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Oxford University TR7 study

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Hi everyone!

I’m a Masters student at Oxford University (MPhil Economic and Social History), preparing a dissertation on the history of the TR7, and I’d love to hear the opinions of actual owners and fans on the car, and help make your views central to the study.

I think the TR7 is a great topic for academic study for a few good reasons. It’s a “controversial” product in a lot of ways, one that the media seems to keep changing its mind about, and some of the issues that affected the production run can seem to sum up the entire British Leyland story to an outsider. I’m also attracted by the size and enthusiasm of the fan base, which I think can be an amazing source of expertise that historians haven’t made anywhere near enough use of.

I’m keen to write something a bit different to the usual here – a more subjective analysis that discusses the way the car has made people feel, rather than just a run-through of production figures and well-worn stock histories of BL. The official BL archives are almost useless in learning about the history of individual models – they deliberately omitted any in-house discussion of their own products from the record. I’ve therefore come to see the owners’ community as the effective archivists when it comes to the history of this car, at least in terms of what really ought to be known about it.

Here are some simple initial questions I’m particularly interested in addressing as central features of the work (bear in mind that I’ve put some of them to motoring journalists with a track record of being more hostile to the car, so I’d really like to hear a response from the fan and owner community):

·       Was the primary failing of the TR7 to do with practical shortcomings (build quality, reliability, workforce issues etc), or that some people didn’t see it as an appealing car to look at or drive? Can those two issues be separated?

·       In retrospect, what would have been the perfect car for British Leyland in the small, affordable sports car market of the late 70s and early 80s, to give them the best chance of market success?

·       If the TR7’s build quality had been better, could it have been remembered as an unquestioned success with the same styling and drivetrain?

·       Is there anything about the TR7 story that you feel is particularly notable or unusual, even by BL standards?

·       How, in your view, does the TR7 tend to be remembered in the 21st century? Have other BL products aged better or worse on the whole?

Let me know about any personal views you might have on these issues, and I’ll keep in touch here – alternatively, you can contact me at jack.daniel.felton@gmail.com.

Please feel free to ask me about anything you’d like explained in more detail!

Jack

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The TR7 didn't fail as it sold more units (cars) than any other model of TR. I feel you need to carry out deeper research into the issues that surround both the TR7 and BL.

Firstly, the industrial problems in BL post 1974 effected all the products they produced, not just the TR7. The TR7's reliability did improve from 1980.

Secondly, following market research in the US by BL the TR7 was designed, mechanically, to meet their requirements. i.e. a simpler car.

Thirdly the shape was Lord Stokes idea, this was intended to be a complete break with the past.

The TR7/8, MBG and Spitfire all ceased production due to a very poor US/GB exchange rate. Not through any shortcomings in the products.

Reviews of the TR7 state it has - better road holding, more comfort and ergonomics than the earlier models. A 1970's Saloon car feel to it. But that's not what all people want in a sports car. The earlier TR's look back to the 1930's, whereas the TR7 looks forward to the 1980's. Hence the split in views.

Try not to latch onto the same old clichés and myths that have been with us for years and look deeper.

There are a number of DVD and books available on BL and on the TR7 which should help you with your research. e.g. The TR7 Story.

Good luck in project.

Dave

 

   

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I'm certainly not an expert about TR7 cars, but maybe this is a cool story:

When BL started the Group 44 and JRT Canada racing campaign with the TR8 in USA/Canada, Group 44 did some aerodynamic tests with the car, because it had some strange behavior at high speeds....beyond 130 mph.

They wind tunnel tested it at Lockheed and found out the car has 400 pounds of lift at the back side. Something you don't want on a race car.

Tullius said: They made it look nice, but the aerodynamic was a disaster.

So they came up with decent a font and rear spoiler to get the lift down to zero, and as far I know, the roof spoiler adds 200 pounds of down force.

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Edited by MadMarx

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19 hours ago, MadMarx said:

When BL started the Group 44 and JRT Canada racing campaign with the TR8 in USA/Canada, Group 44 did some aerodynamic tests with the car, because it had some strange behavior at high speeds....beyond 130 mph.

 

Lol! One of those stories that make motoring journalists shake their heads and put the car down. I had the same with my MK1 GT6 - everyone said: they're terrible to drive, poor roadholding, too front heavy. Many of those had never driven one. I have to laugh when I find that many classic owners, who put other brands of car down for poor performance at high speeds, drive mostly in cavalcades, at about 15 mph, or else park up at static shows all day.

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Jack, the club has a team of three volunteers that know lots about the TR7, its history, foibles, myths and most importantly just how great the car was and still is in all its guises. Contact Jim Pickard on wedgeregistrar@tr-register.co.uk. Sounds like a great project, have you driven one or sat in one when its being driven properly? I am sure somebody can give you a ride to get a feel for the car.

Good luck, Mick

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Thanks for all your responses! Really appreciated.

Dave - I'd like to reassure you that I make it very clear from the start (the second sentence!) that the TR7 was very much not a failure in terms of sales, especially in the States. Profitability was a different matter, but then that was the case with pretty much all BL products, not just the TR7. The issue is that, in order to avoid the old cliches, I have to address the fact that they exist and look at them a bit more professionally than most motoring journalists have done. Without addressing the way the story's been told, the negative story is the only thing a lot of the general public really get exposed to - that, and the fact that fans have preserved almost all the relevant archive material, is why I want to put fans front and centre here.

MadMarx - very believable, and sadly reminiscent of a few other BL stories (the Allegro for instance, although in a very different context). The general impression, although such things are hard to measure without more evidence than they chose to keep in public view, is that they knew what they wanted to do with the design but didn't really have the resources to complete it as a practical project. Let me know if you think that's a fair assessment.

Mick - I'd be absolutely delighted to speak to Jim, although my time is quite limited. Just being able to put a few questions to him would be great, but I'd love to be able to experience the car properly if possible. Thank you for passing on his details!

As before, please keep in touch if you'd like me to go into more detail about anything.

Jack

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