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Storage Center Find: 1959 Triumph TR3

Well, there’s no working up to it, this Triumph, we are told, does not run. Now that that’s out of the way, we can take a look at the rest of this 1959 TR3 and see what’s up with it. It is located in East Windsor, Connecticut and available, here on craigslist for $6,000.

The TR3 was produced by Triumph between 1955 and 1962. Revisions implemented in ’57, like a full-width grille, brought about the model designation, colloquially known as a TR3A, but that was not used as the official model descriptor. Total TR3A’s sales volume (’57-’61) reached about 58K units – one of Triumph’s best selling models.

The most notable thing about this subject car is the removable hardtop, it doesn’t look like it belongs. It appears to fit, it’s just awkward looking. U.S. spec versions of the TR3 were supposed to have a convertible hood, that snaps on and off, with side curtains but it is unknown if this example is so equipped. The body is a bit beat up with a few dents and a pretty mangled driver’s side fender. The seller states, “some rust all around“, and it is particularly notable in the lower portion of that already dented driver’s side fender; a close inspection would be necessary to determine the full corrosion extent. There is one underside image included but it’s not conclusive. I have to admit, I like the pipe front bumper.

The non-running engine should be a 105 HP, 2.1 liter, in-line, four-cylinder affair, first available in ’59. It was a pushrod motor with twin SU carburetors. Whether that is what’s still under the bonnet is unknown. Owing to the TR3’s diminutive weight of 2,100 lbs., the performance of these cars was reasonable, about 11 sec. for 0-60 and a 110 MPH top speed. TR3’s were popular in motorsport including the 24 Hours of LeMans, Monte Carlo, Mille Miglia, and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Of note, TR3’s were equipped with front disc brakes, the first production car so optioned. Rounding out the drive-train is a four-speed manual transmission.

There are some images of the instrument panel, but none of the entire interior, as small a space as it is. The instrument panel is scratched but all of the gauges and switchgear seem to be in place. The floors look to be bare and the seat upholstery distressed, but again only glimpses are offered. While the steering wheel checks out as OK, the shifter knob is either disintegrating or has had something nibbling on it. British sports car gauges, those made by Smiths, are always a treat to find, very business-like.

The verdict? This car needs a lot of work. The engine unknown is the biggest concern, there’s no telling what’s wrong with it and then there is the rest to consider, i.e. body condition, structural integrity, and interior. I would pose the question, at this price point, is this a project worth considering or are there too many unknowns?


  1. Marc

    Simple mechanicals and excellent parts and resources out there. You can get this running quickly assuming the engine is not blown and restore cosmetics over time. My TR4 couldn’t be a simpler car to wrench on and it’s essentially the same.

    Like 3
  2. SMS

    A couple of days ago there was a pair of MGTDs. Commented on those as I think they look great and are a blast to drive. Had one TD and three TR3s.

    The TR3 I found easier to work on, no wood, easier to get parts for, more comfortable, fast enough to take on the highway, more fun to drive. Not an attractive car like the TD, more like a Bulldog, handsome in its own way.

    True there are a lot of unknowns. Only one I would care about is the rust. Have seen a few that were likely to split in half due to rust. If there is minimal rust then swap out a few parts. Pull the motor and rebuild it on your kitchen table and go. Only thing I would change from stock is the fuel pump. Those glass bowls break too easily.

    I would also not do it in leather with wool carpets. Seen several high end restorations. A TR4 or 6 okay, a 3 looks great sort of scruffy.

  3. banjo

    I don’t know if it’s numbers matching, but that is the correct engine for the car. As long as it’s not seized I would bet there is nothing seriously wrong with it. Having it’s origins in a Furgeson tractor, that engine is nearly bullet-proof. and with wet-sleeve cylinders, even a stuck engine can potentially be revived without a trip to the machine shop! Also the top bows can just be seen in a couple of the pics, so the frame is there. A new soft top can be has from several sources very reasonably. They are only snapped on the on car and not permanently attached so it’s an easy job to do the initial fitting and then you’re good to go. the last pic shows the side curtains in the “boot”. They look the worst for wear, but they can be refurbished.

  4. luke arnott Member

    They were sold as TR3A’s in the UK – I had one.The Engine was also used in the Phase 1 & 2 Standard Vanguard.

  5. Steve RM

    As noted, that top just doesn’t look right. Can any Triumph guys tell us if that is an original top?

  6. DonP

    I just finished rebuilding my ’62 TR3B engine for the 3rd time since I bought it in 1968. The “wet sleeve” design makes it a piece of cake, no matter how much wear and tear on the block.

    New, rust free floor panels are available from Amazon, E-Bay or from any of the US specialty suppliers; The Roadster Factory, Moss Motors, Victoria or the Brits at Rimmer Bros, Revington. It will hold a steady 80mph + on the Interstates and with OD will give you an easy 35 mpg.

    The hardtop extends your seasons to early Spring and late Fall. But $6,000 seems a bit steep for a project in that shape, even with the Hardtop. All the hardware is available from TRF.

    Like 3
  7. Graham Line

    Front disc brakes make it a TR3B, the transitional model to the TR4. The factory Triumph hardtop had a glossy finish and a larger rear window.

  8. Armstrongpsyd Doug Member

    All TR3s had factory front disc brakes. TR2s had drums. I just finished a 5 year resto on my 58. Hand sanded every square inch. Used mostly used original parts, rethreaded every nut and bolt. I drives like it did new with a crash box trans and OD. 6k seems steep to me. A finished one gets 20-25k. I’ve seen drivers go for 5k. It’s a fun car and starts endless conversations ( for better and for worse).

    Like 2
    • luke arnott Member

      My TR3A had a syncromesh box,dont know about the TR2.

  9. matt

    Seems a bit steep for this TR3, I have driven them, but not owned one; I have had everything else it seems…
    I think a close inspection is in order, but I’m not going to beat him up about it – he’s entitled to ask what he wants.


  10. Armstrongpsyd Doug Member

    Luke, My 58 has 2nd, 3rd & 4th synchronized, but not first. It has overdrive on 2nd, 3rd & 4th as well. I believe they changed to all synchronized half way through that year. I don’t mind it, but it does require me to pay attention.

  11. Dave

    Looks like an aftermarket fiberglass top and I agree, it looks odd. $6K is too much for someone who does not have an emotional attachment to this particular car. Especially one that has high potential of exposure to salt (roads or sea spray).

  12. Greg Goodwin

    I had 2 of this style cars, back in the early 70’s. Cant remember the years, 1 was red, brighter than this color, the other was white. Both black convertible tops and interiors. I want to say the white one had an automatic transmission. Both engines looked like the one shown, I was under the hoods enough on both. Bought them together, guess I sold both together. Been a long time ago. Were a blast.
    A bit high to me as well.

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