True Barn Find: 1957 Triumph TR3

Apart from the fuzzy pictures, this is my favorite kind of barn find! This 1957 Triumph TR3 appears to be pleasingly original, and its “rescuer” has gone through some of the difficult work necessary to get the car running again. Thanks to frequent finder Ikey H. for sending us this great find! It’s listed for sale here on craigslist with an asking price of $6,500 or best offer and is located in Springfield, Virginia.

By 1957 the Triumph TR line of cars had been well-established as the in-between British sports car — more expensive and faster than MGs, but slower and cheaper than Austin-Healeys and Jaguars. Its somewhat unusual lines were due to Triumph avoiding more expensive, deeply stamped body panels and the wet-liner engine delivered genuine 100 mph performance when required. Front disc brakes were available for the first time in its class on the 1957 TR3, unlike most of its contemporaries still making do with drums. This car has what I think is a factory bolt-on hardtop — probably not something a modern owner would use often but quite rare.

The seller tells us that they had the car running this summer and that the engine sounded great. All the hydraulic cylinders were rebuilt at that time along with the front calipers. The seller tells us there is no frame rust and no body rust other than surface rust. This is where I disagree slightly as it appears there are small holes just in front of the rear fenders, and another shot of the sill indicates bubbles large enough that you’ll want to replace them. Fortunately, parts are available from many suppliers to do just that. The seller also notes that the front floors have been patched.

The seller states that the fog lights are not included in the asking price but are available for an additional $150. While the vulnerable front shroud has been dented, it’s relatively intact compared to most I see. I would be very tempted to get this car legal and safe and then drive it for a while before I embarked on a restoration. You would need to find a grille, too.

Triumph trivia time: strangely enough on such a basic, simple car, the front cushions of TR3 seats are incredibly complicated. Thankfully, reproductions are available, but at $500/car it’s worth checking to see if these have rusted away. The bottom cushion lifts out so it’s easy to check. I was hoping to see an overdrive switch on the left side of the dash, but alas none is there. It can be added, of course, for a price, but TR overdrive transmissions are going for over $1,000 before rebuilding. More trivia: that little chrome pointer above the horn push is actually the turn signal switch!

It’s apparent that the gas tank will need work, and the seller also mentions wiring and ignition issues. All of these are easily remedied, and new fuel tanks are available if the old one is beyond repair. Assuming the seller’s claims of the car running well are true, you should be able to get this car on the road and legal for a total expenditure of less than $10,000. Sounds like a good buy to me! What do you Barn Finds readers think?

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Comments

  1. Mitchell Gildea Member

    Half of these photos make me falsely question whether I need glasses

    Like 1
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      I had the same feeling. I did the best I could to sharpen them but there’s only so much one can do.

      Like 1
  2. Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

    Why am I still thinking about this car the day after writing it up? Repeat after me…”you don’t need another Triumph…you don’t need another Triumph…” Sigh.

    Like 4
    • Brian M Member

      You certainly do not. You need a Triumph powered Jamaican!

    • Brian M Member

      You certainly do not! What you need is a Triumph-powered Jamaican!

      Like 2
      • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

        Brian…you are right. What’s the latest deal? Seriously? Thanks. Tr6driver@yahoo.com.

  3. banjo

    It’s been repainted at least once. Dark blue was not offered in 57. looking closely at the inner doors it looks like it was at one time British Racing Green.
    Overall not bad. Sounds like it’s not far from being a ratty driver that could be restored wile being used. for $150 keep your crusty driving lights. Having restored multiple TR3-3as I will guarantee there is a lot of hidden rust in the cracks here, but I’ve seen far worse brought back. Hard top is a neat accessory, but a TR3 with the top up is not a very fun car.

    Like 2
  4. ClassicCarFan

    Hi Jamie. Can you cite the source for your comment : ” Its somewhat unusual lines were due to Triumph avoiding more expensive, deeply stamped body panels “. I’d never heard that one before…. it’s a conventional pressed steel panel design, I imagined it was just styled that way.

    Like 1
    • Bruce

      There is a little bit of both in the design. They were looking for something far less expensive to build than the Mayflower which had very deep panels. If you look closely none of the panes is more than about 4″ deep with the exception of the front and rear shrouds. That would have been a tremendous saving and would have sped up both the start of production as well as the production of the parts themselves.

      I have owned a number of these and MGA and Austin Healey 3000’s all the way up to a 3000 MK III. It is great fun for what it is and it has a very good heater which is critical as the side curtains are useful but not as effective as those on the MGA.

      Being able to drag your knuckles on the ground as you drive along is a bit of a thrill. These will easily carry the groceries for a family of 6 in the passengers seat and behind the seats. I know I have done it many times. While it is faster it does not have the carved from the solid feel of either the MGA or the Austin models.

      I loved mine even when I had the windshield and frame stolen as they can be removed with a screwdriver. Never got it back but when that happened there were many in the junk yards so it was a cheap replacement. While it had disk brakes what it did not have was tire surface contact patches. Those tires are narrow and if you do purchase it go to a parking lot and find the limits of the car. They will be far less then you might expect.

      I loved mine as much as the MGA’s and Healey’s I had. My one proviso is it the wiring loom has not been replaced with a teflon coated one, replace it right off. The old rubber ones would crack and cause all kinds of problems.

      I am restoring a Lotus Europa right now or I would look closely at this one.

      Like 2
    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      I’ve read it several places, I’ll research it again tomorrow and get you an exact answer.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Palmer Staff

      Okay, the following information is from three books; The Story of Triumph Sports Cars and Triumph TRs The Complete Story, both by Graham Robson, and The Triumph TR by John Nikas. Depending on which source you agree with, either 15 or 16 thousand pounds was the budget for tooling for the TR series (we are talking the original design as presented at the Earl’s Court show with the short tail). This astounded Walter Belgrove, chief stylist at Standard-Triumph, as did the 3-month deadline before the show. Therefore, all panels were kept as “short draw” as possible to minimize tooling cost and lead time. I’ve read the same basic story many other places. As a side note, one of the reasons Triumph stayed so long with body-on-frame construction is the lack of tooling capacity to stamp the entire side of a car at once, ala Ford and others. There were other reasons, such as it enabling CKD (Completely Knocked Down) production in other countries, but that is one of the main ones.

      Like 2
  5. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Springfield, Virginia…near where I grew up and partied down as a twenty-something before moving to Tennessee. I recognize the neighborhood pictured with the car. It appears to be in the seedy part of town (now) but was developed to house WWII GIs and Federal employees who could then easily commute up the recently completed Shirley Highway into DC. If I still lived there, I would take a serious look at this car with the trailer ready and cash in hand. Wonder what the red primer front license tag represents? Looks home made. Seller uses the phrase “new used” parts so we can only surmise there are no NOS parts that come with it. Why not just say spare door, etc?

    Like 3
    • Arno

      If the licence tag is original to the car, this TR spent some time France. Those white on red licences tags are still used today, although in a different format.
      These are called “transit temporaire” in French, meaning as you can guess temporary transit.
      It is a customs and tax provision, which allows anyone residing outside France (at that time, now outside Europe) territory to have a new vehicle during their stay in Europe, and to acquire it for a limited period of time, exempt from customs duties and VAT.
      The licence number could match the year of the car, as I have found a similar licence tag issued in 1961, with number 1823 TTA 75.
      If cars could talk…

      Like 3
  6. Andrew S Mace Member

    As I recall, it was not so much a matter of “deeply stamped” panels; rather, it was a matter of avoiding compound curves…or something to that effect. As to those fog lights, they look like something the original owner kept when he traded in his ’48 Chevy on the TR3! ;)

    • Bill McCoskey

      Andrew S Mace,

      You’re on the right track as to the foglamps. They are USA Made by Unity Lamp, and were period aftermarket lamps if they said “Unity” on the top “cap”. These were available in almost every auto parts store well into the 1980s.

      If offered by specific car makes, they were equipped with caps that reflected the car name. Unity also made spotlights with the same caps. I had a 1956 Packard Patrician with dual spotlights and twin foglamps from the factory, all 4 had “Packard” on the bulge caps.

      I also had a 1950 Studebaker Champion Deluxe Starlight Coupe with both driving lights [clear lens] and spotlight, all emblazoned on the caps with the stylized “S” for Studebaker.

      If they still work, the value is in the glass lamps, as they are sealed-beam units. Value is about $10 working – used, to $25 each if unused & in the original box.

      Like 1
  7. Armstrongpsyd Armstrongpsyd Member

    A little over a year ago, i finished a five year resto on my 58 TR3. Hand sanded every square inch and rethreaded every nut and bolt. My buddy had restored seven of them and still had them parked close enough to use as models when we needed to know what went where. My buddy also hordes TR3 parts, so the was not an issue either. We had a blast spending our weekends resurrecting this small, unpretentious vehicle. Now, it’s my daily driver. I can’t go anywhere without a couple of conversations about the car with folks that have a history with TR3s. But, alas. I’m going to sell it. like many of you, I have too many cars to maintain them all properly. The Triumph is in line to go, but I highly recommend them as doable projects.

    Like 1
  8. James

    I think that is an old French Temporary Transit registration plate from Paris (75) dating from the mid to late fifties

    Like 1
  9. Gerard Frederick

    Back in the day in San Fran I had a 1957, white on white – truly stunning. My buddy George totalled it. Subsequently I had a 1959, blue on black which I sold for $250.00 when the flywheel cracked. I have NEVER heard of a flywheel biting the dust. How can THAT happen? As long as I had it I used the provided hand crank to start it, because the starter had developed Lucas-litis. Both were very much fun to drive and I remember them fondly.

    Like 2
  10. Armstrongpsyd Doug Member

    I do enjoy knowledgeable guys sharing info on this sight. It’s half the reason I’m a member. Of course, the other half is studying the cars. I love Barn Find.

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