30 Oct 2017 – My step father had a TR3A when he and my mom started dating when I was about 3 years old. More on those early years later.
I got my first TR3A (well, it was almost a car), in 1975 when I was in 10th grade. Parts were as hard to come by as reliable information about the car. I learned not to throw anything that might be useful away.
Fast forward to 1992, when it was time to move from Nebraska to Texas. I was in my garage, looking at a lot of TR parts, many of which belonged in the metal recycle pile. But you never know when the block that had thrown a rod or the frame someone had cut up to make a racecar might be useful. Not throwing them away would mean loading (lifting) all those heavy parts onto a U-Haul truck. Then the idea hit me, assemble them into a rolling frame and simply roll it on. Well, if I am going to put bad parts together, why not cut them open and see what is happening on the inside? So began the project.
It was shown at its first VTR nationals in Ft. Worth, Texas around 2006. I was unloading it from the trailer when two guys walked right past it. One said, “I don’t know why he brought that car, it isn’t anywhere near finished.” I thought it was. I had cut a lot open, and even soldered an LED across the electrodes of the spark plug and set it up to light up when the spark plug would fire. It didn’t get a lot of viewers.
The VTR Nationals were back in the Dallas area several years later, and I drug it out again. It was relegated to a dark corner of a parking garage for the first few days, then was allowed at the edge of the concourse area on the last day. All of the sudden, it was a major hit! Maybe my work hadn’t been in vein after all.
When the VTR Nationals were again in the Dallas area, I was able to haul it to the show for a day or two. It was very well received. It was also rained on. Once again, the chassis was taken apart, cleaned, and painted like any other restoration. Actually, not other restorations – most people expect to drive their cars when the project is finished. I will always have to push or tow mine. I seem to have really low compression. Perhaps the big chunk cut out of the engine block and cylinder head have something to do with it.
I’ll explain this picture in a future installment, but here is a teaser. To get the two sections of the frame to match up well enough to weld to the front section, I drove two cars onto different sections of the back section to try to bend the bent frame back into shape. It only worked marginally well.
31 Oct 17 – The original frame used on the project came from a collection of parts I acquired around 1987. Someone had attempted to make a racecar out of a 1957 TR3. They had cut out the center cruciform, added engine mounts that were lower and further back than normal, and cut off most frame to body mounting points. Later, more of the frame was removed to make a TR trailer. I used a metal bed frame and some pieces of 2 X 4 lumber to rejoin the front and rear sections make it look at least somewhat like a TR3 frame. I used that rig for about 25 years. Before the VTR Nationals in 2016, I made an effort to acquire a better frame. Shortly after my search started, I was asked to strip a TR3, something I had done for a few people during the previous couple of years. This particular frame was bent – so bent that when laid on the ground, one front corner rose about 2 inches higher than the other. I now had a frame with all its parts. However, I wanted it clean and painted, and the front suspension towers are a bear to clean well by hand (my price range). So I cut my old frame behind the front suspension, and cut the new frame in the same place. I then put the “low” corners of the new frame on 2 X 6 lumber, made ramps from other lumber leading to the high corners, and drove the two family cars onto the high areas in an attempt to bent the frame closer to normal. After adding a few cuts to the frame, among other efforts, the frame was close enough to (roughly) mate up to the old frame section. The sections were welded together, covered with thin sheet metal and bondo, and painted. I wouldn’t want to drive it on the street (although I’ve seen a few road-going frames that looked worse), but it works for the display chassis.
Later, lots of pretty, cleaned, painted parts were put back onto the chassis in preparation for Nationals.
There was one problem. OK, there were more than one, but the chassis was in my work area about a mile from home, and I no longer had a tow vehicle or trailer. That meant pushing the chassis, complete with its heavy engine and transmission, home. Across one of the major streets in town – 3 lanes each way plus a center turn lane. By my self. (Would you believe uphill both ways in the snow?) I did not need to go to the gym that day, but the frame and its owner made it safely home where they piled onto a U Haul a couple of days later.