Monday, December 28, 2009

This too is about the TR6

The best thing about living in these times is that the medium has finally caught up with the message.

The problem is that we listen to the wrong music, watch the wrong movies and read the wrong books. Bestowed with our IPods, Netflix and Kindles we can easily get all this manufactured music, forgettable movies and books recommended by Oprah. The right media is still out there but it’s not easily found or, more likely, its existence wasn’t passed on to all of us by those that came before us.

I was lucky.

Before my dad introduced me to cars he introduced me to music, great music.

It’s not a Sergio Leone flick, but “Pirate Radio” (“The Boat that Rock” in the UK) is coming out on DVD soon, if not already. The music in this movie is a great jumping off point to understand the spirit of this project.

I’ll see you in the New Year.

Stay Tuned…

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Collapsed Rings, Yay!

I got another call from Mike. It looks like the motor is in good shape. Not great shape but good shape. All that was wrong with it was that it had collapsed rings on two pistons. Mike said that at the time it was parked the car would have been blowing a tonne of black smoke as the oil would be directly exposed to two combustion chambers. If it had been run long enough it might have started knocking also.

I think this is good news but it has been met with mixed feelings. I, myself, am glad to get the news being that I have to live in the now. As much as it would have been nice for dad to have figured this out and fixed it in '81 this news bodes well for the restoration. It has a direct effect on the bottom line. My other argument is that if it had been fixed then the car might not be in our possession any more. It would be very appealing to sell a running TR because it was impractical to transport two or more kids around in.

The reality is that in 1981 dad had just exited a business venture on less then great terms and was trying to make a go of another one. He also had two sons for which he had to provide. Times were tight. I am thankful he had the presence of mind to hang on to the car.

I find it strange that that period is very similar to what's happening now. Currently I am going through my own period of financial woes. It has been a slow year and, lately, it's been stressful for me and my fiancée Krista - I can't imagine what it would be like if we had to provide for two kids also.

The good news about the engine comes just as it appeared the darkness had settled in. I am expediently more invigorated then a week ago.

An inspection of Dad's car by Donald, the guy who bought the red car, has me thinking seriously about replacing at least three of the four fenders on the car. The thought of putting a whole bunch of bondo into the brow and trailing edge of the fenders makes me cringe. Add that to the rusted out outer rockers and we're north of 2000 dollars on panels alone. That really brings the unemployment issue into focus.

My inspiration is that Dad pulled through even with two more kids, bringing his total to four in a fairly dire economy. I too will pull through. If the car needs three fenders it will get three fenders - I can make it happen.

It's Christmas on Friday. It's the second one since dad passed. It's bitter sweet that Christmas will be a little easier than last year. I'm looking forward to being around the family.

Merry Christmas… Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New Crash Pad Week



In an attempt to be one with the web 2.0 I'm drafting this week's blog on Google Docs. It certainly keeps my desktop a bit cleaner.

Last week was a disaster, and all my fault. In a rush to get into this project I have made some poor decisions (I’m going to keep saying that until it sinks in). Not the least of which was buying the KC car. This is Angus unchaperoned – not pretty. It's harder because I'm half of a team now. Dad used to keep me in check when I was careening towards the deep end. Anyone hear a giant splash last week?

The part of last week's disaster that wasn't born of bad decisions was born of bad luck. Bad luck and bad decisions seem to go hand and hand.

I believe the engine is OK. I spoke with Al at Mike's shop, and although Al seems to have the bedside manner of an oncologist, he sounded guardedly optimistic about the condition of the engine. At least it seems the split crate didn't make anything worse.

I have to send Mike and the gang some money this week. Hopefully that will bring more answers... money usually has that effect.

Today I received the new crash pad (think dash) for dad's car. I bought it on Ebay. It's by the same manufacturer for the ones on The Roadster Factory's website. It was 30 dollars cheaper than the one from TRF. Thank Jebus for small mercies.

Speaking of Jebus; I, against my will and better judgment, attended an adult-type Christmas party on Saturday (Saturday is a car day, so doubly bad). At one point, when it seems now I should have gone left and went right, I got trapped in a conversation with an overly-gregarious-religious-type. To make matters worse this dude had some insider info that I was doing this project. For the next twenty minutes I was on the receiving of a lot of free advice. I wouldn't have minded as much but it was rather obvious that this fellow's knowledge about cars included everything that could be clicked on. His hands had never been dirty.

I don’t suffer gentlemen car guys gladly.

I’m still sporting the deep wound in my left palm from where the metal head gasket went into it two weeks ago. Money is leaking out of me like I have a coke habit and I still don't have all the answers on the engine let alone the deep bowels of the car's body. He, a bible humpin' "car guy" and his Tirerack.com account is not in my world. This was torture and possibly punishment from the car gods for my overlooking dad’s motor.

"So tell me about your missions to China?" I rather get assaulted spiritually then automotively. In the end I medicated and ultimately survived.

The weather has slowed things down its -38 at the acreage. I did visit dad's car on Sunday. I stared at it for an hour, sprayed some degreaser in some spots in the engine bay and lamented over the long road ahead. It was obvious that the next step is to clean everything to see what is what. The good news is that Krista (the fiancée) and I are there over the holiday. She's gets to put her money where her mouth is and get her hands dirty. She's excited.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The William Wallace of Cars

The purchase of the Red Car was ill-advised. But since I wasn`t taking anyone`s advice back then it’s no one`s fault but my own. It was the product of me trying to make a bold statement that I`m serious about this venture. It was the war dance that precedes the battle.

The red car sold on EBay yesterday for fair market value – must be - the market determined it. It was enough but not as much as I wanted and not as much as I paid. It was enough to keep the project moving forward – and cash flow is important to a project like this.

132 people of the internet watched that car sell according to EBay. I considered pulling the car Sunday night, but close to my goal and with 132 watchers, I thought for sure there were some bidders tucked away in there. The final ten minutes of the auction was like the end of Brave Heart: All those watchers and nothing happened.

But that’s the end of that. The red car has been good to us – if not as a parts car but as an analog of what dad`s car should be like when it`s done. And for those who are thinking it I will speak to it: I got ``Anga-sized``.

In other news: I got the call that the motor for dad`s car has arrived in Kelowna. Apparently the pallet split open and the engine tipped at the delivery depot. Mike has gone down to investigate.

It`s starting to seem that this apprehension and fear will be with me throughout this project.

Stay tuned…


.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Big Knob Week


Big changes a doing here in the TR6 Cottage! Dad’s motor is going west… Kelowna to be specific.

After opening up Dad’s engine like a gift on Christmas morning and finding nothing but goodness and oil; I phoned Mike of Mike’s British Auto Repairs. Mike took a look of the high def photos online and wants to stick his hands into this motor.

SOOO… the Sutherland Clan rallied around this and we worked a sweetheart deal to courier the motor out to Mike. That will happen this week. It’s a good feeling that dad’s motor will be the engine powering this car.

I met Mike in August, moments after I bought the red car. Back then he had a lot real good advice and made some game changing statements about these cars. I’m stoked to have him in on this project.

Meanwhile I’ve relisted the red car on Ebay – no reserve. I listed it on Saturday and as of today it’s up to 1600 hundred bucks Canadian. If it doesn’t break 4000 bucks I’m going to pull it – do some work to it and list it again.

To answer the question “what happens if the engine is not viable?” Well, I thought about that, and it’s highly unlikely from what I saw, but if so we’ll snag another engine block. I know this undermines my KC excursion but I rather have some of dad’s motor in there than nothing. And I really don’t think that’s going to be the case.

I also receive a walnut gearshift knob I ordered off EBay. Dad’s had one at one time and it split. I’m not convinced this one is the same but it looks great.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

CSI: Triumph TR6


The thought of this engine had me distracted all week; I couldn’t wait to get a look inside. Remember: I was told there was a piston or rod through the block. After posting my blog I got some feedback from my uncle Jerry that that might not be the case. He remembers it being a turned bearing. I quizzed mom as she was driving it at the time. She relayed that it didn’t leave her anywhere; it was just that she arrived home one day in a plume of blue smoke. That’s when dad took it off the road. Whether he had someone look at the car after this incident is debatable. Mom doesn’t remember and it was more than 28 years ago.

An engine doesn’t lie. Saturday I removed the transmission and clutch assembly from the engine. I then mounted it on the engine stand. The fact that the engine turned over when I put a wrench to the fly wheel bolts raised my suspicion that this engine wasn’t seized by a piston or rod.

I drained the oil from the pan. There was a lot of it and it was quite black. What this means is that there was no water in the oil. If there was it would have been a chocolate milk-like color. It didn’t seem that there were any metal shavings in it either. These are all good signs – unless you just bought a TR6 from Kansas City for the motor and went through hell to bring it to Canada. If that’s the case… well… let’s ignore that for now.

Flipping the motor and removing the pan should have been the eureka moment, “Look! A giant hole and wreckage!” That wasn’t the case – the crank and piston rods looked fine - dare I say it, they looked great. I turned the crank a few times but the only sign of a problem was a bump in the rotation when the second piston (from the front) reached the top of its stroke. It something; it’s not go out and buy another car w/engine damage – but it’s something.

Having no answers and more questions than ever before, I decided to dig deep. It was time to remove the head. This was not fun as both the intake, and exhaust manifolds had to be removed. The water pump and other peripheral items had to also be removed – fun, fun, fun. More parts, more bolts labelled in bags and more time.

The head didn’t come off willingly or even unwillingly. For awhile it didn’t look like it would come off at all. I had to suspend the head, engine, and the engine stand from the hoist to get it even to budge. The Haynes manual said it should pull right off – it was wrong. It took me an hour but it came off. I didn’t escape unscathed through; I sliced my palm wide open on the head gasket - nice.

With the head off the cause was even less clear – everything looked great – perfect almost.
See high-def pics @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/24287646@N05/tags/1976/
After a lot of head scratching I went into the house, had a lot of beer and went to bed.
I thought about possible next steps. The possibility of the original motor being repaired had been scratched a long time ago. The purchase of the ’74 complicates things.

But if the motor is viable it has to go back into the car. There aren’t many rules to working with cars but this one is universal. To put it in perspective – especially in this case – there’s a line from a Blue Rodeo song about “the same sun rising over me as over you”. I can’t pass up the possibility to hear the same motor as dad heard. It’s an opportunity at a shared experience – those are few and far between now.

Sunday – I built a crate. I think this motor might be heading for someone who can make it sing again. I’m at the edge of my knowledge.
Stay tuned…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dropkick Murphy's and a Hungover Engine Pull



This weekend I attended the Dropkick Murphys at the University of Calgary. That was Friday night. It was loud, scary, loud and drunken. We were standing exactly where this video looks to been taken. My Friend Bryan, of road trip fame, threw up during this song (The Who's Baba O'riley). This was the first encore. We left shortly after. I was a little disappointed, I could here "Shipping Off to Boston" playing as we left.

Saturday I was hung-over with many people in my house. About noon the place cleared out and I quickly headed up to Red Deer to do what? - That’s right; pull the engine and trans on dad's TR. This schedule is not recommended.



The TR6 room was warm with its new heating system. I, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, slowly I started removing the bonnet (hood) and labelling wires and hoses. It was a slow lethargic process.

Over time I built momentum. I removed the radiator; which was neat because it had water and coolant in it. I find that exciting. It also had some black oil in it. I suspect that's engine oil from a hole in the block but that's yet to be seen. Remember this car stopped running because a piston or rod through the block in 1980-81.

I then removed the cross member bolted in front of the engine block. I had to remove the cooling fan blade to dislodge the cross member. I suspect the cross member is in place to stiffen up the frame as convertibles are notorious flimsy. Thus their handling suffers.

Being quite hung-over I had to stop a couple of times and dry heave. I also had to hydrate profusely.

It decided to pull the engine and transmission together. The idea is that it will be easier to replace the clutch with the trans out of the car.

Dad's TR is a full load. This means it had both options available: removable hardtop and overdrive. Nowadays overdrive seems to be built into transmissions. Essentially I think of it as fifth gear.

It wasn't until I remove the transmission tunnel from the inside the car did I get an idea that overdrive on a TR is a different beast. It's even a different drive train item. It looks so cool.



Essentially older American cars work like this: from front to back: engine > trans > driveshaft > rear-end. This TR is: engine > trans > overdrive unit > driveshaft > rear-end. This simple variation is so cool.

Why they did this?

Triumph..., British Leyland, or whoever, decided to add the overdrive after the trans because it maintains the short-shift nature or the trans but adds long legs for driveability and economy over long distance. It's a sort of a best of both worlds situation: small gear ratios for quick acceleration and overdrive for long drives.

I also think it's cool that they just tacked it on the end of the transmission.

There three brackets holding the engine and trans in the car. One each side of the engine and under the back of the trans or overdrive unit if equipped.

After supporting the engine by a hoist I disconnected the front two brackets. the one under the trans has to be removed through the cockpit. The cardboard transmission cover is removed. Unfortunately, after disconnecting the driveshaft and trans from it's support bracket, you still can't get the engine and trans out. It seems the support bracket also has to come out.

I'm not sure anyone else has done this but the bracket removal was confusing as I could only access one bolt out of a possible four. This frustrated me for some time and I have to say it was the hardest part of the process so far. In my short-patience-hung-over state I removed the overdrive unit instead. This shortened the drive train so it could clear the bracket.



The engine and trans pull free from its surroundings - with some engine lift magic, some shimmying and a little brute force. The brute force had to come in when the front of the engine wasn't high enough to clear the grill but couldn't go up because the gearshift lever passed the mouth of the trans tunnel. Some brute force applied and engine was free and clear.

The Haynes manual said this process should take 3 hours. It took me 5.5 hours hung over and tired. I crawled into bed about one AM with the engine and trans resting safely on the floor.





Sunday I had to do the brakes on my truck. Next week I'm going to separate the engine/trans, inspect the clutch setup and mount the engine on an engine stand.

Sorry for the crappy I-Pics better pictures next week.

Post script: Found dad's car to be in excellent shape and turning bolts was easy. Especially surprising was the condition for the exhaust system as they usually rot out quickly. The exhaust on this car was solid as a rock - but not nice enough to keep.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Continuing Saga of the TR6 Room

Currently we're experiencing problems activating the heating system in the TR6 room.

This room is at the back of a shop on the acreage and, until earlier this year, were two rooms. It's now one big one. Unfortunately it hasn’t been heated for sometime as the existing under floor heating was in rough shape.

The world’s best plumber, Michael H. McPherson, has torn the system down to the under floor heating and built it back up to be a glycol-filled closed under floor system. Michael originally installed an electric hot water tank to heat the glycol but it seems now, as efficient as it is, electric doesn't have the recovery to keep up with what is required. We're going to gas!!

On that note - I'm still quite under-employed - anybody? anybody? Bueller?

Stay tuned...

For now enjoy me in 2006 driving the worlds shabbiest 72 Caddy Eldorado

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Why?



I turned 30 years-old this year. My father was about 30 when I was born and his father was about 30 when he was born. My Grandfather died at 61 5 months before I was born and my dad died at 59 a month before his 60th birthday.

The evidence might be antidotal but it looks as if I might be middle-aged. I've only been alive for 30 years. And damn it has gone by fast.

There is no real time to put things off. This car has been in line to be fixed as long as I can remember. It was off the road in 1981 the year Ronald Reagan became the president of the United States. For 28 years my dad wanted to fix it. For 28 years I looked at and dreamed what it would be like to drive it.

I can remember standing on the fender of this car to get on the fence. I can remember sitting in it and shifting gears to pretend I was driving - then getting yelled at.

As an adolescent we were moving this car on a trailer from our home in Blackfalds to our new acreage the day my dad had a kidney stone attack that landed him in the hospital for two weeks. He threw up all day - we had to stop every 5 or 6 kms for him to hurl. He ended up getting the car off loaded and then driving another 40Kms to Sylvan Lake so my mother could finally take him to the hospital.

This car has been present my entire life. Every other car I owned was something less-then special. Even my 1980 Volare Road Runner. It was a 2 door car with a 318 904 trans and 7 inch rear-end. It was little more then badging.

There is no qualifying this car. It is as advertised - It's a go-have-fun sports car. It doesn't pick up groceries, it doesn't haul anything and it doesn't even have a back seat. All it does is thrill.

It's the car I always wished I could work on. The dream project. But it was Dad's car and off limits. Frankly - I find it quite intimidating – still! I can't mess this up.

It's fun to talk about cars but there is a line I'm crossing over. If I am successful I can say I restored a 1976 Triumph TR6. That puts me in a pretty small class of outsiders. If I fail I'm the guy who took apart dad's car. I couldn't live with that.

There's a video on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QdRRiOH2GA of a guy lifting the body off a TR6 because of the shape the frame is in. I'm not naive - I know except of the grace of god so go I. I've seen no sign of frame rust so far (no floor rust either).

There is another YouTube video of a master engine builder doing the timing on a TR6 motor - eek!

I'm not over confident. Failing is something that can happen. I'm still quite under-employed, Krista (my fiancée) is going to be looking for more and more of my time as the wedding approaches (August 7th, 2009). This could all go really bad.

My dad fixed a lot of cars in the eighties and nineties. I remember being with him as he restored a pea green Volvo 164, in 1991we put together a 1980 Chevrolet Impala 4 door (also green) and finally we fixed up a 1989 Plymouth Acclaim. These were all wrecked cars that we fixed so my mom had something to drive the four of us kids around in.

The TR6 had to be put aside. It had to wait its turn as my dad tended to the needs of the family. We needed big four door cars.

I learned a lot in those years about cars. What I really learned was I like working with my dad. We built other cars together - my '80 Road Runner, my sisters Lebaren Convertible but the car that eluded us was this one - The Triumph.

Soon after his death my brothers and I cleaned out the garage where my dad had been working on the car in earnest since the Christmas before he passed. I knew then as, I took the convertible top frame out to the shop, that if I didn't get on it now - parts would be lost and it would be that much farther from ever being done.
It was that realization and reading an email dad wrote to The Roadster Factory in December 2007 that made me want to do this project now:

Gentlemen,

In April of 1976 I bought one of the last TR 6’s that was shipped from Britain to Canada. When I picked it up it had 6 miles on it and the only two options were a hardtop and overdrive, so I made sure I got them. It’s Sunburst orange and I still have it. For various reasons the years have taken their toll but I have finally reached the stage where I want to do a ground up restoration. I have received your catalogues for years and because of that I feel an allegiance to your company. So it’s for that reason that I am sending you this email. It’s the consensus of my sons, (who were not born when I bought the 6), and myself that the car is pretty straight. All the floors are solid, the seats are good but it needs a new top, engine rebuild, sills, fenders, etc.

I am currently in the process of inventorying the car and then I am making the work list so that I can approach this in logical order. TRF stands to be the official supplier of this project; however I need to know about pricing, shipping, duty charges and anything else that impacts a Canadian buyer.

Also my plan is not to buy everything at once and I need to know about discount pricing as well as cumulative purchases and how I can benefit from building a purchase history with TRF.

Another issue is the fact that I will be taking the body off the frame for sandblasting and powder coating so I need to know details such as how much of the body I can dismantle prior to lifting it off the frame. For instance if I’m replacing the sills logically I should do that before I take the body off and can I remove the fenders and doors during this process? If you have a manual that addresses this then I’m looking at my first purchase from TRF.

The last issue is a motor rebuild. Now since I’m doing a complete restoration it makes sense that the motor is rebuilt last to maximize any warranty benefit or does that start when the car is put on the road. Your engine rebuilding department, what sets it apart from any other engine rebuild company and how do I benefit from sending it to your company as opposed to doing it locally?

Anyways guys get back to me so we can start this process. I’m looking forward to the build and I know that this will be a better car than when I took delivery of it when it was brand new. British Leyland wasn’t noted for their workmanship and I think they got a little sloppy in the last year of TR 6.

Regards,

Bruce Sutherland



It was a hard decision to come to but there are two things I am doing different in this resto then what dad outlined in his letter:

a) This might be controversial but I'm not doing a "ground up restoration". I am doing a "nut and bolt restoration". I'm not taking the car off the frame and I'm not having the body media blasted or dipped in acid. I am however replacing all the rubber and rusted sheet metal and any other part that needs replacing. The reason is cost and that I do not want to remove the body from the frame as the frame seems straight and rust free and separating the two leads to fit and finish issues and may change the geometry of the car.

b) At this point I am not having the engine rebuilt. After contacting The Roadster Factory myself, they said if it was a piston or rod that went through the block then there is no point sending the engine in for rebuilding. They would have to supply a new core anyway thus making it a new engine. Instead I acquired the low mileage '74 Triumph from which we are cannibalizing the motor. This is a cost saving decision (maybe not after the road trip debacle). The engine will have new water pump, seals and other items - everything short of being rebuilt.

The more I work on this car the more I feel confident that this is the most effective path to get this car on the road - with a realistic budget and timeframe.

Even with my changes I still feel that dad started this project and I'm going to finish it for him.

I hope this clears up the "why".


Dad and I Novemember 2005 I got drunk and bought a 1972 Caddy convert off Ebay – Dad found this hilarious

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still Sour

I'm still sour from the trip to Kansas City and smarting in the wallet area of my body.

Also I'm atill working on finishing the TR6 room at the back of the shop so I have a place to do this project... stay tuned.

Until then enjoy a Youtube video of me driving an FMC motorhome:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Road Trip Day 5 - The Journey Home


View Larger Map

We arrived in Lethbridge, AB at 2:30 in the morning. I felt destroyed - defeated and not great. We checked into a motel on Mayor Megrath. I had a restless sleep watching the car through a slit in the curtains as I was sure something was going to happen to it.

I was glad to be back in Alberta.

There is no place like home.

Even Lethbridge is home-like as it were I spent my university years.

All the evil was behind me - it was clear sailing, a relative grocery run, to go from Lethbridge to Red Deer. I was still stinging from the fine, the car falling off the trailer, the gunshot, the breakdown and finally, the tire. I was a beaten man but I was home.

I dropped Bryan off at his home around noon. I arrived at the acreage shortly after that. My mom and my brothers met me in the driveway. I had my brother Neal dive the car off the trailer. It wasn't steering quite right and was noticeably loud (missing exhaust).

The remaining exhaust was hanging down and got caught up on the trailer during the off-loading. I had Neal drive the car into the garage and shut it off. I had a beer... and a nap.

This was a harrowing trip and probably ill-advised. I spent a mint and I am going to sting from that for awhile as I am still quite under-employed. I don't think I would do this again. At the same time I'm glad I did. I'm glad the car is here I think the project really has some momentum now.

I want to thank Bryan Compton for coming along - he was great company.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Road Trip Day 4


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I wanted to make it home on this day but I knew we were still deep in the heart of the USA. It's Saturday August 22, 2009.



Bryan and I got moving pretty early. I wanted to leave Oshkosh in the dust along with all the troubles in tribulations of the day before.

We hit Scottsbluff by 9:10 in the morning, an hour and a bit in and we had 79 miles under our belt.

It was a beautiful morning and I had the NPR going on the Satellite radio. Car Talk with Click and Clack seemed appropriate. It was just a nice Saturday morning drive.

By noon we were in Casper, Wyoming. I was now so relaxed we had a sit-down lunch at a Carl's Jr. Not something we get in Canada. Bryan then dragged me around looking for diet Cherry Coke.

By 3:30 we crossed into Montana. Here I saw a truck with a wheel off, a motor home that had caught fire and other vehicles broken down on the side of the road. I was praying that we weren't going to be one of these people. The air condition in Dad's truck is gone so we had to suffer through some 30 degrees Celsius temps. If that was to be the worse part of the day I would be fine.



We reached Billings by 4:45 pm. Between Billings and Great Falls the decision was made to take a different route then the one through Lewistown that claimed our time on the drive down. We went further west then north at about Bozeman.

This route took us through some grand vistas. There were long stretches of roads were you could see in mile on both sides. After a while it began to tighten up and we headed through a mountainous area similar to interior BC. As the Sun went down we were among long stretches of cabins and lodges. It was a beautiful route.




By 9:00PM we in Great Falls once again. I decided to push onward to get across the border as I was concerned that whether the documentation had made it there.

It was a long dark trip north of Great Falls. Night had fallen and it was pitch black. We stopped in Shelby, Montana to check the rigging and it was good that we did because the chains had loosened and the chaining point on the front of car had broken off. The car could have come off the trailer again. I bought two cases of Coors for spoils. Bryan was concerned as with his case and these two we could be over our limit at the border.

The easiest part of crossing the border was dealing with the American side to get my paperwork to import the car. I had sent everything ahead correctly and it was a snap. We then reached the Canadian side.

Even now sometime later it's still hard to remember back to this:

I presented Canadian customs with my documents and they asked me inside. I parked.

It's important to point out here that there is an import tax on non-domestic cars.; even ones that are 36 years -old. It's also important to point out that I am idiot.

When I purchased the TR from Craig we did the bill of sale and signed the title over for 1000 dollars. In essences we committed fraud. The actual price of the car was about 3600 dollars. By doing this I was to save about 400 dollars in taxation at the border.

What I didn't know was that Canadian customs can query Ebay to see what I paid. I got busted and I got busted hard. I was out-smarted by a customs agent. Granted I was tired and could think well on my feet after driving 18 hours but no excuse - I got busted.

When the gig was up they said that were seizing the car and if they found anything in the truck (remember: three cases of Coors) they were going to seize the truck. I was royally screwed.

"Take a seat."

All I could think now was that I was going home with nothing after all this. It's the closest I have come to crying in a long time. I was beaten... destroyed - and it was all my fault.

There were three border guards handling this. -a punk that seemed to be about 25, a middle-aged dude and a fat chick who seem to be new . They were walking the trainee through my various infractions. It was quite a production.

After about an hour of abuse - and it was abuse - the punk was power tripping and kept asking me if I thought he was stupid. I answered no but I actually did think he was stupid. Working knowledge of whatever ebay tracking software they trained him on didn't make me think he was particularly smart.

But the truth is that I was stupid or naive. I underestimated the technology that boarder program puts into protecting a lucrative revenue stream. This hero in a vest was a tax cop and had just protected the Canadian government from being screwed out of 400 dollars.

In the end I had to pay a massive fine. It was a ridiculous fine. But they didn't take the car or check the truck for that matter. I could have had tow kilo's of Coke strapped to the steering column.

I think I'm on a list now.

We arrived in Lethbridge, AB at 2:30 in the morning. I felt destroyed - defeated and not great. We checked into a motel on Mayor Megrath. I had a restless sleep watching the car through a slit in the courtains as I was sure something was going to happen to it.

I was glad to be back in Alberta.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Road Trip Day 3 - Part 2


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We had the truck back in our hands at about 2pm. Quickly we ran over to the Foreign Car Enterprise to meet Craig the car guy. His shop was in a neighbourhood. We expected an industrial park but not so much – it was a shotgun garage with overhead doors on both ends. There seemed to be about 4 cars in varying stages of repair in the shop. Only the green Spitfire and the black and white Morris Miner stick out in my memory now.

After a quick tour Craig had us follow him to another part of town where our 6 was being stored. I didn’t think it was possible but Craig seemed to be taking to a worse part of town then where his shop was located.




Our Six was in a storage building which was inside a chain link and barbwire fence. Surrounding the building were the carcasses of British sports cars most of which were sixes. It looked as if some giant beast inside the building fed on Triumphs and tossed away parts that were hard to digest : subframes, chassis.





Just inside the overhead the door was the focus of this misguided mission. The little red 1974 TR6 was as described and Craig quickly reached inside and started without choke or pedal. It had a throaty rumble. It was a special moment for me as the orange one had been silent as long as I remember. I was two years old when Dad’s last was in motion so I had not heard one run or could recall hearing one run. It was cool to hear that motor for the first time.




Craig pulled it out of the garage and offered me to take it for a spin but I couldn’t. I haven’t revealed this yet but I am missing most of my right leg below my knee. I get around by the use of a prosthetic leg. I can drive most standard transmissions even with this condition but with each new vehicle there is a learning curve to get the movement and feel right (the feel is in my knee). Craig took me for a quick ride and it was fun. I think there was more man then car as we were pouring out of the cockpit of the little car – one word: perma-smile.

We arrived back at the shop and Craig showed me through his MG, Triumphs and Lotuses. He had a really cool TR4A that belonged to his dad that was on his own resto list. See the pictures it was a pretty cool place.

We had Craig drive the car up onto the trailer and as he went back to handle some things around his garage. Bryan and I took to tying the car down. I had both 6” nylon flat straps and chains but as the TR6 is more refined then a bobcat or lawn tractor I decided to go with the straps.

I was untangling the straps standing between the truck and trailer on the driver’s side of the truck, slightly out in traffic on a relatively sleepy industrial/residential street (KC might not have zoning laws). Bryan was across the trailer hitch from me exactly between the truck and trailer on the passenger side trying to find a strapping point on the front of the car.

It was just at that moment I heard a bang sound from in front of a truck. Before I could even look up I heard a zip noise going past my head. I instinctively jumped over the trailer hitch away from the road and crouched behind Craig’s car which was between our truck and the fenced yard. Bryan took a beat and followed me as we laid there behind this car we heard a truck squeal by seemingly coming from where the bang originated

Basically what I am labouring to say is that we were shot at! Someone shot at us! Someone freaking shot at us!!

After a minute we got back up bewildered and decided that no one seemed to be around other than us. I quickly assisted Bryan in getting the straps on. We were now in shock and just wanted to get out of there. Craig came wandering over unaware of what just happened. I asked him if he had a problem with guns down here.
His reply was less then reassuring, “Not if you’re carrying one. Didn’t you boys bring one?”

“No.” I said realizing we were at one of those nuances that separate Canadians from Americans. “I’m not saying this is a bad neighbourhood...”
“Ha –ha, I’m not saying it isn’t.” he replied.

Craig left us shaking hands and we quickly got into the truck ready to get anywhere that wasn’t here. The car was strapped the best we could figure as it was fairly uncooperative in yielding strapping points. We had agreed to shakedown the rigging at our first stop.

We got on the freeway and set the GPS to make sure we were going in the right direction. The GPS, continuing its disappointing misdirection, dragged us right back off the freeway and through a real sketchy neighbourhood. Finally we got back on the freeway and headed north – out of town.

Soon I noticed that the rear strapped had loosened up and was flapping in the breeze. I started to look for an off ramp. I soon found one and was stopped at the light at the top of the ramp. As I pulled away from the light the car rolled off the trailer backwards. It rolled off the trailer backwards into traffic. For the first time in my life a car rolled off a trailer backwards into traffic.

I couldn’t believe the day I was having… what the hell else could go wrong?
I instructed Bryan to drive and I ran back to rescue the car. The parking brake wasn’t strong enough to keep the car on the trailer but it was strong enough to keep it from rolling down the ramp. It just sat there defiantly sitting in the middle of the road.

I jump in the TR and this moment was the first time I drove a Triumph TR6 – on an off ramp in Kansas City. It was a tight fit, uncomfortable and awkward. I pushed in the clutch and turned the key – also awkward. She started right up as advertised and I was able to get the car out of harm’s way.

We got the car back up on the trailer but not without destroying the exhaust system – it wasn’t in that great of shape to begin with. I then chained the car down like it was King Kong on a road trip. I boomed it so tight that it looked like it was a low rider.

We were finally on our way. For the next hour all I could think about how the car could come off the trailer. Other then the exhaust and a small dent on the top of the fender it came out rather unscathed.
Believe it or not we made it through the next 541 miles (871 KMs) unscathed. The path home led north to Lincoln, Nebraska and from there west to Oshkosh, Nebraska. We arrived in Oshkosh at 11:20PM, check into a motel and to bed. I was glad to see this day end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Road Trip Day 3 - Part 1

I awoke excited – very excited. We checked out of our motel and packed up the truck to make the run to Restoration shop in KC were the TR6 sat waiting. We got back on the freeway cranked the tunes rolled down the windows and basked in the Missouri morning sun – life is good.

It wasn’t long before that ominous grinding sound from under the truck was back. In fact it was louder, scarier and was effecting the steering… life is not good. We clunked off the freeway and pulled over in a neighbourhood. Upon inspection we found that the passenger’s side front wheel was at 70 degree angle to the ground. There were metal shavings inside the rim and on the ground. I didn’t know it right away but after pulling the wheel off we found that the hub was absolutely pulverized. All the barrel-type bearings were gone and the wheel hub and collar were sitting on each other. The only thing holding the wheel on the truck was the disc brake. It was a bloody-bloody mess. We had probably stopped just short of having the wheel come right off the truck.

I phone AMA for a tow truck and had to lie about the Gross weight of the truck so they wouldn’t charge me above what AMA would cover. What’s an extra 500 pounds to a tilt deck anyway? They did however ding me for towing the trailer also. I really need to upgrade to AMA RV service.



The tow truck driver took us to the best place to have the truck fixed but they were too busy so we just dropped the trailer there and headed to the second best place to have the truck fixed. They said they could get too it right around lunch and we were now honing in on 11 am. We contemplated renting a car but settled on going for a nice lunch at a homestyle sitdown place. I think we were the only two not having the biscuits and gravy. I ordered a pork sandwich and it was – of course- battered and fried.

After lunch we could see up the hill were the truck was and it was still sitting out on the repair shop lot so we did a walk around tour of our immediate area. We toured a pet shop then a pawn shop and walked by a giant fireworks store that looked to be a former funeral home.

As we walked back up the hill we could see the truck going into the shop finally – it was now about ten to one in the afternoon. Not only were we now not up one TR6, we were down one truck – that’s bad car math.

We waited in the office of the car shop for about an hour and a half and listen to a financial call-in show. It was interesting because the callers would call in and bounce finance questions off the host. It was made more interesting by the fact that half the callers debt problems were because of hospital/health care bills. This was a fairly foreign concept to two Albertans. Before too long we were told that the truck was done and that the damage was contained to the hub… and the disc brake. Both had to be replaced but I was fairly impressed with the cost. I am convinced this would be an 1,300 dollar repair at my local Dodge dealership and at this very clean, very well run shop it came to 700 dollars and change. Even with the exchange it wasn’t a bad deal. The name of the place was Leibrand’s Riverside Automotive Repair if I may drop a plug… I’m not sure I have plug clout yet.

To be continued...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Road Trip Day 2


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It’s a really exciting to wake up in a strange city – even more exciting when you know how you got there. Bryan and I were in Rapid City, South Dakota. I was out of bed at 6 AM. I wanted to get to the truck before the rush into downtown. The truck and trailer were parked illegally across four parking stalls at the top of parking garage down the road.

It was cool to see the morning sun through the window in the shower – hell it was cool to have a window in the shower. The claim to fame of the Alex Johnson is that Nixon slept there once. From the décor I think his stay must have been during the 1960 campaign.

After showering and loading up, Bryan and I headed to Mount Rushmore. We had to stop in you can’t go through South Dakota without checking that out. It felt good to be on the road. I was alert and excited to be in day two and to be this far into the USA. Yesterday was long but we were back on track.

Mount Rushmore sits above a tourist town staged in the fashion of a frontier town would look like. From there you go on a bit of a drive up the mountain to get to the monument.

Rushmore lives up to the hype. It is very powerful to see. The scale seems right – like it looked on Bugs Bunny cartoons and other TV and movie exposure. We saw it at the right time. We were there at about 8 AM and they say that’s the best light for pictures. I would agree –see picture.




We did the tourist thing and then went down to the town and did the buffet breakfast. We even tried the biscuits and gravy – heart stopping.

Back on the road I was feeling wiped – the quick energy of the early morning was now gone (might have been the energy zapping process of digesting biscuits and gravy). I decided to try Bryan’s Red Bull Cola – he bought two the night before and there was still one taunting us from the cup holder. I have to admit I had about an hour of insta-power. I knew there would be a crash but I would get us that much farther down the road and I then let Bryan take the wheel.

I-90 through South Dakota is one of the least interesting roads I’ve travelled. It’s damn straight and to make it even better summer road construction season was in full effect. Every 20KMs we were reduced to one lane and slowed. It made for a long trip.
We noticed by the travel rag Bryan picked up and the roadside billboards that Kevin Costner is a demi-god in South Dakota. They really like him there.




All this day was, was a damn long day of driving. We reached Sioux Falls, SD by 3:30 in the afternoon with only one short gas stop. I wanted this trip to go like today was going– it was boring but uneventful. It was just what the doctor order.
Just before 5:00 PM we pulled into Sioux City, Iowa for dinner. We stopped into a strip mall bar called Cheers and sat with the happy hour crowd and watched what looked like “Little house” or the “Waltons” I’m not sure. Bryan had a burger and I had a pizza burger. I thought a pizza burger would be a beef burger patty with cheese and pizza sauce. Not so, my burger was something fried in a bun?? I’m not sure what it was but it was neither pizza nor burger and not good – not good at all.

I realize this is pretty boring detail. I know it was but I see it as the best day on the road. Lets continue to bask in the detail of this gloriously boring day.
After dinner we drove another 2.5 hours south on I-29. When we reached Omaha, Nebraska we got pulled off the interstate by a misguided GPS that didn’t understand the concept of a ring road. About the time we reached the interstate again and after a flash rainstorm the instruments kicked on an “ABS” light that would not go away. I tried the brakes and they seemed fine but I didn’t feel good about it.


We drove another 2.5 hours and reached the outskirts of Kansas City, Missouri at about 11pm. Unfortunately we could now here a distinct grumble coming from the front end of the truck. We pulled into the first Econo Lodge we saw. Bryan got out and I drove around a bit to see if we could pinpoint the noise. No luck and we chalked it up to being punchy and delusional from being on the road for 15 hours. We were wrong.

We checked into and after a pizza order and some really bad Jimmy Fallon we went to sleep.

Day two down and another 1200KMs on the road. We got to bed at a decent hour and tomorrow we would pick up the car. I was excited - little did I know this was the high point of the trip.

To be continued……

Note: Recently decided to do a nut and bolt restoration instead of a body-off unless I run into a tonne of rust.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Road Trip Day 1

I will never travel this far for a car ever again (repeat).


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There are few things in life worth this much bother. We took my father’s truck as it is a 2003 Dodge Diesel 2500. We married that a tandem axle bobcat trailer. I would have thought the trailer was the weak point of the rig. It has been manhandled a bit throughout its life and doesn’t have a spare tire. I had 2100 dollars worth of service performed on the truck the day before we left. By far the most expensive service, I’ve experienced, performed on a vehicle not covered by an employer.

I also took my close friend Bryan. Even through Bryan has been stranded far from home before (Vancouver 2001 ’89 Le Barren Convertible – Starter issue) on one of my misguided adventures – he was game for this trip.

We left Red Deer, Alberta at 5:30 AM on Wednesday, August 19. We crossed the border into the USA at Sweet Grass crossing, Montana at 11:30 AM. We were eating lunch in Great Falls by 12:30pm. So far, so good.

It wasn’t until about 10 Miles outside of Lewistown, Montana that the trouble began. Apparently when they rebuild a highway in Montana – they don’t mess around. We travelled 10 miles on semi-crushed pit-run which was spread over the old roadway. I don’t completely understand the methodology behind this process.



As we pulled into Lewistown, the end of the bad road, we could hear a noise coming from the rear of the truck. After pulling over and investigating we found the rear driver’s side tire was flat. It was very flat and quite messed up.



It was during the process of removing the lug nuts I noticed the lock lug nut on one of the studs. We pulled the entire truck apart looking for the key to no avail. We then borrowed a pair of vice grips from the highway patrol maintenance shop 50 feet from where we stopped. That didn’t work at all.

At this point there was a friendly local in a pickup at hand. He volunteered to give me a ride to the Chrysler dealership down the road. No relief there as they apparently don’t use wheel locks in the states or maybe just this state. They two guys at the parts desk were the worst type of parts desk guys. They were the type that had resigned to saying no and giving up years ago as an effective coping strategy and now could do so without even a hint of remorse or concern.

I then had the Lewistown Samaritan drive me to the local tire shop in hopes of a mobile tire truck with a key or at least air tools. That’s what I hoped for, what I got was an air tank and instructions to get the truck into their shop. I wasn’t in love with this idea as I was hoping the tire was still repairable but there was little else I could do.

I got a ride back to the truck, helped Bryan gather up the spare and other tools and pumped the air into the wounded wheel. Quickly we made it back to the tire place without issue but the tire was already too far gone. The side wall looked like it was corrugated.

One of the shop guys used an air chisel to remove the locking lug – he was so effective we had him do all of them – there was one on each wheel. We figured there was a good chance we might still have to drop the spare as we were barely 600 KMs into this 5000 KM trip.

With a new 200 US dollar tire and four new lugs we were off again. We had lost 2.5 hours messing around in Lewistown. I hoped that this was to be the challenge of the trip – that it was to be smooth sailing now.

Bryan and I ate dinner at a Subway restaurant in Billings at around 7pm and made it to our hotel in Rapid City South Dakota at around 1:30AM. The last 375 KM between Billings and Rapid City was gruelling but uneventful. Around 20 hours of travel time but we were now in the heart of the USA.

We crashed at the historic Hotel Alex Johnson in Rapid City. I had booked it on Hotwire the night before and then found it had fairly terrible reviews. We found it not too bad – although Bryan and both agreed that our better halves wouldn’t have stayed there.

Day one 1600+ KMs and one flat 21 hours on the road – makes me tired now even as I remember.

To be Continued...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back From Kansas City


Made it back from Kansas City yesterday - going to sleep for a few days. I'll starting chronicling the trip on Sunday. It was something. I am glad to be home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Irregular Post 3 (Horrifying Reality)



And finally. See you on the other side of KC.

Irregular Post 2 (Horrifying Reality)






They only let me post 4 pics per post.

Irregular Post 1 (Horrifying Reality)





I realize no one is reading this yet. Which is good ‘cause I want a head start before I tell to many people about this.

But if you are reading this then prepared to be brought back to earth by the gravity of how out of hand this project is.

I took some pics today of the car in question. To be referred to from this time forward as the “patient”. It’s arguable which is in worse shape: the patient or the parts car. That’s ignoring the fact that the donor 6 runs.

I looked underneath the patient today and the problem areas around the rear suspension and the crucifix don’t seem to be an issue on this car. I tried to take a pic but the SLR refused to snap a picture – I have to figure that thing out.

Anyway, here are the before pictures, enjoy (and yes, this is the same car in the title pic):

PS: I leave for Kansas City Wednesday morning at five AM – this blog is bound to get more interesting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

TR6 Post Number 4

No man can leave for a four day road trip to pick up a car without paying a price. My price is attending two weddings on the same weekend. One Saturday, one Sunday. Right now I’m taking a well deserved break and watching CBS Sunday Morning before I have to go get ready for wedding #2.

On the TR6 front, my close friend Bryan and I are leaving Wednesday morning for Kansas City to pick up the ’74. I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The TR6 is going to Red Deer, Alberta, 125 KM north of Calgary, 520 KM north of the US border, 658 KM north of Great Falls, Montana and ultimately 2757 KM north of Kansas City, Missouri.

I am calling this trip the Wal-Mart tour as we are going to camp in Wal-Mart parking lots. Well that the plan... I might get feedback from Bryan but my goal is to do this to keep the cost down. We’re taking my father’s 2002 Dodge 2500 diesel Quad cab hitched to a bobcat trailer. A little more truck then we need, a little more trailer then we need but makes me feel a little more secure about the trip. It also seems appropriate that the truck that dad logged over 200,0000km in takes us there.
More on this later...