A Unique Approach to Restoration

John Warfield’s Restored TR3A
Ken Smith

On our travels In the Moss RV, we see many really superb examples of British sports car machinery, where owners have spent thousands of hours, and countless dollars (hopefully with Moss!) on bringing back an old wreck of a Triumph or Austin-Healey or a clapped out MG to original condition.
However, the story I am about to relate is really an example to us all, in terms of courage, determination and sheer stubbornness. July 28, 1983 and John Warfield of Annapolis, Maryland, is happily driving his Triumph Spitfire on a warm summer evening. The road is four lane, narrowing Into two through construction, and John slows down as he enters the two lane portion. The driver of the 18-wheeler, however, doesn’t slow down- he can’t- be cause his vehicle has no brakes and is overloaded by some 16, 000 lbs., plus 30 other faults found afterward. After what, you ask? The truck crosses over and side swipes the Spitfire, and only the sturdy passenger compartment of the little Tri mph saves John from being killed. John swears the car saved his life!

Five long and painful weeks in hospital and three months rehab followed. John even bought a TR6 from his hospital bed as his next car, little knowing that he would never drive a British sports car again as he was a paraplegic from the waist down, and would be confined to a wheelchair. As the Impact of his confinement settled in on John, there were moments of dark despair, which he alleviated by detailing the TR6 over the next four years, to such a degree that it won numerous awards at car shows, shown by a relative.

In June of 1986, having graduated from law school, John heard of a TR3A which might be for sale. An old lady had had it for 10 or 15 years, and John went up to her house to find the saddest looking 1958TR3A anyone had ever seen! Every thing required restoration but John convinced her that it could be done and she told him to take it away…her gift to him!

Over the next four years, John painstakingly rebuilt the Triumph from his wheelchair, assisted by his friend Ron Nader. Obviously there were some things John couldn’t do-but not much. As he says, “If I can reach it, I can work on it,” and “If I can lift it, it’s mine to do”! And do it he did, over 2500 hours of work on the Triumph, resulting in a supreme, original in every detail vehicle, which can be held as an example for all future restorers. Words and even pictures cannot do justice to John’s car, and the long often painful hours spent working from the wheelchair finally paid off at the Triumph National meet in Maryland this year. The car won everything in sight, including Best in Show.

To witness John prepare his TR3 for show was a great privilege, for he has never driven the car, and he never will, unless it is adapted for hand controls, which would destroy the authenticity.
A successful businessman in Annapolis nowadays, John still undertakes detailing work for his fellow Mason Dixon Triumph Club members to an extremely high standard. His story and experiences are an example to us all. And the character he displays should inspire us to do an even better job with our beloved British sports cars, no matter what the odds. A final anecdote, when I interviewed John for his story, I mentioned that it might make some other people get off their butt and restore their classic. John replied with a smile, “You don’t have to get off your butt to do it, look at me!”

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