My 1964 Triumph TR 4
Commission # CT 36653 LO)
Beginning in the 1970s, I have owned many old British Sports cars. This collection included two Austin Healy 3000 MKIIIs, a 1965 Series 1, Jaguar Type E Fixed Head Coupe, a Sunbeam Alpine, an Austin Healy Sprite and three TR4s. The TRs were always my favorite cars.
There was a period from 1985 to 1998 when I did not have one of these odd little cars. With the coming of the internet, I thought it might be interesting to search for one that was very special.
I started searching for a car that would be unusual enough to be worthwhile, yet easy to
repair and find parts for. I started searching for a Triumph TR4 with the three main option groups. Surrey Top, Chrome Wire Wheels, and the Electric Over-Drive.
Amazingly, I found such a car for sale in the small Virginia town of Farmville. This was located about 1.5 hours west of Richmond. When I called the fellow who owned it, he gave me the history of the car, as he knew it and it sounded just what I was looking for. I made arrangements to fly down on the Friday before Thanksgiving, 1998 and check it out that weekend.
I arrived on Saturday morning; he threw me the keys and said, "Bring it back in a few hours.” It was a cool crisp fall day with nary a cloud in the sky, so I took it out into the astounding rural and historic Virginia countryside for an extended run.
I actually came upon a "history trail”. The route Confederate General Lee took in his last retreat from Petersburg to Appomattox. That was memorable trip. Cruising in central Virginia in an old TR on the route that the remnants of the Confederate Army followed and stopping to read all the markers made for a memorable afternoon.
The car ran very well, but was repainted sometime in the 1970s into a hideous royal blue that was now faded and chalky. I checked-over the car looking for rust, but there didn't seem to be a lot and everything seemed to work so I made a deal with the owner and told him that I'd be back in a couple of weeks to trailer it back to Western Mass.
As promised, my friend and I showed up with his new F-350 diesel pickup and trailered the TR back in one marathon 20 hour run. Once back, I sorted out what needed to be done.
I intended this car to be a 'daily driver' and did not want to invest much time and treasure in an 'off the frame' restoration. I did want to arrest any rust however, so it went into the body shop under the directions to remove every body panel, strip all paint, look for rust and throw away any rusted components.
They were then to re-prime the metal, paint in the original recipe of Triumph Racing Green (this recipe was found on the internet), replace all chrome and all rubber trim. After disassembly, they did find one rusted fender and one rusted rocker panel--that is all.
As you can see in the finished photos, it looks great and it turns heads all the time. It is one of only a small handful of TR 4s still standing, that had all those three main option groups as factory orginals--and not added by some subsequent owner.
Anyway, the car has a very interesting history. Today it is said you can find anything on the internet. This includes 'build certificates' for old British sports cars.
A build certificate is the original order that was used to spec out the car for the original owner. What options were original when it came off the line, who the original owner was, where it was delivered etc. Just all sorts of arcane info.
Well apparently, this car was a part of a special marketing program that was in effect at that time. You took delivery of your new car in England, drove it around the continent at your leisure and then when you were ready, the factory arranged to ship it back to your port of choice.
The car --a 1964--was delivered to an America owner who took delivery in England in September of 1964. He then drove it around the British Isles and the continent of Europe until January of 1965.
Apparently he shipped it back to New York City and registered there as a 1965 (!)
From then on, the car has been called a 1965, but in actuality, it is a 1964! Strange but true.