I like a challenge and, although I’ve probably got more than enough to keep me busy for the foreseeable future , when I heard about this rather unloved little Triumph Herald convertible I couldn’t resist going to look at it and ………. well one thing leads to another. So we now have four Triumphs and I have a BIG challenge for the winter months.
This latest member of the Ewbank stable is a 1967 Herald 1200 convertible which by all accounts has sat, untouched, in a garage for at least the last 26 years, maybe longer. It has 89,000 probably genuine miles on the clock and although the bodywork is tatty and a bit rusty in places the car seems to be generally sound – which is to say that it’s only rusted through in one or two places! The engine currently seems to be seized but with a bit of luck and a lot of gentle persuasion I’m hopeful that I may be able to get it turning again and hopefully save it from the scrap pile.
Hours of endless fun in prospect. It’s strange how these enthusiasms addictions can take you isn’t it?
Driving the TR3A on the open road is great fun but we bought it with the intention of also using it on the track from time to time, so when the opportunity came we booked ourselves onto a TR Register Track Day at Blyton Park on Lincolnshire.
Whilst I don’t think that either of us is completely ready for F1 just yet, and the Triumph didn’t seem to have quite the poke of some of the other cars on the track, we had a great time storming around the relatively short circuit trying to keep out of the way of our fellow enthusiasts. The TR behaved magnificently throughout the day, though the smell of overheating brake linings and rapidly thinning oil reminded us that any 56 year old vehicle deserves to be treated with respect – unless of course you have deep pockets.
A very enjoyable Saturday was spent with the Lunt family who, as usual, were wonderful hosts, accommodating and feeding us royally and taking us off to a fascinating garden at Hall Farm in Harpswell. Our visit just happened to coincide with an Archaeology Day where we learned the answer to the age-old question ‘when is a Saxon wall not a Saxon wall?’ and were given valuable instruction on how to extrapolate medieval living standards from a single shard of pottery.
On Sunday morning we were once again up to our metaphorical nuts (and bolts) in Triumphs when we spent a few hours at the very well organised TR International weekend at Lincoln Showground. What can I tell you ……… there were lots of Triumphs.
Working on that age-old (and probably deeply flawed) principle that lightning seldom strikes in the same place twice, and having replaced the Stag’s steering rack after it let us down at Laon earlier in the year, we decided to chance our luck once again and set off confidently for the Le Mans Classic along with the majority of Gloucester TSSC members.
As it turned out the car behaved impeccably from start to finish and thanks to the perfect weather, great classic racing and some very sociable company we were treated to a memorable and very enjoyable long weekend in La Belle France – just don’t get me started on Brexit again!
Yesterday was ‘collection day’ for the latest member of the Ewbank fleet. After an early morning start, and a two and a half hour drive across to Huntingdon, the sun was more or less shining when we arrived at TRGB’s premises, though the forecast threatened rain for the return journey. The first and only real problem of the day came when we realised that the colour of Denise’s jacket clashed violently with that of the car – fortunately she has more than one jacket, otherwise a full re-spray might have been on the cards!
TRGB had kindly erected the hood for us in anticipation of the weather, but they also advised that we do without the side-screens until such time as we get used to the car. As we drove the 125 miles home I thought for a little while that we might avoid getting rained upon, but this is England in April and sure enough the heavens opened big time as I took my turn behind the wheel down the Fosse Way. I’m sure that the hood must have offered some protection from the elements, though the rain seemed to have no difficulty in getting me thoroughly soaked and cold in record time. That said, driving the TR3 is just so much fun that you can’t stay miserable for too long when you’re behind the wheel, no matter what the weather has in store.
We spent much of today cleaning and finding our way around the car. Considering that most of the rebuild seems to have been done around 18 or so years ago it really is in great condition, though there again perhaps that’s not too surprising when you consider that the car has only done about 5,000 miles since most of the work was completed. Anyway, the bottom line is that our third Triumph is now firmly ensconced as one of the family – all we have to do now is find somewhere to keep it!
As Saturday dawned bright and moderately warm we decided to drop the top on the Z3 and drive down to Calne to take a look at the Atwell Wilson Motor Museum which sits on the outskirts of the town. With probably no more than half a dozen other visitors in the building it wasn’t exactly crowded, and it was nice to be able to get up close and personal with some of the exhibits. They have an ‘eclectic’ range of vehicles on display , ranging from the 1920s through to the eighties and most are in pretty good condition.
The only Triumph car on display was a Dolomite Sprint, which was apparently on loan from the Heritage Collection at Canley, though there was a nice little Standard from the late 20’s and a 1920 Triumph 550 motorcycle – which by all accounts was the model that gave Triumph their first success before they went into car manufacturing.
On our way home we stopped at Avebury to get a meal in the pub and then walk round the Stone Circle. Fascinating place (the Circle, not the pub) and much more accessible than Stonehenge – well worth a visit.
Now, I’m not yet admitting that its become an obsession, but owning four ‘classic’ cars, three of which happen to be Triumphs, should, I have to agree, probably be thought of as something more than an ‘ enthusiasm’. Of course, on the positive side, with interest rates routinely running some way below inflation, buying cars that we can enjoy and which will hopefully increase in value could be thought of a sensible investment. On a rather more negative note, finding somewhere to keep these investments warm and dry is starting to prove a bit of a problem. No matter ….. as Wilkins Micawber so prophetically said, ……..’something will turn up’!
In point of fact this latest extravagance is really an early BIG birthday present for ‘er indoors’; and as Denise has promised that she’s going to be responsible for everything short of major repairs and maintenance, I probably won’t even get around to opening the bonnet from time to time. Fat chance! Just look at the little beauty!
1960 Triumph TR3A, originally exported to the USA before being re-imported and completely rebuilt in the early nineties. Around 75,000 probably genuine miles on the clock. Standard other than the change to an overdrive gearbox (apparently from a TR4), the engine capacity increased to 2.2 litres (as per the TR4), and the addition of a rollbar, full harness seatbelts and Minilite type wheels. The missing bumpers will be replaced with stainless steel versions as part of the purchase.
No excuse really, other than whenever my conscience has told me to sit down and update the blog there always seems to have been a valid reason/excuse for not doing so. Its not as though we’ve been sat at home twiddling our thumbs without having lots to report – such as buying (another) Triumph, a fun trip to Belgium (not a phrase that would readily spring to mind), an enjoyable reunion with old friends and a few days camping on the South Coast, to name but a few.
Anyway, with that confession out of the way I can now hopefully get back to reporting the odd short snapshot of Ewbank life as and when interesting things happen that liven up our otherwise bleak and empty lives……………..
The latest addition to the motoring stable is a 1975 Triumph Stag bought at auction back in May. With the rebuild of the GT6 more or less complete it started to dawn on me that, lovely little car though it may be, driving the tiny Triumph for longer distances was going to be a less than comfortable experience – the fact that I need a Stannah Stairlift to extract myself from the driver’s seat says it all. Despite their early reputation of abysmal reliability I’ve always liked the lines of the Michelotti designed Stag, and the noise of that Triumph V8 is just wonderful – so when three cars came up for auction at Brightwells back in May I decided to take a look.
Examining the three offerings was like a scene out of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: one was a complete wreck and would obviously take years to restore, the next was low mileage and therefore likely to be expensive …… and the last, it seemed to me, was ‘just right’. The rest, as they say, is history; six days later the car was sat on the drive at home with a brand new MOT and ready for some serious tinkering.
There’s currently a bit of a debate about the future of the annual MOT inspection for older cars. Apparently the UK testing regime exceeds EU requirements and as a result there’s a suggestion that cars older than 30 years (vehicles registered prior to 1960 are already exempt) should no longer be subject to the test. Until very recently I was dead against the change and held firmly to the concept that the annual test is a ‘good thing’ in that it guarantees that our classic cars are safe and fit for the road on at least one day a year.
Yesterday’s experience has caused me to wonder whether all testers are as diligent or competent as they might be, and therefore whether the test is as useful an indication of good maintenance as it should be. The story goes like this ……….
Having spent the last six months rebuilding the GT6 I finally arrived at a point this week where I thought it should be tested. Not that I fully expected it to pass – but it seemed to me to be a good way of getting a fully qualified second opinion on whether it was fit for the road. In point of fact there were a couple of points on which I expected it to fail: despite several attempts at bleeding the brakes the travel on the pedal was longer that I liked, and I was convinced that the exhaust was blowing a bit.
I sat nervously during the 90 minutes of the test, reassured that they were doing a thorough job, and sure enough ……….it failed. But not on the points that I’d expected! All that the tester could find to comment on was the security of the fuel line and the need for a brake hose to be moved slightly to avoid fouling a shock absorber. Great, I thought, and booked the car in for a re-test two days hence.
On leaving the garage I’d travelled 150 yards when I noticed that the steering was behaving oddly; another 100 yards and I was convinced that something was seriously wrong and pulled over to the side to check out what might be amiss. Shock, horror – one of the track rod ends was extremely loose and the other had lost its securing nut and completely parted company with the steering arm on the near side vertical link. Had I been travelling at speed or attempted to take a corner in this condition an accident would have been inevitable. A phone call home brought Denise to the rescue with the socket set and some nuts and the problem was quickly solved, after which I was able to drive home thanking my lucky stars that disaster had been averted.
The fact that the track rod ends weren’t secure was obviously my fault – but my point is that the test failed to find the most simple, and potentially dangerous, of faults and was therefore completely worthless. and left me wondering what else they’d missed. One of the arguments for abandoning the test for older vehicles is that most owners of classic cars are enthusiasts and quite possibly know more about how to keep their particular vehicle safe than the majority of MOT testers. So, recognising that we all have a legal responsibility for ensuring that any vehicle we use on the public highway is safe, we should, perhaps, abandon the requirement for an annual MOT check, learn to cope without that particular safety net, and save ourselves £39 in the process!
February with its cold and wet weather and short days is probably my least favourite month of the year. More particularly, getting out into our unheated garage to work on the GT6 over the past month has proven to be a bit of motivational challenge – on some days even dressing up in my ‘onesie’ (actually a set of coveralls) hasn’t entirely managed to keep the cold at bay and the desire to stay out there fiddling with the car has definitely been limited. Emigrating to warmer climes or getting the use of a heated workshop in which to work would solve the problem, but as neither seems to be even a remote possibility I guess I’ll have to soldier on. Note to self – make sure the next (?) project is timed to take advantage of all those long, hot summer days (some hope!).
That said, I’ve made quite a bit of progress since my last Triumph blog and I still seem to be on target for getting the car back on the road in early April. The tub and bonnet came back from the body shop looking very shiny and, with the exception of one or two minor things that will need to be sorted by them once the car can be driven down to Gloucester, I’m very pleased with the quality of their work. Reuniting the tub with the chassis was less of a hassle than I’d feared and once that was done I was able to start the pleasurable task of starting to re-fit all the mechanical and electrical parts that I’d refurbished or replaced whilst the body was being re-sprayed.
Monday of this week was a ‘red letter day’. After a couple of minor glitches, which included managing to replace the plug leads in completely the wrong order, I started the engine for the first time since the rebuild got underway last September. In fact it started remarkably easily and ran pretty smoothly considering that the timing was a bit adrift and the carbs will need to be adjusted. No nasty knocks or grinding sounds and as far as I can tell the oil pressure seems to be okay; on the subject of which I’ve decided to fit an oil pressure gauge to keep an eye on things in the future – I can’t understand why on earth they didn’t fit one as standard when the car was built. If the MGB could have one, why not the GT6?
On Sunday I’m off to the Triumph Spares day at Stoneleigh to collect the new carpet I’ve ordered (at huge expense) and pick up a host of bits and pieces that I still need in order to finish the car. How much excitement can one man stand?
Well, the restoration of the GT6 body is almost finished and pretty soon it will be reunited with the chassis and I’ll be able to get on with the exciting business of working out how the whole thing fits together again. I reckon the reassembly will take me about three times longer than the dismantling – whether that puts me on course to have the car ready for the MOT in early April remains to be seen. There’s still plenty of cleaning, painting and polishing still to be done, to say nothing of an every-growing list of parts to be bought and fitted. The problem I have now is that having spent so much time and money on getting to this point I simply can’t afford not to do it properly.
The good news is that every time I trawl the internet I find really grotty examples of the GT6 for sale at increasingly ridiculous prices – bring it on!
In the meantime Christmas has come and gone and we’re well past the shortest day and hopefully moving steadily back towards Spring. I’ve spent a few hours over the past week pulling together a website advertising Bertie’s qualities as a wedding car – something we always planned but I’ve been a bit slow in putting into action. Hopefully attendance at a couple of wedding fairs in the coming months will produce a handful of bookings and a few pennies to help pay for this expensive hobby!
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and a general account of life in the Ewbank household…..