Now first, let me say that my wife and my kids, and now grandkids, are the most important part of my life—but they have never known Grandpa or Dad or her husband without at least one TR3. Over the years I have had eight to ten TR3s. At the peak, five at one time. It’s been a life-long journey.
I also have a big space in my heart for scuba diving. Over the past 29 years I dove all over the world and loved every minute under water. But the one place that took hold of me and will never let go is Fiji. It is such a wondrous place. The people and the waters are equally warm. I can’t possibly explain the beauty that island supports. I have made friends there and, even at 70 years old, I would return there at the drop of a hat, strap on gear and flop over the side of a boat.
In 2000, I was staying at the Trade Winds resort near Suva. As was my routine, I walked first thing in the morning along the Queens road in Lami Town and I spied down a sidestreet a red TR3. Right-hand drive with a lame set of top bows, but otherwise in fair shape. It was parked on the street in front of an auto shop, but I think it was Sunday as the shop was closed. No camera and no one around to ask. Then and there I made a vow to find out more at another time.
12 years pass and I am again in Fiji and that little red car is still in my mind. I walked the same path to the same shop, but of course, no little red TR3. I was sure that I had found the right spot, so I inquired in the auto shop if they might know of the car or the owner.
As I told a young man the story of 12 years earlier, out of the corner of my eye I spied a car under a tarp at the side of the garage. I whooped, “There it is!”
A red 1959 with the same lame set of top bows. They must have thought I was a looney American. The young man explained that the car belonged to his father, Tevita.
It had not run in years, but they hoped to get it back on the road soon. Sound familiar?
He called his father and handed me the phone. Tevita said he had the only TR3 in Fiji and he needed a front brake caliper to get the car back on the road. I told him I was in the middle of restoring my TR3 and I would help him if I could. I spent about an hour going over the car, took some pictures and said my goodbyes.
I returned to the U.S. and started an e-mail conversation with Tevita, or rather his daughter. I told him I would help him get the car back on the road. In May that same year, I showed my car in the United British Sports Car Club’s show and swap meet in Dixon, California. I was able to find a set of calipers for about 20 bucks each. I ordered a rebuild kit from Moss and a catalog, packed them all up and sent them to Fiji. The shipping cost more than the parts.
Well, since that time I have not heard from Tavita. So my little story ends on a sad note. It cost me some money, but it was fun to do. I don’t know if he ever got the car running or if he even thinks about that crazy American that sent him parts across the Pacific. I know that Moss will ship internationally, so I hope he ordered everything else he needed from them. Right now I just hope that they get it back on the road and enjoy driving it.
So next time you are in Fiji, stop in at Dee Ace Motors, #2 Lami Street, Lami Town, right outside Suva and if you have a good set of top bows, drop them off. And ask about the big guy from California who found the only TR3 in Fiji. Maybe they’ll remember me.
By Dennis Bright