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Back in 2008, this 1965 Triumph TR4A was part of an executor’s auction of 28 classic motorcycles, including Manx Nortons, and four classic cars.
Lot 1 had really taken my fancy: a 1958 Triumph TR3, modified for motorsport.
The more I found out about its competition past, the more I wanted it. Because the auction house was more familiar with fine art and antiques, I felt there might be a bargain to be had.
It seems others thought so, too, and come auction day there was hardly room to stand.
The bidding quickly passed the £2500-4000 estimate, but eventually the stage was reached where it had doubled its upper guide and there was only one other bidder.
I turned to a friend to say, “I’m having that TR3 come hell or high water,” but at that moment the auctioneer’s gavel banged and it was sold. It wasn’t my bid – it was the other guy’s…
I was more than disappointed. But instead of withdrawing, wallet intact, lunacy took over and I found myself bidding on the following lot, a TR4A with just over 84,000 miles on the clock. I got it for £3800.
I’d always liked the Michelotti styling of the TR4A, with the chrome side strakes incorporating the sidelights to distinguish it from the earlier TR4.
In many respects it’s the ideal 1960s sports car: decent performance (110mph if you’ve no mechanical sympathy) and a rugged 104bhp, 2138cc ohv four-cylinder engine, originally produced by Standard.
Built on 27 April 1965, mine is an early TR4A (there’s no brake servo, for example) originally sold by Normand Motors of Hammersmith.
I don’t know who the first owner was, but the green continuation logbook issued by Cornwall County Council shows four keepers in the Truro area.
In the late 1970s, its then owner embarked on some bodywork repairs
Approaches to restoration then differ from now, as evidenced by the red Hammerite in the engine bay. Practical if not pretty, it has never bothered me.
In around 1980 the TR was bought by a man from Northern Ireland whose journey home included using British Rail’s Motorail service (a complimentary keyring along with a miniature Watneys Red Barrel is a distinctive ‘period’ accessory).
After a while the Triumph was sold on, spending the following 27 years in a shed until its owner’s passing in 2008.
My first 24 months with the car involved some repairs to the chassis by Terence Stitt Restorations in Whitehead, Co Antrim; the fitting of a high-ratio steering rack (the original literally disintegrated); and installation of a replacement rear window for the Surrey top (a pricey item and an awkward job).
A full engine rebuild was also necessary, completed by Leslie Girvan Restorations in Newry, Co Down.
A vibration between 2500 and 2800rpm was cured thanks to anew diff, and an uprated radiator sorted an overheating issue.
I believe in keeping my classics standard if everything functions satisfactorily, but with the TR4A I’ve gone against type and had electronic ignition and uprated rear dampers fitted.
The former has reduced the engine’s lumpiness while the latter has transformed the ride and handling, with the rear now feeling less soft and saloon-like, but still comfortable and more consistent with the front.
From it being a rather random purchase in need of a fair amount of work, the qualities of this TR4A – the ability to cruise at 65-70mph in overdrive top, good economy, comfort and light, accurate steering – have won me over.
After nearly 30 years in sheds, it’s now in regular year-round use.
The 14,000 miles I’ve put on it include trips to the TR International in Malvern, the Goodwood Revival and journeys across the length of England, Ireland and The Netherlands.
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