The Triumph Stag
is a British car that was sold between
1970 and 1978 by the Triumph Motor Company styled by the Italian
designer Giovanni Michelotti.
Design and styling
Envisioned as a luxury sports car, the Triumph Stag was
designed to compete directly with the Mercedes-Benz SL class
models. All Stags were four-seater convertible coupés, but for
structural rigidity - and to meet new American rollover
standards at the time - the Stag required a B-pillar "roll bar"
hoop connected to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. A removable
hardtop was a popular factory option for the early Stags, and
was later supplied as a standard fitment.
The car started as a styling experiment cut and shaped from a
1963-4 Triumph 2000 pre-production saloon, which had also been
styled by Michelotti, and loaned to him by Harry Webster,
Director of Engineering at Triumph from the early to late 1960s.
Their agreement was that if Webster liked the design, Triumph
could use the prototype as the basis of a new Triumph model.
Harry Webster, who was a long time friend of Giovanni Michelotti,
who he called "Micho", absolutely loved the design and spirited
the prototype back to England. The end result, a two door drop
head (convertible) had little in common with the styling of its
progenitor 2000, but retained the suspension and drive line.
Triumph liked the Michelotti design so much that they propagated
the styling lines of the Stag into the new T2000/T2500 saloon
and estate model lines of the 1970s.
It has been alleged that internal politics meant that Triumph
intended, but were unable, to use the proven but old technology
Buick designed all aluminium Rover V8. As we know today, the
no-fit story is probably a myth as Rover, also owned by British
Leyland, simply could not supply the numbers of V8 engines to
match the anticipated production of the Stag."Brand
loyalty" between Triumph and Rover was high as they were former
rivals. Triumph engineers preferred their new design as it was
lighter using aluminium cylinder heads and the superior overhead
1977 Triumph Stag Mark 2 at Bristol Car Show
Harry Webster had also already started development and
testing of a new unique, all Triumph designed overhead cam (OHC)
2.5 litre fuel injected (PI) V8 to be used in the Stag, large
saloons and estate cars. The vision was to allow Triumph to
compete in the V8 marketplace. Under the direction of Harry
Webster's replacement, Spen King in 1968, the new Triumph OHC
2.5 PI V8 was enlarged to 2997 cc (3.0 litre) to increase torque
and the troublesome fuel injection dropped in favour of dual
Zenith-Stromberg 175 CDSE carburettors to meet emission
standards in one of the target markets the USA.
The Triumph Slant-4 engine shared the same basic design as
the Triumph V8, consisting of a single overhead cam cast iron
block with aluminium heads. However the cylinder heads of the
two engines do not share the same footprint on their respective
engine blocks. This same engine manufactured by StanPart was
initially used in the Saab 99. Using a gear driven water pump,
the Slant 4 could be easily installed in a front wheel drive
car. This same water pump design was used in the Stag V8.
As in the Triumph 2000 model line, monocoque construction was
employed, as was fully independent suspension—MacPherson struts
in front, semi-trailing arms at the rear. Braking was by front
disc and rear drum brakes, while steering was power-assisted
rack and pinion.
The car was launched one year late in 1970, to a warm welcome
at the various international auto shows, which soon turned sour
after delivery to the market with reports of engine problems.
Some of these were due to the perennial problem of poor build
quality, endemic to the British motor industry of the time,
while others related to design problems in the engine. These
- long simplex roller link chains combined with inadequate
engine maintenance and factory specified 7,500-mile
(12,070 km) oil change intervals. The chains could last less
than 25,000 miles (40,200 km) resulting in expensive damage
when they failed;
- inadequately sized main bearings in the early OHC 2.5
litre V8 design with short lives, changed in the 3.0 litre
- aluminium head warpage due to poor castings, head
gaskets which restricted coolant, leading to overheating;
- water pump failures relating to poor drive gear
hardening, prematurely wearing out the gear and stopping the
- In some cases, overheating was caused by clogged
waterways in the cylinder block, found to be filled with
casting sand left over from manufacture.
British Leyland never provided sufficient budget to correct
the few design issues of the Triumph 3.0 litre OHC V8. Many
owners adopted a popular conversion of the car fitting a Rover
V8, Ford Essex V6, Buick 231 V6, or Triumph 6-cylinder engine
but now such conversions fetch lower prices than a genuine Stag
However, renovators over the years did iron out the V8
problems, rather than Triumph engineers.
- Cooling Problems:
- A larger radiator.
- Annual coolant flushing.
- A high dose of modern anti-freeze to overcome the
- Modern fully synthetic engine oil clearly assisted
in cooling the cylinder heads - fully synthetic oils can
cope with far higher temperatures and not degrade.
- Appropriate fully synthetic oils to give superior
lubrication and keep the engine interior clean.
- Improved metal finishes:
- Hardened crankshafts.
- Hardened metals on other components.
- Ignition System:
- Superior electronic ignition systems.
- Modern rubbers:
- Modern rubbers used on radiator hoses, heater hoses,
fan belts and the likes are far more superior and
reliable than those installed in the 1970's.
This all adds up to an engine that now runs very well. If
these glitches had been eliminated by Triumph, the engine could
have been used in many other models, and not only the Stag.
Mk1 & Mk2 Variants
Perhaps thanks to such a reputation for trouble, only 25,877
cars were produced between 1970 and 1977. Of this number, 6,780
were export models, of which only 2,871 went to the United
States. Several variants were produced, noted only in changes of
the production numbering sequences, and these have become
unofficially designated as "Early" Mk I 1970, the Mk I
(1971–1972/3), Mk II (1973) and "Late" Mk II (1974-1977). The
addition of twin coachlines is an indication of a Mk II variant.
Most cars were fitted with a Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic
transmission. The other choice was a derivative of the ancient
Triumph TR2 gearbox which had been modified and improved over
the years for use in the TR4/A/IRS/TR5/250/6. The first gear
ratio was raised and needle roller bearings were used in place
of the bronze bushings on the layshaft. Early models could be
ordered with an A-type Laycock overdrive unit and later ones
frequently came with a J-type Laycock unit. The overdrive option
is highly desirable as the engine RPM is excessive without it.
Other than the choice of transmissions there were very few
factory installed options. Some early cars came with just the
soft-top and some with just the hard-top but most ended up with
both. Electric windows, power steering and power assisted brakes
were standard. Options included air conditioning, chrome wire
wheels, luggage rack, Koni shock absorbers, floor mats and Lucas
Square Eight fog lamps, and a range of aftermarket products,
most of which were dealer installed as optional accessories
could also be fitted. Rather unusually for a 4-seat touring car,
the accessory list included a sump protector plate. This was
probably included as a slightly 'gimmicky' tribute to Triumph's
The Triumph Stag has sizeable club and owner support and a
number of specialist suppliers. About 9,000 Stags are believed
to survive in the United Kingdom. The car's popularity is due to
its performance, comparative rarity and its Michelotti styling.
The problems associated with the car over the years have been
solved by those enthusiast clubs supporting the Stag, elevating
this classic to its intended place in popularity envisioned by
- In the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever,
diamond smuggler Peter Franks drives a Triumph Stag, which
James Bond steals when he assumes Franks' identity; however
the sound dub is probably that of a Triumph Herald or
- In the TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased),
Jeannie Hurst (Emilia Fox) drives a yellow Triumph Stag
convertible. Also on British TV, in the series New Tricks
the character Gerry Standing (Dennis Waterman) originally
drove a yellow Stag for the first two series, until he was
forced to sell it owing to a lack of funds. He replaced it
with a MkII green Stag, reg. no. PWR 233P, in a later
series.The same MkII Stag reg. no. PWR 233P was used by DS
Tommy Murphy in Series 2, Episode 6 of Murphy's Law (TV
- In the British TV series Second Sight, Clive Owen
drives a Triumph Stag briefly in the first episode prior to
selling it due to failing eyesight.
- In the 1972 Hammer horror film Dracula AD 1972, a
sandglow orange, Triumph Stag appears as the mode of
transport for "Johnny Alucard", Dracula's disciple.
- In the late 1970s British TV series "Hazell", the lead
character (played by "Nicholas Ball"), an ex-policeman come
private detective "James Hazell", cuts a stylish figure
driving through London in his 'new motor', a manual, dark
- A driverless yellow Triumph Stag is featured in the band
Ladytron's video clip for the single "Ghost"
- A white Stag, reg No. RVC 430H appears in Straw Dogs
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