Dependable Driver: 1965 Triumph TR4A

Right off the bat, this Triumph hit me as a driver. The seller says it does drive and is used for weekend motoring. It’s not perfect, it has some bumps and bruises and a fair finish at best. And my thought is that’s the perfect condition for a driver – take it out, have some fun, and don’t worry about it. Let’s take a closer look at this 1965 Triumph TR4A. It is located in Gilbert, Arizona and is available, here on eBay for a BIN price of $14,950. There is a make an offer option too.

The TR4A was a follow on to the TR4 and offered between 1965 and 1967. The biggest difference between a TR4 and a TR4A is the A’s independent rear suspension. Interestingly, there was also a “live” axle version available for the U.S. market. The IRS versions have an “IRS” badge affixed to the trunk lid, something this A doesn’t have. And the mention of replacement spring shackles, plus the “CT” prefix of the VIN, identifies this example as a live axle car. Total TR4A production was about 28K units.

The first thing that stands out with the TR4A is the front rubber bumper “overriders”, something one would expect to find on a ’73 model or newer. The seller makes no mention of their presence though they should offer some additional upfront protection; they’re just wrong for this vintage Triumph. The body appears to be sound, there is no sign of corrosion or crash damage, nevertheless, it’s advisable to check the underside for signs of rust, a familiar problem with TR4/4A’s. As mentioned earlier, the exterior is not pristine and the seller describes it as, “Paintwork is older and still very glossy. It’s showing some age in the form of some chips from normal use, some shrinking/cracking“. Still, it is very presentable and not in need of immediate attention. It would be helpful to get a glimpse of the folded top but one is not offered.

Power is provided by a 104 HP, 2.1 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine. The seller adds, “The car’s mechanical condition is overall very good to excellent. The engine starts first try on the key and bursts to life with good oil pressure, no smoke, and a nice exhaust note“. There is an extensive list of parts that have been replaced, including a new carburetor; clutch (pilot bushing, pressure plate, and disk); slave cylinder; transmission mount/buffer; engine mounts; oil service; coolant flush with new hoses; new thermostat and gasket; new radiator cap, and oil pan gasket. Similar attention has been paid to suspension refurbishing too. The gears are rowed in this TR4A via a four-speed manual transmission.

The interior is a bit of a disappointment. The seats are ripped, the dash pad is shot, the door cards are missing and there’s a lot of misplaced wiring. While the wood instrument panel is delaminating, at least all of the gauges appear to still be in place. The attention that’s not really needed on the exterior should be diverted to the interior – it needs some help.

As stated at the outset, this Triumph seems like a nice driver, not too nice to cause parking lot worry and not so deleterious that the floor is about to fall out. What’s your verdict, a reasonable price for a reasonable car?

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Comments

  1. angliagt angliagt Member

    That the stripe that was used on the TR250,which
    was the 6 cylinder model.
    I found a TR250 in this color,while walking around our
    neighborhood.Seems that a previous owner had swapped
    the IRS out of it,to the earlier straight axle.Weird.

    Like 3
    • Euromoto Member

      Plus one on the horizontal stripe, TR 250 (TR 5 in Britain) 1968 only.

      Like 1
  2. Howard A Member

    I think,,,the TR4 and all it’s variants, was the last real decent Triumph. It was popular enough and the timing for a fresh British sports car, like the MGB, made this what most people think off when mentioning Triumph. Not sure if it was “Leylandisation”, or what, everything after the TR4’s seemed to be of shoddy construction. Kind of like when Rambler became AMC, still good cars, but not the same. Who knows what the story is here, just great to see a TR4 again. I hope the staff is enjoying theirs. Like to hear an update, if any. My favorite Triumph,,,car, that is.

    Like 3
    • Derek

      I’d like to have seen a Stag – once the engine problems were sorted – with a body in the style of a GT6 (the late one, with the full-width rear light/number plate panel). That could’ve been a belter of a grand tourer.

      I like the TRs 5 and 6, and the GT6 (despite going into a ditch in the back seat of one once) – and also the 1500TC. Looks like a Dolomite, but isn’t badged as one; it’s a saloon Spitfire.

      Like 1
      • Derek

        …and my sister has a TR4A that’s been breathed on a bit. It’s a nice thing.

        Like 2
  3. Will Irby

    The pilot bushing was replaced along with the clutch, but not the throwout bearing? Wow.

    Like 1
    • Cobra Steve

      Either an oversight in the advert or a bad case of being “penny-wise and dollar-foolish”.

  4. Had Two

    Live rear axle is the one to have! More fun around the corners.

    Like 1
  5. Donald Sladek

    I don’t think the front marker lights were introduced until the TR250, but I could be wrong…

    • Brian M Member

      Fender marker lights are one of the ways to distinguish a 4 from a 4A. Tr5/250 used the later body. TR5 is petrol injected instead of carbureted. Have a friend with a left hand drive TR5, with PI, that was originally sold in France or Germany, hence the LH drive.

    • Andrew S Mace Member

      @Donald Sladek: Well, you are wrong. Those fender-mounted lamps featured on all TR4As!

      Like 1
  6. EPO3

    Give it good wash and scrub and then ask for a unrealistic price

    Like 4
  7. Cobra Steve

    Triumph cars offer a lot of bang for the buck! While we’d all like to have an E-Type, truth is, they are priced into the stratosphere by collectors/investors who don’t know the difference between a crescent wrench and a torque wrench.

    So, I ask the question: If a beautiful E-Type will fetch $200K and a comparable Triumph TR6 will bring $40K, is the E-Type five times more fun? I get it about “supply vs. demand”, but my point is for those among us who DRIVE their cars, most of the Triumph range are a relative bargain. Add the fact there are many active clubs and members who are willing to share their knowledge (and labor sometimes) AND parts for Triumphs are affordable, it simply makes more sense.

    Of course, I’m biased as I have TR6s, GT6s, and even a humble Spitfire in my collection. LBCs (Little British Cars), even with their quirks, are simple to work on and are completely analog–none of the computer controlled nonsense of today. One gets to enjoy the sensation of DRIVING instead of being DRIVEN.

    Like 5
    • tompdx Member

      Having owned a TR6, a TR250, and a GT6, as well as a Ser 1 E-type coupe and a Ser 3 E-type roadster, I can answer: YES, E-types are at least 5 times more fun. And I drove the heck out or all of them (still driving the Ser. 3). I’ve also found that many E-type owners do a lot, if not all, of their own work on their cars. Spend a few minutes on Jag-lovers.org and you’ll see what I mean.

      • Cobra Steve

        @tompdx Glad to know there are folks out there who still like to do their own “wrenching”. I, too, have owned three E-Types (’67 Roadster, ’64 Coupe, & ’69 Coupe), but I still maintain the level of ownership fun might be 2x or 3x, and that is primarily due to the stunning body lines and incredible dashboard layout.

        However, in this day and age of distracted, uninsured, and jealous drivers, I’m scared-to-death of driving anything worth more than $50K. The back roads are much more fun than the interstate highway and it is far easier to “pull over” when the Prince of Darkness strikes.

    • Nick Birdsey

      Yes I completely agree, the TRs up to and including the 4s were great fun. I had a TR3A, I reconditioned the engine and fitted a high ratio overdrive, a great result. Better than the Daimler sp250 that it replaced.
      The tr5s were different , heavier, with the sometimes problematic lucas fuel injection. My TR3A was grest fun but the heater was optional!

      • Bill McCoskey

        Nick Birdsey,

        You had a HEATER in a TR3A? I’ve had a few early TR’s over the years, and all mine ever had were Smith’s WARMERS!

        And on that note;

        I had problems figuring out if my turn signal flasher units worked, or if the on-off of the turn signal lights was due to poor electrical grounds!

        One of my TriumphTR4As had a wonderful vinyl bumper sticker: “All parts falling off this car are of the finest British workmanship!”

        Like 1
      • Cobra Steve

        @ Bill McCoskey, surely you’re familiar with Lucas refrigerators? That’s the reason the English drink warm beer.

      • JMB#7

        Can anyone say “oil slinger”. It will let you know when you are getting too much blow-by.

        Like 1
      • Bill McCoskey

        Cobra Steve,

        My restoration shop specialized in British cars [from Triumphs to Rolls-Royce, always plenty of work!], so over a 30+ year period I put together a compendium of Lucas Electrics “sayings”, but in the opening page I warned that if the readers are in England, the soft-cover book is best read during daylight hours.

        Like 2
      • Cobra Steve

        @ Bill McCoskey I’m a little slow on the draw but I finally figured out what you meant by reading your book during daylight hours! You might consider contacting one of the British car suppliers to sell your collection in paperback form, right along with a copy of The Red Car.

        BTW, I know we’ve drifted away from the subject Triumph TR4, but it is good to see so much interest and light-hearted humor associated with our LBC’s! Hopefully the seller and future buyer can get together on a reasonable price and for the next owner to “save another one”!

        And to the folks at Barn Finds, thanks for providing us with this forum!

        Like 1
      • Will Irby

        CobraSteve, was “The Red Car” about an MG TC? I remember reading that in the late ’60s; good story.

  8. JMB#7

    I had a TR4A that had the live axle, and it handles just fine. Less stuff to replace too. As for the asking price, I do think that the value is increasing on these. The body looks really good considering it looks mostly original. Did they have those goofy front bumper over-riders in 1965? I really do not remember see them on a TR4A before? If you like wire wheels, check them out well before buying it. They look pretty good in the pictures, but busted spokes can be hard to spot. I much prefer the banjo spoke steering wheel that I had over the one shown here.

    Like 2
  9. YankeeTR5

    @Cobra Steve…..all true about the e-type, but for me I fit in a Triumph and do not fit in an E-type (or a cobra). Knees on the wrong side of the steering wheel. A TR….I fit very well. People are always surprised when I get out. You point about fun is also on point.

    Someone tried to make it like a 250….they even painted the grill slates matte black on the upper side of the slats. It looks like a solid car but should be under 10K with that interior. Even doing the work yourself, ones gonna be into a new interior to the tune of close to $4k. Rare color, and one of my favorite. Totally restored and lightly used the 4’s struggle to break the mid 20’s.

    Like 1
    • JMB#7

      At 6′ 2″ I fit into the TR4A very well. However I did have a problem getting out of it once when I had hiking boots on. It seems that there is some limited clearance under the driver-side dash where large boots will lock into. But how many people would drive one with hiking boots on?

      Like 2
      • Will Irby

        Hmm, I don’t know; hiking boots might be a good thing to have in any early British car. They have been known to make drivers into unwilling hikers.

        Like 5
      • Cobra Steve

        @ Will Irby I always thought hiking boots were “standard issue”. That’s why we’re all so fit and trim!

        Like 2
      • Cobra Steve

        @Will Irby Yes, The Red Car book was a story about an MG TD and a TC. It was a quick read and if I recall correctly, the underdog had the TC.

    • Bill McCoskey

      YankeeTR5,

      I used to hang around the local Triumph dealership in Bethesda, MD [Manhattan Auto]. I remember talking with one of the salesmen about a few “updated” TR4A new cars. Once the TR250 was available, seems no one in our area wanted the 4 cylinder TR4A, instead opting to buy the more powerful 6 cylinder cars.

      So Manhattan Auto updated the look of the TR4A cars still in stock, by adding the front stripes and the TR250 grill. I suspect Manhattan Auto wasn’t the only one to figure this out, and this car may have been sold new with the grill & stripes. I assume the parts department also had a few [lightly used] TR4A grills available for cars with accident damage!

      Like 1
    • Bill McCoskey

      Cobra Steve,

      In the couple of years I’ve been commenting here on Barn Finds, I’m amazed at how many people I’ve known over the last 50 years who are on here, including people I’ve sometimes lost contact with.

      In the past week alone, I’ve “met” the guy who bought “my” Pontiac LeMans Sprint 6 hardtop when it was brand new, and saw photos of the very same 1952 Alfa Romeo 1900C convertible that I was given a ride in when I was a teenager! As the owner of a rare Tatra T2-603, I was happy to meet other Tatra T2-603 owners [or former owners] who are Barn Finds members.

      Barn Finds is truly a great wealth of automotive knowledge and trivia amongst it’s members.

  10. rex m

    $15 K? Get Real!

    Like 3
  11. Charles E Ferrell

    I agree. I’m a long time Triumph fan and am currently restoring a ’71 TR6. I think the price asked for this one is about $10K too high.

    Like 1
  12. 914Shifter Member

    I think that is also a TR250 Grill, to go along with the stripe. Probably just an upgrade, as I think that was common. Gives the overall look of the TR250. However, the TR6 rubber overrides have to go!!

    Like 3
  13. Cobra Steve

    Note the shift knob…from an Awful Romeo (sorry Alfa junkies…couldn’t resist).

    By the way, the steering wheel definitely from a TR6 and likely the US gubbermint-mandated by way of killjoy insurance companies 250 mph rubber battering rams which appear to be from a ’74-’76 TR6.

    Like 1
  14. Bill McCoskey

    Back in the late 1970s I used to be involved with what later became Moss Motors East Coast. Years ago I did some research and I think I can explain why the TR4A was available with both the IRS and the live rear axle.

    The Triumph & Standard Cars importer for North America was Forman & Genser. Due to the increased cost in fitting the IRA, it made the TR4A a lot more expensive. The importer asked Standard Triumph to keep the TR4’s live axle as the “base” car for the TR4A, and make the IRS system an option. While 75% of TR4A cars were shipped to the US with the IRS, the basic live axle version allowed them to keep advertised vehicle prices lower. Triumph continued to offer the live axle until supplies ran out in late 1965.

    A problem with the IRS rear axle mounting studs is worth repeating here as well: There are 4 studs on the frame crossmember that hold the center differential unit in place. While this problem is more common with the more powerful TR 250 [TR5] and TR6, it can happen to TR4A vehicles equipped with IRS, especially those that have been used in competition and/or abused.

    The problem is simple; One or more of the mounting studs breaks off from the frame crossmember. This can often be heard as a clunk when first accelerating or while shifting.

    I’ve seen attempts at repairing this by removing the differential unit and welding the studs back onto the crossmember. However this method rarely lasts long, and the studs break off again. The correct repair involves welding the studs back in place both at the base of the stud, AND from the top of the stud where it passes thru the crossmember. [When the studs break off they leave holes in the crossmember.]

    But this correct method requires either removal of the entire body to access the frame’s top side, or cutting a large hole in the body, giving access to the cross member. Check all 4 stud locations for stress cracks, weld the broken or cracked studs back in place, & replace the rubber mounts too! Then replace & weld back in place the sheet metal panel you removed for access. This repair job does require the R/R of the fuel tank of course.

    When buying a TR with IRS, try to ascertain if this repair has been done*, and it’s especially important for 6-cylinder cars with high mileage. If you have to pay a shop to do this work correctly, it’s not cheap. So if it clunks on hitting the gas pedal, put the car on a lift and check to see if the differential unit is loose.

    *Look at the space under the fuel tank to see any evidence of a patch or sheet metal repair.

    Like 4
    • Andrew S Mace Member

      Genser & Forman was the regional distributor for Triumph in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, not the entire US.

      • Bill McCoskey

        Thanks for the correction!

  15. Paul

    Live rear axle is better. In ’67, Car & Driver did a sports roadster shootout test with Alfa Duetto, MGB, Sunbeam Alpine, Datsun 1600 and Triumph TR-4A IRS. The Triumph came in last because the IRS wasn’t well worked out and ruined the handling, said the testers. This would be a good weekend sportster with some investment in the interior and general massaging.

    Like 2
  16. Bob Coker

    Just for openers, this TR has TR6 bumper guards and, without detail photos, I have to wonder what else has been “appropriated” to make this car into the previous owner’s idea of a “Driver”.
    The dash, dashboard, door panels, upholstery, presumably the carpet and all rubber and vinyl should all be replaced just to BEGIN to make it presentable, let alone a “Driver”
    I looked for about a month and found a 1962 TR4 that runs GREAT, looks GREAT, drives GREAT, requiring no work to make it drivable, and I paid $14k.
    Especially during winter months, when prices are low… I’d keep looking, if I was in the market.

    Like 2
  17. Ganjoka

    I would bet this was once a front end wreck and repaired with parts available from the local salvage yard. Maybe the hit was hard enough for the driver to bend the original banjo steering wheel. Be sure to check for any frame/suspension damage or repairs.

  18. JMB#7

    A couple observations.
    On ebay 99 watchers, zero offers.
    Rear carb, the damper cap appears to have the threads busted off.
    Same pictures as the carbs, it looks like the heater hose is capped off.
    In the isometric from the right front, it looks like the hood is creased ahead of the driver (maybe just weird shadows).
    On the positive side, it appears that the exterior trim, glass, & lens are all good.
    Body seems about as straight as most I have seen.
    If I were in the market, I would expect it to sell for about 1/3 of the asking price.
    But that is up to the potential buyer & seller.

    Like 1
  19. Duncan

    Well I am a youngster and from Canada. I got my beginner’s license in 1976 and drove out of the lot in a1974 TR6…. coolest car i ever drove. My stepfather was a mechanic.

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