Triumph at Nationals

By Dave Northrup

This Triumph is a pretty special car in a lot of ways. It hasn’t been stock since shortly after it was purchased by Charles Neild back on March 27, 1963 in Greenville, South Carolina. He had paid $2,137.25 including $62.50 tax after receiving $1,216.50 for his trade-ins: a 1956 VW and a 1960 Renault.

Charles owned an auto parts store, and any upgrade he could find went on that car. Mild cam, lightened flywheel, electric fan (removed mechanical fan), polished and ported head, etc. There are some odd holes in the dashboard which we believe was rally equipment. 

He sold it to Ronald Unger for $400 on April 30th, 1982. Ron drove it back and forth to college in Florida, and sometime in the 1980s repainted it a 1983 GM red. Eventually he parked the car in his wife’s warehouse in South Texas where it sat for 28 years until I bought the car in 2011, trailering it up from there to Dallas. We knew it didn’t run. The convertible top windows were all yellowed and the ad did not mention that it had overdrive! It needed a bottom end engine rebuild, all the hydraulics redone, and a new top. I have yet to do any work on the top end. Keeping in the spirit of the car, we put 89 mm pistons in it, added wire wheels and lower profile, wider, sticky tires. Or should I say tyres?

It’s the perfect car to take to VTR Nationals to compete in Funkhana and autocross. This would be the second major Triumph event for this car; the first being a regional event, also in Oklahoma (Norman) a few years ago. There we took first in Funkhana and I took 3rd in autocross. This year my son and I would campaign the car together in Funkhana while he would compete in autocross. Although Edmund is not that far from Dallas, we decided to trailer it.  We were planning on driving it hard, and a trailer would come in handy if we broke it.

Starting weeks before the event, I was determined to make our Triumph shine! I cleaned everything: the engine compartment, the passenger compartment, and of course waxed the exterior and polished the chrome. The car looked pretty good even though the paint job was over 30 years old and the car had sat for most of them. 

Wednesday late afternoon we finally left – we were on the road! That evening we pulled into the Hilton Garden Inn in Edmond. After unloading the car, we decided to Lyft over to the Bricktown Brewery to celebrate our arrival. Spicy chicken wings washed down with some excellent adult beverages. Yum!

Carlton driving the Triumph
Carlton at the helm

Thursday morning arrived clear and warm, the perfect time to have breakfast at an iconic Route 66 roadside attraction – Pops! After breakfast and a photo op, it was time to enjoy the car, the weather, and some driving events. Off we went on the rally, took some side roads, met a friend for lunch, then it was off to the Funkhana. 

The key to Funkhana is to study the course, check out the options, watch others do it, then drive like it like you stole it. And we did. And got second!

Autocross Triumph
Ready for Autocross!
Autocross Triumph

Then it was time for the “Bourbon Run”, not an officially sanctioned event. Steve and Cherri joined us for this. Everywhere I go, I’m always looking for distilleries, specifically ones that make craft Bourbon. Located in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Mack and Ike’s was inspired by an Oklahoma legend of the prohibition era, Moses Weinberger. Moses opened the first legal drinking establishment here in Guthrie and proudly advertised his liquor license on the window. Eventually, Moses opened The Same Old Moses Distillery along with bartenders Mack and Ike. We enjoyed fantastic whiskey sours, purchased some bottles of bourbon, and were on our way back to Edmond for the dinner run.

Located on Lake Hefner, the Hefner Grill specializes in seafood, like the really wonderful calamari and pecan crusted trout we enjoyed for dinner. Fantastic food although the service was slow. After a great dinner, we headed back to the hotel to crack open that bottle of Same Old Moses Bourbon. A little cocktail, a little sleep, and we were ready for the second day of competition – Autocross!

There is definitely some confusion about the rules. I really think part of tech inspection should be ensuring that people are in the right class. I saw a TR4A out of Houston in the tock class that was bumped to modified a number of years ago. Another driver in a rusty TR4 insisted that wheels and tires did not matter. In fact, they do, if you read the rules.  If the wheels/tires are not the same width and size of the original car, you are in modified. That’s the rule. Period. 

No issues with us – we are in modified, we know it, and we don’t try to cheat. Carlton is an excellent driver, even fighting an issue with the carburetors, he won his class.  Never made FTOD, but the Spitfires ran first, and they are usually the fastest. So, I call that a good day.

We were pleased that we didn’t break the car this year. Our favorite phrase is, “we drive it, we break it, we fix it.” This year we didn’t break the car, but we did break the trailer.  There are now some serious holes in the wood decking.

Heading home that afternoon, we wanted to get south of OKC before stopping for lunch.  There is not much south of OKC until you get to Purcell. Looking for a hole in the wall, local kind of restaurant, we happened on the Rusty Knot – great little place. We split a buffalo chicken sandwich and sweet potato waffle fries. And, of all things, just as we were finishing lunch, we were interrupted by an elderly gentleman who wanted to talk old British sports cars. Turned out he had a warehouse full of them! 

We followed him to the warehouse where he showed us an MGA (disassembled) that now sports a round, Shelby-esque nose; a Triumph TR4, somewhat together, overdrive, complete with the Surrey rear window and metal top; a Triumph TR3A, painted a 90’s Japanese import metal flake green, together but in need of floor pans, definitely tires and general resuscitation; as well as two mini coopers: one completely apart, in primer, and another one together but sporting some rust. Along with these, I found a large (as in would need a trailer) compressor, lots of tool boxes, probably empty, and some other things. I guess these could be called barn finds with an owner who is really not interested in parting with them.

He was adamant about not selling the Triumph TR4. There was no way we wanted that MGA, and we’d never really done Mini Coopers.  But we did make him an offer for the TR3A.  We came up short but we’re hoping to wear him down over time. Sometimes, these surprise side trips are as much fun as the planned events!

And yes, we made it home that night, unloaded the car, the bourbon, and our luggage, but not in that order.

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