A few years back, after at least 25 years of driving various Morgans, I sold my 1955 Plus-4 Special and bought a 1976 Triumph TR6.
Some might counter that I jumped from the frying pan into the fire by acquiring a Triumph, but after some 10 years of ownership, I’m still a happy camper.
The car has been 100 percent reliable, came with a manageable top that has come in handy more than once, is easy to work on and, most importantly, satisfies my apparently insatiable need to have a little British car to fuss over and tinker with.
In the spring of 2009 on a Sunday drive, I came across the russet brown TR6 languishing in the back lot at a local gas station. I’d seen this poor lost soul before, bravely enduring the wind and rain and getting just a little more pathetic with each passing day.
Like someone who comes across an abandoned kitten, I couldn’t help myself and tracked down the owner.
Turns out, a retired school teacher named Beryl bought this TR6 new in 1976 and drove it up until about 1999, when too many things went wrong and needed to be attended to.
“I had three different shops look at it,” she explained to me, “and they all said it would cost at least $30,000 to restore it. I don’t have the money.”
So she parked it and there it sat for 10 years.
One thing led to another and, to make a long story short, Beryl said she’d give me the car, gratis, if I promised to let her drive it when I was done. I jumped at it and promptly named the car Beryl.
That’s how I once again found myself scrabbling around on a cold garage floor and trying to breathe life back into a car that, by all rights, should have gone to the knackers years ago.
But after spending a week troubleshooting, I got the engine running and discovered almost full compression in all six cylinders. It also had good oil pressure and a frame that, with a bit of welding, was as good as new.
Over the next year and a half, I did the brakes, got new tires, replaced a couple of fenders, repaired the floors and rocker panels, cleaned out the oil pan, threw out those wretched Zenith-Stromberg carburetors and replaced them with Webers, added electronic ignition, replaced all four shocks absorbers, put in a clutch assembly and timing chain, changed all fluids and painted the car. Aside from the clutch job, I’ve done all the work myself.
I also found out that Beryl’s TR6 had a brand-new top, a reasonably new exhaust system, a rebuilt rear differential assembly and ran like a champ once everything was sorted out.
The bonuses included that it had overdrive, a zip-out rear window and everything worked, including the horn and all lights and signals.
But there are all kinds of other cool old cars out there, so why a 35-year-old Triumph TR6?
For starters, I love the Karmann-styled body of the TR6 and appreciate the fact that it’s arguably the last ‘real’ Triumph. As well, the engine is essentially an enlarged version of the renowned indestructible Ferguson tractor engine that was fitted to the original TR2, which gives it an excellent motorsport heritage.
It also has more punch and is a much more driveable automobile than its predecessor, the TR4. The addition of two cylinders changes everything with this car and, with overdrive, it can cruise all day at relatively low rpms, while delivering excellent acceleration.
I’ve also bonded with this car, having, literally, put my blood, sweat and tears into its restoration, and I know it inside-out.
And I love driving it – it’s less stroppy than the TR4, handles better and has one of the most intoxicating exhaust notes ever produced.
And yes, I took Beryl out for a little spin once everything was shipshape.
“This is nice,” she said.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).