My very first Little British Car (LBC) experience began shortly after I was married. I rescued a 1967 Triumph TR4A from a dilapidated one-car detached garage in Waukee, IA during the fall of 1977. It was not running and had some minor damage to the left rear wheel and I picked it up for a mere $700. Getting it home required towing it some 30 miles back to Indianola behind my 1969 Grand Prix using a sturdy rope (yeah a nylon rope…it was all I could afford). Rhonda drove the GP and I steered the TR and we managed to get it safely home.
We were living in a two bedroom apartment above a guitar shop on the town square at the time. The only parking space available to us was a block away in a small lot across the street from the police station. That had to suffice as my â€œgarageâ€. I donâ€™t recall precisely what was wrong with the motor but it must have been minor because I began driving it shortly thereafter. The damage to the wheel was a little more problematic; the trailing arm on the independent rear suspension was bent and as a result the car traveled down the road slightly askew. This did not really affect the handling of the car (much) but it did have a significant effect on tire wear and looked a little peculiar. Of course, back then we were running inexpensive bias-ply tires although I eventually did replace the trailing arm.
I got a tremendous amount of enjoyment from driving the little blue beastie and had a lot of memorable experiences with it. I was attending the community college in Ankeny at the time and had a 50 mile round trip to make on a daily basis. On a typical fall morning I would unzip the tonneau cover on the drivers side, pop open the air vent and enjoy the warmed air that was forced through the heater and trapped underneath the cover while I drove through the crisp autumn air to class. On other trips I always had a beautiful co-pilot ready to ride along. And when Rhonda wasn’t available our border collie, Mandy, loved to go for rides with the top down.
The old TR had one major flaw; a stock AM radio and cheesy little speaker. Music was important to me back then but being newlyweds and going to school did not allow for luxuries like an am/fm 8-track player. So I improvised by borrowing Rhondaâ€™s little Sony stereo am/fm radio. We didnâ€™t call them boomboxes back then but it was certainly a precursor. It sat behind the seats and as long as I kept a halfway-fresh set of four C cell batteries it managed to produce credible sound.
Eventually, oil consumption became a problem and I was leaving clouds of blue smoke everywhere I went. Then the clutch finally gave out. By then I had quit college for awhile and we were living in a one bedroom apartment above a dentist office in Osceola. The office was actually a converted home and we had the entire upstairs and the full use of the garage. I spent the better part of the winter and spring removing the engine and rebuilding it. I stripped the motor completely down and went all through it. I always enjoyed working on the motor given its simplicity in design. I still remember being fascinated by the Zenith-Stromberg carburetors which I also overhauled. By late spring it was back on the road again.
We moved to Des Moines that summer and I went back to school up in Ames. Money was scarce in those days and I remember driving it for several months with the starter gone bad. I would always back the TR up to the garage at night so I could roll down the driveway in the morning and pop the clutch to get it started. Coming home usually required snagging an unsuspecting passer-by and soliciting a little push.
Most of my repair parts came from a great fellow who always seemed to have two or three Triumphs at any given time. Bob Madden collected Triumphs and other interesting cars and always seemed to have what I needed buried somewhere in his garage.
I finally sold it in the fall of 1980. It will always remain one of my high points of automobile ownership.