Despite all this, the US launch in 1975 was a relative success. There were a few minor criticisms, and reception of the styling was decidedly mixed, but on the whole the US seemed to welcome the fact that it was, if nothing else, a breath of fresh air and praised the comfort and design of its interior. It was also pretty well priced, fuel-efficient and had decent handling compared with most other British sports cars of the time. Even the fact that it was a coupé rather than a convertible didn’t seem to trouble the drop-top-loving Americans much – possibly they had already got used to the idea of a different sporty look with the new Japanese kid on the block.
The car was unveiled at Boca Raton, Florida on 15 January 1975 with showroom sales commencing on 2 April. Advertising material proclaimed that the TR7 was “The Shape of Things to Come”. Clearly not everybody agreed, though. At the Geneva Motor Show held in March 1975, designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, upon viewing the car for the first time, is said to have paused to take a long look at the TR7, walked around the car, and said, “My God! They’ve done it to the other side as well.”
The following year, in May 1976, the TR7 finally came to the UK and Europe. A few changes were made for the European market, such as smaller rear bumpers and an engine that was not throttled, as its American counterpart had been, by US anti-emissions equipment. (Because of the strict emission laws that were in force in the USA by 1975, extensive anti-smog equipment was installed in the TR7 and the already-not-exactly-the-most-powerful engine suffered from the power loss that resulted.) This gave the car a slightly more competitive performance: 0-60mph time of 9.4 seconds and top speed of 110mph (177km/h), as opposed to the 11 seconds and 107mph (172km/h) of its American cousin. Autocar magazine said at the time of launch: “Performance-wise, the TR7 is no sluggard. It tries hard, a little too obviously, and is great fun in the tighter country road that is its favourite going. On motorways and wide, gently curving roads, its sporting pretensions are not backed up with quite enough power.”
So far so (sort of) good. But then it all went horribly wrong.
In October 1977, workers at the Speke factory went on strike. The factory did reopen again in March 1978 but not for long: in May the same year, Speke closed its doors for the last time. Production of the TR7 moved to Canley, Coventry and resumed in October 1978, but by then almost an entire year of production had been missed, with the result that few 1978 TR7s were produced.