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The Triumph TR4 is a sports car built in the United Kingdom by the Standard Triumph Motor Company and introduced in 1961. Code named “Zest” during development, the car was based on the chassis and drivetrain of the previous TR sports cars, but with a modern Michelotti styled body. 40,253 cars were built during production years. The TR4 proved very successful and continued the rugged, “hairy-chested” image that the previous TRs had enjoyed.
Advanced features included the first use of adjustable fascia ventilation in a production car and the option of a unique hard top that consisted of a fixed glass rear window (called a backlight) with an integral rollbar and a detachable, steel centre panel (aluminium for the first 500 units). This was the first such roof system on a production car and preceded by 5 years the Porsche 911/912 Targa, which has since become a generic name for this style of top.
On the TR4 the rigid roof panel was replaceable with an easily folded and stowed vinyl insert and supporting frame called a Surrey Top. The entire hard top assembly is often mistakenly referred to as a Surrey Top. In original factory parts catalogues the rigid top and backlight assembly is listed as the Hard Top kit. The vinyl insert and frame are offered separately as a Surrey Top.
Features such as wind-down windows were seen as a necessary step forward to meet competition and achieve good sales in the important US market, where the vast majority of TR4s were eventually sold. Dealers had concerns that buyers might not fully appreciate the new amenities, therefore a special short run of TR3As (commonly called TR3Bs) was produced in 1961 and ’62.
As of Q1 2011 there were approximately 739 licensed and 138 SORN TR4s registered with the DVLA.
The pushrod 4-cylinder engine based on the early design of the Ferguson tractor engine, was continued from the earlier TR2/3 models, but the displacement was increased from 1991 cc to 2138 cc in the TR4 by increasing bore size. Gradual improvements in the manifolds and cylinder head allowed for some improvements culminating in the TR4A model. The 1991 cc engine became a no-cost option for those cars destined to race in the under-two-litre classes of the day. Some cars were fitted with vane-type superchargers, as the three main bearing engine was liable to crankshaft failure if revved beyond 6,500 rpm; superchargers allowed a TR4 to produce much more horse-power and torque at relatively modest revolutions. The standard engine produced 105 bhp (78 kW) SAE but, supercharged and otherwise performance-tuned, a 2.2-litre I4 version could produce in excess of 200 bhp (150 kW) at the flywheel. The TR4, in common with its predecessors, was fitted with a wet-sleeve engine, so that for competition use the engine’s cubic capacity could be changed by swapping the cylinder liners and pistons, allowing a competitor to race under different capacity rules (i.e. below or above 2 litres for example).Standard inline-four engine
Other key improvements over the TR3 included a wider track front and rear, slightly larger standard engine displacement, full synchromesh on all forward gears, and rack and pinion steering. In addition, the optional Laycock de Normanville electrically operated overdrive Laycock Overdrive could now be selected for 2nd and 3rd gear as well as 4th, effectively providing the TR4 with a seven-speed manual close ratio gearbox.
The TR4 was originally fitted with 15×4.5″ disc wheels. Optional 48-lace wire wheels could be ordered painted the same colour as the car’s bodywork (rare), stove-enamelled (matte silver with chrome spinners, most common) or in matte or polished chrome finishes (originally rare, but now more commonly fitted). The most typical tyre originally fitted was 155×15 bias ply. In the US at one point, American Racing alloy (magnesium and aluminium) wheels were offered as an option, in 15×5.5″ or 15×6″ size. Tyres were a problem for original owners who opted for 60-spoke wire wheels, as the correct size radial-ply tyre for the factory rims was 155×15, an odd-sized tyre at the time only available from Michelin at considerable expense. The much more common 185×15 radials were too wide to be fitted safely. As a result, many owners had new and wider rims fitted and their wheels re-laced.
The TR4 had a number of racing successes in America, primarily through the efforts of the Californian engineer Kas Kastner and his top driver, Bob Tullius. In 1962 the TR4 won the E Production national championship, following which the SCCA reclassified the car to D Production, and Tullius won that class title in 1963 and ’64. Soon after the TR4 was introduced Kas Kastner along with Mike Cook, who was in the advertising department at Triumph in New York City, convinced the company to provide three new TR4s to race in the 12 Hours of Sebring race in 1963. Beginning in Sept 1962 the cars were prepared in California, where Kastner was Service Supervisor for Triumph. The cars were then flown to Florida for the endurance race in March 1963. These cars were driven by Mike Rothschild and Peter Bolton from England, Bob Tullius, Charlie Gates, Ed Deihl, Bob Cole, Bruce Kellner and Jim Spencer and finished overall 22nd, 24th, and 35th of 65 entries, and 1st, 2nd and 4th in the 2.5 GT class. This was the beginning of the Triumph Competition Department Kastner headed for several years and used to publicize and market the TR4. The next year a privateer TR4 finished dead last in the 1964 running of the Sebring 12-hour race and Kas Kastner returned to Sebring in 1966 with four carefully prepared TR4As, three of which finished winning the class. In 1966 at Sebring, Bob Tullius threw a piston in the most highly tuned car and did not finish. Perhaps the greatest racing victory for the TR4A was at Daytona, where a Kastner-prepared car driven by Charlie Gates won the 1965 SCCA D Modified Championship against Ferraris and other prepared race car exotics.
The TR4 continues to be raced in vintage sports car events and even won an SCCA class championship as late as 1991. In Australia the TR4 was a common sight at hill-climb events and various club rallies and circuit racing events. In 1964 the factory sponsored Team Triumph entered 3 TR4s in the Canadian Shell 4000 rally. These “works” cars were reportedly built with gussets on the chassis members and aluminium body panels to strengthen and lighten the car. After import, the engines were prepared by Kas Kastner in New York, where they were also fitted with lightweight magnesium wheels. Although they did not place well in the rally, the surviving cars have become quite valuable, one of which is owned by Neil Revington, the proprietor of Revington TR in the UK. Indeed, the TR4 became a celebrated rally car in Europe and the UK during early to mid-sixties, and various replicas are still campaigned by privateers in vintage rally events throughout Europe.
In 1965, the TR4A with IRS or independent rear suspension superseded the TR4. Apart from the rear suspension, which used trailing arms and a differential bolted to the redesigned chassis frame and a number of small styling changes and refinements, the two models appear nearly identical. In fact, an estimated 25 per cent of TR4As were not equipped with IRS, but instead reverted to a live axle design similar to the TR4, which was adapted to fit the new chassis. see also Triumph TR4A wiki page
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