The TR7 was designed from the start with the American market in mind and was an attempt to trade on the back of the traditional TR sports cars virtues but at the same time being able to comply with the ever increasing safety laws. At launch in 1975 all these regulations produced a car that was overweight in energy absorbing body shells, steel lined bumpers and emission controls on the engines that reduced power output. The style of the TR7 does not look so radical now as it did when launch as we have had cars that follow a similar shape such as the MK1 Toyota MR2 but back then it must have been a shock to the system to go from a TR6 or MGB to the TR7 wedge. The first cars were also not convertible, another throw back to the American safety laws which were though to be going down the route of banning open topped cars (hence why the first Jaguar XJS were all FHC). It was not until around 1980 that convertibles were available. The engine used was pulled from the Triumph parts bin, the 2 litre Dolomite engine but only in 8 valve format, the TR7 had to wait until 1980 to get the engine it deserved (the 3.5 V8) but then it was only for the American's and too late to really save the TR7.
Owning a TR7 or TR8
These are fun capable cars to drive with impressive handling and grip. It is unlikely you will get your hands on an original TR8 as most went to America and the ones that stayed are highly prized by their owners. The TR7 is a practical car with a reasonable size boot, good interior space and good fuel consumption. Performance of a TR7 is adequate and will quite happliy keep up with modern traffic, with the 5 speed box motorways should not cause too much concern.
Like most of Leyland cars of the period the best of material was either not and hand or was not used so look for very tatty interiors and hoods on convertables. Corrosion is a major problem esspecially in some of the closed off sections (to meet safety laws) so look closley at doors, sills, the bootlid, spare wheel well and the front and rear arches. Although not the end of the world and repair panels are availble it usullay means unpicking spotwelds before new panels can be put in. (TR7 fact :- The TR7 had more spotwelds for given panel than most other Leyland car). Mechanically because the Triumph parts bin was raided then spares should not be a problem and as most items were "tested" in previous models they are well proven and reliable. Look for TR8's that are just re engined TR7's to do the job properly a new subframe is required with uprated brakes, suspension etc. as there is a significate increase in power and torque.