Like many automobile manufacturers of the early twentieth century, Triumph got its start in the bicycle business, beginning operations in 1887. Bicycle production expanded rapidly, which naturally led Triumph to the new world of motorcycles near the turn of the century. A 3-wheeled cyclecar following in 1903, but it wasn’t until twenty years later that they built their first four-wheeled motorcar. The earliest effort was a small runabout powered by a 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. After a few hit-and-miss years, the company’s first successful automobile came with the Super Seven of 1928. Excepting the exotic Dolomite 8, Triumph found its niche primarily in small, sporty saloons and roadsters.
After World War II, Triumph hit financial difficulties and came under the umbrella of Standard Motor Co. The newly-renamed Standard-Triumph took some time finding its new identity in the early post-war years, offering the curvaceous 1800 and 2000 roadster, as well as the “baby-Bentley” razors-edge Town and Country Saloon. Beginning in 1953, however, Triumph truly hit its post-war stride with the pretty and lithe TR2 sports car, aimed squarely at the burgeoning American market. Powered by a 1,991 cc overhead-valve inline-four sourced from the Standard line and wrapped in a distinct and stylish body, the TR2 spawned the legendary TR series that would become a fixture of the British sports car revolution, and run into the 1980s. The instantly recognizable styling of the TR2 set Triumph apart from its rivals, with its curvaceous wings, dramatically cut-down cockpit, and deeply inset radiator grille with headlamps set into pods on the bonnet. The lovely shape had more than a hint of XK120 in its profile, particularly when fitted with optional rear wheel spats. The performance was also quite brisk thanks to that torquey 2-liter engine which gave the TR2 the grunt to handily outpace its rivals from MG.
The TR2 only lasted from late 1953 to 1955 before the evolutionary TR3 replaced it. Just 8,636 TR2s were built in the car’s short production run, compared to over 75,000 TR3s. But the TR2s role is far more significant than just sheer numbers, as this was the car that started it all for Triumph in the critical US market. The TR2 gave buyers a stylish and exciting machine that kindled America’s love affair with the affordable British sports car. Today’s enthusiasts appreciate the TR2 as much for its historical importance as for its simple, attractive lines and spirited performance.
As one of just 1,431 survivors listed in the Vintage Triumph Register, this 1955 TR2 is a rare and desirable early Triumph sports car. The subject of a ground-up restoration, this car presents in excellent condition and is a superb example for use in club events, tours, and rallies. The included British Motor Industry Heritage Trust Certificate shows this German-market TR2 wears its original shade of Signal Red with matching red disc wheels. Lean and purposeful, the TR2 has all the looks of the quintessential 1950s British sports car. Finish quality is excellent, with deep, glossy paintwork and good, consistent panel fit. This example is a later “short door” model, named for the revised doors that do not extend through the sills – done so to address early customer complaints of curbing door bottoms. While brightwork is minimal, the plated bumpers, exposed decklid hinges, and windscreen frame are all in excellent condition, showing only the slightest polish marks from care. Rolling stock consists of meaty blackwall radials mounted on factory steel disc wheels, painted body color as original and dressed with Triumph dog dish hubcaps. A pair of Lucas driving lamps on a badge bar round out the purposeful and sporty appearance.
The tiny, cut-down doors open via pull straps (the luxury of exterior door handles arrived with the TR3) revealing the excellent, fully restored cockpit. Period-correct tan upholstery covers the seats, door cards, and interior panels, with contrasting black carpets lining the floors. Fit and finish of the soft trim are superb, and it shows virtually no wear since the restoration. Distinct Triumph-branded Jaeger instruments and switchgear all present in excellent condition with proper labels and markings. This example also features a 4-speed gearbox with electric overdrive on the top two gears.
The high-quality presentation continues under the bonnet, with the original, numbers-matching 1,991- cc inline four looking tidy and period correct. The finned alloy rocker cover dresses up the engine bay, which is nicely detailed with proper wiring, plumbing, and fittings. The engine breathes through a pair of S.U. carburetors, running strong and providing brisk performance – with the sensation being enhanced by the low slung doors and kart-like ride height.
For British sports car fans, Triumph’s TR2 is a significant part of post-war motoring history, representing one of the first examples of an affording sports car with modern styling to hit American shores. Sold in relatively small numbers before the TR3 arrived, TR2 nonetheless made a lasting impression, and it remains a very desirable model. This example shines with its high-quality restoration and well-sorted nature. It is ready to provide its next keeper with the pure, delightful open-air motoring experience that only a classic British sports car can provide.