TR7 & TR8 Experimental Records

Experimental TR7 & TR8 Factory Records

Many years ago we were given an extensive archive of factory records relating to the last days of TR7 and TR8 development at Canley. Many thanks to Roy Ford (ex Triumph experimental) for saving these from the skip and preserving them.

The records basically consist of factory internal memos relating to the experimental fleet from October 1979, right up until the fleet was broken up, and disposed of in the summer of 1983.

They also consist of individual car disposal records which give a run down of specification, condition, and method of disposal. I have grouped these into three different folders comprising of 'normal' TR7 development cars, O Series engine development cars, and TR8's.

Then there is the engineering (experimental) fleet lists that give a snap shot of the cars on the fleet at various times during the four year period.

Finally there are comprehensive records of the legendary Measham Auction when the majority of the TR8 fleet was disposed of. These include the actual auction sale brochures with handwritten annotations made on the day of final price that each car made. There are also post auction records of the dealers who purchased the cars.

You may ask what became of the rest of the other none TR8 cars that were not disposed of at auction. It seems that all the O Series engine cars had their running gear removed prior to sale to those in the know at the factory. The 'normal' TR7's seemed to have been filtered out into the market through either in house sales to workers and family, or Triumph dealers.

For the purposes of this record the cars model (TR8 for instance) will be as described by the department. This usually bears no resemblance to the chassis number of a car which might indicate to those not in the know that they were originally intended to start life as something completely different. It seems that part finished cars were taken out of the production stream and finished in the experimental shop to the final model type. If Triumph called it a TR8, then its good enough for me, its a TR8 regardless of initial chassis number. A good proportion of the cars taken part built from the production lines appear to have been LHD, with RHD cars being relatively few and far between.

If you want to know about the TR7/8 chassis numbering system use this excellent resource;

BCA Measham Fleet Disposal Auctions 1981

OK starting in no particular order lets list those 36 TR8's that were sold at the BCA Measham auction. Actually it was auctions as they dribbled out on successive Friday auctions starting on the 7th August 1981, and ending on the 4th September 1981;

 Starting with the Friday 7th August sale.

Lots 274 - 280 (and two additions to the catalogue).

As described in catalogue.             Hammer price (plus commission, etc)                 

C51                                                       £4550                                                                     

565                                                        £2750                                           

988                                                          £7000

Unreg  (Argent Silver)                               £10,350

Unreg (Pharaoh Gold)                                £10,400

Unreg (Pendelican)                                    £11,000

606S                                                         £3,750

Friday 14th August

Lots A267-A272 (but only 6 cars entered)

KHP 565V                                                         £5,500

WAC 275S                                                        £2,350

JVC 842V                                                          £4.300

RDU 35W                                                          £8,000

Unreg (Maroon)                                               £13,200

Unreg (Pershen)                                              £11,900

Friday 21st August

Lots B260-B265 (but 6 cars entered)

700T                                                                 £4,350

824V                                                                 £4,300

575V                                                                 £5,000

Unreg (White Auto)                                           £10,800

Unreg (Triton)                                                   £11,000

Unreg (Pershan Aqu)                                          £11,000

Friday 28th August

Lots 285-292 (but 8 cars entered)

WAC 272S                                                       £2,575

PVC 568W                                                       £6,550

KHP 573V                                                        £5,600

Unreg (Tech Pub)                                            £5.350

Unreg (4K Cert)                                              £5,450

Unreg (White)                                                 £11,200

Unreg (Persian Aqu)                                        £11,750

Unreg (Pharoah)                                              £11.400

Friday 4th September

Lots 309-317 (9 cars entered)

VWK 171S                                                        £2,650

EKV397T                                                           £3,400

LOB 468X (Emissions Gold)                                £4,400

LOB 470X                                                         £3,200

RKV 628W                                                        £4,300

MHP404V                                                          £5,550

Unreg (Blue)                                                     £11,000

Unreg (Red)                                                      £10,100

Unreg (Bord)                                                     £11,000

Right lets try and clear up some of those ambiguous Auction Lot descriptions scribbled down in the heat of the battle by our man from BL who was there on the day (days) keeping an eye on the proceedings.

So in the 7th August auction the first car noted as C51. This is the 'Engineering Reference Number' which with some simple cross reference with other records identifies it as LVC 358V, a Federal spec convertible, painted Triton, and noted as a general development car. The next car noted as '565' is KHP 565V, another Federal spec convertible in Silver, with 15,753 miles showing. Just prior to sale this car was noted as having a few minor trim items missing, and no aerial. Next is '988' which Jim Johnson kindly informs me could be NWK 988W, a car that does not appear anywhere in the fleet records. I'll come back to the unregistered cars later. Finally in this sale we have '606S' which is YRW 606S, a Brown Auto Coupe to Federal Spec, with 7,063 miles on the clock. Described as having minor body blemishes, and no boot trim.

On the 21st August sale we have '700T' which is EWK 700T a Inca Yellow LHD Coupe with 12,672 miles on it. It had undergone rigorous testing, including environmental chambers, and has numerous paint blemishes, minor panel damage, and trim items missing. Then we have '824V' which is JVC 824V a White Auto LHD convertible with Air Con. This has a experimental chassis number X919, and had 7,909 miles on it at disposal. Then we have 575V which is KHP 575V a red  convertible also bearing an experimental chassis number X924, and having 3,906 miles on it. Its noted as having numerous paint blemishes, and a torn hood.

Lets get back to those 16 unregistered cars. Hanging an identity on each car might be difficult as prior to the sale there wasn't that many unregistered cars listed as being at Canley. By default a good proportion of these must have been the limited 'production run' of RHD cars that BL filtered out at the end and as they weren't part of the development (experimental) fleet beyond the scope of this article. However one of the unregistered cars in the 28th sale is described as '4K cert' and as there were two cars listed as 4K certification in the pre sale disposal lists (4.8.81) it might be one of those. They are both listed as LHD convertibles, one Silver, and the other Gold. The Silver one was Auto, and had done 3,810 miles of testing, and the Manual Gold one 3,802 miles.

In amongst the Coventry registered cars in the sale theres a couple of interlopers with Birmingham registrations LOB 468X, and LOB 470X. As these don't appear anywhere in the Canley fleet lists one presumes that Solihull, or Longbridge also maintained a experimental fleet, just how many cars were there?

Who bought what?

Rather than type it all in I have simply scanned in Roys post sale list identifing which dealers bought what;

 One more interesting thing gleaned from the auction catalogues is that in amongst all the dross (Allegro, Ital, Princess, etc) BL punted out over one hundred standard newly registered TR7's. They must have been registered on the same day roughly in the series KON 870W through KON 970W. BL finances must have been in a particularly parlous state in August 1981!

TR8's as used by Engineering (experimental) over the period 1979 - September 1981

In this section I'm going to try and list every TR8 in reg plate suffix order (R, S, T, V, W, etc) that passed through the department. This will not include earlier cars (1973-1978) as I have no records for them, and turnover seems to have been fairly rapid. It will also not include the normal production TR8's, either LHD, or the rarer RHD.

Registration               Main Function                                       Fate

SHP 658R                                                    Ready for disposal (sale?) 6.5.81

AAC 992S                                                               Scrapped 27.4.81

YRW 606S                                                               Measham Auction

VWK 171S         Arduous test conditions v/poor cond   Measham Auction

VWK 173S         White Coupe                                            Scrapped

WAC 272S          Environmental Chamber test             Measham Auction

WAC 275S         Severe High Mileage programme       Measham Auction

EAC 615T             High mileage 100,000+                 Scrapped 6.5.81

EKV 397T            Used by BSM at Brands Hatch           Measham Auction

EWK 700T           Environmental Chamber Test           Measham Auction

HVC 565V                                                                  Measham Auction

JVC 824V           Hot Room Testing                             Measham Auction

JVC 842V         General Development                            Measham Auction

KHP 547V   Reduced Gauge Body & Steel H/Top    Scrapped 15.9.81

KHP 565V         General Development                          Measham Auction

KHP 573V      Original shell replaced after damage      Measham Auction

KHP 574V     Convertible General Development         BL Heritage

KHP 575V      Emission Development                           Measham Auction

LVC 357V                                                                      Retained 10.9.81

LVC 358V      General Development                        Ready For Disposal (sale?) 4.8.81

LVC 365V

MHP 404V      'Quality Build TR8'                                   Measham Auction

PVC 568W      Styling Purposes                                      Measham Auction

RKV 628W                                                                    Measham Auction

Plus at least 10 un-registered cars.

The O Series engine TR7 Development Fleet

This consisted of 25 cars of which 20 were fully built up driving vehicles, and 5 partially built cars. 

This was BL's last ditch attempt to keep the TR7 viable. Rationalizing engines would have driven build cost down, and it also promised increased performance (the O Series TR7 Turbo car was faster than a 'tweaked' UK spec TR8).

If you want to know a bit more about the O Series engine try this excellent resource;

This was a serious project. With all thoughts of a 'Sprint' 16 valve TR7 long since buried by this stage (not a single 16 valve car was on the fleet at this time) and the 2 valve engine running out of development potential (although Saab managed it) Triumph (BL) needed a new engine for the TR7 sharpish. 

O Series TR7 Fleet List

Registration              Further info                                    Fate

YRW 573S          White Convertible USA spec    Scrapped June 81 but might still exist

JHP 543V           Black Convertible

JVC 840V            Coupe USA spec             Listed as scrapped but still exists

JVC 841V            White Coupe USA spec      Scrapped June 81 (Confirmed 15.9.81)

KHP 537V           White Convertible                          Turbo (Survives)

KHP 541V           Black LHD Convertible    Listed as scrapped June 81 but still exists

KHP 542V          White Convertible LHD   Listed as scrapped June 81 but still exists

KHP 543V           Convertible USA spec                   Scrapped June 81 but still exists

LVC 354V           Coupe UK spec RHD                      Scrapped June 81

LVC 355V           Convertible BR Green USA spec     Scrapped June 81 but still exists!

LVC 366V          Coupe Russet Brown Auto  Listed as scrapped June 81 but escaped

LVC 367V          Coupe BR Green LHD         Listed as scrapped June 81 but still exists

LVC 368V          Convertible Persian Aqua LHD  Listed as scrapped but escaped

MHP 337V         Convertible LHD          'To be retained' 4Valve O series development

MHP 338V          Convertible LHD         'To be retained' 4Valve O series development

MHP 387V         Convertible Pageant Blue LHD   Escaped survived until at least 1984 

MHP 388V         Coupe Russet Brown                   Might still exist 

MVC 114V          Convertible Poseidon LHD               Scrapped June 81

MVC 118V          Coupe White RHD               Listed as scrapped June 81 but escaped

MVC 119V          Convertible Black LHD      Listed as scrapped June 81 but still exists

MVC 120V          Convertible Bronze LHD       Scrapped June 81 (Confirmed 15.9.81)

MVC 121V           Convertible LHD                        Crash Test (angled barrier)

ORW 746W        Convertible LHD PI

That takes care of the twenty or so running cars. You might have noticed the high survival rate of cars that were supposedly scrapped in June 1981. In most cases I think the scrapping got no further than the removal of the running gear prior to sale. Having now checked the DVLA website on these survivors most of them appear to have been retro fitted with V8's. Whether this was done at the factory, or after sale to BL employees I'm not sure. I know one of the BL engineers who bought at least two of the above, one of which is still sat engineless in his workshop to this day having never moved since the day it was delivered! A good proportion of the survivors that started life as LHD cars now appear to have been converted to RHD. A couple of these cars that I have seen in the flesh bear no evidence of ever being LHD which leads me to suspect that there was a fair degree of bodyshell swapping going on in the department. Some of the cars seemed to have escaped less paperwork (log books) and then been utilised in the rebuilds of lesser TR7's. It should be a fairly easy job to trace these cars back to their correct identity bearing in mind the wide spread of colours, and specifications used in the fleet.

There were also at least 3 unregistered cars (all Convertibles) that were used in crash tests. 

Someone on the TR Drivers Forum has enquired if any pictures exist of a TR7 engine bay with an O Series engine fitted. There are several excellent pictures in the BMH negative archive which I last saw over 10 years ago. As they aren't cheap to buy (even back then) I simply took a note of the reference numbers;

Date                                   Negative Reference

12.09.79                            110362

21.03.80                            111265-111266

12.03.81                            113456-113457

I'm not sure how it works with Heritage now when buying prints as its been many years since I last did any research in the archive, but use those reference numbers to order.

2 Valve TR7 Fleet List

By far the largest group of experimental cars were the cars running slant 4 engines. They were used in a multitude of development programs, anything from air con (A/C) development, through emissions work, and fuel injection fitment. Where indicated in the disposal records I'll include a brief note as to each cars purpose on the fleet.

To save repeating myself most of the cars seemed to have had a hard life. The majority are listed as having panel damage, and, or paint blemises. In some cases 'tatty trim', and various parts missing are also noted prior to disposal.

Registration               Further info                                 Fate

SHP 639R     Coupe Green Auto A/C           Scrapped 18,000 miles

TRW 424R     Coupe Green carb          Transmission development 23,472 miles

TWK 380R      Pimento PI Auto                    Scrapped    

AAC 985S       Coupe Flamenco carb   Severe testing, ride exercises 29,909 miles

AAC 996S      Coupe Blue PI USA       Engine Development

TOC 562S      Coupe Green carb        Transmission Development 20,367 miles

WAC 249S      Coupe Thaiti            Rigorous testing poor condition 33,318 miles

WDU 768S      Coupe White carb      5mph bumper impact test

WKV 636S      Coupe White LHD          Extensive Hot & Cold Room Testing

WWK 359S     Coupe Pimento LHD A/C    Endurance Testing 20,600 miles

YRW 572S     Convertible Inca Auto A/C       Scrapped 5,300 miles

YRW 585S      Convertible Flamenco       Endurance car poor condition 100,198 miles

YRW 610S      Coupe Pimento carb        Emission development 'approx' 18,000 miles

AWK 331T      Coupe Russet PI Fed        Fuel injection development 5,556 miles

BDU 981T      Coupe Brown Auto PI A/C LHD         Exhaust Emission Development

DHP 487T       Coupe Russet A/C             Emission Development 11,439 miles

EAC 610T       Coupe A/C LHD                   1980 MY Fed M Spec

EWK 677T      Coupe LHD Auto Sunroof        General Development 6,568 miles

GHP 80T        Coupe Brown Auto LHD A/C           8,930 miles

HRW 239V     Convertible White PI               General Development

JVC 839V      Coupe Yellow LHD Air Con    50,000 miles Emissions Certification

KHP 544V      Convertible Pageant Blue PI   Refinement & Body Exercises 6,680 miles

KHP 545V      Convertible Vermilion             Scrapped 7,200 miles

KHP 546V       Convertible Russet carb    Central development 21,044 mile

LVC 356V      Convertible Persian Aqua A/C        Cooling & Ventilation Work

MVC 121V     Convertible Vermillion PI          General Development 3,080 miles

MVC 122V      Convertible A/C LHD                  HIST/PAVE Correlation 

MVC 126V       Convertible Poseidon carb      General development 6,818 miles

MVC 127V       Convertible White  LHD      General development reasonable condition

NWK 976W      Coupe White PI                   Certification Testing

NWK 983W      Convertible RHD                     Management Appraisal

ORW 766W     Convertible Poseiden RHS       Environmental Chambers 4,771 miles

ORW 767W      Convertible Platinum     Endurance Testing 61,055 miles

I make that 33 cars.

Plus there were at least 12 other unregistered cars. With 10 of these cars having accrued mileages of between 5, and 122 I think its safe to assume they were spares that  didn't get used. The other two were a Black car showing 1,909 miles, and listed as being used for emission development, and a Brown Auto car with 4,765 miles showing having been used for 4,000 mile certification.

What was left at Canley after August 1981?

The much reduced fleet was now being administered through Longbridge, and was described thus ' North American Mothball Vehicles', stored against future possible 'Litigation Purposes'.

It appears that EAC 610T a LHD 2 valve TR7 was still being used for litigation work until the end of September 1981 when its tax disc was to be surrendered.

There followed an internal memo of 15.9.81 between Canley, and Longbridge asking for a number of scrap development cars to be transported to Longbridge for disposal.

This consisted of 3 Broadsides, 3 TR8's, 11 various TR7's, and an SD1.

This left the following stored in the basement of 40 shop at Canley.

3 Broadsides (Maroon GT, Platinum Convertible, Green), 3 TR8's (Yellow, Platinum, and Red), a TR7 (Green), 2 SD1's (both Yelllow), 2 Spitfires (Red, Yellow), a Dolomite 18/50 (DDU 38T), and a Dolomite 1500 (EAC 607T).

One presumes that from this store came the Broadside now with Heritage. The only TR8 in store that was registered apparently didn't survive, and I have no way of checking on the two un-registered cars.

Nearly a year goes by and one final memo is passed between Longbridge and Canley on the 27.5.1983. Its apparent that at this time all traces of the TR7/8 development cars are long gone from Canley because the memo is simply chasing up the sales records of 5 cars sold back in 1981.

So that concludes this article. Thanks again to Roy Ford for saving this important part of Triumphs later history.