Triumph Dolomite Sprint vs BMW 2002tii - The 2002 We Never Knew

A. J. Mueller

And even more so than the fabulous 2002tii, the Dolomite is a pick-me-up of the first order. Here's why I like it better:

It's faster.
The world's very first sixteen-valve four-cylinder production engine moves the 2300-pound Dolomite with unexpected authority, 60 mph coming in less than nine seconds, according to contemporary road tests - very un-'70s-like and about a second sooner than the slightly heavier BMW despite a few less horsepower (127 hp versus 130 for the European-market tii). Remember, anything less than eleven seconds was considered fast when the Dolomite Sprint was introduced in 1973, and it was still fast in 1980, when Triumph ended production of the model. Even today, it will more than keep up with traffic while delivering as much as 35 mpg on the highway, more than I see with the 2002tii. Both cars top out at more than 115 mph.

Designed by Lewis Dawtrey under the guidance of Spen King - the father of the Range Rover who oversaw Triumph as BL's engineering chief - the Sprint cylinder head's sixteen valves are actuated, unusually, by but one overhead camshaft. It dines through a pair of SU carburetors rather than the German car's more elegant Kugelfischer mechanical fuel injection, and although the Dolomite doesn't rev quite as smoothly as the BMW, it more than does the trick.

In an interesting historical footnote, the Triumph engine's bottom end, shared with the TR7, was in fact the forty-five-degree slant four that Dawtrey and Triumph's master engineer, Harry Webster, designed in the 1960s for shared use with Saab, whose own engine experience prior to the introduction of the 99 was of the two-stroke variety (although Ford's German arm provided a V-4 beginning in 1967). Sent Triumph's way by the venerable British internal-combustion consultancy Ricardo, Saab needed something bigger for its upcoming 99 of 1969. The engine was, in further footnotes to obscurity, one-half of the V-8 that powered the Stag minus many of its teething problems. As a Saab, the engine made it, with numerous redesigns, into the '90s. The TR7 was to be sold with the sixteen-valve engine as the TR7 Sprint, but thanks to the Rover V-8-powered TR8 and erratic decision-making at Jaguar Rover Triumph (the successor firm to BL), it never reached production, although some resourceful folks have built their own TR7 Sprints, with excellent results.

Jamie, thanks for this article; one of the best car articles I've read in a long time. You're making me want a classic British car for my own, headaches and all.

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