Late Arrival: 1980 Triumph TR7 Spider Limited Edition

I am old enough to remember the excitement that was generated in the mainstream motoring press when the news first filtered through that Triumph was in the midst of developing a new and modern sports car. I can also remember that same section of the press expressing their disappointment in the TR7 when it first saw the light of day. While some of this was due to the car’s appearance, many were just disappointed that Triumph’s new sports car was not a convertible. It would take a few years, but Triumph would eventually rectify this latter shortcoming, and in 1980 they would also release a limited edition version called the Spider. Barn Finder Roger referred this Spider to us, so thank you for that Roger. The little Triumph is located in Tampa, Florida, and is listed for sale here on Craigslist. The owner is asking $6,500 for the car.

The Spider was available in any color, as long as it was black, and the reflective red pin-stripe and decals contrast nicely. This one appears to be a solid example, and its external presentation is quite good. The owner does note a small spot of rust on one rear quarter near the wheel arch. I also believe that there might be some beginning to appear below the rocker molding on the driver’s side. The fit and finish of the soft-top on the Spider was never as good as we see on more modern convertibles, but this one doesn’t look bad for the vehicle’s age. I’ve had a look at the information on build totals, and I found some rather interesting facts. While Triumph was never able to supply exact figures, a private individual went to the time and effort to read the factory build cards for every TR7 built in 1980. He came up with what is considered to be the definitive totals. The Spider was built in two separate versions. There were 1,070 cars built that were fitted with carburetors the same as this Spider, while 548 cars featured fuel-injection, and were destined exclusively for the Californian market.

As well as a distinctive paint and striping combination, the Spider Special Edition featured a unique, and quite tasteful, interior trim package. This included Pewter carpet, the wheel from the TR8, grey, striped upholstery, and a radio/cassette player. The carpet and dash on the TR7 look to be in very good condition, although the original radio/cassette has made way for a modern CD player. Unfortunately, the door trims have also been cut to fit aftermarket speakers. The upholstery on the seats is more of a problem because it is torn beyond repair. This is a bit of a problem, as the limited build numbers mean that sourcing original material is close to impossible. There are a few manufacturers who produce material that is close, but not a perfect match. Still, I guess that this is better than nothing.

The Spider Special Edition package brought no mechanical or performance upgrades to the table for the TR7, so what you received was the standard 1,998cc 4-cylinder engine, and 5-speed manual transmission. The performance was all that you would expect from a car with 88hp on tap, with a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds. The owner says that the car runs and drives well. Along with the fuel tank being recently cleaned and recoated, the Triumph has also received a new clutch, and maintenance to the brake, fuel, and cooling systems.

The relatively low build numbers for the Spider Special Edition means that these don’t come onto the market terribly often. The other thing to consider is that the reputation that the TR7 developed, mainly due to problems with early cars, still impacts their value to this day. There is an old adage that has been used a few times in the motoring world to describe certain cars, and it is probably true of the TR7: “When it was new it wasn’t good, and by the time that it was good, it wasn’t new.” Later TR7s are actually pretty decent cars, and while they can be prone to rust issues, keep those in check, and they can be a fun little car. This one isn’t the cheapest Spider that I’ve seen, but it is by no means the most expensive, either. If it withstands a personal inspection, it should be a good car. It will be interesting to see if someone will be willing to pay the asking price.

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Comments

  1. Scott Marquis

    Riding awfully high, particularly at the rear. Unless it’s headed to Baja.

    Like 1
    • G Lo

      These had higher springs added to bring the head and tail lights up to the required height for America. Easy fix with the correct springs or have the existing springs shortened.

  2. Bob

    “The Shape of Things to Come.” These came out when I was in high school. A kid in my school got a brand new one in ’76, and I drooled over it, though I had always wanted a TR6. My brother got one (TR7) not long after that. Fun car, great looking car, but slow and extremely undependable. Soured me on British cars, particularly British Leyland cars. Still nice to look at, but I wouldn’t own one.

    Like 4
    • Paul

      I think we all thought the new car was going to look like the Kas Kasner wedge TR250K looking car, NOT

  3. Kevin Harper

    Did these ever come with smaller bumpers. I know these are US spec bumpers and they are huge. I have to think a smaller well designed bumper would make this car look so much better.

  4. dirtyharry

    I daily drove a well used TR-7 for a few years, in the 80’s. It was a good car, never had any real trouble. It had some really great features: (1) Even being 6’2″, I fit, with plenty of legroom; (2) They really handled very well, it would run circles around most American cars in the twisties; (3) Easy to maintain and repair, yes reliable, if cared for. The black paint job, really helps mask the “ugly” bumpers. I would buy another one, with the top down, I can wave at the “chicks” in my retirement community. The speed limit is only 15mph, so I would likely pull over 10 times chatting everyone up getting the guard gate. At least I would not get any more letters about my noisy Corvette with headers.

    Like 1
    • Lynn Dockey Member

      TR7 will be real quiet when you have to replace the ignition amplifier.

  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    Not sure I can bet on this but I remember seeing an on line ad from a UK business advertising TR7 & 8 interior kits. Moss Motors has the dash cover and some mechanical bits. Unfortunately, the Brits managed to design the worst looking bumpers known to man, which did nothing for sales.

    • Mike

      Even with the ugly bumpers the TR7 actually out-sold all other Triumph models, and MG’s by far.

  6. rustylink

    My old roommate back in the late 80’s bought an very clean almost mint TR7 79′ orange convertible with barely 20K miles on it for I believe about $5K-$6K for. It ate a head gasket at the 35K mark and warped the head. It got towed out to his parents farm – it may still be sitting there awaiting to be a barn find in 10 years. It was a fun car – very rigid despite being a convertible and was a fine road handler. Not the fastest car – but it was fun to take up to Skyline Drive and carve it up the mountains. The days he drove it vs. the days he worked on it were about the same -It had all sorts of electrical gremlins and then it ate a head gasket – all the selling points of BL during this time frame. The late 70’s early 80’s were not kind to British Leyland in the US

    Like 2
    • TiRump

      Ah that era, TR7, Jensen Healey, TR Stag, Jag XK6, rubber bumper MGBs . . . makes ya just wanna cry rememberin’ the misery. It’s no wonder the British auto industry collapsed under the weight of it’s own hubris . . . sorta like GM but worse.

  7. John B.

    I always admired British sports cars and I finally purchased a 1965 Triumph Spitfire in 1972. It was a piece of crap and like Bob mentioned it soured me on British cars. I still like the appearance of a lot of the English cars, I just have no desire to own one!

  8. Tony

    1977 TR7, worst car I ever owned. Any price is too high!

  9. Lynn Dockey Member

    Ruuuuuunnnnnn as fast and far away from these POS as u can. Lucas the man who invented darkness

    • Brakeservo

      But have you ever had a Fiat?? It was after all, Magnetti Marelli that gave Lucas a good name!

      Like 1
  10. ICEMAN from Winnipeg

    The Dominion grocery store (Canadians will lament that stores passing, as we lament the passing of the great EATONs) at Unicity Fashion Centre Mall on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg had one of these in a draw around 1980. Just write your name, address and telephone number on your cash register grocery receipt, and no limit to number of entries. I think we went that every day to buy something and get a receipt !! I recall it was a 1980 TR7, green convertible. Alas, did not win it.

    Like 2
    • Del

      Nice rear Jeep suspension kit.

      Great for Off-Road

  11. Mark White

    My cousins husband imported these in to Dallas, Texas back in the late 70’s. We have a white one still, maybe a1978. I am going to ship it from Texas to California this summer. My next project. With a manual transmission and a V8 it would really be a good driver. Eliminate Lucas electrical first!

  12. G Lo

    I had a 1980 TR7 my senior year in HS-1985-86. I agree it handled well, and I always liked the look; plus, in the ‘80s, there weren’t many ‘verts to be had from the American side. On the flip side, there was always a high possibility it wouldn’t start if it was rainy or windy or sunny or cloudy or day or night. Had to turn the engine and accessories entirely off to shut down the wipers. The lights would always come on, but could never count on them popping up. The roof leaked. The twin SU carbs were in need of constant adjustment, and the thing overheated constantly. I sold it on a spring day a week after I sounded the horn, somehow causing a majority of the wiring harness to fry. Would I own another? Yes, and I would do a complete restomod and get rid of the cast iron engine and redo the electrical system. I would get a fixed head coupe and not a vert.

  13. davew833

    I found one of the rare fuel injected versions of the Spider at a self-service junkyard about 6 years ago. If the article above is correct it was one of about 500 made. I briefly toyed with the idea of trying to buy it, but self-service junkyards are notoriously difficult to buy cars from once they hit the yard… and even before they do, so I contented myself with buying the TR8-style steering wheel, the shift knob, and taking a bunch of pictures. What a waste though!

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