Restoration of a rare Triumph GTR4 Dove
By Paul Richardson
A restoration on any classic car is quite a challenge, but taking on a restoration with no mechanical training requires a special kind of enthusiasm. Gary Scott from Peterborough, England, completed the best example of this. As it turned out, this particular restoration was also extremely important to the classic Triumph movement as a whole, because the car involved, a 1964 Triumph GTR4 Dove, is one of the rarest special-bodied Triumphs ever built.
Gary first learned of the car’s existence in 1985, when he was leader of a local TR club called the Cambfollowers. He decided to take a look at the car, not really knowing what a Dove was. When he arrived to inspect it, he was faced with a rusting hulk, which, painted various shades of brown, resembled something a herd of elephants had left behind. Further investigation revealed that a previous owner had modified the front of the car with twin headlights.
Originally, L. F. Dove produced the Dove by the famous Harrington Company in Sussex. L. F. Dove, a Standard Triumph distributor in Wimbledon, London, specialized in marketing special GT conversions for sports cars.
The main modification for the Triumph TR4 was to replace the standard roof section with a fiberglass GT hardtop which ran from the windscreen to the rear valance, incorporating a rear tail door to access the luggage compartment. The interior trim was also upgraded, and a larger rear seat made driving with a young family possible.
Gary decided to take on the restoration, and it was a real ground-upper. This was a miracle of classic car enthusiasm in itself, because taking a major job on of this type with no mechanical training or experience is one thing, but taking on the full restoration of a special-bodied car that had been cobbled up requires a very stout heart.
“The fact was that once I’d restored the car, I’d not only have a rare car, but I’d also have a car that few people would recognize—and that appealed to me. That was the driving force behind it,” said Gary.
Because his garage was occupied by an MG Midget, Gary began the tear down “al fresco” in his back garden. When it rained, he worked on the inside in corners where the rain wasn’t dripping in, and on fine days he worked on the outside. The floor pans, A and B posts, other supporting structures, and the inner wings were infested with the dreaded metal weevil, so, with no welding experience, Gary wisely decided to have specialists handle the major structural repairs. This was the only work Gary did not do himself. The support structures were so badly rotted away that he decided to leave the inner body structure and roof section “en situ” for fear of total collapse, and took the entire inner body/chassis to the specialists.
This is a wise decision on such restorations, because when rusted sections are disturbed from their original positions, even professionals find it difficult replacing and realigning vital structural supports.
The chassis was in remarkably good condition, needing only minor repairs to rusted sections. Gary had it sandblasted and spray-painted in preparation for final assembly. By the time repairs had been completed to the main body support structures, the chassis was ready for collection. Gary’s working conditions improved as he moved and had the luxury of a double garage for the final assembly. He completely rebuilt the engine to fast road spec. He fitted Hepolite 87 mill pistons with chrome rings, a balanced crankshaft, clutch (TR6) and lightened flywheel, a half-race “piper” camshaft, and stronger valve springs. The cylinder head was ported, skimmed, and gas-flowed, and a four-branch, stainless steel extractor exhaust manifold was fitted together with a 2¼” exhaust pipe with single silencer.
When asked what the most difficult part of the restoration was, Gary replied, “All two and a half years of it, really. It nearly drove me bonkers sometimes because I had a very limited selection of specialized tools. Because of that, and working in a home environment, I was often working on the edge of my ability and tolerance. But it was this thing about having a rare car that few people would recognize that drove me on.”
When the 2138cc engine was finally running, a maximum cylinder pressure of 235 psi was indicated, and all four pots ran within 5 psi of each other. Of all the mechanical work, Gary remembers that rebuilding the differential was the most soul-destroying task. “It was a nightmare,” he said. “I cut my hands to ribbons on the crownwheel teeth, and I must have changed the shims to set the crownwheel and pinion mesh 50 times if I did it once.” Initially, he had to fit a TR6 3.45:1 differential because of availability, but in 1995 he obtained the correct 3.7:1 unit. Gary completely overhauled and updated the suspension, including fitting TR6 calipers and reconditioning the Girling powerstop servo unit.
For the rebuild, Gary had some much-deserved luck when a new member of the Cambfollowers club informed him he was breaking up a scrapped car that looked remarkably like his. He made the inevitable inspection and, miraculously, the car turned out to be another GTR4 Dove. He bought several salvageable parts, including the fiberglass roof section, because of damage to the original and several trim pieces.
Gary painted the body himself in his garage by mounting it on oil drums so that he could reach every nook and cranny without stopping to avoid overspray in runoff areas. “I spent endless hours flattening every panel of the car and removed every single blemish before spraying the final finishing coat,” said Gary. “I sprayed the wings, bonnet, doors, and hard top individually on the garage floor. Not an ideal situation, but I managed. I made some mistakes, of course, but that was just a case of flattening again and finishing the job properly.”
The restoration took two and a half years of painstaking work and was finally finished at 2 a.m. in the morning. The very next day Gary took the car to the TR Register International Show, which was conveniently held at Peterborough that year.
Val Simpson, a member of the Register committee, spotted the Dove and suggested that, as it was so beautifully finished, it should be entered in the concours competition. Gary did not think his car was up to the task, but, ever the competitor, he decided to enter. He won the concours event for non-standard cars on his first attempt. A year later, he won the prize for Best Car at the Peterborough motor club show and was also presented with the Best Car award at the Lakes Weekend event in northern England. The following year, Classic and Sportscar magazine invited Gary to a special Triumph test day. His Dove was one of several pristine Triumphs chosen to take part in a special track test feature for the magazine at the Bruntingthorpe test circuit.
The only problem Gary encountered after his restoration was with the tuning of his 45 DCOE Weber carburetors. He had taken his car to experts on several occasions to have them tuned, which turned out to be a complete waste of time and money. Thoroughly frustrated with the experts, he decided to bury himself in his Haines and Weber manuals and tackle the job himself. After several weeks of trial and error tuning, he finally cracked it by completely re-jetting the Webers. He changed the 32 mill venturies to 36’s, which made a vast improvement as a first step. After road-testing countless times on various jet combinations, he settled on 36 ventury, 50 idle, F16 emulsion, 1.9 air correction, 50 accelerator pump, and 150 mains. I can vouch for the fact that the Dove engine performs beautifully right through the range. Producing about 120 bhp at the rear wheels, the Dove has been timed from 0 to 60 in 6.9 seconds, and the car’s maximum speed is about 130 mph.
Gary is a delightful bloke, he’s full of fun, and one of the most helpful people around to fellow enthusiasts. In fact, he was presented the John Ward Trophy by the Birmingham TR group last October for services to the TR cause. He’s supported the Birmingham group’s annual event for over 14 years, and part and parcel of his support is his keen and often very dry sense of humor. This was exemplified at the photo call. I made arrangements to have the photo call within the grounds of Burghley House, a local stately home. While I was fiddling about with my camera, Gary noticed that the guard box behind his car at the front gates was empty and nipped inside it. I decided not to include the photo because I found out that the local constabulary takes a very dim view of anyone impersonating an officer of the law.
Gary Scott is a staunch supporter of Triumph events and uses his car regularly on the open roads, even for trips to the Le Mans 24-hour race. His Dove is a shining example of just what can be done by untrained hands, with determination, patience, and hard work. In my opinion, Gary’s restoration is a masterpiece, not only for the concours standard he has achieved, but also for restoring one of only six or seven Doves in existence out of the 55 or so that were produced in the ’60s.