Genuine TR8's are few and far between in Britain, but conversions abound. Ian Ward has been comparing three such beasts on the road.

The last of a long and distinguished line, the TR7 was generally held never to have fully matured before yet another round of range restructuring at BL brought its untimely demise. It certainly had the chassis potential that is reasonably expected of a modern sports car and, in convertible form at least, it was visually appealing, but the Dolomite engine was unable to provide the kind of performance that the car deserved.

When rallying aspirations caused BL to shoe horn the venerable Rover V8 under the TR7 bonnet and dub the car TR8, this seemed to bode well for a sporting Triumph future, but it was not to be. Those road cars that were produced were to US spec, with left-hand drive and low-tuned engines, so it has been left to the TR specialists to turn the last real Triumph into the machine it should have been.

It was our V8 sports-car feature back in February that prompted Simon Carr of S & S Preparations to suggest that we try a trio of really meaty TR7 V8's. With power outputs ranging from some 200 bhp to around 260 bhp, this was the sort of temptation that we could not resist, so we headed north to Ramsbottom in Lancashire, to the workshops where Simon and partner Steve Wilcox set up their preparation business just nine months ago.

The partners are both engineers by profession, each currently employed in a different field. They are taking the sensible
approach to their new enterprise, building up the business on a part-time basis and ploughing any profits back into it before making the bold step of going full time. They currently have two very particular specialities: the first is converting TR7's to TR8 spec, while the second is selling and building the AC Cobra look alike of Sports Car Services, for whom they are agents.

We asked just how much was involved in making the Triumph conversion, so Simon and Steve took us through the procedure.

First of all, out come engine and 'box together, followed by the front sub frame, which must be replaced by the TR8 item
with pick-up points for the V8.

The TR7 five-speed gearbox mates up to the Rover SD1 bell housing and clutch (this was originally a Rover box) and the assembly drops in quite easily, once a TR8 radiator has been installed in a new, forward position. Electronic ignition comes from the V8 and cooling is by Clover electric fan, which is simple to mount.

The battery moves into the boot, a la TR8, with a special extended cable running through the car, and the loom has to be
modified elsewhere to match the alternator position. The exhaust comes to customer specification: there is the standard cast-iron TR8 manifold, with twin pipes; then there is a Maniflow four-branch tubular manifold each side, which couples up to a Janspeed exhaust system comprising a single silencer and drainpipe-like 2 1/8 in tubing.

". . . we were able to choose between ear-splitting high-rev bursts and growling, thudding slogs."

The pair recommend a four-barrel Holley carburettor, for easy maintenance and up to 20 per cent extra power coupled with good bonnet clearance. The rev counter has to be changed to suit the V8 and an oil-pressure gauge is highly recommended. 

If  the engine is mounted ahead of its flanges, the standard TR7 shaft may be retained, but moving it back that fraction,
which is essential with the four-branch exhaust, involves shortening and rebalancing the shaft (quite an inexpensive process). The TR7 axle can stand the strain, but at 3.9:1 is a little low, restricting top speed to around 120mph. The TR8 final drive, at 3.08:1 takes the potential maximum to about 140mph, but naturally takes its toll in acceleration.

The Rover 2600 has a similar axle and provides a happy medium 3.45:1 ratio, but the TR suspension pick-ups must be welded to its casing. A Mk2 Jaguar unit provides the ultimate strength, with thicker halfshafts, and gives a bonus of disc brakes as standard. Once again, though, the mountings must be altered and, if 13 in wheels are to be retained, smaller discs must be substituted.

The standard brake conversion comprises solid front discs, with special two-pot callipers to enlarge the swept area by 20 per cent. The rear drums are good enough for a modest tune, but the disc conversion, with vented fronts, is recommended for high power outputs. The TR7 servo is excellent for any of these purposes.

Suspension comes in for the treatment with stiffer dampers and uprated springs all round. Solid rubber bushes are used at the front and S & S can install an anti-dive kit to keep the nose up under braking. They don't feel that the only slightly thicker TR8 anti-roll bar is worth the cost, but they can lower the car by about an inch, which improves looks and handling. Wheel choice is free, although 14 in units, with low-profile tyres are best.

A TR8 interior is available, as are TR8 emblems and badges, gear knobs, wheel centres and key fobs, all being available from Alan Wilson at 9 Crosfield Avenue, Summerseat, Bury, Lancs.

The three examples for us to try were a fixed-head, a drop-head and a fixed-head rally car which the duo bought very much as it still is. The lineage of this last beast is vague, but the specification throughout suggests that it was probably once one of the works cars.

The drophead belongs to Steve. Its engine is standard apart from a Holley 390 on an 0ffenhauser manifold, matched at the other end by the tubular exhaust manifold. This develops about 200 bhp and is coupled to the very last new TR8 axle, with vented discs and the recommended suspension package. It sits on 6 1/2 in x 14 Compomotive alloy's with 185/60 tyres.

Simon's road-going fixed-head is altogether more potent. The SD1 block is equipped with 3.55 pistons, giving a 10.5:1
compression ratio. An Iskenderian camshaft opens the valves through high-rev hydraulic lifters and fuel comes by way of a 465 Holley on an 0ffy inlet. The crankshaft is Tuftrided and balanced and develops 230 bhp.

The shell has been fully strengthened, and incorporates a Safety Devices roll cage. It is supported on competition struts and adjustable rear suspension links, with tarmac-spec rally springs and is lowered by 1 inch. The Jaguar axle with Powrlok limited-slip diff gives a very low 4.27:1 ratio, but plenty of strength.

Rover 2000 rear discs are grafted on to cater for the small wheels, while the front has vented discs with lightweight four-pot racing callipers. BF Goodrich Comp T/As, of 205/60 section sit on 7 x 13 Alleycats.

The rally car is campaigned regularly by the two owners. It has a 10.5:1 compression ratio, with a Crane 236 camshaft, solid lifters and adjustable pushrods. The con-rods are toughened, the rockers drop-forged in steel and the crankshaft Tuftrided and balanced. Twin 45DC0E Webers are mounted on a combination of Repco and 0ffenhauser inlet manifold, with tubular exhaust once more. The oil system is dry-sumped and the unit develops 260 bhp.

The standard gearbox case remains, but it houses toughened close-ratio cogs and is operated by a Jaguar close-gate change.

The engine sits on a tough competition sub frame in a fully strengthened and caged shell, stripped for lightness and equipped with cutaway doors, plastic windows, glass fibre bonnet and extended arches. S + S are well aware that the roof- mounted aerofoil is theoretically back to front, but they feel that it works better as they have it.

The suspension bushes are solid alloy, and competition Bilstein struts combine with a five-link rear set-up, the latter built
around the Jaguar axle. The front brakes are as in the other fixed-head, but the rears also have light. alloy callipers; there is cockpit bias adjustment for the separate front and rear circuits.

The competition prop shaft incorporates a shock absorber and the car sits on 8 x 13 in Wolfrace wheels and 225/60 Pirelli P6 tyres.

In an effort to get the feel of TR8 driving, we made a gentle start, Editor and Publisher picking the road cars for their first stints behind the wheel. A short drive to our photo location immediately demonstrated just how different the TR becomes when it is endowed with thumping V8 torque.

With the camera shutter exhausted, it was time for some serious assessment. We were impressed by those two cars in different ways. Both were taut and gave the distinct feeling that they were solid, professional conversions.

Steering in the fixed-head was heavy at low speeds, with the wide tyres and anti-dive kit, but it lightened at speed and the car became precise and stable, although it tended strongly towards oversteer when pressed hard

The brakes were superb, with the anti-dive kit working perfectly, and the ride quality was surprisingly good, despite the
tougher springs and dampers.

The gearing is really far too low for practical everyday use; we found that we were changing gear so frequently that any acceleration advantage was all but lost. On the plus side, however, came the ability to cruise just about anywhere in top.

This was also true, albeit to a lesser extent, in the drop-head, which felt much more like a civilized road car. On the other hand, it understeered quite violently and lacked the directness of the other car's steering, squealing a tyre on even slow, gentle corners.

The brakes were simply appalling, but Simon had only fitted its vented kit the night before and was aware that it needed
removing and sending back. The ideal would have been to fit this car's axle ratio to the fixed-head, for a combination of relaxation and real competence.

We certainly left the best until last. We strapped ourselves into the all-enveloping Huntmaster seats and fired up the delightful sounding engine of the rally car. A gentle potter through the streets of Ramsbottom on our way to the moors told us that we were going to have our ears blasted, but it was well worth it.

When the road opened up ahead of us, a firm prod on the accelerator sent the TR surging forwards eagerly looking for the first bend in order to show us just what it could do. We were not disappointed: a tug on the firm but very communicative steering set the car up for the turn and we were able to use all the prodigious power to sweep through and out the other side, without a single complaint or squeal from the chassis.

The brakes were heavy and solid, with no servo, but they actually worked extremely well - and time after time. The close-ratio 'box and gate were a delight to use and only the rock-hard ride took away any comfort.

Even in this tuned form, the engine is very tractable: we were able to choose between  ear-splitting high-rev bursts and growling, thudding slogs.

What a pity the TR8 came to nought as a factory exercise. The car could have brought Triumph to the fore again. Thank goodness for the likes of S+S, though; for about £2500.00, they can show us what could have been.