more purpose-built chassis frame that came to grace the production cars.

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  12. Bill McCoskey

    I’m pretty sure I saw this very car in a shed on a breaker’s yard [junkyard] in Lincolnshire, England, back about 1985 or 86. While looking at an equally rare 1920s Bentley open tourer, I spotted another vehicle under a tarp, next to the Bentley. Pulling up the tarp, I realized it was one of the TRX cars, before the eccentric yard owner insisted I put the tarp back down again. He refused to discuss the car, even when I indicated I had owned several TR-2, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, etc. vehicles.

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  13. rogerowen

    Lincolnshire! You were lucky to get out.

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  14. Bill McCoskey

    It was at a yard owned by Bob Wilkerson [Wilkenson?], ever been there? The place was chock-a-block with pre-WW2 cars

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    • rogerowen

      Sounds like a great Barn Find location, anyone in UK brave enough to investigate?

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  15. Bill McCoskey

    The place has been closed/gone for a long time, from what I’ve heard nothing remains.

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  16. rogerowen

    Shame, these finds still occur though.

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