Triumph TR weekend

Found a car I had quite forgotten and another I had merely overlooked at the TR Register’s convivial International Weekend. I had to look them up The Story of Triumph Sports Cars (Motor Racing Publications 1973) by Graham Robson. The Register’s Honorary President, course commentator at Lincolnshire showground, Robson knows all.

The TR with a wide grille was not one of the 3,331 TR3Bs produced in 1961-1962 for America with 2.0 and 2.2litre engines. They looked much like TR3As. This LNJ 58 was a replica of two prototypes made by Standard-Triumph’s development department on a wide-track TR4 chassis. This meant it had fatter wings and with rack and pinion steering, according to Robson, they turned out better cars than expected. “One, painted and trimmed in black and bearing the obvious nickname ‘Black Beta’ performed and handled like no TR ever before, for it had the 2.2litre engine and a variety of extra touches. Beta was a viable project for some time, particularly as it would involve only minimal tooling expense, and it was suggested that it might continue alongside a newly styled TR4 to give American dealers the best of both worlds.”

Both prototypes, Graham tells me, survive in course of reconstruction. It must have been an exciting time at Standard-Triumph, which was usually strapped for cash but had sold its profitable tractor-making subsidiary, providing cash for new models and a competition programme. That all led to success at Le Mans, the twin-cam “Sabrina” (don’t ask) engine and indirectly to the relationship with Vignale and Giovanni Michelotti.

The result of that, besides the later Triumph Herald’s shape, was the Italia on a TR3A chassis, put into limited production by Vignale between 1959 and 1963. The prototype had a drooping front and concealed headlights but the one shown in the Lincoln concours had the well-proportioned and elegant regular steel coupe body. It was an expensive production and only a few were ever brought to Britain. This Graham Andrews car, intriguingly with Italian registration 43387 (Torino) and British UYS (Glasgow) has the customary crossed flags on the tail. Never sure what they meant, the red cross is the nautical V, which might be Vignale but the blue-and-white S is anybody’s guess.

The Register invited other Triumph and Standard models on Sunday. Triumph shapes have generally aged well although I missed an example of Walter Belgrove’s wonderful “waterfall” grilles on a 1930s Dolomite. His essentially “budget” plain-sided TR2, like so many sports cars of the time owed something to the 1940 Mille Miglia BMW (below). From the Jaguar XK120 on, they all had smooth flowing wings and rounded prows. Belgrove’s achievement was to draw up a shape that could be mass produced with as few double-curvatures in the pressings as possible. It was essentially minimalist yet it worked.

Belgrove did not have a lot to do with the superb “razor-edge” Triumph 1800, later Renown, saloon. That was the work of Mulliner and Frank Callaby. You no sooner look for something in a Robson book that you find something else and in no time you are compelled to read through the whole thing. I discovered that much of the 1947 voluptuous Roadster was also the work of Callaby. There was one at Lincoln. The world’s last production car with a dickey seat.

I was familiar with lots of TR2s. I was even in MGG 29 when Ronnie Abbott had one of his accidents, fortunately without injury to all three of us in it at the time. The TR Register assured me that another I drove remains on its books. This is me in the passenger seat of Heather Fleming’s treasured OGB800.