Triumph Stag review
More than 40 years of inventive fixes has turned surviving Stags into reliable and attractive transport...
Tempting testers: Bargains for the brave
My abiding memory of Triumph’s Stag is waiting in a dealer service department to collect my 2000 sedan and hearing a senior mechanic literally sobbing while telling a supervisor how he had spent an entire day buried under the bonnet of Triumph’s troublesome V8, without curing the problem that had seen the car carted in some days earlier.
Cost cutting by an almost Machiavellian British Leyland management was the root cause of many Stag problems, compounded by lax quality control and poor after-sales treatment of frustrated buyers.
The water pump was shaft-driven and could either fail completely or leak and quickly run the cooling system dry. An external, belt-driven pump fixed some of the water-movement issues but a Stag in traffic on a steaming summer’s day was still in danger of blowing a head gasket or melting some pistons.
A popular and more permanent fix involved replacing the Triumph V8 with one intended for a Rover or Leyland P76. These fitted relatively well into the underbonnet space and produced more power with fewer durability issues.
More than 40 years of inventive fixes – in some instances involving complete re-engineering – has turned surviving Stags into reasonably reliable and attractive enthusiast transport. Getting a car with the heavy but solid hardtop is the best way to avoid drips on wet days and consequent trim damage.
Stags still appear in surprising numbers on general car classifieds sites, with especially well kept or modified cars popping up via club web-pages or at display days. Values haven’t moved much during the past decade either.
TRAPS AND TIPS
Head gasket problems, coolant leaks from the water pump, timing chain failure, water pump failure and coolant leaks all contribute to big bills when repairing the original 2.9-litre Stag engine.
Fixes for several of the cars’ design issues have been developed; however the most effective solution is to replace the original V8 with a later 3.5-litre Rover motor. These still need to be monitored for overheating.
Noise from the splined rear half-shafts, including clicks, clunks and even binding splines will likely demand new axles as a cure and a bill of up to $800 for the pair.
FROM THE WHEELS ARCHIVES...
Words: Rab Cook - November, 1972
Stag was a long-distance runner...
It’s usually a good idea to study car brochures to discover how the maker sees his vehicle. Triumph pitch in with: "Some people think that the Continentals have the reputation for really stylish grand tourers Well, that reputation had to run out some time. The time is now. And the car that’s overtaken them is the Triumph Stag. The Stag’s styling is sport, but suave. [giving] it stand-out sophistication among the herd."
They have succeeded very well.
First thoughts were: "This is a car I could go a helluva distance in" and when the test was over I still felt the same. It has been designed with long-range straight-road motoring as the chief consideration. The seats are very good, the padding relatively firm, as it should be.
The engine has a moderate 108kW at 5500rpm. Torque is good at 230Nm at 3500rpm and the result is a friendly motor which doesn’t show anger until you get the revs high. The V8 exhaust note seems completely out of keeping but it is nice to listen to.
The body feels rigid and rattle-free and although it is an open car there is that massive roll-over T-bar contributing a lot of strength. But it is rather difficult to understand why there is a single central leg instead of twin ones at each side which would not only make it stronger still, but give the doors something more substantial to shut against and probably stop wind-hiss.
The Stag rolls an amount which would be little for a sedan but a lot for a sports car. The effect is minimised by good grip offered by the seats. You can hammer the Stag fast over rough surfaces at speeds limited only by the driver’s courage. Cornering, braking and acceleration adhesion is splendid, even on damp roads.
Initial reaction to this steering is to say that it destroys feel, but there is quite a lot of feel, you just learn to be more fairy-fingered with it in the initial stages. I have heard it described as "too sensitive", but I disagree. The steering is in keeping with the character of the car and to condemn it is to miss the whole point of the Stag.
Number built: 25,877
Body: All-steel combined body/chassis 2-door convertible
Engine: 2.9-litre V8, OHV, 16v, twin downdraft carburettors
Power & torque: 108kW @ 5000rpm 230Nm @ 3500rpm
Performance: 0-97km/h 9.3sec 0-400m 17.1sec (manual)
Transmission: 4-speed manual with overdrive, 3-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with Macpherson struts, coil springs, lower control arms, anti-roll bar (f); Independent with trailing arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
Brakes: Disc (f); Drum (r), power assisted
Tyres: 185SR14 radial
Price range: $5500-25,000
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