Man Up

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This is a 1972 Triumph TR6. Almost every article you read about the TR6 lauds it as a man’s (actually it’s British, so bloke’s) car for the real masculine types who do manly things like chop down trees and leave the toilet seat up and go down to the pub to have a stiff drink with the fellas. But I’m not so sure that’s the case.

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You see, the TR6 represented the third faction of the War of Small Sports Cars, with the other two being MG and Austin Healey. The MGA and 3000, while terrific, struggled to appear “tough” in the eyes of the consumer, what with their swooping, curvy bodywork and pastel color options. Triumph, who were famous for making motorcycles, introduced this as an alternative. The squared off edges, slab sides and trendy “Kamm-tail” rear end set the TR6 aside as a car for hairy chested “real men.”

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Only, it didn’t. The TR6 was undoubtedly the most manly looking small British sport car of the time period, but that’s a bit like saying Levi’s sells the manliest jean shorts. Any argument that one sports car accentuates your man- or woman-hood over another will ultimately fall apart into a pile of marketing hype and insecurity. In the end, it’s just a car. It just so happens that this is a particularly good one.

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The TR6 is pretty much business as usual when it comes to the technical stuff. Two seats, rear wheel drive and a plucky little engine: what else do you really need, honestly? We Americans were a bit short changed when it came to that engine, though. In order to comply with US emissions regulations, Triumph had to take its old but brilliant 2.5 liter straight six engine that developed 150 horsepower and make it worse. American TR6’s only had 104 horsepower, and they lost their “petrol injection” system in favor of twin carburetors. So worse, yes. But by no means bad.

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This is a British sports car after all, and if you’ve read Forgotten Metal before you know that means this is the point in the post that gets a bit misty eyed. Warm summer evenings and twisty roads hidden in the woods somewhere: that’s where this car exists. It’s horribly impractical, not very good on gas, and it’ll probably spend more time broken down in a garage (like this one) than out on the road. And yet somehow is all just works. This car evokes a feeling that just don’t get with that Corolla you got a good deal on but is actually slowly crushing your soul. The TR6 is a car that wants you to wear an aviator’s cap and goggles when you drive it. That’s why I struggle with the idea of the little Triumph as a “man’s car.” Everyone who drives one, man or woman, tough or me, looks just a little silly doing it. So, is it a man’s car? No. But it is something truly great.

Additional Thoughts:

  • These pictures didn’t really come out the way I wanted them to, which is a shame because this really is a pretty thing, especially in this color. So I apologize for that. I know you’re all upset.
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6 thoughts on “Man Up

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