NEW AND (MOSTLY) IMPROVED: TRIUMPH 2000 AND 2.5 PI MK 2
The Mk 2 was largely carryover from a mechanical and structural standpoint: Once again, there was fully independent suspension via MacPherson struts and semi-trailing arms, front disc and rear drum brakes, rack-and-pinion steering, a choice of four-speed manual gearbox (with optional Laycock de Normanville overdrive) or three-speed Borg-Warner 35 automatic, and two available engines: the 1,998 cc (122 cu. in.) OHV six and the 2.5 PI’s long-stroke, 2,498 cc (152 cu. in.) version with Lucas mechanical fuel injection. As before, a 2000 with the manual gearbox needed about 15 seconds to reach 60 mph (97 km/h), but top speed improved a bit, to around 97-98 mph (156-158 km/h), probably due to the better aerodynamics of the longer body. The more powerful 2.5 PI trimmed 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) times to 10 seconds or less and allowed a top speed of more than 115 mph.
The Mk 2 did incorporate some useful changes. Triumph used the facelift as an opportunity to tidy up the dash and minor controls and upgrade the heating and ventilation system, again based on the system developed for the Stag. The 2.5 PI now had a tachometer, allowing the removal of the previous rev limiter. There were also new and better seats, although the previously standard leather upholstery gave way to vinyl or optional “Bri-Nylon” cloth trim, reflecting a growing corporate preoccupation with cost-cutting. (Leather was still available as an extra-cost option at least for a time.)
A much-appreciated new option was quick-ratio Alford and Alder power steering, a £52 4s 5d ($125) extra. The power assistance was particularly helpful on the 2.5 PI, which with its wide 185HR-13 radial tires (now on 13x5J wheels) could be a struggle to park, but the system didn’t have an abundance of road feel and wasn’t especially precise.
Handling precision had not been among the Mk 1’s leading virtues and the Mk 2 offered no great improvements in that area. The suspension was softer than before — how much of that was due to the increased weight of the revised body and how much was attributable to a change in spring and damping rates is unclear — and body roll was more pronounced than ever. (Triumph had intended to add a front anti-roll bar to all Mk 2 cars, but that item was deleted from the sedans as part of the cost-cutting campaign and fitted only to estates and some police-package sedans.) The wider rear track and higher polar moment of inertia improved stability, but brisk cornering resulted in substantial understeer. If you forced the issue, Mk 2 sedans had good grip, particularly on 2.5 PI models with their fatter tires, but the Mk 2 still wasn’t the sort of car that invited B-road corner-carving.
The Mk 2 was better on the motorway, where an accommodating ride, well-trimmed interior, and (at least on the 2.5 PI) a flexible engine with long-legged gearing encouraged a relaxed but confident pace. In a later era, Triumph would probably have offered a sportier model or sport package, but as it was, even the 2.5 PI was essentially a luxury cruiser, more akin to Rover’s big 3½-Litre (P5) than the Rover P6 or BMW’s similarly priced but smaller 2002.
Despite signs of incidental penny-pinching, the Mk 2 cars were more expensive than the Mk 1: The 2000 now started at £1,080 (£1,412 5s 10d with purchase tax, about $3,400 at the contemporary exchange rate), the 2.5 PI at £1,220 (£1,595 1s 4d, about $3,830), although even the latter was no more expensive than the marginally slower and noticeably peakier Rover 2000TC; both undercut even the cheapest Jaguar XJ6 2.8 by a healthy degree. A Vauxhall Victor VX 4/90 or Ford Corsair 2000E was cheaper still and had marginally better performance than a Triumph 2000, but the Triumph still filled a useful niche for people who wanted a reasonably affordable luxury sedan rather than a dressed-up mass-market car.
PUMA IN THE BELLY OF THE WHALE
Even before the Mk 2 debuted, Triumph was already giving thought to its eventual replacement, codenamed Puma, which was tentatively scheduled to replace the Mk 2 around 1973. Puma, again designed by Michelotti with input from in-house design chief Les Moore, was not a second facelift, but an updated platform that was intended to have significant commonality with other future Triumph cars.
By 1970, however, BLMC management was struggling to come to grips with its sprawling and confusingly overlapping product line, much of which was in need of update or replacement. While Lord Stokes was undoubtedly fond of Triumph, the corporate coffers were not nearly deep enough for everything the individual divisions wanted to do, particularly where those projects directly competed with one another.
Over the next year and a half, Puma went from mostly autonomous Triumph project to styling proposal for a joint Rover-Triumph project to would replace the 2000/2.5 PI and P6. In early 1971, the Puma design, further refined by freelance designer William Towns, lost an internal design competition to the P10, a slick five-door hatchback designed by Rover’s David Bache, and became a dead issue. (The P10 subsequently became the 1976 Rover SD1.)
Even if it had won the contest, the Puma would probably not have been offered as a Triumph. The BLMC board at that point was dominated by former Rover and Triumph executives who by 1971 had reaffirmed their previous conclusion that Triumph should focus on sports cars and smaller sedans, leaving larger luxury models to Rover and Jaguar. (Alvis, sadly, had been lost in the shuffle.) The 2000 and 2.5 PI would continue until the SD1 was ready, but after that, Triumph would be out of the large sedan business.
2500TC AND 2500S
The 2.5 PI continued to sell well in Mk 2 form despite spiraling prices; by 1972, a 2.5 PI sedan ran to £1,995 (about $5,000), while an estate with power steering and overdrive was up to £2,321 (around $5,800). Nonetheless, not everyone was happy with the Lucas injection system, which was expensive, still not trouble-free, and costly to repair. There were also complaints about the injected engine’s rough idle, which prompted a switch in 1973 to a milder cam (shared with late TR6 PIs) that trimmed peak output to 124 PS (91 kW) DIN and 143 lb-ft (193 km/h) of torque. The 2000 was cheaper and less fussy than the injected engine, but the smaller engine was now rated at only 84 PS (62 kW) DIN and thus was rather underpowered for this segment, particularly with automatic.
The obvious solution was to offer a carbureted version of the 2,498 cc (152 cu. in.) engine as an intermediate step between the 2000 and 2.5 PI. Why Triumph didn’t do this from the beginning of Mk 2 production we really don’t know; Triumph had been selling a carbureted 2.5 in North American TRs since 1968 and for 1972 had commonized the block and head of the 2.0 and 2.5 engines. However, it was actually Triumph’s South African subsidiary that first installed the carbureted 2.5-liter six in the sedan, creating the locally assembled Triumph Chicane in 1972. Australian Motor Industries in Port Melbourne, Victoria, which assembled Triumphs for the Australian market, followed suit in 1973 with the 2500TC and a similar model was belatedly introduced in the U.K. in mid-1974.
The engine of the British 2500TC was generally similar to that of the U.S.-spec TR6 minus the add-on emissions controls, although two S.U. HS4s replaced the federalized cars’ Zenith-Stromberg carburetors. This arrangement yielded a lackluster 99 PS (73 kW) DIN, but a useful 133 lb-ft (180 N-m) of torque. Combined with the 2.5 PI’s 3.45 axle, the carbureted engine neatly split the difference between the 2000 and the 2.5 PI in both performance and price, but the 2500TC’s performance was only average by the standards of its increasingly competitive segment.
The 2500TC and 2.5 PI were available concurrently for about a year, but production of the expensive and troublesome injected engine ceased in the early summer of 1975, leading to the deletion of both the TR6 PI and 2.5 PI. The latter was replaced by a new 2500S model, also carbureted, but with revised intake and exhaust manifolds and bigger S.U. HS6 carburetors, giving 106 PS (78 kW) DIN and 139 lb-ft (188 N-m) of torque. The 2500S also had a front anti-roll bar (the only sedan model so equipped except police vehicles) and 175SR-14 tires on 14×5.5 alloy wheels, borrowed from the Stag. Overdrive was standard and the optional power steering was also revised to provide more road feel. The 2500S handled notably better than the 2000 or 2.5 PI, although the ride was less comfortable and the binding of the rear halfshaft splines remained an annoying problem.
The 2500TC remained available, as did the 2000, now renamed 2000TC (although 2000s had always had twin carburetors). The venerable 1,998 cc (122 cu. in.) six now had 91 PS (67 kW) DIN and 111 lb-ft (151 N-m) of torque, finally making the 2000 a 100-mph (160-km/h) car.
Since Triumph engineers were responsible for developing the new OHC six-cylinder engine slated for eventual use in the SD1 and that engine was originally based (albeit very loosely) on the older Triumph six, Rover-Triumph considered installing the new engine in the 2000/2500 body, possibly accompanied by an additional facelift. A few prototypes were built, but the project was abandoned by mid-1973. The new engine was rapidly diverging from its roots and neither redesigning it to make it fit the 2000’s engine bay nor redesigning the sedan’s front end to accommodate a longer engine was an attractive option, particularly with BLMC lurching toward insolvency. Instead, the Mk 2 cars soldiered on with a new grille that looked even more like the Stag’s, minor equipment shuffling, and the aforementioned model changes. A 1975 plan to extend the model’s life by replacing the OHV six with the 2,227 cc (136 cu. in.) E-series engine was also abandoned.
In the Mk 2’s final years, British Leyland (as BLMC was formally known following the 1975 nationalization) seemed loath to spend any of the corporation’s now publicly subsidized resources marketing the big Triumphs, but the 2000 and 2500 were still reasonably competitive against a growing horde of Continental rivals and dressed-up family sedans like the Ford Granada Ghia. If you were looking for something genuinely sporty, the Triumph wasn’t likely to suit, but there was still a place in the market for a largish sedan with nicer appointments and more cachet than a Vauxhall or Leyland’s own Princess.
Production of the 2000TC, 2500TC, and 2500S continued after the introduction of the V-8 SD1 in mid-1976, finally ending in May 1977; some overseas CKD assembly continued for another year or so. The Triumphs remained on sale into the 1978 model year in the U.K. and until 1979 in certain export markets. By the end, rampant mid-decade inflation had pushed the price of even a basic 2000TC to more than £4,000 (over $7,000) and a loaded 2500S to almost £6,000 (around $10,500), a sum that two years earlier would have bought a Jaguar XJ6 4.2.