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Book Revue with Frank Jacobson

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This month, Frank reviews “HOW TO IMPROVE  YOUR TRIUMPH TR7, TR7-V8, TR8?” by Roger Williams

 

This book by Roger Williams follows his earlier work entitled “How to restore Triumph TR7 & 8”.  Both books are published by Veloce Publishing and for anyone who owns one of these Triumphs the pair are a “must have” for your library.  The “How to improve” volume is a logical follow up to the first volume given that these TR’s have been subject to more modification and change than any of the TR’s that preceded them.  The reasons for that being the case are fairly complicated and would probably be the subject of a separate magazine article but put simply it has much to do with the deteriorating state of the Leyland corporate body, the industrial unrest at the time and the market uncertainty in the main market area, namely, the United States.  This was a combination of circumstances that earlier TR’s didn’t have as an influence on their design, production and marketing and it shows in the different history of the early TR’s and the last TR’s.

Roger Williams has tackled this work in the same thorough way as he did the first volume and as such the whole 200 pages is a wealth of information and advice.  I found in my reading of the book that it was best to read it bit by bit because recall of useful information suffered too much such is the amount of information that he makes available.  It is definitely a volume that warrants re-reading and much use as a reference work.

The sequence of chapters starts with “Planning an upgrade/conversion” and it is here Roger William’s good advice starts.  He looks at the options, the potential for difficulties faced, the cost, and helps the reader decide what type of car he or she should build.  He includes an overview of the various parts of the car and what can be done to each of them and from here he moves to the task of stopping the TR7 or TR8 using the premise that if one is going to make it go it is wise to first make it stop.  For anyone who is already a convert to “wedges” it becomes apparent that in Australia we have additional choices for adapting parts from other makes and models to make the TR7/8 a better sports car.  For instance the use of Holden Commodore front discs (VS model for example) and the Commodore vacuum /master cylinder will make the TR7/8 a far better stopping proposition than the original design.

One of the irritations of these cars that I have found is the handbrake.  Roger provides a plan drawing of a fairly simple modification and two colour photographs that will improve the handbrake. My experience at hearing an announcement over a Conference Centre PA that a blue sports car was rolling away down the car park unattended was one to be avoided.  It was only rolling very slowly and the handbrake was full on but it was blocking the roadway and was eventually going to meet up with some quite expensive modern vehicles.  Despite work on the handbrake afterwards its performance was very ordinary to say the least.

Roger then works through wheels, body strengthening (for the serious competitor) and on to suspension steering and axles.  Here again he addresses some modifications that might appeal to the competitive and non-competitive owner alike.  The more difficult of these (read also expensive) would probably be the provision of an upper trailing arm and panhard rod but Roger ‘s preference was for a Watt’s linkage.  He goes on to say, “The TR7 rear axle allows easy installation of a Watt’s linkage.  The SD1 (Rover) axle was located by a Watt’s linkage, and thus a cast alloy plate behind the differential, with a pivot pin cast into it.”  He says, “an SD1 pair of lateral arms and the central vertical pivot link are the ideal starting point.”  He concludes with the observation that, “A Watts linkage restrains the axle well and dissipates the stresses across two chassis mounts.  It lowers the rear roll centre, yet is neutral in terms of not affecting the roll centre regardless of the suspension position.”

Here again our local modifiers have adapted Nissan Pintara/Skyline rear suspension which provides the advantage of rear disc brakes (and a better handbrake) readily available LSD capacity and a range of diff ratios.  Perhaps if Roger Williams is to do an update in the future a visit to Australia would unearth other options which would be of interest to TR7/8 owners both here and overseas.

The TR7 owners don’t miss out in the performance area but Roger moves very quickly to an upgrade to the Dolomite Sprint 16 valve cylinder head.  He says if your TR7 engine is tired this is definitely one solution that an owner should seriously consider.  In my opinion it is the engine that should have been fitted to a TR7 sports car from day one but that is a “what if “ story and we can only speculate what might have been the history of the TR7 if that had happened (along with a much earlier introduction of convertibles).  There is a good selection of colour photos showing the preparation and fitting of the 16 valve cylinder head.

The chapter on gearboxes like the rest of the book is full of interesting information and again the local application of Toyota gearboxes (Celica/Supra) and even the Leyland P76 four speed would add to the available information.

The chapters on “Acquiring and upgrading a Rover V8” and “Fitting out a V8 engine bay” are full of useful and practical advice before moving on to what is probably the next most important section after brakes and suspension, namely, “Cooling – all engines”.  This chapter is particularly helpful for owners who use their cars on a daily basis and get caught in the traffic gridlocks that are the bane of our big cities.  Further chapters on sparks, carburettor and fuel injection are full of information about what can be done to keep the TR7/8’s running economically and trouble free, especially now that the L Jet Bosch efi is getting quite old, and if my situation was a typical example, quite tempermental.  Interestingly, he devotes some time to the fuel injection on four cylinder cars, which as far as I am aware was only available in the USA.

The book concludes with another practical chapter on electrical and instrument improvements, a look at a couple of transplant projects and a brief look at weight such as unsprung weight, fore/aft weight balance and engine reciprocating weight.

The TR7/TR8 family is now anywhere from 27 to 32 years old and even those that have been well looked after will be suffering the effects of aging of their construction materials.  Because of that the pair of Roger Williams books are most timely and constitute an excellent reference source as well as a means of better understanding the model.  Modern cars have moved on in terms of vehicle performance and reliability and many owners would consider improvements and /or upgrades to make them more useable as a daily driver or a competitive sports car.  This then is the book to have.  Even if you think you have a good understanding of the models there is still plenty contained in its 200 pages to justify its purchase.  Even non TR7/8 owners would find a lot of absorbing information and could well be encouraged to joint the “wedge” set as the book highlights just how interesting the cars are and how they have a character as endearing as the previous TR’s but for quite different reasons.  To follow up an interest in the book the following websites are useful:  www.veloce.co.uk or www.velocebooks.com. It is now widely distributed and I expect it could be acquired locally through Nairn Hindhaugh at Mountain Motor Books, Coorparoo (Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or phone (07) 3397 6845)

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