Sarah is a 1967 Triumph TR-4A that came into the family in September of 1989. She's the start of the whole mess! When I bought her, she was tomato soup red, half the lights didn't work, the exhaust leaked awfully, she had seats from a FIAT ... all the signs of Previous Owner Syndrome. I spent the next year getting her ready to go to the VTR National Meet in Boulder, CO, where we placed second in class in the autocross, and third in class in the participant's choice car show. She made the 2,000 mile trip, through the Nevada desert, crossing the continental divide four times, with only minor difficulties.
US50 Along US50 autox At the Boulder autocross

Shortly after returning from Boulder, Sarah and a deer tried to occupy the same space and time in the hills above Palo Alto. This didn't do either of them any good:

deer1 deer2 deer3 deer4

welding The revelation of rust and bondo under the paint led to much needed bodywork; she had a new front clip welded on, and it turned out that the bootlid was in awful shape, so that was swapped out, too (though it turns out to have been a TR4, not 4A, unit). Since I didn't expect that anyone would be able to match the quality and shade of the existing paint (ahem) I had her stripped to bare metal (there were at least six layers of paint!) and resprayed in the original Triumph racing green.

Since then, I've made lots of improvements, some immediately visible and some not. She gets driven almost daily.

Here she is as of mid-1997, doing her best rallye-car imitation:

Note the front anti-sway bar, which is a stock TR6 unit mounted to a TR6 lower radiator shroud (a bolt on swap). You can see the holes I cut in the lower valence to allow air to reach the oil cooler - mounted in the stock TR6 position. This is part of my recipe for good street handling in a TR4A:

Replace the lower front radiator shround with the unit from a TR6; you should be able to find one at one of the Triumph boneyards in the Monster List - I got mine from the Fat Chance Garage. Get a stock TR6 front bar at the same time. Buy new end links and the mounting brackets from your favorite parts house (I like to give my money to TRF because I believe they support the hobby best). Buy urethane bushings for the end links from British Parts Northwest or TS Imports.

Next time you rebuild the suspension, put in urethane bushings everywhere. For the steering rack mountings, too.

Buy new springs from BPNW - they have some that are 25% stiffer than stock but retain stock ride height. They used to be powdercoated red (but aren't any more), and if you ask for the "red springs" plus this description, you'll get the right thing. Get urethane packing pieces at the same time. (All the other "uprated" springs from other vendors seem to do bad things to the ride height. Avoid them.)

Install Konis or SPAX shocks (your choice) up front and and send the lever shocks in the rear to Apple Hydraulics for a "heavy duty" rebuild. Safety wire the rear shock mounting bolts so they don't come loose (or use longer-than-stock bolts and put thin nylocs on the protruding ends). Leave the front shocks on full soft - every few years, stiffen them a half-turn or click to take up the wear.

One of my correspondents put an Addco rear bar on his car and says it completely removed the rear-end wiggle that sometimes shows up on a downhill. This is counter to the "common knowledge" that a rear bar is only needed or wanted for racing. I haven't tried it yet, but probably will. He also really likes his rear tube shock conversion.

The driving lights are Marchal "radar" units, and can be switched on either with the high beams or instead of them. The headlamps are Marchal Ampilux. The crooked bumper is the result of various past indiscretions, and will be repaired eventually - for now, I like to think that it gives her a jaunty grin.

The exhaust is a Falcon stainless system from TRF, and the backup lamp is a Hella aftermarket unit mounted to a piece of flat steel stock that runs between the overrider mounts. It is very useful, and quite easy to add; the stock TR4A gearbox has a blanked off hole for the switch (the electrics were already there on the TR6 box I swapped in). After that it's just a matter of running the proper wire back to the trunk; I ran it along the passenger-side sill.

Silverstone I've also got some alternate wheels that are occasionally fun to drive on: when she's playing Girl Racer, Sarah likes to wear these factory-issue "Silverstone" alloys, complete with (quite old) Goodyear Blue Streak bias ply tires. Those tires are quite a bit more fun than the stock 165-15 Dunlop SP4s, but tend to track every little bump and groove in the road and are not very resistant to road hazards. I drove her to the coast on those tires without thinking about it ... and got a flat a mile from home on the return trip. Very lucky.

She looks pretty butch without the front bumper, eh? This was back in the days when I still had Lucas PL700 tripod headlamps. Pretty to look at, but lousy at lighting the road ahead of you. (The tripods are gone, and so are the Silverstone alloys, to people who care more about period correctness than performance).

Paddy Hopkirk On the other hand, I think these American Racing "Paddy Hopkirk" wheels are just the thing for the street, along with some 195/65-15 Yokohama AVSi tires for a nice combination of grip, lifetime, and almost the exact original tire diameter (so you can tell just how fast you're going!)

Unfortunately, she's off the road at the moment, the victim of zero compression in the #4 cylinder (I suspect that the rings finally gave up). Time for an engine rebuild - and if the engine is coming out, I might as well give in to shipwright's disease and do the whole punch list, including wiring harness cleanup and some serious body work. There is rust bubbling at the rear fender seams, the fellow that welded the front clip did a lousy job, and didn't bother to pull out the rear-end crash damage before painting there (not to mention the underlying cause of the crooked grin in front). I'm also suspicious of some past repair work on the diff mounts. So she's making a trek to the Fat Chance Garage for something approaching a frame-off restoration - not to factory perfection, but to my own particular flavor of it - more like a - Ken Richardson, at the Vintage Triumph Register 1993 National Meet.
Last updated Oct 31 2006