Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Sad departures

Last month I went up to the barn to drop off some logs and I was saddened to see the Triumphs covered in dust and pigeon poo. I realised that they hadn't moved all year and I wondered why I had them if I wasn't going to do any work on them.

Previously I had thought that as long as they weren't deteriorating I would keep hold of them until I had a chance to get them back on the road, but the way they were looking I thought that it wouldn't be long until they rusted away to nothing.

I made the decision to try selling the 1300TC and the Herald Estate. Because the Herald Saloon is in bits it wouldn't be worth much, so that would be kept. This was a difficult decision because I much prefer the other two and they are much rarer, but this may mean that they would be easier to sell.

I put a message on the Dolomite Club's forum saying that I had decided to sell the 1300TC and a small ad on Club Triumph's web site. I thought that if I managed to sell one of them I would be able to concentrate my efforts on the other. However, before I knew it I had been made an offer on both cars.

Suddenly I had to clean up the cars and get them started. The 1300TC was reluctant to fire, but after fitting some new spark plugs and cleaning the points it started and drove fine. I gave the car a good wash and clean up and found, to my relief that the pigeon poo hadn't affected the paint.
The Herald started almost as soon as I turned the key once I put a new battery on it. It drove as though it had never been off the road and again cleaned up beautifully.

Someone came out and saw the Herald Estate and gave me my asking price for it. Someone else offered me a good price for the 1300TC without even coming to view it. He sent me a deposit, but the car wasn't picked up for some weeks.

When I cleaned up the cars for sale I realised that they had in fact not deteriorated at all! I regretted even more selling them.

So naturally I have started looking for another Triumph that has an MOT and that I can use as a summer run-around, while slowly improving it. I have always kept an eye on what Triumphs are for sale, but of course now I am in a position to buy a car I can't find anything!

I would be interested in a Herald Estate, 1300 FWD, 1500 FWD, Vitesse or Toledo. Preferably a pre '73 tax free model, but I think the condition of the car will be the deciding factor.
I have been looking at a lot of cars on line, but my idea on values seems to differ from many sellers.

I would have thought that as we enter into winter in the middle of a recession I would be in a good position to buy, but so far I haven't seen any bargains. I am enjoying the hunt, though.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Wolseley Club of Ireland Rally 2008

In preparation for my annual pilgrimage to the Wolseley Club of Ireland’s annual rally I gave the TR a thorough service. This included a change of oil and filter, greasing all suspension and steering joints and new plugs, points and condenser.

The tyres on the car were 15 years old, but only about half worn. They looked to be in perfect condition, but I was concerned by reports of tyres over ten years old failing and I didn’t want to chance my luck. After consultation on the TR Register’s Forum I ordered a set of Vredestein Sprints, which at £38 each seemed to be very good value. They were fitted by my local garage two days before I left for the rally.

On the way across to Stranraer to catch the ferry I was concerned that the engine seemed to be misfiring when accelerating from low revs. This seemed to be getting worse and I suspected the new condenser or rotor arm. I stopped on the hard shoulder of the M8 and quickly changed over to the old condenser and rotor arm. Although this improved things slightly, I was alarmed to notice that under hard acceleration the car backfired and left a trail of black smoke.

I stopped at the next services and took out the spark plugs from number one and four cylinders to see if they gave any clues as to the source of the problem. They both looked a healthy colour, but then I noticed that number four spark plug had an enormous gap. It looked as though the centre electrode had disappeared inside the ceramic part of the plug. Stupidly, I hadn’t taken any spare plugs with me, so I bent the top electrode round as far as I dared and continued.After that the misfire was much less pronounced, but then the overdrive started cutting out and in. Luckily this seemed to resolve itself after five miles, but because we were paying attention to the problem rather than the route, we missed our junction. Once back on route progress was slowed considerably by five sets of road works and a convoy system. As a result of all of these delays we missed our ferry, so arrived in Ireland three hours behind schedule.

We continued south, where after a night in a lovely hotel we bought some new spark plugs from a little motor factors. Plugs fitted and the misfire was solved.

The rally started in Mallow, County Cork and continued to Bantry where it was to be based for the next three nights. The scenery in this most south-westerly part of Ireland was breathtaking and the rally organisers surpassed themselves with the roads and locations they used.

The new tyres proved their worth with lighter steering and much better grip. There was no more spinning the inside wheel at junctions and apparently stronger sidewalls, as the tyres kept a better shape during the driving tests.

The rally consisted of mostly regularity average speed sections, although with the standard of some of the roads some of these were more like hill climbs. There were also a few driving tests thrown in and I managed to get the fasted time on three of the five tests.

After 350 miles of rallying along small bumpy roads we were delighted to end up first in class and third overall and we managed fasted time on three of the tests.

The next morning we set off early on our return journey and with light traffic we managed to arrive at the ferry two hours early! The total journey from hotel to home took 14½ hours! Our average speed on the road was just over 50 mph and the fuel consumption for the journey was just over 30mpg.

The TR ran like a dream and it never fails to amaze me that a fifty year old car can take such punishment and manage to cruise comfortably at 80mph. I will forgive it the minor indiscretions on the way over. After all it was the spark plug that failed, not the car!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

1969 Triumph 1300TC

Here’s my little front-wheel-drive Triumph 1300TC. There are only thought to be about 30 Twin Carburettor models left on the road. I bought this car in 2006 mainly because I was intrigued with the mechanical layout of the car. Unfortunately, it is not sound enough to pass an MOT and so I am currently storing it, waiting for restoration. I do occasionally take it for a drive around the farm.

I bought the car having been told that it had just failed its MOT, requiring a bit of welding to the front subframe mount. Unfortunately, I have since noticed corrosion in various other locations with MOT tester’s yellow crayon marks around it. There is nothing too large to repair, but many areas of corrosion are quite complex, such as the rear of the sill where the jacking point is.

Lack of work space makes the repairs even more difficult. I currently keep the car in a barn on a nearby farm, were I don’t have any electricity. I will restore the car one day, though!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

1962 Triumph Herald Estate

Now this is where the story starts to get complicated. When the previous owner of the green Herald (below) decided that he would buy it back, it looked as though I was going to be left with the blue Herald requiring a new bonnet.

One day I spotted this Herald Estate advertised on eBay. It didn't look very good in the pictures as the wheel arches had been repaired, but not painted, one door wasn't fitted and there were various areas painted with grey primer. I managed to buy the car for less than the cost of a bonnet and thought that the car would yield various other useful parts.

However, when I picked up the car it seemed to be too good to dismantle. Once back in Scotland I took the Estate to the local garage to have a look at it on the ramps. I was a little disappointed to find a couple of areas of rust in the floor pans. The mechanic got very excited, though and persuaded me to put the car through an MOT. He welded in two small patches, replaced the rear silencer and a headlamp and then phoned me to say that it had passed!

The problem with the car, though, is that it needs to be painted before it can be used on the road. The dilemma is whether to do a thorough job on it, which would end up as a total rebuild, or just patch it up and use it for a while. Given my lack of time and other projects the Estate is now waiting in a barn and my intention is to carry out a full rebuild in the future.

Friday, 13 March 2009

1962 Triumph Herald 1200

I bought this car as a parts car for the green Herald below. My intention was to use the rear body tub from this car to replace the poorly rebuilt rear on the other car. It had, unfortunately, been involved in an accident not long after it had been rebuilt.

It wasn't until the car was delivered to me that I discovered what lovely condition the car must have been in before the accident.
The interior was almost like new and other than
some rust in the bottom of the doors, there was very little corrosion.

Unfortunately, between me seeing pictures of the car and it arriving at my house it would appear that the car had slipped of a fork lift bending a sill and the floor pan on the drivers side.

Having discovered the terrible condition of the green Herald my plans changed and I am now rebuilding this car and will be using the bonnet and doors from the green car.

It seems that the car was sitting in a scrap yard for three years after the accident. However, with some fresh fuel in the tank and a new batter the car started right up and runs beautifully. The clutch and brakes also worked perfectly - testimony to the quality of the previous rebuild.

So far I have removed the damaged bonnet and front valance and repaired the dented floor. It is slow progress, but will be worth the effort when the car is finished.

Monday, 2 March 2009

1966 Triumph Herald 12/50

I was looking for a long-term restoration project that I could work on at my leisure with no pressure to finish it within a particular timescale.

I really wanted a Standard 10 Companion, which I thought would compliment my TR3A very nicely. I joined the Standard Motor Club, but for over a year I didn't find anything suitable.
Eventually, I widened the search to cover Triumph Heralds as well and I spotted this 12/50 on eBay. It seemed to be a good car and had various upgrades such as twin SU carbs, stainless exhaust and Minilite wheels.

I thought that at least the parts were worth the value of my bid, even if the car turned out to be a wreck.

Sadly, it seemed, that the car was a wreck! After using it for a year I put it in for its MOT and was told that it had failed on corrosion to two outriggers, the doors not opening easily (!) and a failed brake light.

When all of the other faults on the car were considered the repairs did not seem viable. The paint work was horrible, the boot lid seemed too wide for the car and there were various odd repairs to the bodywork.

There had been a complicated arrangement whereby the previous owner had offered to buy the car back, but once it failed the MOT he didn't want it any more.

I bought an accident damaged Herald and was considering building the two cars into one by putting the back of the damaged car onto this car's chassis.

However, when I started to investigate the corrosion in the chassis it was apparent that this car was just not worth repairing. In fact I think  it was a danger and I was amazed that it hadn't collapsed.

The decision was made to dismantle the car for parts and as the car was taken apart the true horror of its condition became apparent.

I wanted to save the sills for another car, but instead of screwing them on the previous restorer had welded them on along their length. It was impossible to remove them without causing a lot of damage.

There were so many patches welded to various parts of the car, that it was very difficult to take it apart. As you will know the body of a Herald bolts together, but the restorer had decided to weld it all together for some reason. After wearing through two disks on my angle grinder I eventually had the body off the chassis, which revealed the true horror of the car. The car had received new outriggers and side rails in the recent past. However, instead of welding this all together they had been bolted to the body. The two rear outriggers were just pushed into the ends of the main chassis rail. They both fell of as the body was removed.

The reason that the boot lid seemed too large for the car was because the restorer had decided to repair corrosion at either side of the rear deck with one piece of metal welded on top of the old deck. Unfortunately he hadn't remembered to measure the boot opening before he did the welding. He had then tried to open up the boot aperture by cutting the corners with a hack saw and spreading it, but with no success.

He had also welded a patch over the bolts attaching the boot floor to the rear outrigger. This didn't actually give the car any strength at all, but just covered the bolts.

When it came to dismantling the front suspension, he had welded the bolts in place for some reason, so I was unable to remove any of it!

I really couldn't understand why he had welded all the parts that should have been bolted, but bolted all of the parts that should have been welded.

Far from being sad at the loss of another old Triumph, I felt that I had done road safety a service by removing this car from the roads of Britain!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

1986 Triumph Dolomite 1850HL

I bought this car in March 1999 for £1,000. The bodywork was in excellent condition with only a small welded patch in the passenger foot well. It had been very well resprayed a year earlier.

There was an enormous amount of history with the car from its first owner. He had recorded each long journey in it to France, the mileage at the start of each year, servicing, etc. There were also a worrying number of receipts for spare parts.

The mechanical side of things seemed to be in sound condition, although there were a couple of lights not working and the throttle didn't open as much as it should. Both problems were sorted out a short distance into my journey home.

I used the car as my every-day car for the next three years. It was not the most reliable of cars, but it was a wonderful design and when it worked, it went well and it was very comfortable and luxuriously equipped.

On one of the few occasions that Claire, my wife, drove it the clutch master cylinder failed, leaving her stranded (luckily not too far from the house).

Shortly afterwards the exhaust manifold gasket started to leak and I discovered that the threads into the alloy cylinder head were stripped. The engine had to be removed to put Helicoil inserts into it. This didn't solve the problem long-term as I had to replace the gaskets again only a few months later.

The join from the manifold to the down pipe continually leaked and proved impossible to permanently sort out.

I had problems with the front brakes binding, which progressively got worse. Eventually I traced this to the master cylinder, which I overhauled. I also had to replace the clutch master cylinder as the clutch started to play up again.

There were other minor problems such as corroded electrical terminals, the brake switch self destructing and the temperature sender failing, but they were easily sorted.

One lunchtime while at work, in an attempt to sort out once and for all the electrical problems I started to remove some surplus wires. This started because I noticed a wire sparking against the screw holding on the parcel shelf. I ended up taking out about 100 feet of wiring and various electrical items such as an old alarm system and an amplifier.

The final straw for the car was when the gearbox gave up. I think it was second gear that seemed to have the problem first and then gradually the whole thing got worse. Foolishly I asked a specialist to come and pick up the car and repair it. In hind-sight I should have ordered a second hand box from them and had it fitted by the local garage. An overhauled gearbox was fitted at a cost of over £500, but unfortunately the overdrive then didn't work. This then made long journeys harder on the car and more tiring. As my work required me to travel to meetings I decided to trade the Dolomite in for a modern Ford Escort in May 2002. I only got £500 for it.

It was a shame that I had so many problems with the car. It was a lovely car, but it was the poor build quality that let it down. I think a Dolomite 1500 may have been better with the more conventional engine. I ended up driving 10,508 miles in the car in three years and two months and the total maintenance costs were £1,843.45. When the £500 lost on resale is added to this, £2,343.45 is not too bad compared with the depreciation on a modern car.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

My Current TR3A

My current TR3A left the factory on 22nd December 1959 and was shipped to the USA. Its first owner was a young lady living in Memphis Tennessee. She ran the car as her daily transport for 15 years and it was parked outside in all that time. Eventually, she gave the car to her brother-in-law, who sorted out some electrical issues and taped the top up before driving it to Oklahoma.

There it lived for another 15 years, while slowly being worked on. He re-trimmed the car and painted it in its current two-tone colour scheme. The car was in use in all this time.

In 1991, after 15 years, he decided to sell the car because he was building a house and the TR just sat in the garage, not receiving enough use and at risk of having building materials dropped on it.

I bought the car to use while I was restoring my other TR3A. When it arrived in the UK, I discovered that it was not in as good condition as I had thought. The paint was crazed, there was some old accident damage to the rear of the car, the engine was not running well and numerous rubber items needed to be replaced. This was unfortunate as I had already entered the car into a rally!

Three months of hard work had the car on the road with a fresh MOT and we made it to the rally. We even managed to finish the rally, although by then the TR was only running on three cylinders and the dynamo had stopped working.

Over the next few months I had the rear bodywork repaired, fitted a new cylinder head and rebuilt the engine and generally overhauled the car. This was not all without its problems. Two memorable ones were losing a manifold nut while replacing the cylinder head. It turned out to be inside cylinder no 4 and was the catalyst for the engine rebuild. The other was driving the car home after having the bodywork sorted, only to spin the car on a corner and smash up the front end.

That was all within the first year of ownership. The subsequent 16 years have been a lot less painful and we have completed many trouble-free miles and various rallies together.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Rally 1987

It was the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Ireland. We were both exhausted and as we drove round a corner I pressed the accelerator only to hear a horrible knocking noise from under the bonnet. “Oh, what are we doing?” I thought. In fact it wasn’t the first time I had thought that, it must have been about the twentieth time that day, not to mention during the previous year.
What started it all was a casual conversation with my friend Graham the previous October. He had just returned from competing in the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Rally. He was the first over-seas competitor to have competed in the rally, and he brought back tales of the friendly reception he had received on this most enjoyable event. I couldn’t quite understand how he could treat his car so harshly, but more out of politeness than anything I said how it must have been great and how I wished I had been there.
Later that year Graham handed me the regulations for the Circuit of Ireland rally. There seemed no going back now and in a wave of enthusiasm I sent off my entry. There were a few logistical problems. Firstly, in the two years that I had owned the car I had hardly managed to drive it for more than a couple of days without something breaking. And secondly, I had just had the bodywork rebuilt.
However, I thought if I drove carefully, the car should be reasonably reliable and I wouldn't do too much damage.
For a navigator, I thought that my good friend Mike was just the person. Unfortunately he was in Australia at the time but he liked old Triumphs and adventures.
The months passed by and before I knew it we were only a few days away from the event. To my relief Mike arrived home from Australia on the Wednesday and at 6am on Friday the 9th of October we had the car loaded up and ready for off. I had been working on the front suspension on the car up until 11pm the previous evening, and hadn’t had much sleep that night due to the excitement of the forthcoming event. Mike was feeling rather sorry for himself. He had a cold and jet-lag and having just arrived home from an Australian spring to a Scottish autumn he was feeling the cold.
Graham arrived on time and we set off in convoy to catch the ferry from Stranraer. This was a bit of a cross-country trek and took longer than we expected. Towards the end of the journey we really had to push on in order to arrive in time for the ferry which we only just caught.
On the ferry we were able to relax with a plate of sausage, beans and chips and a glass of Guinness. At this point Mike asked, “Now, what exactly are we doing?”
Graham explained the rudiments of navigation to him and I realised that we hadn’t brought any navigational equipment with us.
We arrived at Larne and had to drive through Belfast to get to the start and so we were able to stop at a newsagent and buy a clipboard. Graham lent us a pencil and I found a pen in the glove box. We arrived at the start at the Balloo House Hotel near Comber and found all sorts of interesting cars parked in the car park. Competitors’ cars ranged from a 1928 Austin Chummy to a brand new VW Golf GTI.
We went into the hotel and bought a pile of twelve maps and were given an enormous bundle of papers. These included Route Instructions for Friday and Sunday, Final Instructions (No. 2 and 3), Calibration Check Route, Amendments to Instructions, Driving Test Instructions, Map of Athlone, Hotel Allocation Vouchers, Driving Test Diagrams, List of Entrants, Route Cards. (Nos. 1 and 3 to 8) and some numbers to stick on the side of the car.
Mike and I sat down in a quiet corner with a couple of glasses of Coke and plotted as much as we could onto the maps. Every so often there were big gaps in the route, which we initially thought we would just find the best route between, but then realised that there were to be navigational tests and regularity sections to be plotted later. The maps of Northern Ireland were fairly decent but the maps of the republic were awful. It looked like the next few days could be very interesting!
We then went outside to have a look at the other competitors’ cars. There seemed to be quite a number of cars that looked very well prepared and everyone seemed to be doing something to their cars. We topped up the oil, but couldn’t think of anything else to do. There were 42 cars starting the event and we were starting near the back. The advantage of being a late starter was that we were able to watch most of the other cars leaving. The disadvantage is that there are not too many people behind you, so if you go wrong or break down there are fewer people to help.
The first car set off at 6pm just as it was going dark and cars set off at two-minute intervals. Our start time was exactly 7pm, which made working out our times a little easier. We stood and watched the other competitors zoom away out of site until it was near our time to start. It was very exciting as we handed over our time card and were counted down. Almost immediately we got stuck behind a tractor. It didn’t really matter as the first time control wasn’t until after the first two driving tests. We arrived at the first test, and it was now completely dark, so it wasn’t possible to see the route before competing. It was held in a livestock yard. The next test was held in a wood yard and involved driving backwards and forwards amongst piles of wood. The combination of darkness and the dust thrown up made visibility a little difficult. I think I did OK and realised that all thoughts of driving carefully had gone out of the window. In the mean time Mike had been given the instructions for the next part of the evening - the navigational section, and at each test he sat at the side of the road with a torch plotting away. After the tests his neatly arranged piles of maps and paperwork were scattered all over the car, so there was a real panic when we arrived at the time control.
Most of the other competitors seemed to have illuminated magnifiers, stop watches, rally trip meters and all sorts of equipment to help with the navigation. We were relying on a small map light, Mike’s watch and the speedometer. I now wonder at how well Mike managed to keep us on route and on time with such basic equipment.
The navigational section was murder, but at least it was held in Northern Ireland, so the maps were up-to-date and legible. I don’t think we did too badly. We were stumped when we arrived at the first intermediate time control to be asked what time we wanted as we hadn’t realised that we should have worked this out. We just said that we didn’t know and took the time they gave us, only to discover that we had clocked in a minute early. At a couple of other time controls we arrived from the wrong direction. We quickly discovered that there were different routes and approach directions for cars depending on whether their competition number was odd or even. To the uninitiated (us!) it seemed like total confusion with cars going in all directions.
Still we survived and continued on to the petrol halt where we were able to have a quick chat with the other competitors. Things seemed a little more relaxed after that. In fact I was so relaxed that I almost ran down the soldier at the border crossing. After that we started on the real Irish roads. Single track, very bumpy and a multitude of junctions and we didn’t see any other competitors all night. I was almost beginning to doubt Mike’s abilities, but sure enough in darkness the headlights would pick out another group of friendly marshals. This would be a time control or a driving test set up at a road junction in the middle of nowhere. We would arrive, take a look at where the marshals had placed the cones, compare them to the driving test diagram, belt round the cones, be given our time and then continue along the road. It all seemed a little unreal and I think we were running on auto-pilot by then.
Anyway this is where we came in. In the middle of the night, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Ireland. We had just dropped down into a dip and were accelerating out of the other side when a horrible knocking noise started. What were we doing? All sorts of thoughts ran through my head. Where were we? How would we get home? How badly damaged was the car? When would I get to bed? I lifted off the accelerator and was about to coast to the side of the road when the noise stopped. Mike and I looked at each other but we were almost too tired to worry. We pressed on and the noise didn’t come back.
We continued along the route and came across our last test for the night. That completed we were told that it wasn’t far to our hotel in Athlone which we found without too much of a problem. So at 4.30 am we arrived at the hotel. We had been on the go for over 24 hours now and were exhausted. We walked into the hotel and booked in, and on the way to our room we spotted Graham and Vans propping up the bar with a glass of Guinness each. The offer of a pint seemed too good to miss and suddenly all thoughts of tiredness were forgotten. We were in Ireland after all and we had just survived our first day of the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective Rally. Now we knew what we were here for. After all, the regulations for the rally did emphasise the fact that the event was primarily for having fun.
The following morning we were up reasonably early, but again being one of the last cars we had a later start. It is amazing what a good sleep can do for you and the morning seemed so much more relaxed than the previous night. We had a lovely cooked Irish breakfast, and I was a little concerned that we may miss our start time. Had we worked out our start time properly? Would the car start after all of yesterday’s exertions? Was there a petrol station nearby?
But I didn’t need to worry. The oil and water levels in the car were fine, and she started first pull. The day continued with four more driving tests all at junctions on single-track roads. During one test an old lady in a Metro drove straight through the junction not realising that there was a driving test going on. We did reasonably well throughout the day and were only beaten by six people on the regularity test. I don’t know how much this was by luck or through navigational skill. Half way through we encountered a herd of sheep being driven down a road and had to reverse back and wait about five minutes. We were now running quite late and had a lot of time to make up. We came across a straight section of gravel road and I said to Mike that I wasn’t going to try and make up any time on it due to the extreme camber as I thought we might slide off. Graham and Vans had not resisted the temptation and we found them stuck in a peat bog having crashed into the only rock for miles. We offered help, but they were stuck fast and waiting for a tractor to pull them out.
It was amazing how rural the scenery was. All of the roads were very small and most had grass growing up the middle of them. It was difficult to imagine how anyone could average a speed of 30 miles per hour on them. In fact at one point Mike said, “Take the next left, in about half a mile.” All we could find was a gate into a field so we continued straight on. There was no junction to be found, so we doubled back and checked out the gateway. There were fresh tracks in the grass so we gave it a try and, sure enough, this turned out to be the correct route and we emerged out of a gate on the other side. Unfortunately some of our maps were a little out of date and so a couple of controls appeared to be in the middle of fields which made it difficult to not only find them but to also arrive from the correct direction. We were forever coming across tractors, donkeys pulling carts, and herds of cattle, sheep or horses on the roads and at most farms a collie dog would come running straight out and stop just short of the car. You had to be brave and trust that the dogs would stop in time, as there was no room to swerve. As we passed through villages or farms there would be groups of children sitting on the fence, shouting encouragement. At junctions kids would be pointing in the direction we should be going, but we couldn’t always believe them!!
That evening we joined in the fun at the bar and listened to all of the stories of people’s adventures. Despite our tiring day we stayed up into the early hours again.
Sunday was taken at a much slower pace. The route took us up the Healy Pass, which is an amazing Alpine style road with several hairpin bends on it. We got a little lost in Kenmare as the map didn’t really resemble the town layout and after trying just about every exit from the place we discovered that a road was almost completely obliterated by a market stall. This didn’t loose us too much time though. But after lunch we got a little blasé and got lost on the regularity section. Unfortunately we were just following the tulip diagrams and hadn’t transferred them onto the map. So once they stopped matching up we were totally lost. We eventually found ourselves back at the start and so retraced our tracks and picked up 1460 penalty points.
The last two tests were held in a car park and as we arrived early, due to our previous misdemeanour, we had the opportunity to watch some of the other competitors for the first time during the event. One Sunbeam missed the brakes and reversed straight across the grass verge and onto the main road. They just returned over the same route and continued the test much to the bemusement of the locals. Mike told me that the marshal was concerned that my car was going to tip up as is was leaning so much on the test, which may have slowed me down if I had known. Graham and Vans arrived with steam pouring out of their bonnet. Apparently they had a blown head gasket and had been stopping at ditches and streams all day to fill up the radiator.
We were all invited to the Killarney Motor Museum for a wine reception and it was strange wandering amongst the cars supping wine. The prize giving evening was enormous fun with the whit of the Irish, and it continued once again into the early hours. We ended up second last, but did not mind as we had had such an enjoyable three days.
On Monday morning we rose a little late nursing sore heads. Graham and Vans had some work to do before the return journey. By the time that Mike and I had had our breakfast they had already managed to find a Massey-Fergusson cylinder head gasket. We helped them fix this to their car and try to re-attach the exhaust system using a Coke can. They followed us back up through Ireland and I watched in the mirror as they tried to negotiate corners with their loose steering. As darkness fell, because their headlights were pointing at the ground about six feet in front of the car they relied on following our tail lights. Just as we crossed the border into Northern Ireland the wipers stopped working on our car and as the rain got heavier we too had great difficulty seeing where we were going. The light reflected off the road signs blinded us and so we missed several turn-offs. We had a lovely Chinese meal in Larne while we waited for the ferry and then slowly made our way back across Scotland. I think it was about four in the morning when we arrived home again.
Unfortunately I was working the next day, but I think the adrenaline kept me going for about the next week. What an amazing adventure. So good in fact, that I have competed in another five Circuit of Ireland Rallies since, but none of them had quite the thrill of my first every historic rally.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Triumph TR3A

This was my TR3A when bought in 1989. I was looking for a car to completely restore, and that is certainly what I got here! It was a Californian import and I was completely won over by the relatively rust-free condition of the car. I knew that it required a total re-trim, new outer sills and repairs to the boot floor and floor pans, and I expected to have to restore most of the mechanical side of the car.

Unfortunately, though, it turned out to have bent chassis and the engine block and crank were beyond repair. Other interesting features were the gate hinges holding the bonnet on, a length of wire and six inch nail for a choke cable, short lengths of hose pipe used as suspension bushes and an MGA rear bumper on the front of the car.

The chassis was repaired by welding in the front of another chassis. A new boot floor was welded in and various repairs made to the floors. The outer sills weren't too bad, but they were removed and replaced in order to check out the condition of the inner sills. The car was then re-sprayed. A replacement engine was fitted and virtually every other item was either replaced or overhauled. I re-trimmed the car and fitted a new top, side-screens and tonneau cover.

Eight years later I had completely rebuilt the car, but by then I had bought another TR3, which was meant to be a temporary fun car. However, I decided that it would be more sensible to sell the rebuilt car, which I felt was almost too good to drive. I sold it in 1997 at a great loss, but I enjoyed the experience of completely rebuilding a car! This car is now in a private collection in Denmark.

Triumph TR4A

This was my first Triumph. I bought it in July 1985 from a friend of a friend for £1,650. I knew absolutely nothing about TRs, but for some reason I had always wanted a 4A. Once I sat in it and saw the wooden dashboard, then heard the engine running and then discovered the overdrive, I was hooked.

I wasn’t put off by the scruffy appearance or the fact that the drivers-side window wouldn’t wind down, and the split seats and the leaking hood did not seem to matter. I was completely unaware of how many other TR4As there were or if I could have bought a better one anywhere. The fact that it had no MOT did not seem to worry me either.

The car was gradually done up over the next few months and used as my winter transport. I fitted a new exhaust, new battery and new front springs.

Unfortunately the following summer a lady drove her Volvo into the TR, crumpling the only steel wing on the car and bending the front suspension. The repairs turned into a body-off rebuild, which involved repairs to the chassis, renewal of most of the rear bodywork and new wings.

I had terrible trouble with the ride height of the car. The original springs were very tired and initially I replaced them with standard replacement springs. Strangely this pushed the car up to maximum height, against the bump stops. It turned out that a previous owner had put TR5 spacers in to revive the old springs and I had refitted these when I replaced the springs. It took me a long time to work this one out, though!

I became quite an expert at dismantling the front suspension as I later had to replace the worn vertical links.

In 1987 I entered the TR4A in the Circuit of Ireland Retrospective rally. This was an amazing event and a real baptism of fire for someone who hasn’t any previous rally experience. The car survived intact, despite the rough roads and fiendish navigation.

Over the next couple of years I continued to improve the car. I had the seats repaired and fitted a new double duck hood.

We missed the 1988 Circuit of Ireland Rally due to the ferry being cancelled because of the storms, but we competed again in 1989.I was always a little unhappy with the panel gaps on the car. The sills had been welded on in the wrong position before I bought the car, which meant that the wings and doors could not be lined up. As the only way to really repair it properly would be a total rebuild I decided to sell it and buy a wrecked TR3A to rebuild instead.

I sold the car in June 1990 for £6,300. This was the one and only car I have ever owned that I made a profit on!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

A little history

Amongst the classic cars I have owned, so far I have had nine Triumphs. I still have four of them in various states of repair. In fact I am begining to think that I am adicted to Triumphs! I bought my first in 1985 and I haven't been without one ever since. Over the next few days I hope to post details of them all and some of the adventures I have had with them. I am sure that some other old friends will also appear here in time.