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:


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.


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

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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.