Underpowered and underdeveloped, the Triumph TR7 was never to be taken seriously as a sports car; it's handling was suspect, the styling of the original closed car was ungainly to say the least, and the engine felt as though it could perhaps pull the skin off a rice pudding, but little more. The car was born in the middle of that awful period in the history of what was then British Leyland, the time when the money ran out, closely followed by much of the corporation's design and development talent. The TR7 won a few friends during its lifetime, and there were a few tears shed when production finally ceased. 
Yet there were those who appreciated that the car had potential, who could see what it might have been had the resources needed by the project been made available right from the very beginning. Notable amongst The Believers are the affable and talented team at S&S Preparations in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. During the past three years the two founding partners, Simon Carr and Steve Wilcox, have been unstinting in their devotion to the model, steadily developing and refining it into what they (and their many customers) feel Triumph ought to have produced years ago. Each area of the standard car has been carefully considered, and remedial work has been carried out as necessary - sometimes this involves a minor amendment to the original specification, on the other occasions it means tugging out an original piece of equipment and replacing it with something a little more businesslike and substantial. It is quite understandable to learn that one of their first moves was to yank out the 2-Litre four, and in its place install a Rover V8 of three and a half litres. 
Triumph had, of course, explored  that avenue themselves when they built the TR8, but it fell some way short of being the success that had been hoped for because of the need to fit the engine with a low-compression set of pistons and full detoxification equipment so that it would satisfy the stringent emission control regulations in the company's biggest marketplace, North America. S&S Preparations originally set out to convert TR7's to TR8 spec, but they soon decided that they could do a little better than that; they are now offering a selection of conversions which are all appreciably better than anything Triumph ever offered. 
The high-spot to date is the blue car pictured above. Naturally, this is fitted with a Rover V8, the installation being carried out in the normal S&S manner - once the 2-Litre has been lifted out then the subframe which holds it is also removed and modified to take the Rover unit sitting lower in the car than it would in a TR8 by some 2 inches. This particular engine is overbored by 4.rmm, giving a total displacement of 3.9 Litres, and fitted with Omega pistons which not only fill the bigger cylinders but also increase the compression ratio to 10.5:1. The crank assembly has been balanced throughout, and Tuftrided in the interests of  longevity. Sitting atop the two sides of the Vee are a pair of of Rally Equip big-valve cylinder heads, the valves operated by a Piper HR285 camshaft with special high-pressure lifters to overcome an earlier problem of excessive hydraulic pump-up - the standard specification items proved themselves fond of extending at higher engine speeds, leading to all sixteen valves opening at the same time. This doesn't do a lot for engine power, as you'll no doubt agree..... 
To feed the engine with air and fuel, there were two routes worthy of consideration. One was to use the entire injection system from a Rover Vitesse, but this can soon get complicated as there are not only the intake manifold and plenum chamber to accommodate, but also the distribution head, the microprocessor unit, sensors and the rest. The other option was the one selected by S&S Preparations, which makes use of a 465cfm American Holley four-choke carburettor used in conjunction with an Offenhauser intake manifold. Neat, tidy and simple, this combination gives slightly more power than an injection system without any of the problems of trying to set up an electronic fuel management system. The big carburettor is also reasonably economical, as only the primary pair of chokes are active most of the time - the secondary chokes (or barrels, as the Americans would have them described) are vacuum operated and only open under high engine loads. Topped off with a Moroso chrome air cleaner the installation looks good too.
S&S offer a variety of specially-developed exhaust systems for their V8 conversions, and the one on this particular car is what theydescribe as the ultimate street-driven set-up. Starting with two tubular manifolds the system runs out to atmosphere via four straight pipes with a pair of silencers doing their best to quieten the noise to a socially-acceptable level. The silencers are woefully inadequate and another pair will have to be introduced towards the back end of the system before too long if Simon Carr is to say on speaking terms with his neighbours - at present the car sounds like a NASCAR racer.
As the TR7 was designed to take the V8 from the very beginning there are no problems involved in accomodating the lump beneath the car's sweeping bonnet, and as the car was a later, five-speed, version of the roadster the original transmission can also be left unchanged. Joining engine and gearbox is a Rover bellhousing - although because of the engine's appreciable boost in power whencompared to a standard V8 the Rover clutch assembly was replaced by an A&P Racing set-up. Pedal pressure is high as a result of this, but that is a small price to pay for the certain knowledge that the driveplate will not break or burn out. The flywheel has been lightened to 17lbs, to improve throttle response.
The final drive ratio of the original TR7 was 3.9:1, a figure deliberately low in the interests of getting the best possible acceleration from the 2-Litre engine. The S&S car now develops some 210bhp at the rear wheels and the retention of that final drive would have succeeded only in rendering half of the car's five speeds redundant. To give the right combination of acceleration and cruising speed, the differential has been changed to that from a Rover SD1 3.5 Vitesse which not only raises the final drive to a far-more-suitable 3.08:1 but also brings with it the advantage of a limited-slip capability. The car will now run at high speeds without fear of the engine suffering a coronary, traction is excellent, and the acceleration is scintillating.
Standard TR7 suspension was deliberately soft and the cars were given to wallowing ungraciously from one end of a bend to the other, a characteristic totally at odds with what S&S Preparations were aiming to achieve. The spring rates  heve been increased to 200lbs/in front and rear, and the new springs  also lower the car by an inch. Spax dampers are used, and all of the suspension bushes are replaced with appreciably more positive solid items. The result is a car which is taut, responsive and totally devoid of any tendancy towards wallowing - what little body roll there is has a beautifully progressive nature. Completing the suspension system is a set of 14 by 6.5 J Revolution cast alloy rims shod with Bridgestone RE71 205/60VR 14s.
The fianal piece of mechanical improvement is in the braking system - it is no good having a car which goes and handles if stopping is to be a major traumatic experience every time that the pedal is pushed. To ensure that all is as it ought to be the car has thus been equipped with a set of A&P Racing discs with four-pot calipers on its front axle, with uprated friction materials within the standard rear drums. Servo assisatance is progressive and well-proportioned, and pedal pressures are high without being excessive.
Settling into a TR7 for the first time in I can't remember how long, I was immediately struck by how good the car's ergonomics are; the inter-relationship between driver and all major controls is excellent, and substantially better than many - or even most - sports cars. S&S Preparations have had the demonstrator's entire interior retrimmed in a most pleasing, and superbly-executed, red Connolly hide. The seats are comfortable and supportive, and offer good lateral location when the temptation to take a yet-faster run at the next bend becomes too strong to resist. There are also a couple of little detail touches which aid driver location when attempting to defy the laws of inertia, one being the footrest for the clutch foot and the other being a leather-covered pad against which the left knee can be braced, to the side of the centre console.
It is a glorious noise that emerges from the four big tailpipes when the throttle is blipped - what starts as a deep burble becomes a banshee wail as the tachometer needle quickly passes 6500rpm. The clutch pedal is heavy, worthy of an Aston Vantage, but the pressure only begins to register when you are caught in stop-start town traffic - out in the open, which is where the car really belongs, the pedal feels just right. S&S have shortened the gearshift and this too feels just perfect as it clicks neatly from one gear to the next. The weight of the steering is certainly noticeable without being excessive, and there is a healthy degree of self-centering present - a faster rack is availablefor the car, but this offers no great advantage over the standard item, whilst increasing the amount of effort required to a disproportionate level.
The car is perfectly docile around the town, and showed no tendancy to overheating whilst sitting in traffic jams. Tickover from the quite highly tuned engine is surprisingly good, the slight tendancy to hunt being attributable to the Piper camshaft and the Holley's primary jetting being a shade on the rich side. Fortunately there is no tendency towards fluffing, and the car pulls cleanly away without having to blip the throttle to clean the plugs. When the opportunity arises, the knowledge that the limited slip differential will preclude any traction problems enables the driver to punch the compact V8 into any gap which comes available.
But it's out on Lancashire's winding country roads that the Triumph gives the best value. Thanks to the suspension changes the driver is given a constant feedback from all four wheels, and knows not only what they are doing but also what they are likely to do next. It pays to treat the car with the respect it deserves, and drive it with a light but positive touch - over-zealous applications of the brake pedal or steering wheel will upset the car's line. Make full use of the car's excellent spread of gear ratios, and there is little need to make much use of the brake pedalbefore all but the tightest series of bends - the car simply swoops effortlessly from bend to bend.
The suspension is now very well sorted, and seems to make the Triumph blissfully unaware of all but the most major imperfections in the road surface. Even hitting a pot-hole in mid-bend was not enough to deflect the car from its intended line, and the system is sufficiently compliant to ensure that neither driver nor passenger are jarred by such an experience.
A truly massive amount of torque is on instant call from the throttle pedal, and during the test drive I tried hard to catch out the engine by putting the gearlever into increasingly inappropriate high gears to see if it would baulk. I eventually gave up, having decided that on a lazy day this was one of those cars which the driver could stick into any gear and let the torque do the rest. But if you give this engine full rein  60 mph comes up in under 6 seconds and if there happens to be a dragstip handy the car will make the standing quarter mile in under fifteen seconds. A slouch it isn't. The opportunity to explore the higher reaches of the car's potential didn't arise during the test period, but given the power output and gearing a top speed over 140 mph should be possible.
The TR7 was never the lightest of sports cars for its size, weighing in at just over 2300lbs and the substitution of the all-alloy V8 does not lead to a dramatic increase - the federal spec TR8 was officially 2565 lbs unladed. And when that V8 has a flywheel power output nearing 250 bhp you're looking at a power to weight ratio of around 101 lbs/hp, akin to some genuine exotics and actually better than some recent Corvettes; what a pity Triumph didn't persevere with it.......
The TR7 Coupe was a strange concoction of angles and curves, but the roadster which followed was a far more successful piece of styling. The S&S treatment has developed the roadster's basic theme, adding front and rear spoilers and a set of red Revolution wheels, and then finishing the bodywork off in a subtle (really?-Ed.) blue which has a slightly pearlescent finish. Both Simon and Steve are very pedantic about the quality of their finished cars - a little too much so, they thought at one point. Having surveyed the quality of finish on a number of exhibits at a recent classic car show they decided that it was for them to keep to their high standards, and for the the others to catch them up, rather than let their own standards slip to match the rest. Their roadster is a rolling billboard for the restoration, as well as the performance, side of their TR business and has consequently been fitted with one of their excellent replacement hoods. These are guaranteed weatherproof and draft-free, and can be raised and lowered quickly and easily. As might be expected during a test in early February, the moment that we put the hood down it rained, but did we let that put us off? No, we left it down, increased the speed, and let the worst of the weather be blown past. That was one of the pleasant surprises of the car, just how comfortable it can be, even in adverse weather conditions - fortunately the TR7 was always blessed with a particularly efficient heater!
Considering that the car started life as a machine with an image best-described as slightly effete, and this particular example could only be described as masculine and hairy-chested, it is nothing less than a miracle of transformation.
Naturally, S&S can build you a car to this spec or, if you want, go yet further by installing a 4.2 Litre - or even 5100cc - version of the Rover V8, with yet more power on tap. The ideal car is a late model five-speed TR7 (although a four-speed model can be used as the basis for conversion, the costs are greater due to the need to change more components) and obviously, the better the condition of the basic car, then the less the overall cost of the project. Prices vary depending upon the state of tune required, whether the car needs re-trimming, a new hood, or whatever. "Contact" S&S directly for further details.