With crisp Italian styling by Giovanni Michelotti, all-round independent suspension, the smoothest of six-cylinder engines and a passionate fan base the Triumph 2000, 2500 and 2.5PI make a compelling case for themselves – even more so when you discover that smart examples of these usable classics can be found for £3000. What’s more, running one is easier than ever thanks to remanufactured panels and parts and a good supply of secondhand spares.
When the 2000 was revealed at the 1963 London Motor Show no one could have foreseen that it would prove to be Triumph’s saviour, enabling the marque to soldier on for a further two decades. Leyland’s purchase of the company had kept it from bankruptcy but it was essential that Standard Triumph’s Vanguard successor should be a success. Fortunately, the 2000 exceeded all expectations.
In what came to be dubbed ‘the battle of the 2000s’ the new Triumph found itself in direct competition with another British Leyland car – the Rover P6 – and managed to outsell it. This shaped a new market for affordable but luxurious four-door saloons and became the springboard for Triumph’s Stag cabriolet.
We asked three experts to share their views on which car to buy and the potential problems to watch out for – Chris Witor, a specialist in parts supply and maintenance (chriswitor.com); Mark Swingler, boss of Bournemouthbased Southern Triumph (southerntriumph.com), who has been restoring these cars for more than 25 years; and Dale Barker of Moordale Motors (moordalemotors.co.uk), who has been working on Triumphs since 1985 and supplies parts for tuning and repairs.
Which one to choose?
2000 MkI is released in 1963. It comes with quad headlights flanking a peaked snout, all-round independent suspension and a modified straight-six engine from the Standard Vanguard. Top speed is 98mph and 0-60mph comes up in 13.6sec. Production totals 120,645 including estate and automatic options. 2.5PI MkI is launched in 1968, powered by the TR5 sports car engine with Lucas fuel injection. Maximum speed increases to 106mph and 0-60mph comes up in 10.4sec. A total of 9029 are built from 1968-1969.
2000 MkII hits the road in 1969 with a longer front and rear and a facelift featuring a full-width chrome-encircled aluminum grille beneath a lower bonnet line. A bigger boot and full-width wooden dashboard consolidate the car as the best executive four-door in its price range.
Alternators, power steering and an upgraded brake servo are added. 9,171 are built.
2.5PI MkII is launched in the same year, producing the best performance figures of the range with 0-60mph in 9.7sec and a 117mph top speed. Production totals 47,455. 2500TC MkII joins the range in 1974 with twin SU or Stromberg carburettors. A total of 32,492 are built.
2500S follows in 1975 when PI production ends. Aimed at a younger market, it has bigger 14-inch wheels, an anti-roll bar, upgraded power-assisted steering and alloy wheels. 8164 are built before production ends in 1977 along with the TC and 2000 MkII.
Bodywork Checking for rust is your top priority because repair costs can be disproportionate to the value of the car. Start with the sills, which are the most vulnerable area and budget £2500 a side if repairs are needed – none needs just an outer sill skin any more. Pay particular attention to the sill jacking points and the drain holes alongside – corrosion here can be a gateway to even more inside. Regular clearing reduces the likelihood.
A design fault with windscreen rubbers results in water in the footwells, so check for damp carpets and follow up by checking the floorpans for corrosion. Other susceptible areas include the wheelarches, door bottoms, outriggers and suspension mounts.
The good news is that panels including wings and sills are being remanufactured and can be found through Lloyd Reid via [email protected] and earlpart. co.uk. Avoid cars with corrosion in areas such as the roof and rear quarters, particularly estate models, because specialist repairs will make costs untenable.
Engine Triumph’s in-line six-cylinder is generally reliable and capable of racking up more than 200,000 miles before needing a rebuild. And because it was also used on the Vitesse, GT6 and TR6, replacement and routine service parts are plentiful and relatively affordable. On the downside the 2000 MkI cylinder head gasket is prone to failure, although this can be solved by recutting the threads for the centre row of studs and fitting a bigger set from the 2500 for a cost of £500-£1000. Alternatively, view this as an opportunity to upgrade to a 2500 engine for increased torque, power and fuel economy.
Budget £4000 for a total engine overhaul. Excessive end float on the crankshaft is a symptom of worn thrust washers, which can eventually fall out, causing damage that will write off the engine. Check for this by moving the bottom crank pulley in and out to feel for play; better still, ask a helper to depress the clutch while you watch for movement. Finding the problem early could mean putting it right will cost only a few hundred pounds to fit new washers instead of rebuilding or replacing the engine. Transmission Driveshaft splines are prone to wear and can create an unwelcome phenomenon known as spline lock. You should hear this as a ‘twang’ during a test-drive, particularly when exiting corners or roundabouts where the back end of the car will be noticeably wiggly, interrupting an otherwise smooth ride. New shafts can cost more than £1000 fitted.
The optional overdrive can develop a difficulty to engage, usually caused by chafed wiring to the switch or dirty connections; otherwise you’ll need a replacement unit. Gearboxes are robust, but a worn unit will cost up to £500 to rebuild or replace with a secondhand unit.
Injection PI models’ Lucas mechanical fuel injection became infamous for overheating and failure, particularly in cars sold in the southern hemisphere, and Triumph quietly returned to carburettors in the 2500TC and 2500S.
However, PIs are highly sought-after today because of their enhanced performance and scarcity. When set up correctly the injection system performs well, but look for excessive fuel consumption, uneven running, lack of power, starting issues and in severe cases the engine stalling in hot weather. Cures such as fuel-cooling coils and renewing the Lucas fuel pump or replacement with a Bosch item can cost up to £200.
Handling One of the Triumph’s major selling points was its high standards of handling and comfort, and today members of owners’ clubs regularly drive them long distances across Britain and Europe. This attests to the ability of these Triumphs to sit in the fast lane for hours on end without complaint, but such use can take an unseen toll. Perished steering and suspension bushes can reveal themselves in the form of imprecise, soft steering and a lack of sharpness turning into corners.
Budget £200 for Superflex bushing replacement in key areas such as the trailing and track control arms. Stiffer suspension and 15-inch rims with lower-profile tyres improve stability and are common upgrades for a tighter and more responsive drive.
Interior Vinyl and leather seats have lasted well but those covered in cloth are prone to wear – particularly the rear seats, which suffer sun damage on their tops. Fortunately, good secondhand stock is available and even the most expensive sets cost only £200.
Seat diaphragms are now being remanufactured along with plastic and vinyl trim parts (see chriswitor.com) and new carpet sets are also available (see carcarpets.co.uk). Finding one The marketplace for Triumph 2000s, 2500s and 2.5s can be difficult to negotiate because cars listed online tend to sell very quickly and most owners are reluctant to sell. However, many cars, particularly those owned by experts in solid condition, are sold through the Triumph 2000, 2500, 2.5 Register (triumph2000register.co.uk) and also Club Triumph (club.triumph.org.uk). The Triumph 2000 2500 & 2.5PI Fan Group can be found on Facebook, with a selection of cars and parts for sale along with invaluable expert advice.
[What to pay]
Prices for a 2000 MkI saloon and the 2500 PI MkII saloon or estate start at £1000 for cars needing work, rising to £3000 for smart examples and £6000 for one in perfect condition.
Add 30 per cent for a 2.5PI MkI saloon because of small production numbers.
Pay 10 per cent more for 2000 and 2.5PI MkI estate than for their saloon counterparts.
A 2000 MkII saloon or estate and a MkII 2500TC and a 2500S saloon or estate command a 20 per cent premium over their MkI sisters.
‘Smart examples can be found for £3000 and running one is easier than ever thanks to a good supply of spares’
Some panels are now being remanufactured but be sure to check the sills carefully for corrosion – repairs could well exceed a car’s total value.
‘15-inch wheels with lower profile tyres improve stability and are common upgrades for a more responsive drive’
Straight-six engines are generally good for around 200k miles before needing a rebuild with the caveat that the cylinder head gasket can fail on MkIs.
Leather- and vinyl-clad cabins are long-lasting. Cloth seats are less rugged but replacements are available secondhand.
Replacement rear panels are less readily available than for the front end, especially for estate variants.
[Owning a Triumph 2000]
Lee Godfrey, Nottinghamshire
Lee has owned Triumphs since he was 21 and first fell for the 2000 MkI after it played a starring role in a Levi’s Twisted jeans commercial.
‘I just love the MkI’s exterior and interior looks, especially the front end and the two-tone dashboard,’ he says. ‘I bought my cherry-and-white 1964 car from a friend six years ago, after he made some minor repairs. He’d bought it from a guy who was going to take it banger racing. I’m delighted he never did because another early example could have been lost. It was structurally sound with all original panels and needing only a little welding underneath.
‘There have been no major costs but I’m now looking for new tyres. The original 13-inch ones are hard to find so I’m going to fit 15-inch alloy Minilites at a cost of £600, my biggest bill to date. The most essential upgrade is a £60 spin-on oil filter to help protect the crankshaft bearings from oil starvation on start-up.
‘I only use the car for shows and on nice days. It keeps up with modern traffic and averages 28-30mpg. Classic insurance costs me only £98 a year.’
John Snook, Dorset
John bought his 1967 2000 MkI – the car featured on these pages – three years ago. ‘The total mileage, supported by a mountain of paperwork including all its MoTs, was less than 60,000 and the car had been kept original to an almost obsessive degree,’ he says. ‘I’ve owned a multitude of Triumphs over the years and previously had another MkI that I didn’t keep because it rusted badly. This one has none.
‘The car cost me £5500. The original paintwork was fading and my biggest cost has been a £2500 respray, which included removing the trim. The car hasn’t been upgraded in any way although I’m considering having an overdrive gearbox fitted for long-distance and motorway driving.
‘I pay £94 a year for insurance and £54 for its MoT. Fuel consumption is around 26mpg. Triumph suppliers stock most mechanical parts, either new or used.’
John adds, ‘When Triumph launched the 2000 it must have had a very modern feel. It still rides over potholed roads better than new cars – my wife and I find it extremely comfortable. And the Triumph straight-six engine is still one of the sweetest around.’
Lloyd Reed, Cardiff
Builder Lloyd has raced 2000s and 2500s since his early teens and owned them ever since. ‘I’ve got four now including an estate and a pick-up – and that’s only because I don’t have room for more,’ he says. ‘From an early age I was around people who raced them so I took up racing myself. I’ve loved them ever since.’
Lloyd recently began supplying other enthusiasts with new panels ([email protected]). His daily driver is a 2000 MkII. ‘It’s done 35,000 miles and I’ve used it every day of the week for the past four and a half years. Aside from a condenser it’s never let me down.
‘Petrol, MoT and service costs add up to around £1500 a year. I haven’t done any major upgrades although I intend to fit electronic ignition for around £70.
‘It’s comfy, a joy to drive, totally reliable and always gets heads turning. They’re just brilliant – I’ve had so many and none has ever let me down.’
1973 Triumph 2000TC, £2295
Described as: ‘Lovely original manual overdrive example finished in French Blue with black fabric interior. Low mileage for year backed up by some history, old MoTs, tax discs etc. Only two owners since 1985 and very little used. Superb competent driving car in good solid original condition exhibiting excellent patina.’ Private seller.