Something For The Weekend – the Triumph Stag

| 19 Oct 2012

Introduced in 1970, the Triumph Stag was thought by many to be, well, a bit of a mistake. The prototype had been conceived as a show car only, but when Harry Webster (British Leyland’s technical director) clapped eyes on Giovanni Michelotti’s design he fell in love and ordered it into production.

The Stag was planned as a luxury GT, something that could live with the likes of Mercedes’ 350SL (see C&SC September ’91).

To do this, of course, it needed the right kind of engine, and it got it. The lump may have had some reliability issues (and we’ll get to them in a minute), but it also delivered an appealing V8 wuffle along with an unstressed demeanour that was perfect for the car’s character.

Not the lightest of cars, at 2675/2835Ib (1215/1289kg), the Triumph was never intended to be a nimble sports car, but as a cruiser it was perfect. Meanwhile, the ‘love it or loath it’ T-bar adds rigidity over rivals of a similar vintage.

When searching for a Stag, a manual-overdrive gearbox, a superb hard-top (for winter driving) and a sorted but original Triumph V8 all add to the car's desirability.

This example is particularly appealing. Sure the roof needs work, but mechanically it seems to have all the boxes ticked with a recent respray, numerous replacement parts, a well-documented history and a stainless-steel exhaust. It would be possible to spend less than the £4950 that this vendor’s after, but with his claim of ‘no overheating issues – at all’, this machine would seem like a sensible starting point.

That’s because the lovely V8 motor does have its issues, especially if neglected. If corrosion inhibitor is not used, it can spell big problems because the alloy heads rapidly corrode, silting up areas where coolant flow is poor (at the back of the cylinder heads), and where passages are small (the rad and heater matrix). This can cause the engine to overheat and warp the heads. Keeping enough fresh inhibitor in the coolant helps to avoid the problems.

The other major mechanical bugbear – the timing chain – should be changed every 30,000 miles as a sensible precaution. Rot can also be an issue, so check the body from the bottom up and remember – shiny panels mean nothing.

Meanwhile, for double the outlay, you could have this car. Its engine and automatic gearbox have both been rebuilt in the past 7000 miles and work has also been carried out on the subframes and driveshafts. ‘All that remains is to tidy the body work’, but then who wants a perfect classic?

Particularly when the Stag has a staunchly loyal fan base (see Club Triumph and the Stag Owners’ Club) to compare notes with.

But if a perfect car is what you want, then what about this machine? Built in 1977 it has covered a mere 35,000 miles and only 7000 of those in the last five years. It has been subject to a full bare-metal restoration – with photographs documenting the work – and has been dry-stored for the seven years it spent with its previous owner. For an as-new classic, £11,995 seems like a bargain.

Certainly for a car that was built in an era when British Leyland (in the words of boss Donald Stokes) set trends rather than followed them. A great car indeed and one that, with our free buyers guide, you should have no qualms about purchasing.