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Is It a Real TR8?

By Joe Mahoney

Should a car that left the factory as a four-cylinder TR7 be called and badged as a TR8 if it gets a Rover V8? This is the question that has been proposed.

Based on US law, custom, and car club rules, the answer to this seemingly complex question is a simple “No”. The reason for such a simple answer is that genuine TR8’s have a factory VIN that identifies them as TR8’s. There are, of course, other identifying numbers on the TR8, but the VIN is the controlling number. Without the TR8 VIN, no TR7 conversion will ever be anything but a conversion, replica, or assembled car. And by definition, could never be a genuine TR8.

The original question generates other more specific questions best answered point by point.

Should an owner put TR8 badges on his conversion? Some people believe a car should never be presented as something it is not, others feel that it’s OK to badge the conversion as TR8. It is my belief that the only car that should wear TR8 badges is an original and genuine TR8. Of course, the owner of the car can, and will, do as he pleases.

Could you show your converted TR7 or TR8 replica as a TR8 in Concours competition? No. Proper judging is based on “the way the car appeared and functioned when it left the dealer showroom as a new vehicle and as documented by the original catalog.” [1] This would appear to exclude any conversion or replica from being judged as a TR8 in Concours competition. The correct classification for a conversion or replica is the modified class.

What is the difference between a conversion and a replica? May I put forth the argument that it does not matter because neither is a true TR8? However, in my opinion, a conversion is accomplished when you take a TR7 and put the Rover V8 in it along with some other bits and pieces or use a conversion kit from a dealer such as S&S or Rimmers. A replica is constructed using a new body shell or stripped TR7 shell. All components meet TR8 specifications. Numbered parts should have the correct numbers and date codes for the year model that is being replicated. Every piece should be correct with the exception of the VIN and VIN code stamped in the trunk channel. VIN’s are unique and the letter “V “ identifies a genuine TR8.

Should you register a TR7 conversion or replica as a TR8? No. Under no circumstance should this be allowed. As stated above the VIN is the determining factor in what a car actually is. Using TR7 parts on a TR8 does not make it a TR7 and the reverse is also true.

What, then, do you call a TR7 conversion or TR8 replica? I originally felt that since BL had homologated the rally cars as a model called TR7 V8, (and convinced FIA that they had already built 400!), then TR7 conversions should not be called TR7 V8s. However, in an informal survey of knowledgeable TR8 people, all but one favored the designation of TR7 V8 as it best describes what they are. One British enthusiast pointed out that there are literally hundreds of TR7 conversions in England and they are commonly referred to as TR7 V8s. Therefore, due to the consensus of opinion and existing general use of the term both in the US and England, I now feel that TR7 V8 is an appropriate designation for both conversions and replicas. After all, as Ivan Love, one of the most knowledgeable TR8 enthusiasts I know, said, “we just need to make sure the cars are honestly presented as what they are.”