Reliabilty is Not One of its Good Qualities
At its launch in 1970 the Triumph Stag was a big sports car aimed at the luxury end of the market. At a stretch it could accommodate 4 smallish adults in considerable comfort, but realistically it’s more of a 2+2. Sharing the pretty Giovanni Michelotti styling of rest of Triumph’s range at the time, the Stag was unusual for a sports car in that it had an integral roll-0ver bar joined to the windscreen frame by a T-bar. This was to meet Californian regulations, but it also gave the monocoque bodyshell considerable extra stiffness.
The Stag was supposed to compete with the Mercedes-Benz sports-touring range, but that was always a very forlorn hope. Back then a Mercedes-Benz built by proper German engineers didn’t break down so often.
Powered by a new Triumph 3 litre overhead cam (OHC) V8 giving an alleged 145 bhp and 170 foot pounds of torque, driving the rear wheels through a Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, the good looking Stag should have been a great car. In fact it was a disaster, and only 25,939 were ever built with just 2,871 going to the United States. One look at an engine dwarfed by the engine bay, and the tiny Stromberg carburettors tells you most of what you need to know.
There were some obvious issues. Although the basic Stag weighed in at just a ton and a quarter, (2,800 lbs), by the time you added a couple of adults and their luggage it was underpowered and sluggish for a sports car. The benchmark 0 to 60 mph time was a pedestrian 9.5 seconds and the top speed about 120 mph. The three speed auto transmission did not help at all. The brakes were a mixture of discs at the front with rear drums, and if you took a Stag over the Alpine passes you’d cook the brakes on the way down. Remember with that auto-box there is no engine braking, so you’re riding the brake pedal all the way. Suspension is by very conventional MacPherson struts at the front with semi-trailing arms at the rear, and it’s pretty good for a sports-touring car, which is what the Stag really is. I’ve never heard of any problems with the power-assisted rack and pinion steering.
But, the biggest problem with the Stag is right at its beating heart. The engine was utter crap. From day one Stags broke down, and went on breaking down, again and again. Usually, by the time it had done 25,000 miles the Stag’s V8 engine was a pile of junk, needing a total rebuild or only fit for the scrap yard. Problems started with cooling, and included issues with the oil system, ignition, carburettors, crankshaft, timing chain, galvanic corrosion… I don’t know how any company could get something so badly wrong. And yet, SAAB, a brilliant company in engineering terms, took the left half of that V8 engine, enlarged that half to two litres, and successfully used it to power their entire range of quirky cars.
Many Stags are now bastardised and powered by the Rover V8 engine, which gives brilliant power and reliability, but renders the resultant abberation almost worthless in terms of originality and desirability. I wouldn’t touch a hybrid Stag / Rover with your ten-foot pole, let alone mine.
You can buy a very decent Stag for £7,500 ~ or less if you’re willing to take on something that is much less than perfect. At the top of the market you could be looking at paying £15,000, which is stupid money for one of these scions of unreliability. If you are thinking of buying a Stag, join the owners’ club before you do anything else.
The burning question is, should I buy a Triumph Stag? Well yes, given a huge budget to spend with parts companies like Rimmer Bros. to completely rebuild the engine and drivetrain. The Stag is still a brilliant concept and would make a great sports-touring car for transcontinental road trips. Would I recommend the Triumph Stag to a friend? Not a chance. And to be honest, I think the much maligned Triumph TR7 is the better car, and that also uses the left half of the Triumph V8 engine. Either would be good for a long road trip, and as a full-time hobby getting it ready for a long road trip.
(The Avro Vulcan is to the B52 what a Lotus is to a Ford.)
these opinions are mine and mine alone