Cars We Love: 1955 Triumph TR3

1955 Triumph TR3

Some car enthusiasts, usually disgruntled MG owners, say the Triumph TR3 has a face that only a mother could love. Its rounded hood, flanked by two protruding bug-eyed headlights, flows into a small grille opening some describe as reminiscent of someone eating a lemon. But the fact is, thanks to a reliable and powerful engine and responsive handling, the TR3 was one of the more popular two-seat sports cars of the fifties.

Near the end of World War II, Britain’s Standard Motor Company acquired the rights to the name Triumph from the defunct Triumph Motor Company and established a subsidiary, Standard-Triumph, to build cars. In the early 50’s the powers at Standard-Triumph noticed the budding success of the dashing, but expensive, Jaguar XK120 and the antiquated, but relatively inexpensive, MG-TD in the United States. They correctly perceived a market for a two-seat sports car with a price point between the Jaguar and the MG.

The result was the TR2, a two-seat roadster that achieved growing support in the U.S. following its introduction in 1952. The Triumph TR3 was introduced to the sports car market in 1955 as a direct successor to the TR2. Although they shared the same body and chassis, the two-liter engine of the TR3 produced five more horsepower than the TR2, thanks to bigger twin SU carburetors. Like its competitors, the TR3 was a true roadster intended for open-air driving. Weather protection included a removable soft top and removable side curtains.

The TR3 was powered by a reliable 2-liter, 4-cylinder overhead valve engine producing 95 horsepower. Since the Triumph weighed only about 2,000 lbs., it gave its owner brisk performance for the time. With a top speed of 105 mph and a 0-60 time of 10.8 seconds, the TR3 still delivered fuel mileage of around 22 miles per gallon.

In 1957, Triumph made a few improvements to the TR3. Although models incorporating these changes are referred to as TR3As, the factory never made this an official designation. The TR3A was the first production car in its class to have front disc brakes, giving it stopping power unrivaled by its competitors. Other changes included a full-width grille, exterior door handles, a trunk lid handle, and larger bumpers.

Despite what some think of its “face,” the TR3 was an honest, reliable, fun car that kept smiles on the faces of its owners.



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Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

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