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1981 Triumph TR8

At the end of June / beginning of July 2010 I started having "the hankering." Every car guy knows this feeling. It's when you want something new, something cool, and in my case, something I can actually DRIVE! With the Jensen Healey project proceeding more slowly than I wanted, I knew that if I were to get back behind of the wheel of a LBC in 2010 I'd have to buy something.

Now, I armed myself with the fact that my birthday was coming up, I'd done a lot on my Honey-Do list this year, and that I'd recently been relegated (like a bad football team) from my nice, if boring, Ford Explorer, to my wife's Corolla, and then to my sister-in-law's '95 Accord that was in the process of dying. After some serious negotiations with SWMBO I was given the green light to go find something. It needed to be a daily driver, be interesting enough to buy, not something I'd already owned, and preference given to A/C or A/C capable cars. A month's worth of searching turned up this!

In 1978 British Leyland, in the last gasps of the Triumph marque, brought out the TR8. It's a V8 version of the "Shape of Things to come" TR7. This particular TR8 was produced in 1981, the last official year of production for the vehicle. There apparently were some built in 1982, but there's some questions and controversy around that. In 1981 they produced, based on the best numbers I can find, only 352 of these cars, out of a total production run of just over 2,700 of them from 1978-1982. Short of the early coupe versions of the TR8 and the 1982 production run of 69 that went to Canada, this is the rarest year of the TR8.

This particular TR8 is unrestored, and has survived in this condition since being delivered to California in 1981. It is Argent Silver with a blue interior. The body is straight and rust fee (excepting two small spots on the forward side of the front wheel arches).

The interior is complete, and everything functions! I have to say that I love the plaid interior. The dash shows no fading or cracking, the driver's side seat cover has a tear along the door side seam. The carpet is where the greatest age is displayed. It's intact and in good shape, but the colour is faded from the years.

The hood (convertible top to those in the US) is in excellent shape showing no discoloration or fade. The vinyl windows are clear and easy to see through, the zipper around the rear "window" works perfectly, and the carpet on the parcel shelf shows no fade, indicating that the car hasn't sat for extended periods of time with the hood up.

Under the bonnet things start getting interesting! The 1981 TR8 came from the factory configured with fuel injection. The fuel injection system on the TR8 was made from predominantly Bosch components (yay!) with a specific Lucas ECU (Boo!). The Lucas ECUs are prone to being, well, Lucas components. At some stage the fuel injection on this particular car was removed and replaced with a new manifold and Edelbrock carburetor. I didn't think much of this at first, until a fellow enthusiast pointed out that the intake manifold was a rare Huffaker Engineering intake manifold. These, apparently, are very rare.

The only real "problem" I presently have with this car is the lack of Air Conditioning (and only because I live in AZ). The 1981 TR8's almost all had A/C. What's not certain at this point is whether it came from the factory this way, or if the A/C was removed at some point. The good thing is that the wiring harness, Alternator, and such are ready for A/C. It just needs to be added to the vehicle. The hardest part of the job would be swapping the heater dash unit for a air conditioning dash unit (providing that's what's really underneath there).

For now, I have a new toy to drive around. And after a weekend of bombing around the streets and highways of Phoenix I can say that I've regained the love of driving again. There simply is nothing like visceral experience of a top down, 5-speed, fast car with extraordinary handling! If you're in the Phoenix area and you see a fool driving a silver TR8 with a big old poop-eating grin on his face, that's me!

This project will be documented as an In-Situ or Rolling Restoration. In simplest terms, I plan on fixing whatever I break, but for now it'll stay intact.

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Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

All references to They Might Be Giants are fan references only. John & John I hope you don't mind! And if you're ever in Phoenix stop by for a visit!

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