English Corvette: 1980 Triumph TR8

I really didn’t want to show you this car. For years now, I’ve been aware of the fact that I need a V8 car in my collection. Fox bodies seemed too obvious, and the Europeans can’t build a V8 that doesn’t cost more than the value of the car to maintain. The Americans are the clear winners, and while the Japanese can build a reliable eight cylinder mill, the models they’re dropped in are usually too big and saddled with a standard slushbox. Enter the Triumph TR8: limited production, British wonkiness, and a good, old-fashioned V8 mill that descended from the 1960s Buick/Oldsmobile lineup. This one is offered by its longtime caretaker here on Barn Finds Classifieds and temptingly close to yours truly in Mystic, Connecticut.

The asking price is $7,000, and the seller notes that his children have asked him to sell the car after not driving it for the last seven years. The body is a bit rough and has plenty of battle scars, but the seller notes the doors don’t sag and still open and close nicely, suggesting that the frame isn’t compromised. The classic TR8 decals are still present and suggest that at least the trunk lid hasn’t been painted. The TR8 was sold in fairly limited quantities, and the bulk of them were convertibles like this car. The truly hot ticket is the hardtop coupe, of which around 200 are believed to still be in existence.

Now, of course, you could convert a TR7 into a TR8 without too much headache, but the collectability of a car like this resides in its provenance. The seller doesn’t provide any details on the interior cosmetics, but from what we can see, it will need some cleaning. It could just be a matter of a weekend’s worth of detailing, as every effort must be undertaken to preserve that sweet tartan cloth cockpit. The TR8 is said to have just 59,000 miles and comes with a clean Connecticut title. The seller purchased the Triumph in 1990 and has kept it garaged ever since, and claims it was not driven in the rain or the snow. Therefore, it is believed any rust is surface only and limited to the undercarriage and some isolated spots on the panels.

The TR8’s engine was taken from the Rover SD1, which evolved from the 3.5L Buick/Oldsmobile mill that Rover acquired from the General Motors in the 60s. Despite the reputation most British makes had at the time for screwing up a good thing, Rover continued to improve the all-aluminum engine to make it quite robust and reliable, and some might say the V8 drivetrain solved one of the common pain points of any British car from the 70s and 80s. This TR8 is a project, but I’d feel optimistic that the engine will fire back up without too much coaxing and sound great in the process. I wish I was in a place right now where I could take this project on, but as my recent post shows, I’m spread a little thin.

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Comments

  1. bobhess bobhess Member

    Jeff…
    Have come to appreciate you over the years and you are one of the many car friends met over the internet that we haven’t had the pleasure to meet in person. Having spent some time having direct contact with the 7 and 8 series cars it makes me feel good that you have enough projects now and will likely pass on this car.

    Like 5
  2. Jcs

    Amazing how many 40+ year old cars with five digit odometers are “said to have” sub 100K miles, even with overwhelming evidence that this most probably is not the case.

    Sorry, there simply were not that many people with “extra” cars in the driveway back then and the miles added up much more quickly on daily drivers than they seem to expect us to believe.

    Like 7
    • Mike Hawke

      Having owned TR7s and 8s, I’d place a very large wager on 59K versus 159K in this case.

      Like 16
    • RICHARD W KIRTLAND

      Not necessarily true. In the 70’s I often had more than three cars registered at once. Mileage did not pile up so much. (Likely because I was always fixing one.) Funny story – when I was selling my 75 Lotus Elite in ’79 with just under 40,000 miles, one caller from NYC area suggested I had stated the mileage incorrectly, claiming “the Lotus won’t run that long.” Loved that Lotus, but it did break nearly each time I drove it.

      Like 3
    • xrotaryguy

      It’s there actually any such thing as a 159k mile Triumph? 🤣

      My spitfire was a handful to maintain at 80k. I can’t imagine maintaining a Triumph at 159k! (actually, I can. Ouch!!!)

      Like 2
  3. Joe Padavano

    I’ve often wondered if the wheel on these cars, which appear to be modeled after the SuperStock IV wheel Oldsmobile used on the 1971-72 Delta 88s, was a nod to the engine’s origins.

    Like 3
    • MDW66

      I have a 75 Olds Custom Cruiser that I put Super Stock IVs on a few years ago. Never saw the resemblance, until now!

      Like 1
  4. Robert Coker

    A car that deserves to be saved…
    But-
    At what cost? He wants $7700, and it’ll take $12-15K more to get it into presentable condition. If you only read the one paragraph description, you’d say it sounds great. Then you look at the photos and, as a Triumph fan like me, start adding up what it’ll take to make it reliable again after such neglect and the price tag easily exceeds the finished value.
    I love the V8 cars, but this is a project that does not have an affordable starting point.

    Like 8
  5. J

    I just picked up a tr8 coupe barn find. Would you be interested in the story Jeff?

    Like 6
  6. Brian M Member

    Not mentioned, but evident from the dash photo, is the fact that the car has A/C (the button that says “pull on”) and the extra hoses can be seen in the engine bay photo. A complete set of the tan tartan seat covers is available from Rimmer Bros. for $600 (I know because I ordered just one seat bottom for my TR7 and as it is no longer available that way, was sent the entire 4-piece set, which I returned.) The seller would have been 47 in 1990. The photo of the title shows 50,000 miles. It IS possible, but highly unlikely, that he added 109,000 miles in 23 years of driving, in CT, only during LBC driving weather, and probably only weekend trips with like-minded friends. Would love to have it to supplement my TR3 and replace my TR7 but my spouse of 55 years would have my head on a pike. Too bad that, at 77, the seller feels aged out of the hobby. I’m 76, a 38 year heart attack survivor and, as President of our local British car club, still active in the restoration, maintenance and DRIVING of these things. LBCs forever!

    Like 4
  7. Steve Clinton

    “English Corvette” Please don’t ever use those 2 words together!

    Like 9
  8. Howie Mueler

    If you can handle the plaid seats and door panels then yes go for it!!

  9. Allen Member

    Robert Coker X 2, although I’m not concerned about recouping my costs. Cars in this price range never sell for enough to recoup restoration costs. I don’t care about mileage; my ’73 MGBGT has 250,000 miles on it. Mileage is certainly a factor in buying a used family car, but in even a modestly well cared-for collector car, if maintenance and repairs are well attended-to, the car will be OK regardless of mileage. The oil pressure and temperature gauges are much more important than the odometer. This car is 41 years old. If it’s gone 159,000 miles, that’s still less than 4000 miles per year, as opposed to less than 1500 miles per year if the 59,000 miles reading is correct.

    For sake of argument, let’s say the car has only 59000 miles on it. Either the original interiior materals were really cheap crap from the get-go, or somebody abused the living daylights out of the poor thing – or some of both. Neither bodes well. This car looks like it’s been run hard and put away wet. Frankly, I’d feel better about it if it did have 159000 miles on it. At least that would explain the wear and abuse a little.

    And it’s not just the interior – the body is in need of a lot of love too. I do appreciate the seller’s honest provision of so many pictures – so you can see what you’re getting into. And I don’t think the price is horribly out of line. But unless the drive train is just a whole lot better than the cosmetics, until the price drops down below about $4000 I would keep looking. Maybe these TR8s are worth a whole lot more than this MG guy cares to admit. ;-)

    Like 2
    • Eric_13cars Eric_13cars Member

      I looked at all the pictures and the body looks really good for a New England vehicle. I saw a couple of bubbles in one picture, but I’m not seeing any cancer. The paint also looks like it could be revived with some elbow grease. The scrape on the left rear fender is trivial. I don’t understand all of the staining on the interior, but that should be cleanable. The carpets can be replaced easily, and the dash is not cracked from what I can see. The top may actually be usable as is. While the wedge TR7 was not most folks favorite British design, the TR8 was and is rare and desirable, especially with very low production numbers. I think the price is a little high for a project, certainly with it not running, but it looks to have very good bones. Would have liked an under carriage view to confirm lack of rust. Wish it were closer to me. I’d make an offer (even with my myriad of automotive projects).

  10. Allen Bachelder Member

    The BOP-Rover 215 cubic-inch aluminum V8 was used in the SD1, but it showed up nearly a decade earlier in the Rover 3500 saloons. It was also used in the little-known MGBGTV8s circa 1973-75 or so. In fact, all rubber-bumper MGBs were built to accommodate this engine. Especially those after 1976.

    Lot’s of history to this engine: 3/4s of it also showed up in the Buick Special V6s circa 1962. That version ended up in mid-60s Jeeps also.

    Like 1
  11. previousTr7owner

    Wake up! Tr7 Tr8 could be the worst cars ever produced. Real P.O.S. anyone who thinks this is a good car I have some land you should buy. There are thousands of better cars out there, keep looking, it will take you about 3 minutes to find something better.

  12. joe

    First project will be clean out entire fuel system & rebuild carbs. Lots of clean-up to do, and all of those rubber engine hoses need inspection/replacement. Brakes will be gone from sitting. I have a non-running one myself. Sitting 9 yrs., but with Edelbrock 4bbl.
    Not knowing what the underside looks like and if the car was running when stored 7 yrs. ago, will stop most potential bidders. They are not a Sunbeam Tiger, but do have enough power to be fun drivers. Probably a $4K car as it sits.

  13. Hemidavey

    Junk

  14. Charles Sawka

    You don’t see many of these. There is a reason for that.

    • Joe

      Only around 2,700 were built.

  15. hemidavey

    Good thing they quit, they made garbage cars. I know first hand having owned two. I’m still amazed that I was dumb enough to think the first one was just bad luck…I reached into my stupid bag and pulled out another! Almost worst car ever made, second only to the Mercury Capri from Germany. Both good looking, both mechanical/electrical crap-boxes. I’ve owned 62 cars/trucks so far. TR7/8 by far the worst!

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