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British Brute: 1960 Triumph TR3

Triumph’s Spitfire never really did it for me. I have always wanted a TR2 or 3 though. They may be primitive with their tractor derived engines and cut down doors, but there is just something about them that gets my blood running. Maybe it is the fact that they can keep up with big Healeys for a lot less outlay or that they were popular among rallyists when new. This one is going to need a lot attention before driving through any mountain passes, but it can be picked up for $3,200 on Newark, Delaware’s craigslist. A special thanks goes to Bob G for sending this one in.

This TR3 is rough. It doesn’t run and there is rust. We would normally run away quickly from projects in the this sort of condition, but with good parts availability and support, the restoration doesn’t seem too daunting. It does look complete and the engine turns freely. Sure, it is going to cost you more to restore than buying one already done, but just think of the pride you will feel driving something you put together with your own hands.

Enthusiasts have gotten lazy. Before the internet, we would find cars locally. There was none of this searching the internet until you locate the perfect example. You would take what you could find and you made the best of it. A project like this would be exciting, especially if you could get it cheap and you probably would because there were no online price guides to consult. Times have changed, but luckily sources such as Hemmings and craigslist try to keep the local hunt alive.

I continue to scan the local classifieds in hopes of finding something interesting. Unfortunately, most people with anything special in their garage, know they can do better by just posting it up on eBay. I have come across a few fun projects in the past and I guess the TR3 should be added to my list of cars to keep an eye out for. I’m not entirely sure why I like these motorized horse-carts, but whatever the reason there is just something romantic about this British brute…


  1. Dolphin Member

    TR3s were fairly plentiful sportscars on the roads back in the ’60s, and their tractor engines definitely had grunt. I have followed them with lesser sportscars and seen them disappear in the distance even while trying to prevent that from happening. I would sooner have one of these as a driver than a TR6 as a driver, but I prefer the body design of the TR6 over the TR3. The TR6 was styled with Italian input, but I think the TR3 was pure Brit. The cut-down doors on the TR3 give me a very exposed feeling, and they don’t have a ghost of a chance passing any modern side-intrusion standard. You don’t want to be T-boned in a TR3.

    TR3s were a bargain brand new at around $2,300, and this one looks like it can be saved (unless the underside tells a different story), making it one of the better buys in a good-performing ’60s sportscar right now.

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    • Martin W

      “The TR6 was styled with Italian input”

      The TR6 was a German (Karmann) redesign of the Michelloti TR4x body design. The TR6 most certainly looks more Teutonic than the rounded Italian features of it’s predecessor.

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  2. Rancho Bella

    I think these are darling cars……..guess that wasn’t manly…..ahhh so what.
    I would like the early cars over the later. I get real dreamy over a small mouth long door.
    But, this would do in a pinch.
    As a “yout” I didn’t care for them……..now? I be lovin’ the old Triumphs.

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  3. paul

    Now this is me, a large mouth TR3, & I had a Spit, a 69, it was great, also had a 65, 4A. But these cars are tight so if your 195 lbs you aint getting into these, when I was in my 20’s I was 70 LBS lighter.

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    • paul

      So to the lucky dog that gets this strip it, tear it down, but when you paint it be sure it’s BRG!

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  4. david

    I love the style of the TR-3’s and the “old” feel of British sports cars. But my interests have change over the years and the constant effort to tune those tractor engines every 3-5000 miles was a pain, not a love. You can still find C-3 Vettes in this or better shape for the same money and a cookie cutter 350 small block is relatively cheap for the horsepower…..and at near 60 y.o. ( ! ) A/C becomes pretty desirable in the Florida summers…..jmho

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  5. Marc B. Greenwald

    100’s of them at our wrecking yard in No. Hollywood, CA., from the mid-50’s through mid 70’s.

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    • Rancho Bella


      Is there a business name? Inquiring minds.

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    • Karl

      I didn’t know there were still wrecking yards with TR3’s? Did you mean hundreds of British cars? Where is this fabled yard?

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  6. Ron Southan

    With that much rust on the deck lid, I’m afraid to look underneath. Glad they didn’t have pictures actually.

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  7. Michael J Amato

    In ’73 I went looking for my first sports car. Looked at a ’59 Porche 356 convertible but it was a mess. Then found a sweet ’59 TR3 I think it was. I drove it and loved it but my dad had a fit when I told him. He then said the words I will never forget, “Why don’t you just get the Corvette you always wanted”,so I did! It was a nice ’59,hardtop,283 230 hp and a three speed. $700 bucks!! Who knew what they would be worth today.

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  8. Jeff

    I’ve always luved the low-slung doors, talk about feelin’ the road. Great project here.

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    • Hank

      While driving with a buddy in a 59 TR3, passed a squashed squirrel on a lonely highway, tail sticking up. Stopped, gave my friend the right hand glove, then we proceeded to drive by at about 40 mph trying to grab the tail, leaning out those low-slung doors. Made several runs before Johnny grabbed it.
      Things you do when you’re young, eh?

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  9. Stuart

    So how come this same car is listed on Beverley Hills Car club site at $5,950?

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    • Dolphin Member

      Probably because the seller didn’t get a sale (the Craigslist listing is dated Sept. 15th), needed it gone, and sold it to BHCC, which is a big buyer/seller of “barn find” type cars, as you have probably seen. I’m guessing that the CL seller neglected to delete the ad. Now the price is close to double.

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      • Barn Finds

        Good call Donald! Looks like they beat us to it.

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  10. Dolphin Member

    @Marc B Greenwald:
    This is why there are so few TR3s now, and why we get so excited about barn finds like this car when they come onto the market.

    Being inexpensive cars, the assumption was that they would be used for a few years, fun would be had, and then they would be sold for not much $$$ to some young guy with…..not much $$$. He would tear around in it for a while, and then either break the engine/gearbox/clutch, or crash it, or run out of money, and either sell it for parts or a junkyard would sell it for parts.

    That’s a bit of an extreme scenario, but I worked in a foreign-car junkyard when I was 16 and I saw enough of them come into the yard to say that this happened often enough to be called ‘typical’.

    The idea back then was that even special cars were consumable objects. They weren’t the collectible things that we want to buy, fix, and enjoy forever—–or until a better collectible car comes along.

    I remember that a 356 Porsche came into the yard with a crunched right front fender and bent front suspension. The rest of the car was perfect and there was zero rust. Today it would be the find of the decade in old Porsches, but back then it was just a totalled old sportscar because it would have cost maybe $800 to fix it back then. I figured out how to start the engine with no key, and confirmed that it ran perfectly. I used to eat my lunch in the car, and I wanted it bad. I went to the the junkyard owner and asked him about the car, and he said something like: “Kid, once a car gets 60,000 miles on her, she’s starting to get worn out. Save your money and buy a good car instead”.

    Of course, working in a junkyard for $1.25/hour on Saturdays, I couldn’t afford even a crashed Porshe 356, so I never bought the car—-one of the biggest mistakes, among many, that I have made with cars.

    Like I said, even special cars were consumable objects back then.

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    • paul

      I know exactly what you are saying, I used to hang around a Jag repair shop the owner worked on 120’s 140’s 3.8mkII etc he got a 66 E type in that needed a valve job, other then that the car was mint the price to me $2,500, like you I was a kid with no $’s, another guy who used to hang with us had a 67, 427 Vette, mint low miles that he shared with his brother, the price to me $2,900, he sold it to Bridghampton raceway to use as a pace car, this was around 1970. I choke just thinking about it. But I bought a lot of really cool cars for 50/100 bucks back then.

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      • paul

        forgot to mention the E type was repaired new valves the head completely gone thru & the price to me was 2500.

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  11. Chris

    I liked the low end grunt, but thought the body was ugly. Always wanted to strip off the ugly body and hang a Devin delux fiberglass body on that strong frame.

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