TR7 16 Valve Sprint


by Graham Fountain

Even as early as January of 1975, when the TR7 was first launched in the U.S., the 16 valve engine (called a 4 valve engine by BL) Sprint version was expected to follow fairly soon after. This was hardly surprising, since the TR7 already used the Dolomite sprint bottom end mated to the 1850 head (well, like the 1850 anyway).

[TR7 Sprint 16V engine] Yet the TR7 Sprint never was launched on either the European or U.S. market. A small number of pre-production TR7 Sprints were in fact manufactured between February and October 1977, but full production was apparently killed off by the strike at Speke during 1978. Estimates of the size of this run vary.

25 is the most commonly quoted figure, but according to the Archivist at the British Motor Industry Heritage Trust the total number of cars manufactured was approximately, 60 all with chassis numbers prefixed with the letters ACH and Engine numbers prefixed with CH and suffixed with HE.
There were two main batches of chassis numbers, one of 25 and one of approximately 35, with one or two cars manufactured outside these batches. The first 4 cars were apparently not properly documented and so details of these are difficult to obtain.

I saw the car with chassis number ACH 1F when it was owned by Hazel and Peter Shepherd, which presumably was the first of these cars. This is a RHD car and has an early Speke body, with the large filler cap and the interior light in the roof. The remaining cars appear to all have been built using the 1978 y.m. TR7/8 bodies and were Fixed Head Coupes with the interior lights on the doors. The cars were fitted with the same brakes as the TR7V8 being pre-produced at the time, which use larger pads, thicker disks and larger pistons in the calipers than the TR7, but are still only 2 pot calipers.

[TR7 FHC (not a real Sprint)] Of the first batch, the majority (excluding the first 4) of the cars seem to have been Left Hand Drive. Many of these were sold off in Europe and perhaps some went to the U.S., though since they did not have the emission control systems this would seem unlikely. I am not sure of the exact details of trim and body of this first batch, but understand that the second batch were "Home Market" specification and were, in terms of body, the same as the early TR8's FHCs being built at Speke at the same time (but RHD).

The first 2 cars of this batch went to the Webb Lane test track for reliability testing and were registered VVC 696S and 697S. The next 30 cars seem to have gone to the BL Press Garage at Canley, and had S suffix SJW registrations in the 520's to 550's What happened to the remaining 3 or 4 cars from the second batch is something of a mystery. I haven't been able to find anything of the whereabouts or history of any of these cars. It may be that these cars were LHD cars and thus were sold abroad like most of the first batch. Vissually, since the shells are standard, there is little to indicate the Sprint. Some of them had a side-stripe simelar to those often fitted to the TR7, but with the word 'SPRINT' replacing the TR7 logo on the rear quarters.

The lettering style is very strange, not like anything used on the other 7's or 8's. These are still available in some colours (not black) from Moss. I have also seen one picture, in David Hardcastles' book on the Rover V8 engine, of a car owned by the power train department, which had a V8 engine fitted. The picture shows a small 'sprint' decal on the front panel below the TR7 logo. This is identical to the Dolly Sprints boot logo, but smaller. I have one of these (somewhere), and they may be available from Moss as well.

There is some confusion over the TR7 rally cars. An article in Motor Sport in June of 1976, stated that the rally cars had been homologated with the 16 valve engine. According to the RAC the TR7 Sprint with the 16 valve engine was not homologated until February of 1978 and then only for group 4, though it seem clear that the rally cars were using the 16 valve engine well before this date. The TR7 having been homologated in 1975, under homologation number 3071.

I have since obtained a copy of the TR7 homologation documents, and whilst it is true that the 16 valve head was homologated in 1978, it was first homologated for group 4 in 1975 at the same time that the production cars were homologated for group 3. Although the SJW TR7V8 rally cars began life as TR7 Sprints, the rally cars were scratch built using bodies taken off the line and prepared by Safety Devices. So only the registration numbers from the sprints were used. Although full production of the factory sprints did not start, the sprint configuration has remained very attractive. So attractive that quite a number of 8 valve (sometimes called 2 valve) TR7's have been converted over the years, my own 1980 TR7
DHC (now registered as A TR7 16V) included.

Click here to read about the Sprint conversion . . . . .

Click here to take a look at my car.

The article was originally written by Graham Fountain for the TR Driver magazine in 1989.

Pictures taken without permission from the book 'Triumph TR7 & TR8, owner's & buyer's guide' by James L. Taylor. Published by YesterYear Books (60 Woodville Road, London NW11 9TN).

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