Should I buy a Triumph Stag? Seriously.

| 30 Jul 2011

I have been looking at Triumph Stags all day on the internet. I am not sure why. I guess I have always been a Triumph man at heart, but the Stag was never one of 'my' Triumphs. I also adored that symbiotic design relationship between the whole range when Stag, 2000 Mk2 and later Spitfires plus the rest all echoed each other's front and rear treatments: a genius idea and a feat that I can't think of having ever being repeated, certainly not successfully. I like V8s, too. And my family circumstances mean that a four-seater V8 classic convertible is the ideal car. Of course, they are still ridiculously cheap, too. And have quad headlights.

It's ticking an awful lot of boxes then.

Maybe it is because the only other classic that would envelop all my needs in one would be a Lotus Elan +2 Chris Neil conversion, but then I wouldn't want to hit anything in that with the family aboard. Or a Peugeot 504 V6 convertible, but they are rarer than an modest politician. I prefer the era-defining shape of the Stag to the Pug anyway, always have, largely because I have this weird thing about removable hard-tops and the Stag's is perfect. Scimitar? Nah, not a convertible thanks.

So I want one, in a nice lurid early 1970s hue, manual overdrive, rear seatbelts etc.


Or, I could just do what I always do when a Stag starts swimming upstream Salmon-like in my must-buy list, and that is to go and drive one.

The other day on the telly, Mr Clarkson quipped (wrongly) that all the Chrysler V8 (as fitted to my Interceptor) did was turn fuel into noise. Actually, that engine is pretty powerful… compared to the 3 litre in the Stag. Like the early Buick/Rover V8 its bhp doesn't match up to its consumption, never even topping 150bhp. Ever wondered why every article on a Stag in every classic car magazine ever goes on and on about the noise? It's because the more words you use up talking about the noise, the fewer you have left to talk about the disappointing performance. And it is disappointing. Even owners say so. I well remember interviewing a Stag owner at one of C&SC's Castle Combe action days years ago, one who had done absolutely everything to his car to make it go fast and handle… and then admitted that it still didn't do either.

With a top speed of 116mph and 0-60mpg in 9.3 secs, this is resolutely non-Elan performance. I have driven a load and, frankly, genuinely sorry Stag owners, but they are sluggish, especially with the auto 'box. They don't really handle either. Fact. 

But, even if that is irrefutable, is that any reason not to want one? It still fulfils all my criteria, after all, and is it really the Stag's fault that it looks so full of sporting goodness that its performance comes as an anticlimax? When I say it doesn't perform and doesn't handle, that is grossly unfair, coming from mentally comparing a Stag to a bunch of classics it was never intended to compete with and never designed to be like.

No, the problem is more my unreasonable expectations than the Stag's perceived shortcomings and, as soon as I have finished writing this, I will be looking at a load more. Funny thing is, show me one in profile with its hardtop on and I am approximately 75% more likely to buy it.

Then, when I get back into the office next week, I'll be setting up some kind of spurious Stag drive, to find out if I have changed enough, detuned my demands enough, to finally, this time, follow the path of least resistance and maximum noise. The Stag may not be everything I am looking for in a car, but it might just be the closest I will ever get. If I could have only one classic, what would – affordably - serve my purposes better?

In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and talk me into it or out of it.