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A Tale of 2 Triumphs

Tale of two Triumphs

(Well actually four, but who is counting?)

Welcome to my web site. My name is David Herr and my Triumph infatuation began over 15 years ago. Actually, my love of British cars goes back much further to my early teen years when I first started noticing that not everyone drove the same boring cars that my parents owned. Once I was in my mid teens, a subscription to Car & Driver opened up my world to the sports car. My first actual car (after a home made go-cart), was a 1967 MGB, that I paid the amazing price of only $300! Of course, the car 1967 MGBwas actually worth less than $300, but what did I know? It was a real sports car (but not a Triumph) and I owned it. This car taught me all about cars by giving me "hands on " experience. By the end of the first year, I had experience with almost every part on the car. But since my budget was tight (struggling college student), the car eventually self-destructed during a high-speed race up a mountain verse an Alfa Romeo Spider. I then learned not to ignore the oil pressure gauge. The car was sold for scrap (there was not much metal left, but lots of Bondo) and my car owner ship switched to much more mundane transportation. But since I drive over 40,000 miles per year, I get to purchase a car every few years. As the years went by, I started getting less practical cars and my commuter cars started becoming my weekend projects. A 280Z replaced my crashed Honda Accord and a Civic Si replaced the 280Z. My wife jumped into the game too, with a Fiat X/19 and a CRX SI. But one lesson I quickly learned was this; it is not fun to be fixing/repairing your daily transportation on Sunday, so that you can go to work on Monday. Two cars, one for work and the other for fun, was the answer! Plus, I longed for a real sports car again. The Japanese cars were great as daily transportation, but I wanted a car that I could take apart and restore. I also knew that the only way to have a reliable British car was to take it apart and make sure everything was okay. I did not have enough money to buy a car in top condition, plus this would take away some of the fun. Thus, I needed to find a project car, British made and different from the normal MGBs and other cars that you see. I knew of the various makes of British cars, but was unfamiliar with the models. Triumph had some intriguing cars, and getting parts did not seem to be a problem, so I started researching the Triumph car models. The first car that I set my heart upon was a TR3. I had seen a few of these; the cut down doors and rugged appearance attracted me. But it soon dawned on me that finding one of these cars, at an affordable price, was not going to be possible. Thus, I started looking at the other models. The TR6 had enormous appeal, but something inside of me wanted an older car. The TR4-250 models were a mystery. I had never seen one on the road, only seen a few pictures in the back of an old "Start Your Engines" catalog. Anyone remember that old place? A great source for parts and advice prior to being purchased by Moss in the middle 80's. There were a few TR4 models for sale down in Washington, DC where I worked so I decided to check them out. But prior to getting around to looking at these cars, I saw an ad for a TR8. Now I have always wanted one of these cars (still do), and the price was only $5,000, this being in 1989. I went down to look at the car. It was metallic blue with the tan interior and looked to be in decent shape. I would have bought it on the spot, but Lori was pregnant and borrowing $5,000 would not have been the smart move. I ignored the temptation and moved on. One day, I was at the Amoco station of my boss's brother. Talking with the mechanics, I mentioned that I was looking for an old Triumph to restore. One of the mechanics said, " I have an old Triumph that I could sell you". It turned out that he had a 1965 TR4A that TR4A as Purchasedhe had owned for many years and was ready to sell. It was drivable, but rough and needed a lot of work. I went to see it and drove it around his neighborhood. $1,000 was the asking price and I bought it on the spot. I knew nothing about Triumphs and especially the TR4A model. I did not check any of the trouble spots (like the frame for rot), etc… He gave me a load of catalogs from MOSS, TRF and Victoria British to take home and we arranged to drive the car back to PA at the end of the week. Thus began my Triumph ownership saga and I can confidently say that 15 years later, I am familiar with every nut, bolt and washer in the car. The next page details the long restoration that was finally completed in 1999. Back to the story.  As the TR4A restoration labored on and I realized that it would be a long time until I had convertible transportation again, my devotion to the TR4A began to waiver. I started looking (actually I have never quit looking), in car lots and backyards for another car. Having gotten the Triumph bug full strength, I wanted a cheap Spitfire to drive as I restored the TR4A. The original idea was to by a cheap (under $1,000) runner and use it with out spending any time and more importantly $$$. I found a 1980 Spitfire for only $500. Someone had cut the dash out with wire cutters, but it was not rusty and would need only minor work to make right. I bought it and soon decided that I would like to have it ready for the TRF Summer Party in 1991. This being Memorial Day weekend, 8 weeks was plenty of time. I then decided that the car needed painted, and I could paint it myself and still make the deadline. 30 days later, we sprayed the car the original Pageant blue. I bought a complete dashboard and removed it from the parts car in the same manner that the original dashboard had been removed. This gave me the rest of the wiring harness to splice to my cut harness to hook up all the under dash electric's. Unfortunately, I did not make the deadline for the TRF Summer Party, but we had a good time and met a lot of good TR4 owning friends. As often happens when you do a project such as this (readers beware), I spent the rest of the fall and winter and restored the Spitfire to  a very respectable driver. I spent all my TR4 budget money on the car and bought new interior, dash wood, convertible top, electric ignition, Weber carb., header, Monza exhaust, new suspension parts, etc…Still, I had less than $2000 in the car. Spitfires are great fun on a limited budget. The carSpitfire after Restorationlooked great and ran fine. We spent the summer of 1992 using the Spitfire and running up over 8,000 miles on the thing. Meanwhile my TR4A languished in the garage with only occasional work done on it. The Spitfire was so much fun that my wife was also enjoying herself. At the Summer Party that year, we saw our first Stag………. I had only read about this car, and had never seen one before. Lori liked the back seat and mentioned that we should replace the Spitfire with a Stag. I laughed and said that we could never find one in our price range. The car we were looking at was for sale for $5,000. It was brown with a tan interior and was in average shape. I enjoyed the Spitfire for the rest of the year, but in the back of my mind I wanted a Stag….As the TR4A continued to rust in the garage, I started my search for a Stag. Remember this: If I had known the amount of money that I would be able to spend on the Spitfire and Stag, the TR4A would have been done years ago. But since I had dismantled the TR4A completely, it would be many hundreds of hours until it could be completed. It was far easier to spend time and money on the other cars. Remember this as words of wisdom to the restoration newcomer. This is why Hemmings Motor News and now Ebay are  filled with half finished restorations. Reading Hemmings showed me that a Stag was going to be a difficult purchase. First of all, the price of a nice car was far past my budget. Restored cars were in the $10,000-12,000 range and this was double what I could stretch to afford. Second of all, I had begun to research the history of the Stag and discovered why the cars were so rare in the states: The engines were a major source of problems. This explained why all the Stags in my price range had various Buick, Ford and other non-standard engine combinations. The other problem was that since the cars were so rare, it meant that they were located in Texas, New York or Florida. Finding a local car, with an original engine in decent shape and in my price range, was indeed a tall order. I saw a Stag advertised in the Washington Post for only $1,500. It was located in Baltimore, so I looked at it on my way home from work one evening. It was dark blue, with light blue interior and wire wheels. Very pretty from a distance, but very rough up close. Seeing the car in a brighter color really showed off the lines and this is what really sold me on a Stag. The car had the hard top and the interior was in excellent condition. The exterior had been covered with a car cover and the entire car had surface rust from the condensation. The engine was missing as the owner had decided to do an engine conversion (it was at his brother's place in New York). The final straw was that the wire wheels had rusted to the splined hubs and the brake rotors had rusted solid. The car could not even be pushed. Not needing another long-term project in my garage, I quickly ran away from this nightmare, but still wanted a Stag. The Carlisle Import Show was to be the source of my next car. As I prepared for the annual Carlisle event, I brought the Spitfire title "just in case". I took a friend along and we got there just as it began to rain on Friday. One thing about Carlisle, you want to be there on Friday if you are purchasing a car. If it is a good car, it will be gone by Sunday. After parking the Spitfire in the show field, we entered the first row. By the time we had made it to the beginning of the third row of vendors, I saw a dark blue Stag.Stag as Purchased It had a tan interior, alloy wheels and most importantly, it had the 4 speed manual overdrive transmission. It was in excellent condition with no rust and decent cosmetics. The owner wanted $8,000 and it was probably worth it. He started it up and it sounded good with no sign of overheating that the Stag is infamous for. We thanked him and went down through the remaining rows of vendors. All I could think about was that Stag. It had every option that I was looking for, it was a local car and was not a car that needed a massive restoration. The only obstacle was the price. However, the sign on the windshield did say that he would take $8,000 or an interesting trade. Would he take the Spitfire in trade??? I quickly went back down to his booth and discussed the details with him. He said to bring the Spitfire down to his booth and he would consider a trade. As I quickly ran up to the show field, I could not believe that I may actually be able to buy this car. When he saw the Spitfire, he thought for a few seconds and said "give me the Spitfire and $4,000 and the Stag is yours". I told him that he had a deal, and to give me a few hours to come up with the cash. I used some creative means to acquire the necessary cash (promising myself that I could pay the wife back in a few months) and closed the deal. As I drove the Stag home in the rain, I wondered what I had just done and what the wife would say. Fortunately, the car was in excellent condition and has been a joy to own and drive. I never intended to restore the car, as the condition was fine for use as our family sports car. But just like the Spitfire and the million-year TR4 restoration, no Triumph was safe from the restoration disease.

Latest Update: 12-10-2003 - V8 TR4A pictures and description

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