If I had to guess, I’d say the total number of Triumph TR7 convertibles that had been street-parked at this particular intersection in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood could be counted with the fingers on one hand. A grand total of just under 29,000 dropheads (a British term for “convertible”) were produced from between mid-1979 and October ’81, out of just over 112,000 TR7s ever made, which translates to about a quarter of total production. The convertible’s production numbers actually weren’t too shabby, considering it arrived over four years after the coupe.
The ’79 TR7 drop-top was good for a 0-60 time of 11.4 seconds, with an 18.2-second quarter-mile** with the 86 hp 2.0L engine and a five-speed. (For comparison, a 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage with a 1.2L 3-cyl and a 5-speed manual does 0-60 in 11.7 seconds, and the quarter mile in 18.8.) Don’t shake your head. This was the malaise era after all, and well…at least it looked good.
It was the U.S. market, not Great Britain, that received the first of these convertibles in July of 1979. (Continental Europe received them in January 1980, and the UK got them that March.) At that time and for historical perspective, Jimmy Carter was President, and the late Jane Byrne was Chicago’s mayor, the Windy City’s first and only female mayor to date. Disco Demolition Night was held at Comiskey Park on Thursday, July 12th, 1979, between the games of a Chicago White Sox / Detroit Tigers doubleheader, while three of the concurrent, top-five Billboard Hot 100 singles were disco songs, two of which belonged to Donna Summer. July 2nd brought the introduction of the Susan B. Anthony dollar, two days before our annual Independence Day celebration. I was four years old, playing count-the-Chevette every chance I got, and watching “Soul Train” and “Schoolhouse Rock!” on television with my two brothers. None of these facts have absolutely anything to do with this car, but July 1979 was a different time, for sure.
Much has been written about the fixed-roof TR7 coupe’s somewhat controversial “bubbletop wedge” shape in profile (which I also like), but the convertible, for many, had looks that were a lot easier to love without much effort – especially with the top down. While the coupe had originally been penned by Harris Mann (Austin Allegro, Leyland Princess), the design tweaks for the convertible version came from the studio of Giovanni Michelotti, who had given us the Triumph TR4 and Australia’s Leyland P76.
The TR7 has been covered on CC before (see links below). I’m guessing as to the model year, and chose 1979 simply because that was the year these were first available in the U.S. My intent isn’t to try to rewrite what has already been stated, but rather to express my shock at having seen such a relatively rare car in such nice apparent condition street-parked (in the rain!) in a neighborhood that could neutrally be described as mixed-income and not exactly the safest on Chicago’s north side.
What were the circumstances under which this car ended up parked on the curb outside of the local Jewel Osco grocery store? I mean, did someone take this toy out of the garage in the suburbs that day to celebrate with friends in the city, make a run for some charcoal briquettes at the store, only to return to find it wouldn’t start? Regardless, it was a fitting end to a fun Memorial Day weekend to spot this rakish, red ragtop at the beginning of summer’s unofficial kickoff.
Uptown, Chicago, Illinois.
Monday, May 26, 2014.
** TR7 Performance figures cited from www.zeroto60times.com