By Wade Lewis

Photos by Juan Lopez-Bonilla

This TR2 project all began with a call from a business colleague who knew of a disassembled Triumph “of some sort” located about 30 miles from where I lived. He passed along a number, and I called to see what it was. The gentleman I spoke with said that it was a TR he purchased from the estate of a childhood friend’s family, and that the car had belonged to his friend’s father since new. He and his son had taken the car apart to restore it, but quickly realized that they were in over their heads. Now it was time to part with it and the many boxes of carefully cataloged parts. A deal was struck, and after loading it on a trailer, the project was then mothballed in storage for four years.

Late in 2010, when moving several project cars, I decided it was time to do something with the TR. I pulled everything out and went through what was usable and what was not. Positives were a solid chassis and suspension components; negatives were a very rusty body, bad steering box, engine with a cracked liner, worn-out transmission, and tattered trim and upholstery.

I remembered that a firm in the U.K. was making some alloy panels for vintage TRs, primarily for race and rally work. I gave them a call to discuss options. At the time I called, they were actually making panels for one of the original Triumph Works Department Le Mans TR2s from 1955. I asked if they were doing all of the exterior skins in alloy and they replied that they were. This could solve some, but not all, of the issues with the body that I had with the car. Even though I knew Triumph never made a full-alloy TR2, I asked if they could do a body shell in all alloy, including the inner structure. They said sure, and a wire transfer was made to get the process going.

About 120 days later, a shiny TR shell showed up, so I got to work on getting the chassis together and ready for mating the two together. My chassis development plan began with fully stripping the frame, then etching and painting it light gray to allow for quick visual inspection for stress cracks.

The competition suspension was revised with spring and roll rates to accommodate the 56 percent-lighter-than-steel body. Brakes up front are factory-style Girling calipers with race pads, and rear Alfin drums. Koni Classic shocks are on all four corners.

The rear axle is fully rebuilt with a Quaife limited-slip differential and finned alloy cover. A Ford Type 9 five-speed transmission from Quantum Mechanics, fitted with a lightweight flywheel and performance clutch, backs up the 2.2-liter, inline-four engine. It was modified with 89 mm pistons and fully balanced, and the compression ratio bumped to 10.25:1. It also has an alloy big-valve cylinder head with a performance cam and roller rockers, topped with Weber 45 DCOE carbs mounted on a Triumph Tune intake manifold. A Phoenix stainless header flows into an all-stainless sport exhaust.

Electrical upgrades include a Lucas performance distributor with recurved mechanical advance, and a Dynalite C-Series Dynamo. There’s also a front-mounted external oil cooler and a cast Bastuck alloy oil pan and valve cover. A Smith’s double-ended electric pump draws fuel from an alloy tank, and pressure is regulated by a Malpassi Filter King.

The steering was converted to rack and pinion, and the TR2 rolls on MWS 60-spoke wire wheels shod with Dunlop RS65 racing tires.

The rest of the build was much like a normal TR restoration, but I tried to carefully select components to follow the factory works program from the 1950s, and also to reflect the colors that were used on the original competition cars of the period. We added the lipstick around the grille opening that the team cars used at Le Mans, which allowed the timers and teams to quickly identify them as they flew past the pits.  

The roundel placements are in line with the team cars as well, and the trunk roundel is illuminated by a period-style Lucas lamp mounted just aft on the rear trunk panel.  

The interior uses original Triumph seat bases and is finished in leather with a full complement of factory gauges. The carpet deviates from tradition and is a loop weave that we felt looked more competition-oriented than a Wilton wool, as seen in many British cars. All of the interior work was done in-house at our shop by Lee Williams.

When we had reached a point of having the car almost fully completed, our resident paint and make-it-look-beautiful guy Matt Phillips took over and began polishing the body. This was a last-minute change, as originally the intention was to do the body in British racing green paint like the original competition cars. The guys in the U.K. flipped out, as they had expected it to be painted, and said they would have further finished it on their end had they known we were going to polish it. I think the result shows the quality of their workmanship and Matt’s talent at bringing the luster out of the body, which had previously only been rough-sanded by the panel guys.

Once running, the car is an absolute rocket! Between the power the built engine puts out, the nice ratios in the Ford gearbox, and both rear wheels hooking it up the Quaife, it is easy to drive fast, but still docile enough to use in traffic. Handling is neutral and very forgiving, and the Dunlop tires communicate well when things reach the limit. It is astonishing how much that lightening the body by 56 percent transforms the car as well. The alloy TR now tips the scales at a weight closer to a Triumph Spitfire or Healey Sprite than a 2,100-pound production TR. All told, it’s an alloy success!