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America’s BEST Triumph Shop
SAD RESTORATION STORY
A Sad Restoration Story
The title of this story can be interpreted two different ways. It's either a sad story about a restoration, or it's a story about a sad restoration. The actuality
is that it's both, and unfortunately it's a story we hear and see all too often regarding TR's that were "restored" somewhere other than here at Macy's
Imagine how fortunate you would have been if your Father had purchased a
new TR3A in 1959, and took your mother and you to England to pick up the
car at the Standard-Triumph factory. Then, following the trans-Atlantic flight
and all of the excitement of receiving the new family sports car at the factory,
you toured Europe in your Triumph for 3 weeks before flying home to await
the arrival of that special little car. As great as that experience was, imagine
how lucky you felt when this same TR was presented to you a few years
later as a gift following your high school graduation. You drove that car all
through college and well into your new adult life, until the day it had become
so used up that it entered a long slumber and slowly started to rot. You
promised yourself that some day you were going to fix it up and drive it
again, but then the years passed by so fast.
Now one day you realize that it's time to bring your TR3 back to life, and you
start looking for someone to restore it. Imagine again how lucky you would feel to walk into a business that restores old cars, and find that it is owned by
a transplanted Englishman! Who better to restore your precious little British car than someone who was born and raised in England? You must certainly
be feeling like you and your TR3 were both born under a lucky star. And this is the point where the wheels came off of the apple cart.
The shop owner was better at telling tales about things he used to do back in England that in actually doing quality work here in the USA, and his
knowledge of TR's was superficial at best. The restoration drug on for multiple years, and ended up costing more than $75,000. At that time it wasn't an
unreasonable amount to spend on a quality restoration of a car needing everything, but it's about 3 times as much as it should have been for the hack-
job that was received. The photos below will show just a small sampling of the technical errors and poor workmanship we discovered once the car was
brought to our shop. The problems noted here aren’t all-inclusive (there are plenty more), but this is enough to give you the general idea. Unfortunately,
there's no shortage of low quality work like this that folks have paid to have inflicted on their precious TR’s. Don’t become the next victim of some
incompetent who can tell a good story!
This car would barely run when the "restoration" was finished, and so it sat unused for a couple more years. Eventually the owner found Macy's Garage,
and saved up enough money to have us make the repairs necessary to make the car run reliably. It still isn't pretty, but it's finally able to be used as
dependable transportation once again. And the best part is that the smile has now been restored to the owner's face!
Grill badges proudly display all of the European countries that were visited
when the car was new in 1959.
Sidecurtains were "rebuilt" with one solid window that cannot be opened.
They keep the rain out, as well as any fresh air! Also note that the
windshield frame and posts were not re-chromed.
Another view of the neglected chrome plating. The car also retains it's
original seats. While it's nice that the original seats could still be used, both
fresh chrome and new seats could have been included considering the
overall cost of the restoration.
More interior snafus. There's way too much padding on the door panels,
which causes the screws to pull in too deeply. The screws used are also
one size too large, and have Phillips heads instead of the original slotted
style. Also note the red painted sidecurtain brackets. If you are going to
take the time to paint something, why not use the original color paint?
I know it’s hard to see the fine details in this small photo, but both the
chrome bezels around the gauges and the spring for the adjustable steering
wheel are heavily rusted. The heater fan knob is also dirty and crusty. All
are things you should never see in a quality restoration, and again these
are things which should have been addressed considering the total cost of
The cowl vent lid would not stay open, which compounded the problem of
the non-opening sidecurtain windows. The owner could not get any
FRESH air inside the car! The door link at the top had been fabricated at
"The Limey's" shop, and the lower link is a correct length original that we
installed from our extensive used parts inventory. The vent lid stays open
We show this photo to point out the extremely wide door gap at the front of
the door, and the very tight gap at the rear. All of the panel gaps
throughout this car are atrocious! We work extremely hard here to assure
that all of the body gaps on our restorations are even and precise. The
dent in the door is an "oil can" that wasn't shrunk and removed prior to
paint, and it will pop in and out until the paint is stripped, the metal is
worked, and then the door is repainted.
A big part of the reason that the car didn't run well was because the
camshaft of the "rebuilt" engine was installed one tooth off. We had our
suspicions that this was the case when we revved-up the engine with air
cleaners off, and a mist of gasoline could be felt blowing back out of the
carburetors. Pulling down the front of the engine and performing a mini
cam degree process confirmed our hunch and repaired the problem. It still
has a couple of cylinders pumping oil, but now it will at least keep up with
Another contributor to the poor running, especially on hot days, was the
absence of the carburetor heat insulators. Both carburetors were bolted
directly to the intake manifold with a single thin gasket. Needless to say, it
was very difficult to get the car restarted after the hot engine had been shut
down for 10-15 minutes.
While the front apron was off to repair the mis-timed camshaft, we found
that the screws for the bonnet popper supports were left off. It's no wonder
that the bonnet popper was bent under the aluminum tie bar and the bonnet
prop rod was difficult to keep seated in it's slot.
This is the fuel line, just ahead of the left rear wheel. First, this is missing a
rubber grommet to keep from wearing a hole in the line by metal to metal
contact with the frame. The second issue is that it passes through the
wrong hole and will prevent the front spring pivot bolt from being withdrawn
if the rear spring ever requires removal.
Another problem with the main fuel line is that it is supposed to pass under
the body mount tube, and you can see the small hole in the bottom of the
tube which is supposed to hold a clip. Without the clip and being located
above the tube, the fuel line and union rattle continuously against the
bottom of the floor.
More plumbing problems, this time it's the rear brake lines which are routed
under the rear leaf springs. These lines are supposed to turn up
immediately to get them up where they are less likely to be snagged and
ripped away by anything which might be driven over. This could make a
bad situation much worse if running over road debris causes you to lose the
And yet more plumbing issues. This is the brake line which runs from the
front of the car to the rear axle. There are several comments I could make
about this, but the single point I'd like to make here is that if a
"professional" restoration shop coils up a line because they are incapable
of cutting one that's too long and re-flaring it, then they aren't really capable
of performing a complete restoration on any car. It doesn't get much more
amateur than this!
Sometime after you have stripped and painted the bottom of the car is not
the time to discover that you should have welded some extra holes shut.
They left quite a mess here which has started to rust the floors again. The
saddest part of this is that two of the four holes are supposed to be there
with rubber plugs in them, and the other two could have been "repaired"
with rubber plugs as well. Also note that the brake line has been run
through the spring pivot bolt hole just like the fuel line on the other side. At
least they used a rubber grommet this time!
The clutch didn't feel right, and here's the bulk of the problem. The clutch
slave cylinder has been installed on the wrong side of the bracket in such a
manner that to change it required the clutch hydraulic system to be drained
We had plenty of vibrations and clunking noises from under the car, and we
traced most of it to a loose driveshaft yoke on the rear of the gearbox. The
large castellated nut did have a cotter pin installed half way in, but it was 2+
turns away from being tight. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy!
Here's the rest of the clunk noises and vibrations. A correct 3/8" driveshaft
bolt with a shoulder is shown on the left, and the incorrect and much
smaller 5/16" fully threaded bolt(s) which were installed front and rear are
shown on the right. We all just stand there and shake our heads in disbelief
when we see things like this.
All of the guys got a big chuckle over this one. The pigtails for both front
parking lights were made from solid strand building wire like that which
would be run through metal conduit!
Here's some more of the solid building wire behind the instrument panel.
We had to pull the center instrument panel to repair many other wiring
problems as well.
One week after I first posted this story, I received the following e-mail from the owner. It warmed my heart, and so I want to share it with all of you who
visit here. This is why we all work so hard on these wonderful little cars. Lord knows it isn't for the money!
“Until this summer I not only thought about every time I wanted to drive the TR...I worried about it. I knew that even if I could get it started it probably
wouldn't run long enough to get me home. Besides all the horrendous things that happened it was just NOT reliable. Which I hated because when it was
new; it was. Granted I haven't driven it as much as I could have before I started this job. BUT I know that if I get it in it now my baby will start, run
wonderfully, stop without chugging, AND start back up again at the end of the day!!”