Live Auctions

Ur-TR: 1955 Triumph TR2

For all we see at most car events where British sports cars gather, Triumph’s roadster lineage may as well have started with the TR3, but it stands to reason that before there was a 3, there had to be a 2. And indeed, there was a TR2, but with only 8,636 built over three years—and only about 1,800 known to exist today—survivors are rare. (There wasn’t a 1, although a prototype that preceded the TR2, the TS20, was unofficially referred to as the TR1, and there was a model simply known as the Triumph Roadster from 1946-49.) I don’t know that this TR2, offered here on craigslist in Charlotte, North Carolina for $6,100, would qualify as a survivor—yet. Maybe you can get it there! (Archived ad here.)

Legend has it that Standard-Triumph invited BRM test driver Ken Richardson to drive the aforementioned TS20 prototype in 1952, which he dubbed a “death trap,” adding, “Frankly, I think it’s the most bloody awful car I’ve ever driven.” Richardson was then asked to help improve the design, and significant reengineering and important dimensional and stylistic changes resulted in a production car that racked up an impressive competition record and helped establish Triumph in the important American market.

This particular ur-TR is described as “pretty solid and pretty complete,” with the frame, trunk, spare tire well, and doors singled out for particular praise. None of these areas are photographed in detail, but while this shot of the driver’s footwell shows plenty of surface corrosion and a bit of scaliness on the tunnel, it does look “pretty solid” for a car that obviously hasn’t been on the road in years.

The most noteworthy feature listed is the unusual optional adjustable steering column, identifiable here by the unique wheel spokes and the collar nut that’s just visible on the column behind the wheel rim. Interior comfort was one of the issues addressed in the redesign from TS20 to TR2, and this degree of adjustability, rare in the ’50s, could only help on that front. That said, the bare metal seats, giving new meaning to the term “bucket seats,” do not look like a boon to comfort in their current state. Get thee to an upholsterer!

The biggest question is whether the Standard Vanguard 1,991-cc inline four, or any engine at all, is still present, much less what its current condition might be. The nose isn’t riding suspiciously high, so presumably there’s something under the bonnet, but the seller hasn’t bothered to say word one about it. The original four was good for 90 horsepower and 0-60 in about 12 seconds, putting it at least a half-step above the contemporary MG TF1500’s 63 HP and 16-second time.

This car’s serial number isn’t listed in the Vintage Triumph Register’s TR2 Survivor List (although its immediate predecessor off the line appears to survive in Michigan), so clearly it’s in need of someone to return it to survivor status. At least based on the information provided, I’m inclined to think the asking price is a wee bit high, but I hope that won’t be the stumbling block that prevents this car from being saved before it deteriorates past its current, apparently quite salvageable state.


  1. Rex Rice

    I had a ’56, (little mouth), TR-3 when I was married in 1961. Strong engine, weak axles & transmission but still fun to drive. It went away when the kids started coming, replaced by a 356 Porsche since it had a back seat suitable for children up to 12 years old, according to the sales info.

  2. Maestro1

    Over priced, some potential, but the effort and expense does not justify the purchase unless the price was lowered.

  3. Lawyer George

    Maestro1 is correct. I’ll be stoned in the streets by those who have open limit Visa-MasterCard-American Express cars $800.00 to $1200.00. I hope Rex kept the 356 and kept it well stored as such unliikley fluke would have made him a comfortable retirement. In the world of us who are “Poverty Conscious” (A self help book circa 1980, which given to me as a gift , U did not fully read.) the current $6100 bid would have a high price to pay for them when they were in the regular used car market. A friend of mine had a 1958TR 3 (wide mouth) which was a blast to drive. Don’t know much abot the axels , but agree the engine was strong and fast, and s I was back it out of a diagional parking place I hears a small click and from that day forward there was a bit of a howl in first gear. My guess was that I had somehow chipped the edge of the gear or else somehow damaged the synchro ring. I loved the car–were it went, I cant remember but knew Mike did not drive it in winter!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have wanted one since but everyone knows that a guy has no use for other than one car until he reaches 50, which entitles the accumulation of how many cars he dang well please–but as I have found the silly things are asking 3 x + any affordable value.

  4. britcarguy

    For anyone not familiar with the TR2/3 adjustable steering wheel option – it only adjusts closer toward the driver, so forget any arms-out Italian style driving position.

    • DonP

      And even then, the entire adjustment “range” is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches, tops.

      But on the plus side, the low cut door is at the perfect distance for cruising with your arm on the door and a hand on the steering wheel to look … so … damn … cool.

  5. Rue d'Anger

    A sidescreen TR is a great car. With an OD transmission they can keep up with modern traffic. Almost all parts are available at a modest cost.

  6. brian m Member

    Last of the TR2 line, with the “short” doors. The earlier models, “long door”, went all the way down to the bottom of the outer sill (rocker). Looked kind of neat but whacked the curb on the offside when exiting the car, so the next improvement was to shorten the doors and have an exposed outer sill. I have a 3A that I’ve owned since 73 and finished the resto in 2007. Managed to break a tooth off of the pinion gear (really bad noise); replaced the rear end and then broke a tooth off of the first-reverse cluster (bad noise only in first or reverse) so started in second (easy to do with the torque these engines put out) but the racket backing up disturbed others so now have a TR4 all syncro tranny in it. Truly fun to drive. Once had it to an indicated 95 but backed off of the ton when I remembered I was driving a 55 year old car (even though all of the suspension and running gear was new). It also is a non-overdrive car so it was perilously close to the 5K redline.

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