I Should Be Buying This: 1980 Triumph TR8 Convertible

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There are a bunch of reasons why I should press the buy-it-now button for this survivor/driver TR8 rather than building my own. It’s even relatively close to my home. It’s just not going to work for me right now as we are in the middle of building a house and shop and moving. So I’m writing it up for you folks, because this is a great deal! It’s located in Atlanta, Georgia and is listed for sale here on eBay with a buy-it-now of $5,500 and bidding invited below that figure.

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No, this car isn’t perfect, there are even a few rust holes in the lower trunk (well-pictured by the seller), and the paint, which is an unusual type on these Triumphs called TPA that’s actually a melted thermoplastic, is quite faded in spots. However, the car is said to run well and looks really respectable; certainly nothing that some nice detailing couldn’t help.

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Even the lower rockers and fender lips look nice. The car has 80,000 miles on it, but the owner has all the purchase and maintenance records since day 1, including the original window sticker ($12,775)! They do list the shortcomings of the car at the moment: a lazy pop-up headlight, shifter bushings (I’ve done that on a TR8, about $20 in parts and an afternoon of contorting your fingers in ways they shouldn’t be able to fit), a torn top and a leaky power steering rack (common).

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The interior is nice but not perfect; I wouldn’t change a thing as I’d be driving this car everywhere I could. The air conditioning isn’t functional at the moment, but the compressor is included with the car.

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Under the hood, we find the Buick/Olds/Rover/Triumph 3.5 liter aluminum block V-8. Unlike most of the ones I’ve seen, this car still has the two original Stromberg carburetors. TR8’s were quite quick for their day, and were often compared with period Corvettes. Yes, I know, 1980 Corvettes weren’t exactly known for their power and speed either–but a TR8 is quick enough for me. I wish I could push the button; if you do, let us know, and I’ll be happy to help you hook up with the Wedge Owners Association!

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Comments

  1. RickG

    Jamie, if you really want a TR8 you should consider going for this one. They don’t come by that often and when they do they are either ratty or if they’re nice they are expensive.

    Take if from a long-time Triumph fan

    Go for it!

    BTW, I had a 69 GT6+ a 72 GT6 Mk3 and an 80 Spitfire, (pictured) and I always wanted a nice TR8

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Rick, take a look at my storage area in this post from December. You’ll see why I can’t right now…

      http://barnfinds.com/whats-in-jamies-barn/

      Nice Spitfire!

      • jim s

        i think if you parked the cars your family already have closer together you could fit one or two more in the space you have. or buy one of those lifts that allows you to stack cars 2 high. you will need one of those lift for your new shop anyway so just buy it early.

    • BMW/Tundra guy

      How much?
      Short history synopsis?
      Where is CA are you? Town is fine for now. I am actually leaving next week on an extended trip to those awful car auctions BJ, Goodings, Boughnams……………… so I’ll be sorta close. I have no agenda nor time/mileage limitation.

  2. Jim

    I remember when these TR8’s first came out, many people assumed they had V8 engines

    • jay gerding

      And so they did have V8’s.

      Like 1
    • Jeric

      They do have v8 engines

      Like 1
  3. john

    I wish……

  4. Mark

    @Jim….
    Indeed they do. Albeit an Anglo-American one…
    Audi had a 5 cylinder which you could put in a TR250 (TR5??)
    The tr6 had a 6 cylinder. The TR8 had an V8. Did the TR7 have a 7 cylinder?

    Kind of interesting – there were TR7 V8s with slush boxes per Wikipedia:
    “A more powerful V8-engined version of the TR7 was planned in the early stages of the TR7’s development, a prototype being produced in 1972.[4] However, British Leyland’s financial state, labour problems and lack of engines—as MG and Range Rover had first priority—delayed the project. By 1978 some 145 prototype cars were built with V8 engines (and usually automatic transmissions). These “anonymous” TR8s (no identifying badges, and all coupes) were evaluated for British Leyland by various dealers and then sold off as used cars.”

  5. Slim Chance

    Pretend you never saw the ad. Best advice I can give you.

    Slim

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Too late. But good advice.

  6. mark

    i had a 1980 tr-7 convertible..it was so much fun….I can imagine a tr-8…

  7. Healeydays

    Nice little cars. I use to hill climb and autocross with a guy with the rare hardtop version and he was one of the only stock cars that could keep up with my early Rx7.

    Total cars built numbers:
    TR8 Coupes: 400
    TR8 Conv: 2,346

  8. Howard A Member

    I agree with Slim. I can think of more reasons NOT to buy it. While the roadster was a little better than the hardtop model, wasn’t this the car that helped kill Triumph? Probably a fun car, but just too much a radical departure from what Triumph was known for. No thanks.

    • Brakeservo

      I think it was the gawd awful TR7 and Stag that drove the nails into Triumph’s coffin

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        @ Howard A — no, Triumph was pretty much a done deal by the time the 8 came about.
        @ Brakeservo — labor relations, mismanagement and some bad luck with exchange rates eventually did them in. There are several books on the subject of BL’s demise–interesting reading.

  9. Mike L

    I like this car! Very little I would do to it. There is a little rust that needs attention and maybe some new bushings etc. would like to add this to my garage!

  10. Dolphin Member

    I made an effort last year to buy a TR8, but decided not to. I really wanted a convertible, but I ended up with mixed feelings about the TR8.

    The upside is that, although the body isn’t to everyone’s liking (“the shape of things to come” if I remember the advertising tag line from back then), it wasn’t a dealbreaker for me, and they have a 3.5 liter aluminium V8. Having driven a near-new TR8 many years ago I was impressed by the torque and the 5-speed. They are also cheap, especially for a convertible with an aluminium V8 + 5-speed. Some of them are in pretty decent condition despite being 35 years old, like this one. And the price is often right.

    But there are downsides. You won’t make any money owning one. That would be OK, but…..

    The V8 has limitations. One is the lack of snap and revs—-they run out of breath quickly. Worse, some of those V8s develop a problem with the cylinder liners loosening up in the aluminium block, which is given away by a strange ticking sound at idle. It sounds a bit like worn small end bearings, but different. I was set to buy an MGB with one of these V8s installed until I asked the seller to send me a video of the engine at idle. The ticking was clearly present, and even though the price was very good, redoing the engine would not be a simple rebuild because it needs special machining and mods to keep the liners in place. Not every shop can do the job. And if you keep running it there will be more damage done to the block. So I passed.

    Also, the chassis feels heavy and dead, with slow, heavy steering. Sorry to rain on Jamie’s parade, but I think even though these are cheap it’s important for a buyer to make sure the limitations aren’t dealbreakers.

    Probably building your own, the way you want it, with a later engine, would be a better way to go.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      @ Dolphin — thanks for the well-reasoned comments. Most of my experience with TR8’s comes from a pre-production *manual* coupe that I owned. It didn’t run out of breath (the 4-barrel conversion, headers, and the fact that the first owner was Bob Tullius might have had something to do with that) and had great steering. But I’ve only driven a stock car a couple of times.

  11. VictorAnderson

    I’ve had a kinda – TR8. It started life as a TR7 – then it was stripped down, wide-body fiberglass body, fenders, front air-dam – etc etc etc. The guy was using it as a race car as it had a bored out TR8 motor – with a HUGE turbo-charger and a Muncie 4pd transmission with a hurst shifter. Special suspension, sway bars. custom driveshaft and a GM rear-end.etc etc etc. Wheels were hard-to-find 13 x 10’s (tires where hard to find as well). I had it painted, put interior and glass in it and then proceeded to drive it on the street for around 8 months hahaha. Was it fast? Hell yes it was fast – still to this day fastest car I’ve ever had and probably fastest one I’ve ever been in. Problems? Hell yes it broke quite a bit. Clutch slave cylinder blew out weekly due to pushing a heavy chevy clutch, no power steering at all either. Between that and how hard it was to push in the clutch you really got a workout driving it. Then, despite 3 radiators and an oil cooler – the damn thing would still run hot – that was the biggest problem which I’ve never been able to beat. And of course very loud. Not a convertible – but it has one of those giant roll top sunroofs – which I replaced with a giant piece of clear-lexan so I had see-though sunroof – although it’s too big to fit in the car when off. Fun to run though – 0 to 60 in under 5 seconds easy – 1/4 mile in the high 10’s – and at one point I got clocked at 181.6mph in it. And I used it as a daily driver…hahaha. Great fun – but I wouldn’t try to build another one – the costs would be insane. I got lucky because for the most part mine was assembled when I got it. I love the big-engine in tiny-car concept – but to do this right it gets expensive. They now make wide-body kits car the cars – they don’t look as good as mine and cost $10,000 just for the body parts! I think the way to go now is probably the Monster Miata’s – or now you can put V8’s in Prosche Boxters too – renegade has a kit for that. For sure not as unique, and maybe not as fast – but a heck of a lot more usable.

    • kman

      Ed on “Wheeler Dealers” did a refurb on a TR8 and mentioned the overheating and installed a new Rootes supplied radiator that apparently cured the problem, or so it was claimed.

      • VictorAnderson

        Yes I saw that episode. On that car I’m sure it probably worked. In my case the giant turbo (which I believe came off a big tractor) created a lot of additional heat. Big over-sided radiator in the front – two more small ones mounted in the truck – and oil cooler in the front – still runs hot. I know that at one time Paxton made a supercharger for that engine – that might be a better route to go as far as the heat problem – but the thing has such a massive amount of low-end torque that it actually took me a week or two of driving it around to figure out how to take off without spinning the tires haha (the trick was to use NO GAS, just let off the clutch real slow – then when you’re moving about 10 or 15mph ..very very gently push the gas) — and a supercharger would just make that issue worse. Final gearing is 1 to 1 so really didn’t want to play around with the gearing either. Another thing that happened repeatedly was the passenger-side valve train would blew about 5 times in 8 months. These are the bad things of course. But it also has lot of custom things done when the motor was mounted (not in it’s typical place) and ended up with 50/50 weight distribution. Couple that with less than 2,000 lbs after all the fiberglass and over 450hp you end up with a hell of a beast. I liked the idea of having an all aluminum v8 engine because of the weight. Rover still uses a variant of that same engine and perhaps the newer ones are better than the old Buick ones if you wanted to build one. From a usability standpoint – a Miata with a Ford 302 and T5 transmission might make more sense – but then you have a boring-everone-has-one miata instead of a what-the-heck-is-that custom TR7/8 turbo. Oh and lastly – the thing sucked gas like crazy! Even that stock TR8’s eat a lot of gas.

  12. Bob_s

    Go Checkout the Craigslist ad before bidding. It looks like it has a rust hole in the rocker.

    http://atlanta.craigslist.org/atl/cto/5392934216.html?lang=es&cc=mx

    • RickG

      good catch. nothing worse than a rusty bottom side.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Agreed, but that does look like some localized damage, and with it undercoated there on the outside from the factory, even my level of skill could replace that metal ok. Great catch, though. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter as bidding on anything right now is out of the question!

  13. Keith Matheny

    I also like the “shape of things to come”. But, they have their own problems.
    Going on-line to research them a little gives ” tin worm” a new meaning. Much like any Triumph, you’d better PPI them.
    Coming from someone who has had TR3’s on up. (currently with a California sourced Spitfire, lol. Good 7’s are out there, for 1/2 this price! Good 8’s are double this.
    I have access to a SHO motor, Tremic, need a Mercury (or Mustang) IRS rear. TR7.5 anyone? And your going to have to get bigger wheels, 13″ tires are limited!.
    I’d wait to “Build your own” before dealing with the Rover V8!
    Dolphin is spot on about them! But you can improve them, now, for a price, ha ha!

  14. jim s

    sold for $ 5500.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Whew! I’m safe! Hope it was to a BF reader! If so, let us know!

  15. Rich

    Well it looks like the buyer from 1/12/2016 backed out of the deal. Wife wouldn’t let him buy it, house burned down, dog died, kid needs braces kinda reason.
    I am happy to say I was the highest bidder today for over a $1000. less!
    I had a TR7 many years ago but always wanted a TR8 so this was too good of a deal to pass up. It needs a little TLC but I can do that and still drive it to work on sunny days.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      FANTASTIC, Rich! Send us pictures when you get it home!

      • Rich

        Jamie, here it is still on the trailer the next day after I got it home. The car came with a lot of documentation including the names off all the owners from day one. I only got to back it off the trailer and park it in the garage before the weather turned nasty so I haven’t got to drive it much. With a little TLC it’s going to be a great car.

      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

        Terrific, Rich!!! Thank you (not!) for saving me from me :-) Seriously, I think you have a great car there and I’m looking forward to hearing more! C’mon to NC for the South Central British Car Gathering in April–we always have a lot of wedges!

  16. Rich

    Sorry my pic was too big or something.I will edit later and post the pic.

  17. Rob

    Fun reading!!
    I had a 1971 Triumph GT6 Mk IV bought brand new from the dealer, which was a great car, but no a/c.
    Then I had a TR-7 which I liked as well, and really had no problems with it. Bought it brand new as well.
    Then of course I had to have the TR8, and I did buy a new one in 1981. A great car, pretty fast ( beat the Datsuns easily) nice a/c etc.The only thing was only the California versions had fuel injection, unfortunately mine had carbs. There was a problem with the automatic choke and the car wouldn’t start in cold weather. Wish they had had a manual choke. As it was brand new I tried to get the dealer to fix it in vain. The company was in the process of closing down and was not working on fixing anything or supporting their dealers with warranty claims. There didn’t seem to be any problems with the fuel injected models. Too bad there really isn’t a small sports car like the Triumphs anymore, I think there would be a great market for them if made by a quality company. Who wants an ugly Fiat or Mini Cooper anyway!

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