Dream a Little Dream
When I first saw a TR7 back in 1975, I remember thinking, "What the...!? Why does the top look like it came from a '58 Chevy?! Hell, even I can do better than that!" After 30 years, I got out the virtual MIG welder and fantasy body putty and gave it a try. In my parallel universe, 1983 was a very good year.
How It Got That Way - Approximately
In the late '60s, the folks at British Leyland decided that the Triumph TR6 needed to be replaced. And for good measure, the GT6 too. The GT6 would be remade into a larger 2+2, even larger than the new TR. Giovanni Michelotti, the stylist of the TR4 and the Stag, was put to work designing a targa-topped two seater code-named 'Bullet' and a 2+2 hatchback code-named 'Lynx'. He turned out a couple of pleasant but bland designs. Then the monkey business started.
First, Bullet was remodeled into a Porsche 914 knockoff. The project then expanded to include a replacement for the MGB, so a new styling review was initiated. Almost as an afterthought, Harris Mann submitted some drawings that resembled the defunct mid-engined MGB successor he had worked on.
Brappppp!!! Ding!!! Ding!!! Ding!!! We have a winner! The staff in the styling studio started turning out clay mock-ups. Well, cock-ups is more like it. I don't know why, but Leyland stylists would habitually start with a really nice idea and then the production engineers would progressively "refine" it until it was truly hideous. The design would then be frozen and go into full production. (This innovative technique soon spread to America and was used for a decade and a half.)
In the case of the TR7, I think something new was making them crazy - safety! The TR7 bears more than a passing resemblence to experimental Leyland safety cars. The high sills, padded steering wheel, strong roof and forward mounted fuel tank were not normal sports car features at the time and the designers seemed to have some problems fitting them in. For a while, Lynx looked like an ass dragin' AMC Gremlin and Bullet like a Dust Buster wearing a helmet. Things did get better, but poor Bullet didn't fully recover until Leyland hired the Italians to whack off its top. Lynx was lookin' good by the time production rolled around, but was cancelled abruptly like many other promising Leyland projects.