TR3A, commission number TS75519L was born in May of 1960 and sold
into the United States as a 1961 model. She came from the factory
signal red. She was equipped with the optional black leather upholstery
with white piping. She also had a white hood and side curtains.
I have been able to piece together parts of her history from
old receipts and made speculations based upon her condition.
By all indications, she was used hard, poorly maintained and
spent a lot of time sitting out in the rain during the first 17
years of her existence. As a direct result,she has spent only
a few years on the road during her following 20 years.
The oldest documentation I have for her is a pile of receipts
from a previous owner, Bud Clark of Scotts Valley California.
It appears that Bud owned the Triumph between the fall of 1976
and Fall of 1980.
The car appears to have been a very poorly maintained state when
Bud purchased her. During the first six months of ownership, he
had the steering worked on, all the hydraulics rebuilt, the fuel
tank patched,the radiator patched, the entire exhaust system replaced,
the water pump and timing chain replaced. The car had her seats
recovered about that time or earlier. She still had her original
factory signal red body colour and had to have been heavily rusted.
The last repair receipt I have from the time that Bud owned the
car was dated July, 1978 and was for unfreezing the pistons and
replacing the rings.
Either the car did not have problems between then and the Fall
of 1980 or she was taken off the road.
In the Fall of 1980 the car was purchased by Nelson Herbert of
Santa Cruz. Nelson owned the car between Fall 1980 and the Fall
of 1986 when I purchased her. I do not know if Nelson drove the
car much if any. He took her off the road soon after purchasing
her to "restore" her.
The restoration consisted primarily of wire brushing the rust,
laying fiber glass over the rust through holes and painting her
a Chevy white. The engine bay and boot were painted flat black.
The paint was applied three or four years before he sold the car.
He could not sort out the various mechanical problems and kept
it stored in a garage. Eventually he lost interest and put her
up for sale.
Sometime during the summer of 1986, I decided that life was too
short not to drive a roadster. After looking around I decided
that Triumph produced the best cars that would fit in my limited
budget. I started looking around for an affordable Spitfire after
coming to the conclusion that the Triumph TRs were out of my price
range. During the fall of 1986 I found a TR3 listed for sale in
the Hewlett Packard employee paper. I called and made an appointment
to see her.
I first saw her sitting in a garage in Scotts Valley. She was
coated with a heavy layer of dust and miscellaneous objects. A
rock behind a rear wheel kept her from rolling out the driveway.
Her interior looked very worn. The side and rear interior trim
caps were missing. The paint and body looked near perfect .
According to Nelson, the car had only been out of a garage to
move from one house to another since she was painted a few years
earlier. He said he didn't know enough to get the engine running
reliably and had lost interest over time.
We removed the debris, added some petrol, squirted some ether
down the throats of the SUs a fired up the engine. She wouldn't
idle except with the choke half out and the idle speed cranked
up. The brakes took to two pumps to work. I backed her out of
the driveway and took her up and down the street. The gears all
seemed to work and the engine seemed OK except for her idle. I
noticed that the steering wheel did not return without help.
All it took was a short turn behind the steering wheel looking
down her long bonnet. I was hooked bad and found myself madly
US$ 1,000 changed hands and I drove her home grinning from ear
to ear. Just as I got home she blew a rear wheel cylinder. I knew
I had a lot of work to do on her, but the body was in excellent
shape so it wouldn't be too bad.
When I cleaned out the float bowls in the SUs and added a fuel
filter I discovered she started easily and idled smoothly. After
I rebuilt her hydraulic system she was well on her way to becoming
a driver. I noticed that she was making a clacking noise under
load that sounded high in the engine. I pulled the valve cover
and checked the valve train. I discovered a bent push rod. I also
noticed that the rocker arms were loose on the rocker shaft. I
purchased a new rocker shaft, all new adjuster screws and had
a machine shop install new rocker arm bushings and resurface the
end of the arms.
That did not eliminate the high end clacking sound under load.
I had just about decided that I had a bad small end bearing except
there was something causing a push rod to go out of adjustment
frequently. After looking at it and adjusting it frequently over
a few day period I finally saw a line of oil along one side of
the push rod's top cup. A close examination showed a crack along
one side of the cup. The push rod looked fine as long as there
was no load on it. Under load the crack opened up creating a large
clearance. I replaced all the push rods and eliminated the clacking
noise. I have no idea what was done to the car to bend one push
rod and crack the cup of another. I wasn't sure I wanted to know.
But I did know that I now had a functional driver TR3A! And Drive
it I did!
During the time I was trying to get the car into running condition,
I was asking a lot of questions on the rec. auto newsfile. I received
an e-mail from a guy on the East coast named Dale. He said he
was starting a British car e-mail list and asked me if I wanted
to join. I said yes and became one of the founding members of
the first British car related e-mail list. Also in early 1987
I also joined the Triumph Travelers Sports Car club and attended
a lot of events in my TR3.
I had a wonderful time touring around in my Triumph. But over
the next few years I noticed that bubbles were popping out through
the paint along the bottom of the body and the engine was going
through more and more oil. I had the rear end rebuilt and replaced
a worn out ring and pinion. In early 1989, the tired transmission
was replaced with a newly rebuilt TR4 all syncro transmission
with overdrive. The steering was still stiff and uncertain and
the engine was going through more and more oil but I was still
having a wonderful time.
By by mid-1989 the #3 spark plug was oil fouling after about
50 miles. On long club trips, I had to stop every fifty miles
or so and swap out the # 3 spark plug. I decided it was about
time to take her off the road for a few months to get the engine
At Triumphfest '89 I started purchasing parts for an engine rebuild.
I thought that while I was at it I should go through the front
suspension and renew the interior. The 1989 Los Gatos Christmas
parade was the last club event she participated in before I took
her off the road in January for a few months of refurbishing.
The goal was to have her back on the road in May or June so I
would be able to catch most of the season's club events.
When I started taking things apart I discovered severe rust underneath
and the job grew another notch. When I put my hand through the
rear valence while I was doing some light colour sanding, I decided
that all the paint had to come off to see what was underneath.
My engine & suspension rebuild plus interior renewing grew
into a full scale down to bare metal car restoration project.
I'll not go into the project here as my restoration
project from hell is documented on another web page. Suffice
it to say I learned a whole lot about late TR3As, having professional
work performed by the lowest bidder and tenacity during the duration
of this project.
My TR3A made his first drive in 1999. His first club run was
the Triumph Traveler's Santa Cruz winery tasting trip. I had just
started ironing out the bugs in the system so naturally the starter
motor stopped working early on the trip and I needed a push start
to leave the last two thirds of the wineries. The problem ended
up being a bad starter motor ground caused by a painted starter
motor ring on the engine block and a painted starter motor. The
cure was stripping the paint off both mating surfaces.
Since the 3 was up and running I started spending more time driving
plus a little time gradually finishing the restoration. Ten years
after being taken off the road for a spruce up, my TR3A is on
the road stalking the new generation of modern roadster.