COAL #7: Triumph 2000/2500 Mk2 – Triumph’s Big Saloon

I have owned a variety of cars over 40 years. Most of these I liked a lot and I always found it not easy to sell them. In an ideal world I would have kept them all, in a big nice garage. That 2CV, Herald, the smooth CX, even the slow Oxford had its merits.

Today’s COAL is about a series of cars of which I have owned a few, and which may not be too familiar to American Curbside Classics readers: the Triumph Big Saloon.

It got its nickname because in those days, 1963 – 1977, it was the biggest saloon (“sedan” for you Americans) Triumph made. Nowadays I am not sure anyone would call a Triumph 2000 a big car. Its length was 174 inch (439 cm) for the Mk1 – the Mk2 grew to 183 inch (465 cm). Compare this to a modern Honda Accord which is 192 inch (488 cm).


1966 Triumph range. Herald, Vitesse, Spitfire, 1300, 2000, TR4a


Triumph had a formidable array of cars back in the 60s, one of the nicest ever from any make in my opinion. Styling was sharp and up to date, and usually the mechanics were reliable. Triumph always was just a bit more special compared to your common Austin, Hillman, Ford or Vauxhall.

The Triumph Big Saloon was a 4 door unibody sedan introduced in 1963 designed by Michelotti (who was also responsible for the Herald, Spitfire and TR4). It looked smart and like nothing else.

The 2000 created a completely new market in the UK, shared with the Rover 2000 (P6) which was introduced at the same Earls Court Motor Show. At that time, both Rover and Triumph were independent makes. Later they would be companions in the big ugly British Leyland concern but let’s leave that discussion for another time. Both the Rover and the Triumph were fresh, modern, a little flashy, sporty – just the the car for the upcoming young executive. The Rover was seen as a touch more upmarket, whereas the Triumph was seen as a bit more sporty.

A wagon followed in 1966, and in 1968 the larger engined 2500PI was introduced alongside the 2000. The 2500PI (PI for Petrol Injection) was the first production British car with Fuel Injection. When all was good the PI was a formidable car (they made nearly 140 BHP against 90-105 BHP for standard carbureted engines) but it got a reputation as a troublesome car. The Lucas injection needed too much attention and after a few years Triumph reverted to twin carburetors again.

In 1969 a big makeover appeared, the Mk2. Michelotti had put on a new, longer nose similar to the Stag and also a longer rear end. This was a very happy restyle and the car sold well. In 1977, the last cars were made. Its successor was the Rover 2300/2600 “SD1” two years later but it never had the success of the “big” Triumphs.


Triumph “big saloon” Mk1 top, Mk2 bottom


All Big Saloons had the same 6 cylinder inline engine, at 2000 cc or 2500 cc. The 2000 was also used in the Triumph Vitesse and GT6. The 2500 was also used in the TR250 / TR5 and TR6. Engines were an unexciting dependable, old fashioned sturdy OHV lump of steel. What all these engines have in common is that they had no real flaws, they just go on and on. Most (except the 2500PI) had two carburetors, SU or Stromberg depending on the year. Gearbox was a standard 4 speed on the floor, with electric overdrive as an option. Optionally you could get a Borg Warner 35 three speed automatic. All cars had power brakes, front brake discs and independent rear suspension. For 1963 this was pretty much up to date stuff.


Dashboards: top is Mk1, bottom is Mk2


Where the Mk1 had a nicely styled typical 60s dashboard, the Mk2 had a very different dashboard with lots of wood, similar to the Stag. Seats were vinyl at first, leather became an (often selected) option later. The Mk2 usually has cloth seats.

Triumph Big Saloons have been in my life more than once. I have a soft spot for them. In the Netherlands they are not well known, not many were sold here, which had to do with the expensive UK Pound Sterling. A Big Saloon is a practical car, having enough room for passengers and a fairly big boot. Handling is good, a bit sporty even, acceleration was pretty good back in the days when the majority of cars were slow and is still acceptable today.

I have always liked the sleek sporty styling. At first not so much the Mk1, which I only saw on pictures. Later I came to appreciate the typical 60s detailing of the Mk1 and now I would prefer a Mk1. However a Mk2 is also a good looking car. All Big Saloons have a quality interior, with wood on the door tops and comfortable supportive seats. The view out is excellent, you can see front and rear of the car.


Triumph “big saloon” Mk1 top, Mk2 bottom


My fathers’ 2500 TC

My father never cared or knew much about cars. He bought what his usual garage had on offer at the time. Luckily I had some uncles who had much more interesting cars. In the late seventies one had a fantastic new Rover 3500 (SD1 style), another a Mercedes 350 S, and yet another uncle was the owner of a Triumph 2500 TC. Such a Triumph was a rare sight in the Netherlands. I think we (my older brother and me) talked so much about it my father agreed with my uncle to swap cars for a couple of days. Even my father got enthusiastic about the “big” Triumph then, so different compared to his Peugeot 404 wagon!


A year or two later my fathers Peugeot was on its last legs – the rust and rot had crept in too much. My brother and myself found a 4 year old Triumph 2500 TC advertised which was not too expensive. My father agreed to have a look, a short test trip later that car was his.

We all loved it. That great six cylinder engine sound! Overdrive flicked on by a switch on the gear lever, amazing! Luxurious cloth seats with head rests! A big sliding sunroof! It was fantastic – we were the family in the street with that flashy car!

Having just received my drivers license, I was allowed to use it in the weekends for the 3 or 4 years my father had the car. Fuel was expensive but I knew I had to spend it as it was such a good car to drive and realized my father would never buy something like this again.


Over the years while we owned it this car gained rust spots everywhere. Which was strange after only 7 years old or so but then we remembered the salty-air seaside town where it had lived for its first harsh years. When it got up to the point that we had to clean the oiled-up #6 spark plug every time after a journey, the end of ownership was near. I could borrow the car for one more weekend which I spend driving the car using two full tanks of petrol. I knew we would never have an interesting car again so I better had to make use of it for the last time. Indeed, after trading in the Triumph my father turned to Japanese since. Not that these were any less rusty though!


The green 2000 Mk2

Ten years passed. I had my 2CV, then my white Chamois and then my Herald. All lovely small cars. I was not a student anymore, had a job, a decent income and now wanted to experience a bigger, faster, smoother car. There was the Morris Oxford but although bigger, it was not really faster and smoother.

Remembering the 2500 TC of my father, I wanted a similar car. I knew these cars made before around 1973 were better because the steel used for the bodies were of a better quality. Also, these slightly earlier examples were just a bit nicer on the details: less plastic / more metal, often with the optional leather seats. I found a 1971 Laurel Green 2000 Mk2 with tan leather seats. The seller was the son of the original Jaguar / Triumph dealer who sold the car when new.



This car was traded in some years earlier and stored in a huge greenhouse where other long term projects rested like their own Morris FG recovery truck, complete with an Austin A35 on the back.



(As an aside – I am happy to report that that very same 1966 Morris FG truck is still alive and well, and in use by one of the dealers’ sons who owns a Car Restoration shop. What a fantastic truck – love the styling).




The trouble was the Triumph had not been running for several years. A friend and myself got to work: clean and set the ignition points and put in a new battery. It roared to life! There were still some brakes so I drove it to the next fuel station where fresh fuel was added and air to the tires. Then all the way to my house which was some 50 miles away. My friend in his Volvo 144 drove in front of me so should the brakes fail I would wreck him, not someone else 🙂


Two dark green old British cars. My 1968 Sunbeam Chamois and Triumph 2000 in front of our house


After a good service I used that 2000 as our daily driver for a couple of years. I installed an LPG system and a towing bracket. A neighbor saw me working in the garage and mentioned he had scrapped one years ago and kept the overdrive box. I could have it for a bottle of good wine! The overdrive basically is a small reduction box fitted behind the existing gearbox, switched on electrically by a switch located on the gearbox lever knob. No need to use the clutch, it works on 3rd and 4rd gear. 4 Overdrive gives a 25% reduction in engine rpm which is very useful and noticeable on the motorway. Many UK car manufacturers had the Laycock overdrive listed as an option, also Volvo used them until in the 90s.

The 20+ year old Triumph served us well. I fitted a baby seat in the back and the big trunk was perfect for all the baby stuff our newborn son seemed to need. As an everyday car, I used it for all kinds of things. The towing bracket made it useful for picking up cars or towing trailers full of garden pruning waste to the tip.


Triumph Two Thousand Towing TR4s – my freshly bought white TR4 and the red TR4 of my brother


My car had a few peculiarities. It had yellow head lamp bulbs. At first I thought a previous owner mounted these but I found out all early (1970-73) big Triumphs had these when delivered new in the Netherlands. I think the importer wanted a small extra way to distinguish the cars. In the popular 1973 Dutch movie “Turks Fruit”, sponsored by British Leyland so there are many nice Triumphs to be seen, those cars had yellow lamps as well.



My car also had orange rear lamp covers for the reversing lights. These were only fitted to cars delivered in France, why they were fitted to my car I do not know. In 1971, exterior mirrors were still not standard equipment. This meant they were fitted by dealers, the delivery dealer of my car fitted just one drivers mirror on the front wing (fender). It is up for discussion if this is the best place for an exterior mirror. They are far away from the driver but they are visible through a wiped windscreen. In the UK exterior mirrors were always fitted on the wings until the early seventies. Fact is on my car the supplying dealer did it put there and I liked it. Always have liked wing mounted mirrors, just for the fun look of it.



The green 2000 was used for holidays of course, to the top of the Alps, yearly trips to England, trips to the Beaulieu autojumble with 3 friends and a huge trailer (to be loaded with fenders, doors, an engine, rear axle and many books).

The car lived on the street. Being in the Netherlands with its salty winters, the car from the early seventies without much rust proofing from new, meant that rust also became an issue on this car. When after five years when the rust got too ugly I decided to sell the 2000. I was also changing work, I would get a new lease car at my new employer. As with many cars I have owned, I was sorry to see this car gone.


The blue 2500 Mk2 automatic



Ten years after selling the green 2000, I had switched jobs again. The new job was about 60 miles away and required me to be at the office every day. At first I used a 6 year old Citroen Xantia but within a year I decided I did not want to spend at least two hours per day in a modern boring car. I thought back at my lovely 2000 Mk2…..

So I searched and found a very good thirty year old 2500 Mk2 auto. Having an automatic was necessary because I was spending time every day in very dense traffic (stop / start / slow / stop etc).


As found. Some fettling needed to get it running smoothly.


First time out of the garage since 5 years


The car was from someone who had owned it for a number of years, the last five of which the car was stored under cover in a garage because he used his TR7 more. Covers removed, it looked very good, same colour as the car my father owned 25 years earlier. The excellent condition of the car made me buy it.

I never liked the plastic grille of the later Mk2 Saloons so I exchanged it for an early model aluminum grille. Preparing the car for the long commute consisted of exchanging the (black fabric) front seats to (black leather) seats from a Jensen I had spare. The foam of the original front seats had degraded somewhat, I would need good seats and the Jensen seats were much better.



 I wanted to put in a LPG system but not the common type like I had in the 2000 which would mean a loss of around 20% in power. A new modern system used special LPG injectors drilled in the inlet manifold, a laptop-programmable ECU was used to manage this system. This worked very well. I removed the cylinder head and had hardened valve seats inserted. A noisy differential was exchanged for one I had saved years before from a scrap car. The driveshafts were replaced by better ones with less wear and the car was good to go.

At home I now had a garage so this car was parked inside, not on the street. I was rebuilding our home at the time we had the 2500, the old garage became our living room and a new garage was added to the house.


In my old garage


Yes, this is the same room. Garage door gone, three windows installed, new floor, etc


In the new garage – almost no room for cars!


There is not a lot more to say about this car. It was reliable and did not leave me stranded ever. The wiper motor packed up, I changed it for one I had spare. It needed a new water pump. I had the radiator re-cored.

Although I drove many miles behind the wheel of this one, the car never got to me like the green 2000 did. Maybe because we did not use this car for holidays, it was only used for my commute. I did not bond with it like I did with other cars. The fact that it did its work very good for a 40+ year-old car every day was not good enough for me anymore. I even began to critizise it: the green one was nicer to drive and had better (earlier) details. To be honest I knew I just did not want to spend another year commuting in this car, I wanted something different, fresh.


Next to its successor


Further reading. The Triumph 2000 / 2500 Register in the UK has a thorough history: