If ever there was a sports car that epitomized the British bulldog spirit it must be the Triumph TR2. It is as true Brit as a car can be, born in the golden age of British sports cars, but aimed at the lucrative American market. At the 1952 Earl’s Court Motor Show in London, the new Austin-Healey stole the show, but the “Triumph Sports” prototype’s debut at the same show was less auspicious.
It was a brave attempt to create an inexpensive sports car from a company with no recent track record in this market sector. With its dumpy derriere, the prototype was no oil painting; as for handling, chief tester Ken Richardson described it as a “bloody deathtrap.” No conventional beauty certainly, but a bluff-fronted car that was a worthy best-of-breed contender in the budget sports car arena, and the cornerstone of a stout sports tradition.
The design, by Walter Belgrove, was a far cry from the razor-edged Triumph Renown and Mayflower sedans that he had previously styled. If not beautiful, the TR2 has chunky good looks with a bluff, honest demeanor.
The first TR2s came with pressed-steel disc wheels, but most customers preferred the option of wire wheels.
The TR2 had a foldaway top; the later TR3 had the option of a lift-off hardtop.
The TR2 came with small holes drilled in the scuttle to attach aero-screens for racing.
The TR2 chassis was praised for its tautness and fine road manners.
The low-cut doors meant that you could reach out over them and touch the road. External door handles only arrived with the TR3A of 1957.
At over 30 mpg (10.6 km/l), the TR2’s fuel figures were impressive.
A revised rear, all-new chassis, and other modifications saw Standard-Triumph’s new TR2 become a winner at the Geneva Motor Show in March 1953. While the prototype had a stubby tail, the production model had a real opening trunk.
The unusual recessed grille may present a slightly grumpy disposition, but the low front helped the car to a top speed of 105 mph (169 km/h). Fixtures on the TR2 were spartan —you did not even get external door handles.
The windshield had a slight curve to prevent it from bowing at high speed, which is what the prototype’s flat windshield did.
TR2s came in first and second in the 1954 RAC Rally.
There is nothing revolutionary in the design of the pressed-steel chassis; a simple ladder with X-shaped bracing. It was a transformation, though, from the prototype’s original chassis.
Like the Austin-Healey’s, the TR chassis ran under the axle at the rear.
Stubby gear lever and full instrumentation gave TR a true sports car feel; the steering wheel was large, but the low door accommodated “elbows out” driving style.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Triumph TR2 (1953–55)
BODY STYLE Two-door, two-seater sports car.
CONSTRUCTION Pressed-steel chassis with separate steel body.
ENGINE Four-cylinder, overhead valve, 1991cc, twin SU carburetors.
POWER OUTPUT 90 bhp at 4800 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed manual with Laycock overdrive option, initially on top gear only, then on top three (1955).
SUSPENSION Coil-spring and wishbone at front, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs.
BRAKES Lockheed hydraulic drums.
MAXIMUM SPEED 105 mph (169 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 12 sec
A.F.C. 30+ mpg (10.6+ km/l)