1981 Triumph TR8 convertible

“Test drive the incredibly responsive TR8 today”

In its final year, Triumph’s TR8 gained Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection for all fifty states (in 1980, fuel injection had been California-only). The original “the shape of things to come” TR7 design from 1975 remained, but the internals had come a long way.

Though the TRs had always been the “big” Triumphs since their introduction in 1953, big was a relative term. With a length of 160.1 inches, the TR8 was about six inches longer than today’s Mazda Miata convertible.

The standard powertrain was the Rover 148 bhp 3.5 liter/215 ci aluminum block V8 with Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection paired with a five-speed manual transmission (a three-speed automatic was optional). That V8, of course, had a basic design that dated from the 1961 model year and originally came from Buick.

The TR8’s performance was good in comparison to many sporty cars in 1981; 0-60 mph came in about 8.5 seconds in the 2,654-pound car. Fuel economy was rated at 16 mpg by the standards of the day. With a smallish 14.6-gallon fuel tank, a TR8 driver could expect a range of about 210 miles with a 10% fuel reserve.

1981 Triumph TR8 advertisement

Standard exterior equipment on the rather dear $13,900 TR8 (about $42,400 in today’s dollars) included a central hood bulge and tinted glass. Mechanical equipment included dual exhausts, power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc/ rear drum brakes, and 185/70HR13 steel-belted radial tires (a size still readily available) on 13 x 5.5 inch alloy wheels. Inside, full instrumentation, a heater/defroster with a three-speed fan, multi-adjustable bucket seats, and a center console with a storage bin and lockable glovebox were included.

Optional equipment included fog lamps, a luggage rack, air conditioning, and three different radios. Of these, only the air conditioning was an option from the factory—all other options were dealer-installed.

Reviews of the TR8 in the automotive press were reasonably complementary, which may have been at least partially because convertibles had become so rare. The V8 drew a lot of positive mentions, as did the roomy cockpit. Observed faults included the steering wheel blocking some gauges, the tiny ashtrays (it was indeed a different age), and the rear-mounted battery’s intrusion into the otherwise reasonably capacious trunk.

The 1981 TR8 was an unusual car—a mere 415 were sold, compared to, say, the 40,408 only slightly more expensive Corvettes that Chevrolet managed to move in that same model year. Like all Triumphs, TR8s have a following and make regular appearances in the Hemming’s Motor News classifieds. According to Hagerty’s valuation tools, all the money for a 1981 TR8 convertible in #1/Concours condition is $24,600, with a far more typical #3/Good car going for $9,600.

Many TR8s and TR7s had colors and color names that were very much of their age; examples are Aran Beige, Champagne, French Blue, Mimosa, Topaz, and Vermilion. Make mine the a little more conservative Poseidon Green Metallic, please.

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