A Brief History of the TR8

The design concept of the car by Harris Mann initially configured it as a Fixed Head Coupe to meet USA safety requirements. The "wedge", as we know it, was first envisaged in 1969 at Canley and codenamed “Bullet”. Two engine options were envisaged, the two litre slant four and the Rover V8. Of the latter, the experimental cars were designated X840 (TLB 254M), X843(UXC 582M), X858(V8 engined car for pave testing) and X859(a further V8 engined car). At the same time the Lynx project began to take shape, this being a long wheelbase 2+2 derivative of the “Bullet”. Again experimental cars were built and designated X882(MYX 411P Red), X884, X891(WUY 952R White), and X905(BHP 2T Green). Of these only X905 survives and can still be seen at B.M.I.H.T. Gaydon.

Thus in 1974 a pre-production batch of TR7 coupes was hand built and sent to the USA for evaluation. Although the car was designed to accept the Rover V8 engine, costing constraints dictated that initially the four cylinder would be fitted. 1975 saw the first production TR7's and by 1976 the US dealers were clamouring for the V8 engined version. In 1977 some 150 TR7V8 Fixed Head Coupes were built on the production line and 95% shipped to the US for evaluation. The remaining few were retained for test purposes in the UK.

Whilst this was happening the US reviewed its policies and reversed the decision to make open topped cars illegal. Immediately the Rover Triumph engineers set about redesigning the coupe into Drop Head or convertible form. With the design work already completed for the V8 drivetrain, it was not long before the first TR7V8 convertibles, or TR8s as they were later known, were being built. A number of prototypes with the prefix ACT were built - of these two are known to exist in England with possibly two more in Scotland.

Production began at the Speke, factory in 1977 but, with all the labour problems, it was switched to the Canley factory in 1978. The building of TR7's & TR8's continued there until 1980 when production was transferred to Solihull. The last car was built on 5th October 1981. A combined total of 114,463 cars were built. Of these approximately 2,800 were TR8's. A breakdown of the production history relating to the TR8 is as follows:

1977-1978The first production FHC TR8's destined for the USA for evaluation by dealersSpeke150 max
1978-1979Further small batch of FHC's for the USACanleyUnknown
1978-1979First small batch of convertible TR8's destined for the USA marketCanleyUnknown
1979Possible small batch of UK spec FHC TR8's - unconfirmed, to date no data foundCanley63
1979-80Volume production of convertible TR8's destined for the USA marketCanley2,088
1980First batch of pre-production DHC TR8's destined for the UK marketSolihull9
1981Volume production of convertible TR8's destined for the USA & Canadian marketsSolihull414
1981Second batch of pre-production DHC TR8's destined for the UK marketSolihull9

This gives a provisional total production number of some 2,733 cars. However, it can be seen that the data for 1977 to 1979 is inconclusive, so the figures could be slightly higher or lower depending upon the exact number of FHC TR8's built in 1977/9.
NOTE: A small, but unknown, number of prototype and experimental cars should be added to this total.

As very few cars were retained in the UK, an exercise was carried out to establish how many cars and of what specification there are currently in the UK. To date 16 of the 18 UK spec cars, plus a further 104 have been found. The latter are a mixture of re-imported USA spec cars, Factory Demonstrators, Experimental cars, USA & UK spec cars that were retained by B.L. for test purposes and prototype cars. Despite this small number remaining in the UK, examples of every known specification are still on the road and being enjoyed by enthusiasts.

Rex Holford