Triumph Stag: Buying and Revision Guide (1970-1977)

The Triumph Stag should have been the hitter of the world. After all, with Michelotti’s sharp lines, four-seat convertible configuration and V8 power, how could it fail? Here was a car that could transport the whole family – with their luggage – in a top-down style. It looked great and there was no shortage of running either, thanks to the 3.0L Torque.

But as we all know, the Stag failed, thanks to a bunch of build quality issues and careless dealers who couldn’t fix the set of problems that always popped up when the Stag was still in its warranty period. Part of the problem was the fact that quality control during the production of the various components was seriously missing. The V8 was also seriously underdeveloped, and the classified failure in the early days was horrific.

Fortunately, things have continued since then. Most of the stags have been restored so they are screwed together much more carefully than they were the first time. So many problems have now been engineered, that there is no reason to fear unreliability. In fact, buy a restored Stag that had some sympathetic upgrades and you’ll find it’s one of the most widely used, affordable, and fun classics out there.

Which one to buy?

All stags are basically the same in terms of specifications; The only thing that separates them is whether they have a manual or automatic transmission. Which one to choose is a matter of preference, but it is generally the manual/overdrive cars that the market prefers, although cars are more common. However, the modern four-speed automatic gearbox is a much needed upgrade.

There is never a shortage of Stags for sale, but (as expected) the good ones outnumber them with mediocre or totally poor examples. So you have to buy really carefully because many Stags are not as good as the owners think. The key is to find a car that has been properly restored by someone who knows what they are doing, and will also have some sympathetic modifications to improve usability and reliability.

The types of improvements to look for include a completely rebuilt and balanced engine, an electric fan (to go along with a repaired cooling system) as well as electronic ignition. The reconfigured steering valvings to improve feel, ventilated discs at the front and Datsun drive shafts instead of the engraved originals are also worth looking into.

What you don’t really want to buy is a Stag with an engine other than the original 3.0 liter V8 – a conversion from a Triumph straight six, Ford V6 or Rover V8 would cost so much and there are so many Stags with an original engine, you don’t have to buy anything else.

There were a few unusual deers of special construction, of which only very few remained. Three prototypes of Fastback Stags were produced, although two of them were destroyed. This leaves one of the true survivors of Fastback, although you may find several home efforts. Triumph also experimented with four-wheel drive, building three examples. With a GKN-FF transmission, a setup very similar to the Jensen FF, the only visual clue is the bonnet bulging to accommodate the higher engine block.

Performance and Specifications

engine 2997cc, V8

Energy 145 hp @ 5500 rpm

torque 170 lb-ft @ 3500 rpm

maximum speed 117 mph

0-60 mph 10.5 seconds

oil consumption 22mpg

Motion vector Four-speed manual + double-speed (optional three-speed automatic)

Dimensions and weight

wheelbase 2540 mm

Length 4413 mm

Show 1613

to rise 1257

curb weight 1275 kg

Common problems

• Expect wear of sills, floor pillars and wings, as well as the welds between the inner and outer wheel arches, unless the vehicle is restored. Welded wings must be removed to properly fix the sills. Other hot spots of wear include the bases of the A and B pillars, the door bottoms, the pillars and the leading edge of the rear wings. Most chassis panels are available on the rack.

• Also keep magnets handy to check the front and rear fascias, the seams between the front wings and the front panel, the rear edge of the trunk lid, the trunk floor, the fuel tank, and all the solid uppers, as it has many rust traps.

• Try to take a good look under the battery if possible, as rust often forms on the tray due to trapped water. Access is tight, and while replacing the battery isn’t a huge task, the latter replacement is a bonus.

• Despite its bad reputation, the Stag’s V8 is quite reliable if properly rebuilt and maintained. Most of the issues center around the cooling system, so increase the engine temperature and test thoroughly. Waterways and radiators can become clogged with debris if anti-freeze levels are not maintained, as well as ensuring the Torquatrol’s dual-viscosity engine fan is operating.

• Worn cam followers (and their bores) can also be a problem, which is eliminated by tapping noises in idle mode. However, valve clearances that are not properly adjusted can also lead to the same symptoms; Setting them up correctly is difficult, so slippage is sometimes allowed.

• Gearboxes – manual and automatic – are reliable and will cover 120,000 miles between rebuilds. Synchronous gearing on second gear is the first sign of a problem with the manual gearbox, but the rebuilt units are easy enough to source.

• What’s hard to find is a decent clutch, so make sure what’s right isn’t on its way out. If there is a chatter from behind the engine, which disappears when the clutch is dipped, this means that the thrust bearing has worn out. If the clutch is really stiff, it is probably because the engine and gearbox are out of contact with each other as there are no selector bolts. Modified clutch plates are available to handle this.

• All Stags are with power steering, so check for leaks. The fuzzy steering is likely due to worn bushes in the suspension and steering rack. Handling points are particularly fussy for worn out rear arm bushes, but replacing them is easy.

• Punching through bends indicates overlapping joints in the shafts. Cleaning it out and applying some CV joint grease should fix things.

• The electrical system is generally reliable, although the fuel pump can stick, preventing the engine from starting. If the engine flips and doesn’t fire, listen for the fuel pump hum at the intrusion corner of the trunk.

• The interiors are generally very rigid, and the vinyl seat covers are very durable. However, foam seat cushions crumble with age, causing foam “crumbs” to appear on the rug. Fortunately, alternatives can be purchased or even made.

• Check the overall condition of the dashboard as well, as the wood veneer often cracks, although it can generally be refinished by a professional.

Form date

June 1970: The Stag was announced with a 2997cc V8 engine and either a manual or automatic transmission.

July 1971: The stag was introduced to the USA.

October 1972: Overdrive is now standard for all manual cars.

February 1973: The Stag MkII was introduced with a matte black tail plate and sills, as well as new instruments. The wheel rims are now all-silver, the hardtop is standard and the rear quarter windows are omitted from the hood.

April 1973: Alloy wheels replace wire wheels in the options menu.

July 1973: Withdrawal of stag from the USA.

January 1974: The hazard warning lights and seat belt are now installed.

March 1975: Optional air conditioning is no longer available.

October 1975: Alloy wheels, tinted glass and a laminated windshield are now standard.

October 1976: The more powerful Borg-Warner 65 automatic gearbox replaces the previously installed Type 35 unit.

June 1977: The last car was built after a production run of 25,939 units.

Owners of clubs, forums and websites

• www.stag.org.uk

• www.brmmbrmm.com/trstagenth

• www.tristagreg.org

• www.club.triumph.org.uk

• www.tssc.org.uk

Summary and prices

As a modern, V8-powered cruiser, the Stag is as good as it gets. Find a good example to start with, add improvements over the winter months, and enjoy all the weather without fear of crashes. The best Stags will get you over £13,000, but anything over £10,000 should be well sorted. Restoration projects can still be had for around £2,000, while a little tricky runner will likely cost around £5,000.

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