Brit Bits 1

One of the few benefits of being old is that when someone talks about some beautiful piece of old stuff, you can probably remember seeing it for yourself, back in the day.  I noticed that folks commented on the old gun ads in last week’s post — yup, I remember shooting some of those old guns too — and I had a similar reaction to this article about some different old stuff:

A fabulous Triumph TR4 two-seater sports car once owned by Essex Police is set to go under the [auctioneer’s] hammer. Police needed to buy sports cars in the 1960s to keep up with miscreant motorists with powerful motors.

There are pics of said car in the article — and it IS a beauty.  Here are some pics of other Triumph TR4s:



Love the wire wheels.  The other types?  Not so much:


Must say, though, that the TR4’s backside is Full 1960:


But the interior is lovely:


And all that said, I’d take one in a heartbeat, even with the oil leaks and

Back in the 1960s, I was jealous of the TR4’s driver every time I saw one zipping past.  As I recall, most of them were women… and pretty ones at that.


…and if the Internet is to be trusted, they still are.





  1. As a young sailor I just couldn’t make the numbers work for a “big” Triumph so I had fun with a 67 Mark 3 Spitfire. The hood and front fenders opened as one piece on that car in much the same way as an E Type Jaguar. I’ve expressed my feelings on Lucas electrics on several occasions here so I’ll just move on and say that I’m glad that the old Spit was easy to work on.

    A couple of years later I moved up to my bigger and much more powerful sports car – 67 Maxwell Smart Sunbeam Tiger. We gear heads see 1967 as the last good year for American cars. The Tiger had American electrics on the Ford engine and more than enough horsepower, but had problems related to maintenance access and pretty bad handling. So I kept a good first aid kit in the car for my busted knuckles and slowed way down in the corners.

    The best part of my Tiger experience was the cute blonde in the passenger seat. The car was sold many years ago (a big mistake) but the pretty lady is still with me. We celebrated our 43rd anniversary last month so we didn’t make a mistake in that department.

  2. Having had several Brit Sports Cars, I have fond memories and horror stories but the TR4 was a very civilized, roll up windows and such great car. I had a TR3A for a number of years, almost but not as fast as the TR4 but a lot of fun. I car pooled in the 1970’s with a woman who drove a TR4 and the rattles, smells of gasoline and English leather upholstery were great along with the electrical. I just looked up Hemmings and current prices for nice restored TR4s appear to be in the mid $35K, nice drivers for mid teens and project cars for $4 to $5K. Someone is going to end up with a spectacular car when the police restoration sells.

  3. A lovely car. The first car I ever paid my own money for was a Spitfire of the same vintage. British Racing Green it was. The first sports car I ever rode in was a TR-3. Huge long footwell on the passenger side. Kept your legs warm on cool nights. Fond memories.

  4. Never much liked anything Triumph has made (excluding their motorcycles, which are superb). They were slow even in the day, plagued by every issue known to man or beast, and in my eye, not really that pretty. Most all of the me-too Brit designers were all trying to make a cheaper something good– be it an Aston or a Jag or a Ferrari, and most of them failed pretty miserably. The TR4 has nice proportions and decent lines, but the headlights are like a really, really big wart on a supermodel. Ugh.

    Not to say the Brits can’t do it right– most all Jags are at least handsome. I wouldn’t kick any Aston other than the Lagonda out of bed. And Lotus has and always will have a special place in my heart on many levels. But Triump/Healey/etc/etc– crap. They all died because of the frickin’ Mazda Miata, which is pretty far from beautiful, but it worked and looked good enough and was cheap, which in the market the sub-brands were playing in, was all you really needed.

    Nope, compared to, say, a Lotus Elan, the TR4 is the holiday romance you regret for the rest of your days.

    1. The design history on the Miata is interesting. Mazda’s American division told them that a classic British-style sports car would sell, so Mazda bought three Lotus Elans, shipped them to Hiroshima, tested them, disassembled them, figured out what it was that made a British sports car.

      And turned a Japanese design team loose to redo it from the bottom up and fix everything. Which they DID. I had a 1990 Miata, which I retired in 2004 with 243,000 miles. As reliable as a brick.

  5. My blond bombshell step-mother bought a 1963 TR-4 new. White with wire wheels. She traded in her Plymouth Fury with the hemi. She drove it for 2 years before she gave it to me when I graduated High school. My 8 month younger step-sister ( an even hotter version of her mother) got my father’s bright yellow Mercury Marauder. Now that car was fast. Pittsfield to Boston in 90 minutes.

    Anyway the wire wheels were also real spoked wheels that need to be trued ever so often ( 48 spokes ) and also had a single center lock hub. The tool kit included the Brass Mallet used to hit the hubs ears and undo it. No messing around with a torque wrench when tightening them. You hit the ear until it sounded ” right”.

    I didn’t have much trouble with the Prince of Darkness Sir Lucas – you just needed to remember the rules. Don’t let anything get wet….. or too cold …….. or too hot…… and whatever you do never ever let the Electrical Smoke escape from it’s tubing. My mechanic said he was completely out of stock of cans of #2 Lucas Electrical Smoke.

  6. It still breaks my heart, you had a British car industry producing that, e types, s1 Xj, Aston’s, lotus, Rolls and Bentley’s. By the end of the 60s, completely fucked. Thank you, trade unions of Britain.

    1. The British Unions seemed to be peopled by idiots. Even back in WW2, they would cause production problems of aircraft and other war materiel by insisting on following their rules to the inth degree. Really stupid shit, too. Good thing I wasn’t there, I would have been shooting them wholesale for conspiring with the enemy, for all intents and purposes.

      Really good book about Dehaviland Spitfire testing and production titled: “Sigh for a Merlin”, written by their chief test pilot. He mentions a few problems he encountered along the way with those idiots.

      found it:

      1. “The British Unions seemed to be peopled by idiots.”
        You got that right.
        We had almost all English machinery in our factories in the 70’s, hundreds of them, so the manufacturer assigned tech reps to us to teach and assist in installation and maintenance. One of the reps told us the unions were so bad in their plant in the UK, that if a managerial type (anyone in a necktie) came into the shop, the union guys would leave their work stations, running lathes and mills and all, and go stand against the wall with their arms folded until the necktie left the room. The result of all the wage demands and picayune stoppages drained their finances so badly that they could not afford to develop new models and very nearly went out of business when the Germans and Italians came on the scene with better stuff in the 80’s.

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