Triumph TR2, TR3 and TR4


The response to our recent post featuring the Triumph Stag – see our previous post here – Triumph Stag was phenomenal. Whilst watching a film set in the 1950’s that featured a dashing young chap arriving to pick up his lady love in an early Triumph sports model, I decided to dig deeper into the Triumph Stags’ ancestry. I discovered that the star of the TV show was a Triumph TR2 – quite a stunner.

I have never suited the image of cordouroys, a flat cap and a pipe-smoker but these seem almost compulsory for the devotees of the sprightly, iconic and classic English sports cars.

A model described as the 20TS (unofficially the TR1) was shown at the London Motor Show in October 1952 – see below a rare photo of this prototype – to a mixed reception. The then Chairman of Standard-Triumph, Sir John Black, requested the assessment of the 20TS from BRM’s development engineer and test driver, Ken Richardson. It was so damning – a slow, poor handling death-trap – that Sir John sought Black’s help to redesign the car.


Black’s efforts resulted in substantial improvements and in March 1953, at the Geneva Motor Show, the TR2 debuted. It benefitted from a parts pool culled from the Standard Motors range that gave the TR2 excellent reliability, albeit with rather basic handling and an uncomfortable ride. It sold between 1953 and 1955.


In 1955, the TR2, as a result of minor styling changes and an upgraded engine became the TR3 – “Small Mouth”.


In 1956 Girling Disc brakes on the front were added exponentially improving the braking. Styling changes alone to the TR3 in 1957 resulted in the TR3A – as it is often described – was, for me, the nadir of good design for this series. Although far from “modern”, the TR3As were appreciated in both Europe and the US with annual production exceeding 10,000 vehicles.

In 1962 TR3B entered production and look virtually identical to the TR3A but with engine and carburetor upgrade. It was offered concurrently with the new TR4 in response to dealers concerns about the TR4 being regarded by the core audience as being too modern.



Realizing that the TR3 needed a significant facelift in 1961 Triumph engaged Italian designer Giovanni Michelotti – already well known for his work with Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, Maserati and BMW – to design the TR4. His boxier body looked much more modern with a larger cabin, although under the skin it was largely a TR3 with upgraded steering. Michelotti designed extensively for Triumph, his work included the Triumph Stag.


In 1965, the TR4 became TR4A with a much improved ride, a more tuned engine and quieter exhaust.


For me the TR4 with its wire wheels and elegant lines is the definitive small English sports car.

The TR3 and TR4 saw production runs in the region of 70,000 cars each so there’s lots of potential examples out there both those that are Concours ready and those that could benefit from a significant re-build. Checking sites like or will demonstrate that a price range – depending on condition between £5,000 and £30,000.


You’ve been promising yourself that you’ll find a classic sports car to rebuild – perhaps now’s the right time.

Would a Buyer’s Guide to the TR2 and TR3’s assistant you in your quest? If so, published in July 2018 is an Essential Buyers Guide –  click the AMAZON link below the image to order your copy


Triumph TR2, & TR3 – All models (including 3A & 3B) 1953 to 1962: Essential Buyer’s Guide

If a TR4 is more your thing then there is also and Essential Buyer’s Guide for this model – click the AMAZON link below the image to get your copy


Triumph TR4/4A & TR5/250 – All models 1961 to 1968 (Essential Buyer’s Guide)

You’ll, of course need a trusty Haynes Owner’s Worshop Manual – get a copy here that covers the TR2 to TR4A – please click on the AMAZON link below the image


Haynes 0028 Car Maintenance Service Repair Manual

I do appreciate that your enthusiasm may only stretch to wearing the T shirt – in this case a personalised vehicle registration plate – if so, please click on the AMAZON link below the image


Triumph TR2, TR3, TR4, TR5, TR6, TR7 Chassis Plate T-Shirt *PERSONALISED* Model & Reg Plate (M, Charcoal)

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Photo Credits – with grateful thnaks –, Standard-Triumph


Swan Vestas Matches

Founded in 1883 in Bootle on Merseyside by the Collard & Kendall match company, the Swan brand began as “Swan wax matches”. These comprised a wooden splint soaked in wax.

In 1906 they were renamed “Swan Vestas’ becoming a brand of Bryant and May and by the 1930s ‘Swan Vestas’ had become ‘Britain’s best selling match’.

The brand is now owned by the Swedish Match company who manufacture Swan Vestas in Sweden from sustainabily grown aspen wood. They are the most popular brand of “strike-anywhere” matches in the UK.

My Swan Vestas: Two stories highlight the importance of this iconic British brand, one is true and the other is probably appocraphal.

The first, I recall from my Father who was senior in Marketing for Shell in London. Shell’s advertising agency for almost everything was Ogilvy and Mather. David Ogilvy, the genius advertising guru, was a pipe smoker who often carried Swan Vestas but not for simply lighting his tobacco. The story goes that he advised my Father that post a visit to an unfamiliar bathroom that the resulting odor could be quickly dispersed by the judicious use of a couple of struck Swan Vestas!

We have them in all bathrooms to this day and, as far as I can tell no-one in our house smokes a pipe!

When studying Law in the late 1970’s in order to illustrate the power of an enforceable Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) my Contracts Professor told the following story:

A pipe-smoker arrived at Bryant and May’s door claiming that he had a way of saving the company thousands a year but prior to disclosing his idea he needed the comfort of a signed NDA. The agreement would for the foreseeable future guarantee he and his descendants a percentage of the financial interest in the saving that the company would make as a result of his unique idea.

The company agreed and an acceptable document was drafted and signed by both parties.

Suitably comforted the pipe-smoker explained that he had smoked a pipe for many years and in all that time he had never had to resort to using the second edge of glass paper adhered to the box as only one of the two strips of glass paper had proved more than sufficient for striking all of the boxes “average contents” of 85 matches.

Enthusiastically, Bryant and May accepted his idea as the incremental saving on glass paper – by adhering it to only one edge – was, of course, significant. The story ran that our pipe-smoking hero and his family financially benefitted for many years from this cleaver thinking and the NDA assured them of payment!

Your Swan Vestas Matches : Why not share your experiences of using Swan Vestas Matches? We’d really like to hear from you.

Photo from Swan Vestas