Puerto Rico Triumph
By Germán Luis Collazo Tirado
The story begins sometime around January of 1971. I was taking my girlfriend back to her house. We were both college kids, young and reckless, and chatting away, when a yellow streak in my peripheral vision caught my attention. That’s when I saw it, the most beautiful car I had ever seen, a light yellow TR4A. Instant infatuation. Later that day, I felt an obligation to take a drive down the same street. I needed to know what I could do to have this car. I talked with the owner, asked him everything I could about the vehicle, and then casually asked, “How much are you selling it for?” “It’s not for sale,” was his answer. I was disheartened, but only momentarily. From then on I made a point to always drive down that same street on the way to pick up my girlfriend. In time I developed a friendship with the owner. Lady Luck took an interest in my plight. One pivotal day, after visiting the car once more, I struck gold. The owner walked and talked differently, something was off. Finally, he said with a sigh, “I’m selling it. I need the money to buy…” That’s all I needed to hear. My mind sprang into action. I asked, “How much?” I was a college student, and a rather new one. I didn’t have that much money to begin with. He was asking for $2,500. I had $2,000 to my name. I told him I would come by later, and decided to think on the best course of action. I called upon a friend for help. I gave him all my money, and told him to come back with the car, no matter how much it cost me. He left, but while he was gone, I began to reflect on my current situation. I was reminded of grade school days, when if you had a crush on someone you would send your friend to talk to them first, rather than do it yourself. A few hours later, I heard a strong rumble at my gate, and a familiar yellow car going up my driveway. My friend stepped out of the car, $200 dollars in hand. From that point on, I became “un fiebru,” someone obsessed with classic cars.
My name is Germán Luis Collazo Tirado, I am 68 years old, and am a resident of the town of San Germán, located on the west side of the island of Puerto Rico. Two years after finishing high school I was drafted into the US Army. I wasn’t exactly ready for it, but I was obligated to go nonetheless, despite not knowing the English language. I took basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, and then infantry training at Fort Ord in California, where I stayed for seven months. I was then transferred to Korea, where I completed my two required service years in 1970. Since buying my TR4A in 1971, we’ve visited almost all 78 towns on the island, and we’ve been driving together for over 500,000 miles. We’ve been together for 45 years now, and I have never regretted owning it. We’ve had a long journey together. We were both present at the first ever auto show on the island, in 1971. It was small, only about 40 cars were on display, and only myself and one other gentleman still own our cars.
In 1976, I married for the first time. The TR4A took my wife and I from the church to the wedding reception, and took us to our honeymoon as well.25 years later, in 2001, my daughter Suellen and her husband Joel, repeated the wedding day ride. One of the major newspapers of the island picked up the story, and dubbed the car “El Triunfo que paseó a dos novias” or, “The Triumph that paraded two brides.”
On the drag strip here, I’ve seen TR4s compete aggressively against eight-cylinder vehicles, and I’ve experimented doing it myself, too. I am known around my town for my car, and whenever I go out for a drive in it, it’s almost a certainty that someone will stop me to ask me about it or take its picture. I am a proud, founding member of the “Puerto Rico British Car Club” created in 1994. We have over 50 members from all over Puerto Rico, and I hope to help it expand. Three times I’ve tried to restore the TR4A, but unfortunately during the first two efforts I didn’t have the time to oversee the process, and each attempt turned out poorly. However, after my retirement, I decided enough was enough. One day in 2012, I woke from sleep determined to restore the car myself.
I promptly woke up my 14-year-old son, also named Germán Luis Collazo. He was sleepy, and had no idea what was going on, but crawled out of bed to work with me anyway. The TR had been a big part if his life, too.
We dismantled the car piece by piece to the last bolt, and I began an extensive campaign to bring the car back to full glory. With the help of a professional, I gave it a full sandblasting treatment, I replaced many parts using the Moss Motors catalog and with tremendous help from salesman Carlos Gonzalez. He is professional in his work, dedicated, and very efficient at what he does. I consider him to be an irreplaceable part of the Moss Motors team. Then, with the help of a friend, I gave the TR a fresh coat of bright yellow paint, both on the interior, a side which might never be seen, and the outside, bringing back its shiny glow.
Four years after I began, I finished, with a final product I could be proud of. Last year on La Feria de Autos Clásicos y Antiguos, one of the most famous TV automotive shows hosted here on the island, the special guest of honor was Daniel Short, a known authority in the field of antique car restoration. He’s better known for his TV program FantomWorks, which he produces and directs on the Velocity channel. I managed to get an interview with him, where I showed him an album of photos of the recent restoration. He asked to see the car. The next day, I walked up to the usual tent where my car was, but was surprised to find a crowd with cameras had gathered around it. Curious, I approached and found Daniel Short examining every inch of the car from top to bottom. As he finished he congratulated my work on the restoration, touting it as one of the best he had seen so far. My heart beamed with joy and pride as he took a picture of me and my TR4A with his phone.
I bought it for its beauty, but I kept it for the potential I saw in it. Its power, durability and staying force, are just some of the many reasons why I fell in love with this car. My great little British car has been my most trusted and loyal friend. I don’t accept any other sound from it—including a radio—that isn’t the overwhelming roar of its engine. It’s an extremely effective therapy for me, helping me cope with personal issues like stress. And every time I sit behind that faithful old steering wheel, touching the familiar wood and leather, and smell the one-of-a-kind scent it exudes, the precious memories of the past 45 years I’ve spent with it all come rushing back to me. “Yo amo” (I love) my old, faithful TR4A, ever since I laid eyes on it. MM