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1981 Triumph TR8: Documenting Modifications

This TR8 provides one of the more radical modification documentation efforts that we've done in a while. The previous owner was not the one who made the initial vehicle mods, nor did he have much in the way of documentation. On a vehicle like this, unless you know where and what modifications were made it's near impossible to cross correlate parts catalogs and repair guides. It also is an opportunity to become more intimately acquanted with your vehicle. Normally, we jump directly to vehicle maintenance catchup on in-situ or rolling restorations, but here, with the number of modifications made, we need to know exactly what's under the hood first.

First off, I took the vehicle's VIN# and found a site that assists with decoding the meaning of the TR8 Vin#. Here's what information it provided about my vehicle:

Chassis # Year Spec. Trans. Model Built Paint Colour Trim Engine #
405223 1981 Calif. 5-speed TR8 13/04/1981 MCB Argent Silver JMN 14E00528

So far, so good. The Vin# checks out, the car's the right colour, has the correct transmission, the engine #'s match. The Trim code doesn't exactly match what's in the car, but there were some vehicles assembled early that used up the older plaid interior (instead of blue velour) so that's perfectly feasible.

Now that we know how it came from the facory it's time to start documenting the differences. The #1 easy to spot one is that the factory EFI system has been removed and replaced with a carburetor. In looking at the carb, you can see that it's a Holley brand. That means, on the forward facing upper right hand corner is the model #. This one is #0-8007. So, after looking it up we now know we have a Holley 390 CFM Four Barrel Street Carburetor. Earlier sharp eyes have also already noted that the supporting intake manifold is a rare Huffaker one with the Huffaker logo on the driver's side and the British Leyland logo on the passenger side. Because of the nature of the Huffaker manifold we'll also note the custom water jacket plumbing that's been added.

Since we know of the carb change, it's a good idea to check the rest of the ignition system. After wiping it down with a little carb cleaner on a rag and judicious use of a mirror we can tell that the distributor is also an after market item. This unit is a Mallory (#2564301) unit with dual points. Tracing back to the coil we can see that they also installed a Mallory coil.

While still looking around from the top we can see an alarm speaker. These were commonly used with the Clifford brand alarm systems of the early 80's. I've pulled these off (along with numerous wiring bodges) from a number of late 70's and early 80's cars. When we come back and do vehicle maintenance we'll remove this one as well.

So far, everything else appears stock from this view. At this point, check over the wiring under the hood. You'll want to very carefully identify each piece that's been modified as best as possible. It's generally not too hard to find spots that have been modified, because most people don't try to make them look original/stock. Look for electrical tape (which is a no-no. Getting caught putting electrical tape on vehicle wiring around here is a court martial offense. Do it right, and if it must be protected, use heat shrink!) and more modern style wiring connectors. If at all possible compare it agains a factory wiring diagram and make notes of the changes. If you need wiring diagrams like I did, check out They have nice ones in color!

As we look into the interior of the vehicle, you can see that there's little to no modification as far as I can tell. Everything is period correct for the car. The sole exception is the cigarette lighter (which doesn't work anyways). I found the broken original in the vehicle spares.

Looking over the boot area provides the same result. Everything appears to be stock.

Underneath the car things are much like the engine bay. First off, we can see that the vehicle has custom 4-into-1 exhaust headers which have been directly welded into resonators and out through mufflers. A logo on the tail pipe reads Ansa Exhaust. Were this to be a track day special I'd be elated. Knowing that this car has to pass emissions means I'll likely have to pull the lot and ensure I've got Catalytic converters (at least for going through emissions).

Here you can see a protective plate that's been fitted underneath the oil pan. Take a good look at the oil pan, it's been battered so badly that the bottom of it has been more or less crushed. That's the only way the plate would fit (we'll eventually need to replace that).

Contents copyright 2008, 2009 - Jody F. Kerr

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