Sunday 2 July 2023

Car & Classic hails Le Mans Classic 2023 centenary celebrations with 1959 Le Mans Triumph TR3S likely survivor

If  you couldn't make it to Le Mans Classic this weekend, Car & Classic’s auction of what is likely to be the sole survivor of three Le Mans 1959 Triumph TR3Ss is underway to offer an opportunity to own a piece of Le Mans racing history.

Three TR3Ss were built to compete at the 1959 Le Mans race, sporting lengthened versions of the production cars’ fibreglass bodyshells to accommodate a bigger engine. The partially-restored chassis and body shell #25, which has been in the same family since 1961, is the only one said to have survived, showing plenty of evidence of its past racing history.

No. 25, 26 and 27 TR3Ss participated in 1959 Le Mans, all powered by the Sabrina prototype 2l DOHC race engine; the occasion sparked substantial coverage, and #25’s history is proved by a wide range of receipts, period magazine articles, and photographic evidence.

Whilst it is believed that No. 27 was destroyed by the factory and No. 26 by fire, there is no direct documentation to ascertain the fate of all three TR3Ss, with plenty of speculation weaving into the history and whereabouts of the cars over the next few decades.

The current owner’s father purchased the bodyshell in 1961 to replace a 1955 TR2 which had suffered a crash. A Motor Sport magazine’s advert promoted a “full fibreglass body, ex-Le Mans, unused since” body for £70. 

Upon discovering that the engine bay had been lengthened by six inches, an elongated bowl-shaped cut-out had been added (likely to provide clearance for the race engine’s larger SU carburettors), and the engine mountings had also been moved forward, the theory that this engine bay once housed a Sabrina engine was strengthened.

A year later, a TR3 chassis was also added to fit the body shell, together with an MGB steering column; the car was then used sparingly.

Several details hint at the identity of this car: the original blue patch (colour-coding was used to identify different classes and their relative speeds) in the rear is still visible, as is the #25 number on the boot lid in a family photo; the number plate, XHP 939, was the number given to the TR3S No. 25.

“This could be a significant auction for an important part of a British marque’s racing history,” said Car & Classic Head of Customer Success, Ben Brace. 
“After decades of efforts by the family to return the car to its likely Le Mans condition, it is time to help to find a new owner to complete the project, and that includes the future addition of a Sabrina engine! The auction is timely, coinciding with the Le Mans Classic weekend races taking place on the occasion of the event’s centenary.”

You can find the latest car auctions on where the team specialises in enthusiast-owned cars, from the latest modern classics to pre-war and veteran classics, barn finds and concours-winning examples.

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