Mark’s Car II

by Kurt Matter

This is the second half of Kurt and Joannie Matter’s story. If you missed the previous issue, you can find this story in its entirety at MossMotoring.com/marks-car.

We went out for a drive, top down, sun shining, and the TR3 was running great. Cruising along the shores of Lake Roosevelt not two miles from home. With the sky open above us, I saw an eagle flying. My wife Joanie says to me, “Deer!” I do not immediately respond as I am still admiring this eagle, and I think she is just trying to get my attention. Then she yells “DEER!” again, much more insistently. I bring my eyes to the road surface and see a large deer standing directly in our path. We are going 55 mph, and there is no way to miss it. In my head I am remembering how we have taught our kids to not swerve, as most deer vs. car fatalities are from running off the road or into another vehicle. I quickly made the judgment call, no time to stop, I braked as much as I could, I aimed straight, and hit the deer square on. The deer flew in the air, cleared the windshield, and landed behind us. I have always felt lucky that if I had swerved or been able to brake hard, one of us would not be here. The deer would have smashed on one side or the other, through the windshield, into us. We limped the car off the road at the next wide spot. The head lights were looking at each other, the whole front was toast, and the radiator cap was in-between the SU carbs.

And then we began our trials with the insurance company. After we made the initial claim, Joanie received the call from an agent stating that due to extensive damage they were ‘totaling’ the car. They would send a truck and give us a check for the total value, even though we had paid extra for full repair. It took several conversations for them to understand that this car had a legacy, and we would never give it up. Eventually they agreed to pay for all the parts, but it would be up to me to put the TR3 back together. I think my order to Moss Motors was around five to six thousand dollars. I still had to find a nose and make other repairs on my own. Several more years slipped away as I searched for parts and began repairs on the engine once again. In 1999 we moved to Sequim, Washington. The triumph moved as a pickup bed full of parts, engine and transmission, new parts in boxes, and trailering the rest.
By 2001 I got her back together, painted and running well. We enjoyed taking her out and talking to people, we even joined the local classic car club. We participated in a few Seattle area Triumph rallies including a trip around Mt. St Helens and to the Columbia River. Around this time, I had back surgery and though my back was much better, I found that driving the TR3 took a toll.

Our daughter, Amy, living in Pennsylvania, had in a house with a garage. So in 2004, we decided it was time for another, younger generation to love this car. One last trip was in order for Joanie and me. We drove the TR3 all the way across the US, all on back roads, with the top down the whole way. We affixed a sign to the trunk—PHILLY OR BUST—enjoyed 14 days on the road, and literally had zero mechanical problems! At the end of the trip, we gave the car to our daughter and so the TR3 began a new life on the back roads of Bucks County.

I remember an uncle asked how much we sold it for. He was surprised when I told him we gave it away. He asked what it was worth. I said, “Nothing. She can’t sell it; she can only pass it on to a family member.”

Several years later Amy and her husband, Tim, were transferred to Denver. They struggled to find a moving company that would move their classic car. We volunteered, saying, if she could not find someone to move it, we would drive the car to Denver. But our help was not needed. We still laugh about the day she called to tell us she had “Fed-Exed” it.

The TR3 lived a good life in Denver, too. There they had a two-car garage and a good local British Car shop. There were some funny conversations as the mechanics wanted to know why a 20-something woman had a man’s midlife crisis car. My daughter explained the life history of the TR3 and they took wonderful care of it.

Amy and Tim then moved to a one-car-garage-house that was located right next door to our other daughter, Lisa and Lisa’s wife, Betty. Four grandkids, two in each house, soon followed.

The grandkids Mark, Lilly, Josie, and Lucas, have all played the ‘drive-drive-drive’ game standing on the seat and turning the steering wheel. Yes, it did break the stator tube. And, yes, it was fixed. Hopefully, future great grands will play the same game.

In 2006 we left Sequim and moved back to our original house near the orchard in Kettle Falls. The Triumph has made the trip between Denver and Kettle Falls three times since then. The first trip was in the late October of 2011 when Amy no longer had room in the garage to keep the car. I drove it north by myself over two long days, encountering arctic winds and falling sleet in several places. I parked her back in the shop where the first and second restoration took place, and one shelf was still labeled “Triumph parts.”

In 2013 Joanie and I drove the Triumph to Denver to help out with the grandkids, taking back roads through Yellowstone and the Flaming Gorge. That trip was not without mechanical problems, however. We lost the generator bracket and spent several hours on the side of the road or in parking lots McGyvering a fix. We arrived in Denver with a 2 X 4 wedged in the engine compartment.

For our 46th wedding anniversary Joanie and I drove the TR3 back to the site of our wedding reception. Some of the family were there to help us reenact the photos of us leaving for our honeymoon. Hopefully, this year we will do it again for our 50th.

So, “Mark’s Car”, our family’s beloved TR3, resides in Kettle Falls. She comes out for sunny day drives often. And always gets driven when the Denver families come to visit. With a grandson named Mark, the next generation to love this car is already in line. The Fall season is approaching and with it the memory of Mark’s death in Vietnam on October 1. On that day I’ll be going for a long drive. MM


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