By Abram Perry
I put my job on hiatus, packed a bit of camping gear into the boot, and set off down the back roads. It took several months to explore the southwest, hiking the National Parks and BLM land, a wonderful region filled with red rock, canyons, and abundant public lands. Reaching California, the TR6 made its way to the far southern end of the US coast. Seeing the expanse of blue water at the edge of the continent was intriguing, especially for a mid-west country boy. From there I set out to cruise the coastal highway northward. In a classic British sports car, the journey and the destination are inseparable.
Sunny skies greeted me in San Diego, tall palm trees dotted the coast. The cars came to a shifting stand-still in the hot noon-time sun as I came upon the notorious Los Angeles. traffic. Unnerved from the heat, I flipped on the electric fan override switch, keeping the TR cool. I sat back and waited as the traffic crept along. North of the city, I met up with a space scientist friend who also has a fondness for classic roadsters. “You can drive my XKE, if I can drive your TR6.” How could I say no? We set out into the mountains just north of LA. The series I XKE commanded the road as it powered up the mountains and around the winding curves. A racing and driving icon for good reason. Still, I was happy to climb back into my TR6 loaded with camping gear with the open road ahead.
Before undertaking the next segment up the coast, a good inspection and tune up was in order. While under the car, I found the trunnions had some play in them. I ordered a set from Moss and made sure they were well lubricated. I also decided to upgrade my ignition system with a vacuum advance conversion. After rebuilding and tuning a set of carbs, the TR6 now had proper ported vacuum for the advance conversion. The distributor was re-curved for modern fuel by Rob of the British Vacuum Unit Company, resulting in more power, better economy, and greater efficiency on hot days. I have since been able to get mileage into the 30s while in overdrive.
I transitioned from my ultralight hiking tarp, back into a tent. How luxurious! I had gathered a few tools and some additional camping gear, and as you can imagine, the TR6 was growing full, even with a rack on the boot lid. On top of all that, a friend, knowing of my past canoeing expeditions, came to pass along their canoe to me, knowing I would care for it and put miles on it. Prior to finding the TR6, my last series of canoe expeditions lasted about three years. In my opinion, there are not enough people who know the wonder and joy of life on the river.
So, a challenge arose: a drop-top roadster and a canoe. Hmmm, how could this be done? I kept an eye out for a hardtop that might hold a rack, but none could be found. What about a little cargo trailer? Camping gear could be packed in it, the canoe racked on top, and the TR6 would be back to having ample space! With a goal in mind, I approached it like any art project—focused thought and taking one step at a time.
Which came first, the trailer or the hitch? In my case, it was the trailer. I managed to locate a classic little cargo trailer and it appeared that it’d fit wonderfully behind the TR. This one needed some work, but with a little imagination, it was soon transformed into an Expedition Module. Now the hitch was a bit of a hitch, as I soon found. There are none made for the TR6, and after more research, I found only a handful of photos and information on those that had been custom built. After coming to the conclusion that I was going to have to build one from scratch, I set off to the local metal supplier.
Driving along I spotted a beautifully restored TR3 parked outside of a small auto shop. Curious, I turned around, stopped in to say hello, and to see if they could point me in the right direction for welding up a trailer hitch. Seeing the touring TR6, they treated me like one of the family. The shop owner’s son just happened to be one of the best welders in the area. I was in luck. I went out to see what he could do and a couple hours later the TR6 was reinforced and equipped with a beautifully stout receiver hitch.
With the TR6 and Expedition Module packed, it was time to continue up the northern California coast and into Oregon and visit with friends and family in the area. The TR’s tractor engine proved a capable pulling machine, towing the trailer quite nicely, even over mountain passes. Exploring the beautiful coastal headlands and roving the old-growth redwoods was amazing to behold. How sad only 2% of the ancient trees remain; the rest we have cut down.
I pushed farther north, expanding to the coast of Washington and made it up to the Olympic Peninsula. I camped on the beach and was treated to a beautiful sunset and the sound of waves throughout the night. The next day, I headed out towards Neah Bay. This small historic fishing community is known as the farthest northwest one can go in the continental US. It’s a charming maritime region rich with history, forests, and coastline bordering Canada.
I called up my Dad excited to tell him I completed my tour of the coastal highway. He drives a TR3 and we had talked for years about a road trip together in it. He finally managed to get some time off. “This is the year, let’s go for it!” he said, “head this way and let’s see how far north we can get!” So, with the expedition module back in tow, I pointed east toward my Dad’s place. It was a fine 2,300-mile cruise.
After a few months back in the Midwest, I transferred my backpack from one TR into the other. My Dad and I packed some tools, a few key parts, an extra spare tire, and a road atlas. Most of the trip we were planning appeared straight forward, but then we would reach a point in the remote northern wilderness where there are tales of sudden frost heaves in the roads, and beyond that, hundreds of miles of rugged gravel where most only venture with heavy-duty 4x4s. My Dad and I, and his nearly 60-year-old TR3 are bound for the Arctic Circle.