A few weeks ago, I accepted an offer to borrow a friend’s TR3 for a Sunday afternoon sports car rally that Al Moss and Leo Pedersen were putting on, as my own TC was temporarily out of commission. The car looked great and promised to be a lot more fun to drive than my family four door sedan.
Since I had the car for the full weekend and the weather was great, I took the opportunity to take a few pre-rally drives to enjoy the scenery and get a good feel for the TR3. Since the TR shares practically the same steering box as the TC, 1 figured the TR and I would be old friends In no time… Boy, was I wrong! While this particular TR3 looked extremely good and was basically a sound. low mileage California car, it was a major disappointment to drive, due to years of cumulative mechanical neglect.
Not only was it difficult to start and keep running properly (probably a sunken float) but virtually every mechanical system was worn out, poorly adjusted or plain not working.The driver’s door wouldn’t shut properly, the hand brake locking mechanism didn’t work and the choke cable required the Strength of Arnold Schwarzenegger to operate. Once underway, the venerable sports car had sloppy and heavy steering. Brakes were only marginally effective and had a strong tendency to lurch the car towards the center of the road whenever they were applied. The entire suspension system was at odds with itself and seemed to be suffering from multitudinous worn-out bushings, worn shocks and a less than terrific set of wire wheels and tires.
As it happens, Al Moss’ highly secretive March Madness rally turned out to be a fairly conventional gimmick rally except that the biggest gimmick of all was that everyone had to run the rally on rented 4 wheel bicycles (quadrupeds?) around the Santa Barbara harbor area. Those that thought the unusually steep $15 entry fee was for an all you can drink and eat Sunday brunch were sorely disappointed, but the rest of us had fun anyway!
To get back to the real point of this article, TR3s can be great cars to drive. I’ve driven others that didn’t look as nice but were a blast to drive, particularly with all that power which we MG fans sometimes find so elusive. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, the British never really made a sports car that wasn’t truly pleasurable to drive when in good mechanical order. The problem is that after 20, 30 or 40 plus years, our cars can suffer due to age, high mileage or poor maintenance.
The good news is that British sports cars are rebuildable. I’m not talking restoration and spending thousands of dollars to convert your pride and joy into something that never leaves the garage, I’m talking about basic repairs that can put the fun back into owning an old sports car. I’m talking about basic repairs that can be done in stages with a modest budget over a period of time. I’m talking about a concept that the English call trickle rebuilding.
The idea is to tackle only one major project at a time, with the goal of getting the car back on the road in the shortest time possible and enjoy the fruits of your work before taking on another project. Having used this concept on a number of my own cars. I can attest to how effective this can be. It is truly amazing how significant these improvements can be.
I am particularly fond of trickle running gear rebuilds as these are typically the most cost effective way to put the most amount of driving pleasure back into a tired old sports car. In a matter of 4-5 weekends, the complete running gear. Including brakes and steering on most of our cars can be completely rebuilt. It’s not always necessary to replace every component that shows the slightest bit of wear. Slightly tired road springs will still be much happier riding on nice new firm bushings and at the end of the day may feel good as new. As each area is dismantled, all parts should of course be cleaned up, carefully inspected and given a quick paint job. Any parts which are not replaced but which are found to be marginal can be added to your “wish list” and be easily replaced at a later date.
Trickle rebuilding gives near instant gratification and the motivation to dive in and tackle the next project. But before you rush into the next major teardown, be sure to get that car out on a glorious spring or summer day and experience the true joys of the open road. After all, isn’t that what it’s really all about?
Chris Nowlan, Product Development Manager