By Robert Goldman
There sat a straight, black TR4 with a for sale sign on the windshield. I’d been looking for one, and the presence of this machine at the Moss British Extravaganza was a convenient coincidence. The whole proceeding took on an air of inevitability, when upon speaking with the owner, it turned out he was scheduled to be at Moss the next day for a photoshoot. “My” TR4 had a few mechanical issues, but as previously mentioned, it was straight. Guess what happened.
So I’m driving down the road one day, sun in the sky, big smile on my face, and suddenly it hit me how everything has changed. Twenty years ago, a TR4 was the first car I personally owned, which achieved both running and street legal status. I was over the moon with that car. It came in for its share of modification and abuse too. At various times it was equipped with SUs, Webers and even a Judson supercharger. The 4.1 diff made an overdrive essential. I bought one, installed it, then removed the second gear lock out. After killing two expensive relays, I wired the solenoid straight through a switch mounted on the gearshift.
That car was bad. It had seven forward speeds, and with practice, I could split shift smoothly up and down through the gears. By 1980s standards, it was a noise and commotion car. My buddy had a Toyota MR2. No doubt it was faster, but if I tried hard, I could still imagine the TR4 was equally fast. Therein lies the irony of passing time.
Fast-forward to 2005 and I feel as though I’m driving a stately old doctor’s car. What’s going on? Two things, really: modern cars have moved so far beyond the abilities of our classics it’s not funny. And one other little detail—sitting in my garage is a 120 horsepower supercharged MG Midget. Now there is a noise and commotion car!
At 20, the TR4 was a kid. It acted like a kid and was driven by a kid. At 40, the car is entering middle age and prefers to be driven accordingly. Its owner, following the trend, finds himself inclined to enjoy things that way. The torquey two-liter pulls well at sedate RPMs. Unhurried cruising along the way to work is rewarded by postcard views of the Pacific Ocean.
For many years I had a collection of project cars waiting around for me to do something. In ’05, circumstances conspired to see me once again behind the wheel. In the interim, my life has changed; modern sedans have gained performance the classics can only dream of, and my expectations have evolved. Have I evolved away from enjoying these machines? Not at all, I’m finding them more fun today than in my youth. People honk and wave as they blow by. It’s great. If you’re wondering whether to resurrect your old toy in 2006, trust me, the experience grows sweeter with age.