V8 power, four seats and Michelotti styling – the noble Stag has it all.
Classic Triumph Stag Review
Unlike its Spitfire baby brother, the Stag is more GT cruiser than back road barnstormer, something that’s reflected in the multi-adjustable driving position; even the steering column can be tweaked for rake and reach. Press-on enthusiasts prefer the rarer manual/OD cars, but we reckon the auto suits the car’s relaxed demeanour rather better.
Triumph 2000 owners will feel right at home behind the wheel, since much of the cockpit furniture is very similar, but this is by no means a criticism – quite the reverse, in fact.
The 3.0-litre V8 majors on low-down torque, making it ideal for covering long distances, and it makes at least as wonderful a noise as the Rover V8 that was so often transplanted into Stags during the 1980s. It’s a bit heavier than the Rover unit, but the car leans more toward lazy oversteer when provoked than miles of dreary understeer.
Top speed 112mph
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
BODYWORK & CHASSIS
Rust is an obvious concern – it’s a product of BL circa. 1970s, after all. Take all the usual suspects – wheelarches, inner/outer sills, floorpan – as a given for examination, but there are other, more specific areas to consider. Areas of the panel ahead of the bonnet, for instance, are in the direct firing line of thrown-up stones. The unusual swage lines above the outer headlights have vertical faces than can be tricky to repair, since they’re not easy to align with the adjacent wing and bonnet. Cheap pattern parts are to be avoided here. It’s a similar story with the panel beneath the grille/headlights, although localised repairs are easier here. Also check the front and rear top wing seams – filler is common here.
Staying on the shiny side of the car, the rear panel around the tail-lights is vulnerable to rot, likewise the lower rear valance. The leading edge of the bootlid can trap moisture beneath the chrome trim strip and rot from within, too. Bodged repairs in the A-pillar can ultimately cause those big doors to sag slightly on their hinges, so check for proper alignment within the door frame.
Moving underneath the car, the main suspect to examine up front is the vulnerable front crossmember (which is sited directly beneath the radiator – and whose lower support is also prone to rust), but it’s crucial to ensure the chassis rails and outriggers are all sound. The rear floorpan warrants particular attention, as do the subframe mountings.
Much has been said about the Stag’s 3.0-litre V8 engine – most of it not terribly complimentary – and while it deserved pretty much every criticism it received in period, usually for overheating, most have been sorted by now. Key to reliability is use of a coolant containing a corrosion inhibitor – failure to do so causes the alloy cylinder heads to corrode and warp and the waterways to become clogged with silt. Radiators and associated plumbing should ideally be routinely replaced every 10-12 years.
The V8 demands regular (every 30,000 miles) replacement of the single-roller timing chains if it is to reach 150,000 miles between rebuilds. Death rattles from this area should set alarm bells ringing, since chipped teeth or – worse – complete breakage will cause a catastrophic valves/pistons impact. Check the hydraulic timing chain tensioners, too – they rely on engine oil for lubrication, so low oil level/pressure is bad news. Wear in the shaft bearing that drives the water pump, distributor and oil pump is one likely cause of low pressure.
Transmission options are four-speed manual/OD or Borg-Warner Type 35 three-speed auto. The manual’s synchromesh will eventually wear, most likely on second and third gear, while layshaft wear is evidenced by a noisy bearing sound that disappears when you dip the clutch. Worn driveshaft universal joints will cause automatic upshifts to lurch rather than slur, although too high an idle speed can have a similar result. The diff’ is strong, but will start to whine with age. Steering and brakes are largely tough and dependable, though the former can spring leaks over time.
Trim is largely durable, and cossetted cars should be fine.
In any case, much of it is still available, so a tatty interior shouldn’t be a deal-breaker on an otherwise good car. Look out for a cracked glovebox surround (where the passenger seat rests when tipped forward) or dashtop (UV damage) and baggy seats (collapsed inner foam and rubber).
Find a sorted Stag, and you’ll be in possession of a soulful, family-friendly GT car that still turns heads – as much for its burbling V8 sound as its beautiful Italianate lines. Its impressive survival rate – allied to slowly rising values – goes to show its enduring popularity. Factor in exceptional parts backup and one of the biggest, friendliest owners clubs in the country, and the Stag’s case is complete.