The Sporty 1959 Triumph TR 3A

One of the best designed Triumph sports cars of all time was the Triumph TR 3A shown in this article. At the 1955 London Motor Show Standard-Triumph of England introduced the TR 3 model. The company produced it's TR 3 model between 1956 and 1962. The new Triumph TR models represented a break through in the offering of modern British sports cars to the U.S. market.

triumph tr 3

1959 Triumph TR 3A


Triumph had the unique distinction of being a company that went directly from building bicycles to building automobiles in the 1920's.The company like several others didn't survive the Great Depression. After the end of World War Two the Triumph name was resurrected into the Standard Motor Company. Triumph was a good addition for Standard as the latter company was producing family cars and triumphs sporty background would prove to be a good fit.

The First Triumph Sports Car

Many will say that the design lines of the Triumph TR 3 sports cars have it's roots back to the 1930's. Standard went ahead with developing a Triumph prototype sports car in 1952 which is commonly referred to as the TR 1. This prototype was also known as Type 20TS. An engineer and test driver named Ken Richardson was hired by Standard-Triumph to make changes to the prototype that would become the TR 2. Richardson made significant changes that helped in road handling and overall performance. What was presented to the sports car market in 1953 was a no frills sports car that was fun and affordable.

The prototype that Richardson worked on was changed in several ways most notable was the rear end and went into production in 1953 as the TR 2. The TR 2 was able to reach speeds of 100 MPH.

1959 triumph tr 3a

1959 Triumph TR 3A

The Triumph TR 3 Design

Many will say that the design lines of the Triumph TR 3 sports cars have it's roots back to the 1930's. One change from the TR 2 to the TR 3 was in the grille. The latter had the grille flush with the body where the former had it's grille set in the body.

The TR 3A debuted in 1957 with some design changes. The changes were really a face lift of sorts.  Interestingly enough, the TR 3A car was not badged as such. The model was officially a TR 3. Those that own TR 3A's have badges simply denoting TR 3.

The 1959 TR 3A  included a full width grille and new door handles. The 1959 Triumph featured in this article also has the optional and stylish luggage rack on the back. The TR 3's were noted for their low door openings actually allowing a sitting passenger to reach down and touch the ground.

triumph tr 3 luggage rack

Triumph TR 3 luggage rack

The TR 3A of which almost all were built for the American market were used often for racing. The TR 3A was a durable automobile with excellent handling. The TR 3A had a 1991cc (121.5 cubic inch) straight four cylinder engine that when tuned just right delivered 95 (some claim 100) horsepower with a top speed over 100 MPH. The TR 3's are even involved in rally competition today.

Triumphs Solid Engine

The engine was configured with twin SU carburetors. The SU carburetor was so named because it's manufacturer was Skinner Union of London England. The company goes back to 1905. The first variable venturi carburetor was the brainchild of George Herbert Skinner. An interesting side note is that the word "carburetor" actually is derived from the French word "carbure" which means carbide. Both the words garage and automobile are also derived from the French language.

triumph tr 3a grille

The widened grille on the Triumph TR 3A

Triumph had good success with both their TR 2's and TR 3's in as much as they established the Triumph name as a manufacturer of both an attractive and affordable sports car and a solid competitor to MG and Austin-Healey.

The final Triumph TR 3 was built in 1962 as the TR 3B model.

1959 Triumph 3A Specifications

As mentioned above, the 1959 Triumph TR 3A was built with a 1991cc (121.5 cubic inch) straight four cylinder engine. The engine delivered 95 horsepower but could be boosted up to 100 horsepower.

Transmission was a four speed manual with an optional electrical overdrive unit.

The 1959 TR 3's had front disc brakes.

Front suspension was independent with coil springs and double wishbones. Rear suspension consisted of a live axle with semi-elliptic springs.

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triumph tr 3 british green

Notice the smaller width grille on this TR 3 model compared to that on the TR 3A

Triumph Production Numbers

Total production of the Triumph TR 3A models was over 58,000 vehicles. Total production of TR 3 models which include the TR 3A was over 70,000 vehicles.  Most collectors believe there are less than 10,000 of these TR 3A models still around as of this writing.

Triumph TR 3 Collector Cars

The design of the Triumph TR 3 and TR 3A are still quite popular today. Non restored models can be found under $10,000 depending on actual condition and rust if any.

When you start looking at restored models the asking prices at auction can be quite different. Restored TR 3's and TR 3A's may as of this writing carry asking prices from the mid $20,000 range to the $30,000 range.

While Triumph sports cars are no longer being produced there is an excellent support network. The Roadster Factory has a good site for everything to do with British sports cars. Also, the Vintage Triumph Register claims to have the largest number of Triumph enthusiasts in North America. There are also several local Triumph car clubs such as the Minnesota Triumphs Sports Car Club, the British Car Club of the Lehigh Valley and the Georgia Triumph Association to name just a few.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline. TR 3 photo from the public domain)


1971 Triumph Spitfire


When you think about a classic English two seat sports car chances are you're recollecting the popular Triumph Spitfire.

1971 Triumph Spitfire

1971 Triumph Spitfire

The car shown in this photo article is an excellently restored 1971 Triumph Spitfire. This Triumph series were produced from 1971 to 1980 and the design was a significant departure from the prior Triumph model. The 1971 Triumph Spitfire was essentially a Triumph Mark IV with a more angular tail plus longer bumpers.

Triumph Motor Company

The Triumph Motor Company is now owned by BMW. Interestingly enough, Triumph really got it's start as a bicycle company which is similar to a few of the very early American auto companies. Businesses that were in the transportation industry such as those selling bicycles or horse drawn carriages were positioned correctly when automotive technology emerged.

The Triumph Spitfire was manufactured to be the answer to the Austin Healey Sprite sports car. These were considered affordable sports cars compared to some of the more expensive Italian models. The Triumph Spitfire was also the car which the later Mazda Miata models most closely resembled.

1973 model of the Triumph Spitfire

1973 model of the Triumph Spitfire

Designing the Triumph Spitfire

The two names involved with the designing of the Triumph Spitfire are Harry Webster and Giovanni Michelotti. Michelotti was a famed sports car designer and stylist who made major contributions to both Triumph and BMW. Webster was a noted British automotive engineer who headed the Triumph design group and who teamed up with Michelotti. The combining of Webster's engineering talents along with Michelotti's styling talents gave Triumph a very interesting and popular design.

Michelloti was actually responsible for all new Triumph models beginning from the late 1950's and onward.

Triumph Spitfire

Triumph Spitfire

Smaller Than the Triumph TR-6

Manufactured at the same time as the 1971 Spitfire was the Triumph TR-6. This was a bit larger of a sports car with standard inline six cylinder engines and manual four speed transmissions. The Triumph Spitfire was produced with an inline four cylinder engine and also came with a manual four speed transmission.

Another comparison between the Spitfire and the TR-6 was the length and wheelbase. The Spitfire's length comes in at 145.45 inches and the wheelbase at 82.68 inches. The 1971 Triumph TR-6 has a length of 155.5 inches and a wheelbase of 88.0 inches.

Links to three additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you'll enjoy include the Gullwing Mercedes made famous in a James Bond movie...the rare Auburn BoatTail Speedster and the 1980 MGB Roadster

1971 Spitfire side view

1971 Spitfire side view

Triumph Spitfire for the American Market

Like all imported automobiles, cars sold in the American market have to conform to various safety specifications. For the Triumph Spitfire this meant chrome bumpers up to 1978. The carburetor on the American models were also changed to run on lower octane unleaded gasoline. Add to that a catalytic converter and an exhaust circulating system.

With these many alterations for the American market there was obvious performance differences. One was that the engine produced only 53 HP as compared to 63 HP on the European model.

Sports car enthusiasts will want to visit Toad Hall Sports Car Museum at the Simmons Homestead Inn in Hyannis Port Massachusetts.

Photos of a large collection of Triumph automobiles including some experimental models can be seen at the Canley Classics Triumph Museum which is strictly an online museum. Check out

(1971 model Triumph Spitfire photos from author's collection. 1973 Triumph Spitfire photo from the public domain)