The TR-Driver is the bi-monthly magazine produced by the TR-Drivers Club. Among other items of interest are regular articles submitted by our team of dedicated Registrars. There are useful seasonal tips - and ideas of jobs that may need doing - along with useful information on just how to do them! Members are also invited to send in their varied experiences for others to share.
Socially, the Show Co-Ordinator keeps us informed by way of the TR-Driver of National shows that may be of interest, and we are always well represented at most of the major Classic Car Shows nationally, with the Regional Groups taking care of their local shows. These shows are usually reported, with accompanying photos, in the Social Area of the Magazine
The TRDC is a truly international club with affiliated Sister Clubs in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
Alongside this we have many advertisers, making the TR-Driver an essential tool to quickly find sympathetic Insurers and Suppliers. In these days of technology the input from members comes to us via email, ensuring – space permitting – a speedy turnaround! There’s something for everyone in the TR-Driver, and a valued contact number for most things. Members eagerly await the next issue but as a taster, please read on. These articles have all appeared in TR-Driver since January 2012….
Trawling the WarringstownTR7 Forum on a daily yields a wealth of both humour and enthusiasm. In February, one such thread concerned the acquisition of an early Speke car, totally unmolested and showing just 26K miles from new. The lucky new owner is David, and here’s his story: Being Liverpool born, and of an age that
Trawling the WarringstownTR7 Forum on a daily yields a wealth of both humour and enthusiasm. In February, one such thread concerned the acquisition of an early Speke car, totally unmolested and showing just 26K miles from new. The lucky new owner is David, and here’s his story:
Being Liverpool born, and of an age that
BACK FROM THE BRINK.....by Paul Ruddy
I’ve been a TR7 addict since the age of about ten and I can even remember my first journey, it was in a Java Green FHC demonstrator from Rayrigg Motors in Windermere and I was sat on my dad’s knee in the passenger seat. My uncle was driving. It was to be another twenty-five years before I finally got the keys to my own TR7, a 1980 Triton green FHC. At the time I also had a concourse Ford RS2000 and the Triumph probably didn’t get the attention it should have, suffering a few small electrical issues - one of which resulted in smoke pouring from the vents in the bonnet. After a few more mishaps I moved the car on, but knowing what I know now I wish I’d persevered with the car as the colour is certainly still one of my favourites.
At the age of thirty-nine I had to retire from work on health grounds, I still had a concourse RS2000 in the garage - albeit a different one - and as Escort prices had gone silly I decided I’d move it on and buy a cheaper classic.
The Escort sold very quickly and I soon found myself scanning websites looking for another TR7. As luck would have it I managed to find a Java Green FHC in a village locally for the right sort of money, the car looked sound and was on the road so I paid the full asking price and drove the car away. I used the vehicle throughout the summer months and slowly became aware of a few areas that needed work. With plenty of spare time on my hands I decided to ‘bare shell’ the car and rebuild it to a standard that I would be happy with. Once stripped and media blasted I realised the shell needed far more panels - and work - than I had expected, throughout its life it appeared to have received lots of MOT patches!
During the strip-down of the car a friend had convinced me that the best way to improve the car during the restoration would be to install a V8. I didn’t take a lot of convincing and had already researched the conversion. I knew a kit was available from several specialists but instead chose to buy a rough donor car, one that had already been converted ‘properly’ but was suffering severe body rot. After a short wait a potential donor came up for sale on eBay and with a successful bid just shy of £1000, WTT543S was collected from Leicester. Upon investigation the car had the correct cross-member, a five speed gearbox mated to the correct axle, large vented disc-brake conversion and stainless exhausts. The car stood proud on new 15” Minilite-type wheels and tyres and had the benefit of a Kenlowe fan and a TR8 radiator.
We now had two TR7s - the original four-speed FHC with a very rusty shell as well as an equally rusty V8 TR7. Did I mention the MK1 Golf GTi? Along the way I’d come into possession of a very nice MK1 Golf. It had spent the last few years of its life as a static exhibit in showroom of the local VW Main Agents where it was surrounded by all the new offerings. When they required the space I happened to be in the right place at the right time, and picked the car up for reasonable money. I gave the car a thorough detail before attending a couple of classic car shows where I soon received an offer that was more than twice the purchase price. It was sold!!
I’d been aware of new old stock TR7 shells being advertised by both Rimmer Bros and Messrs TD Fitchetts and decided that the profit from the Golf would not only cover the price of a new shell but also get the project back on track. I asked a few questions amongst the TR-guys but it appeared that no one had actually viewed the shells to be able to advise on condition, they were new but obviously thirty years old.
I would also add that it was at this point that I did my research via the DVLA into the legalities of re-shelling a car. I’d decided that the shell would retain the registration of the donor V8 - WTT543S - and as a ‘new’ shell was being used together with sufficient parts from the donor car this was not an issue. It was basically the same as a Heritage build of an MG or even a TR6.
I arranged to go to Messrs Fitchetts to view the shells prior to purchase, the shells were stored in a warehouse, stacked on steel pallets and still mounted to the metal frames that were be used when delivering the shells to the factory. Removing them from the frame goes some way to explain some of the holes and threads in the shell/chassis. They were very dry and very dusty, but due to the stacking arrangement it was possible to get right underneath to give them a good looking over and there was no apparent sign of any corrosion.
The shells had no closing panels, but new ‘old stock’ doors were also available, so I did the deal and agreed to choose a shell and two new doors. I arranged for the shell to be collected the following weekend. It was now November 2009 and the new shell was parked in my friend’s body shop. All the new FHC shells at Messrs Fitchetts had sunroof apertures - I confess to having a preference for FHC, and especially the non-sunroof variety, so first job was to change the roof skin. This is where people gasp - most assume a roof swap involves chopping at the pillars and grafting a new roof on but in reality, done correctly it is no different to swapping a door skin. First the location of all the factory spot-welds around the front and rear screen - and above the side gutters - need to be found. These welds are then carefully drilled using the correct tools, ensuring that only the outer skin is drilled and not the inner frame of the roof. It’s the inner frame where the actual strength is!
The original green shell was used to donate its standard, unadulterated roof now chopped off at the pillars; after preparation enter a very expensive (£20k) spot welding machine. It was fortunate that my friend’s body shop recently achieved the BSi Kitemark accreditation which all the major insurance companies now request. This means that all repairs carried out must be to standards equivalent - or better than - original manufacture.
Prior to refitting the skin all the visible roof structure was prepared and primed with modern weld through primers. The skin was then fitted replicating all the original spot-welds. Next the battery tray was removed from the engine bay, not totally necessary but as the battery would be relocated into the boot this would generate a bit more space around the exhaust manifold.
It was always a part of the plan to have the entire shell media blasted to remove the old primer coating. We are fortunate that there is a local company that specialises in this type of work; a company well respected with world rally teams, world touring car teams and classic racing car owners. Together we agreed that the best media to use would be plastic blasting - very small, sharp shards of plastic, these do not generate the heat that has a tendency to ripple panels. I had the guys blast a boot lid first, reasoning that if the large flat area didn’t ripple then the remaining shell should be OK. The guys did the boot lid, cleaned it then etch primed it on the premises - the result was superb! The shell, bonnet and doors were duly delivered to receive the same treatment. The shell was mounted on a spit and blasted inside, outside and underneath, then thoroughly cleaned of all excess media before being etch primed. On completion the shell was collected and delivered back to the body shop. Blasting had revealed a series of small dings and dents, something to be expected after so long in storage, so the next task was to go around the car with a ‘miracle repair’ puller. This is basically a small electrode spot welded in the centre of any dent which can be used to pull against to raise the ding. Next the closing panels were fitted: with time - and many adjustments - we achieved gaps that British Leyland could only dream of.
We spent the next few months on and off prepping the car for paint. Having witnessed first-hand where the TR7 suffers the most, these specific areas were sealed and prepped using the best of modern materials. The choice of colour? Initially I wanted to go for Java Green - my favourite colour - but was torn with staying true to the car’s original colour scheme. We mixed up many of the British Leyland colours and sprayed test cards, and over a period of time most of the lads in the body shop dismissed Java Green settling instead on Pimento Red. I won’t go into the full painting process, suffice to say that this was no flash over. Lots of initial primer coats, colour coats and wet sanding took place before the final coats were applied and baked. This was followed by extensive machine polishing and the application of the satin black to both the sills and lower rear panels. The underside of the car
It was time for every cavity in the shell to be extensively coated with cavity wax, injected under high pressure to ensure full penetration. Internally, large sound deadening mats were applied to replicate the finish of the original factory-applied product. At last the shell was complete and ready to be returned home.
Whilst the work on the new shell had been taking place at the body shop I’d been busy stripping everything useful from the donor car. The running gear, panels, glass, bits of plastic trim, and switch gear. All the suspension components were stripped and media blasted prior to being powder coated, as was the rear axle case, front cross-member and the rear arms. With all the components clean it was time to rebuild these as sub-assemblies ready to install on the shell. The front strut tubes were fitted with GAZ Gold top adjustable inserts, lowered 200lb coil springs and roller bearing top mounts. The hubs were blasted and painted and had new bearings installed - the donor car also provided the spacer piece for the brake kit that utilises Capri 2.8 callipers and vented discs. The old callipers were exchanged for a refurbished pair. The rear axle had all-new bearings fitted, the brake back plates had been powder coated and these were rebuilt with all new components before new steel brake lines were run across the axle, terminating in a Goodridge braided flexi hose. All new heavy-duty rubber bushes were fitted to the rear arms, an alloy differential cover was sourced - and aqua blasted - prior to fitting a matching pair of GAZ Gold adjustable shock absorbers. The axle was now complete and stored ready to be installed.
The donor car provided the five-speed gearbox; this was thoroughly cleaned and painted. I’d had the opportunity to drive the donor car and decided to leave the box alone. However, new shifter bushes were fitted and we installed a new oil seal to the rear. The bell housing was aqua blasted back to its original alloy finish, and the prop shaft was saved from the original car. After a good clean it was painted and stored away ready for re-use.
Engine-wise I’d fully intended to refurbish and refit the original 3.5l unit; however via the TR-forum I came across a freshly built - but unused - 3.9l unit complete with Stage Two heads. I took the heads to a local machine shop and had them stripped; they were then aqua blasted to regain the original finish before being thoroughly cleaned. The faces were very lightly skimmed before all the valves were reground and new stem seals added. With the engine block mounted on a stand the build up began. The first port of call was to John Eales, the guy who supplied many of the engine parts including stud conversion kit, the new pushrods, cam followers, vernier timing sprockets and chain. Finally, we bought a full, good quality engine gasket set. John was an invaluable source of advice regarding the engine assembly. Now we had a block and head fully timed and ready for the ancillaries - the front timing cover had been aqua blasted and refitted with all new seals and studs/bolts, and a new water pump was fitted along with a powder coated sump. After the inlet manifold had been blasted it was installed, followed by the original, refurbished SU carburettors. Powder coated engine mounts were added, allowing the block to be lowered into the cross-member. With the engine now off the stand the flywheel was refitted, as well as an all-new clutch kit including the pivot arm. With the gearbox offered up to the block and bolted up a new slave cylinder was connected to the bell housing, along with a small, high torque starter motor. The whole unit was then lifted onto a small-wheeled trolley to await the arrival of the shell....
Photograph by Michelle Rook
Photograph by Michelle Rook
We now reach the point where it all comes together as one. With the shell safely onto axle stands in the garage it was time to start fitting up, experience of several restorations has taught me to first install the plumbing, so brake lines, fuel lines (a replica of the original steel line had been fabricated in stainless steel) and the wiring harness was installed - the wiring had already been thoroughly inspected with new sections being let in where required. The original conversion had made good use of twisted wires and insulation tape!!
A new fuel tank was purchased, painted and installed along with a low-pressure electric fuel pump with its own harness and a kill switch. Once the tank was located in position the complete rear axle assembly was lifted into place and bolted up. Likewise at the front, with the engine bay plumbing now complete the front of the car was raised and the engine (and gearbox) rolled underneath. The shell was lowered - and the engine and gearbox lifted with a hoist - to allow all four cross-member bolts to be located. It was about thirty minutes work!
Shortly after the front strut assemblies were fitted, along with a new steering rack. This allowed the fitting of a set of wheels and the car was finally lowered to the ground for the first time. The headlamp pods were built up, the lifting hinge mechanism was on offer so these were purchased along with new turn buckles, backing plates and light units. However, the original rubber surrounds were cleaned and refitted. It was always my intention to fit US specification bumpers to the car and it was fortunate that Messrs Rimmers had a sale. The rear bumper cover was heavily discounted so a new one was bought; the front cover was cleaned, prepped and painted. The steel ‘girders’ hiding underneath had been previously blasted and painted. A new, original spoiler was fitted to the front.
The rear light assemblies were stripped; their alloy bodies were soaked in a mild acid solution that brought them up like new. Inside the car the original dash had received a thorough clean and had been refitted, and Aldridge Trim had made a new roof lining. I’d deliberately specified black Escort RS2000 material as a personal preference and this was a nightmare to fit. New red tartan door cards were bought without courtesy lights as well as a new black carpet; a compromise as I’d hunted without success for a red as bright as the original. Once again the TR-forum stepped in to help. They put me in touch with a guy in the United States who’d remanufactured the red tartan cloth, this was purchased and the seats were taken to a local trimmer who did a superb job replacing the cloth and the vinyl.
I’d always liked the style of the dealer-fit decals on the side of the TR7, and I managed to find three pieces of new ‘old’ stock to do just one side. Being old and most probably no longer useable I took them to a local graphic company who copied it exactly, reproducing the stripe for both sides of the car. Originally I’d opted to go for factory alloys and had even gone to the trouble of having a set blasted and powder coated. I then had a change of mind and purchased a set of 7” x 13” Minilites instead, these were fitted with 205/60 tyres and fill the wheel arches nicely. A local company installed a new windscreen, this took about two hours and the fitters took great care when bonding the screen to ensure there were no leaks. New Sundym glass was fitted in the doors on new regulators, but the rear screen was very awkward to get in. The original stainless exhausts were blasted and painted grey, as I am not a great fan of the look of stainless steel.
The car took over two years to build and this is a very condensed version of the build. Along the way there have been many bruised knuckles and loss of temper.
I would like to thank Chris Turner for all his advice with the build, as well as many members of the TR-Drivers Club [and the TR-forum] for both encouragement and parts We are also very fortunate to have companies like S&S and Robsport who are willing to help us with parts and impartial advice, both companies have been supplying quality parts for the build.
All the best, Paul Ruddy
Photograph by Michelle Rook
Photograph by Michelle Rook
How safe is a Triumph TR7 - or, come to that, a TR8 - in the event of a head-on accident? The question was posed recently by the wife of an overseas TR7-Owner who felt unsafe at riding so close to the ground in a thirty-year old open-top sports car. No seatbelt pre-tensioners, no air-bags…. and just a couple of steel hooks designed to keep the bonnet from punching its way through the windscreen. It didn’t take long before a number of replies were received, and amongst them were a batch of post-accident photographs of a Canadian TR8 owned by TRDC-member Graham Little. A superb example of the marque, the Triton-Green left-hand drive vehicle had come to an ignominious end on the A70 near Douglas in July 2003. It had fallen victim at just 40mph, not to some over-enthusiastic driving in wet conditions but to a small family hatchback being driven by a seventeen-year old novice driver out for the day with five of her friends. A lumbering bus, a blind hill situated on a left-hand bend - and the young Corsa-driver suddenly decides to chance a rather risky overtaking maneuver, with disastrous results.
‘One Stunning TR8… and in the best colour!’
Ten years on, Graham still has the cars steering wheel and the hood frame, both now fitted to his 1979 TR7 Drophead, whilst various other bits and pieces - including the engine - have been disposed of on eBay over the years. The body was sold soon after the accident, deemed as having too much extensive damage to warrant repair. Once the dust had settled - and the subsequent bruising dissipated - Graham could take stock at how well the vehicle had fared in the estimated 100mph smash. At first sight, whilst obviously very damaged, the vehicle looked unscathed from the rear bumper forward to the A-Post - it was the bonnet and wings that seemed to have absorbed most of the impact. However, underneath the car things weren’t looking quite so rosy. The engine and gearbox had both slid under the scuttle\firewall, just as the design engineers had intended, and as a result the prop-shaft had concertinaed and the bell-housing damaged.
: This beast bites back!
The floor-pan under both the driver’s and the passenger’s seat had developed an un-designed kink amid a sea of ripples; and whilst both doors still opened and closed more or less as they should [and the windscreen frame and glass were still intact] the doors themselves had been forced back towards the B-Post. The dashboard, console assembly and the steering column all needed replacing: the steering wheel had deflected up [and away] from the driver, putting it out of harm’s way. Finally, those bonnet hooks. They did the job exactly as they had been designed to do, holding the trailing-edge of the bonnet down to the scuttle and preventing subsequent damage to the windscreen.
The TR7 was designed specifically with the American market in mind, and as such had a number of in-built safety features that could so easily go unnoticed by the uninitiated. Anti-burst door locks [and Graham can attest to the efficiency of these] and side-impact bars. Even the fuel tank - a real problem for those who’ve ever tried to replace it - is tucked away in what’s most likely the safest place in the car, being upright above the rear axle and lodged between the rear bulkhead and the boot….
‘Tis best not to tangle with a TR…’
By way of postscript, the young lady had the book thrown at her: she was originally charged by the Police with the criminal offence of reckless driving but this was later reduced to the ‘lesser’ charge of careless driving in order to ensure securing a conviction.
It appears that the local press weren’t quite so understanding with their report. Notwithstanding the fact their own photographer was one of the first on the scene of the accident and was able to permanently record the image of the Corsa fully embedded in the front of the Triumph - and to show it unequivocally on the wrong side of the road - the accompanying text somehow dwelt a tad too much on the power of the sports car and entirely missed the actual cause of the problem!