That was a year that was..
This was the year in which Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral took place in London. This same year, Lyndon Baines Johnson had been sworn in as President of the United States following the assassination of John F. Kennedy (a tragedy which had occurred some fourteen month earlier).
Stanley Mathews played in his last 1st division game, and the unmanned lunar space probe Ranger-8 crashed onto the moon. The USA sent their first 3,500 combat troops to Vietnam and instigates Rolling Thunder (almost 3-years of sustained aerial bombing). While back home in Alabama - State troops lay mercilessly into a peaceful protest march (known as Bloody Sunday). Ironically this happened on the Edmund Pettus Bridge which was named after a former Confederate Brigadier General, and also Grand Wizard of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Following graphic television coverage of that event, Lyndon Johnson implemented a Bill of Rights for American Negroes.
Russian Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov leaves his spacecraft for 12 minutes to becomes the first man to walk in space. ‘My Fair Lady’ wins 8 Academy Awards, and ‘Mary Poppins’ takes five Oscars. Intelsat-1 communications satellite is deployed - marking a turning point in television, telephone, radio, internet, and military technology. While down on earth - the Pennine Way is officially opened.
Racing driver Jim Clark wins the Indianapolis 500, and then goes on to win the Formula one championships. Muhammad Ali knocks out Sonny Liston in a world heavyweight championship rematch, while the Rolling Stones “(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" is released. The Beatles second movie Help! premieres and they perform the very first ‘stadium concert’ playing before a 55,600 audience at Shea Stadium in New York City.
Cigarette advertising is banned on British television, and Singapore is expelled from the Federation of Malaysia. And then recognised as a sovereign nation. After almost two years the Auschwitz War Crimes trials in Frankfurt are concluded. 66 former SS personnel receive life sentences and 15 others receive lesser sentences for their doings. Bob Dylan releases his influential album ‘Highway 61 Revisited’
Incredibly all of the above happened in the first 8 months of that year ..even before Tom & Jerry or the Thunder-Birds were first aired.!
But then.., around about this same time a small sports car was sold ..to an American working in England. His name was E. Crawford Morten. And he came from New York State. At that time, he was assigned to work in Britain & Europe for the International Paper Co. of Ticonderoga, NewYork.
The year was 1965, and so this particular story starts some 54 years ago. The car he chose was British Racing Green with a light tan coloured hood and leather seats. It was the new independent rear suspension Triumph TR4A. And aside from its Laycock type-A overdrive, and it being a Left hand drive car delivered to a customer in England - it was unexceptional.
Well that is as ‘unexceptional’ as any gleamingly brand new TR4 sports car might be ..when owned by a wealthy American living in Britain during the swinging sixties. So, Crawford (as his family liked to call him) took the car to Standard-Triumph’s authorised specialist tuners ; SAH of Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire ..for a few ‘enhancements’.
Sid A. Hurrell (SAH) had made a name for himself preparing and successfully racing a TR2, indeed his performance tuning parts were used in Triumph’s work’s cars, with aspects of those carried into subsequent production. The Triumph TR2 soon made a name for itself in both club and International racing events, in sprints, hill climbs, and in rallying. SAH had a catalogue of special parts for the Triumph Herald (which made also quite an impact within international rally circles) and Vittesse (competitive in saloon car racing). Parts were developed for the 1300 and 1500cc Triumphs, the Bond, and for the Triumph 2000 and 2500 models. Naturally each model from TR2 onwards were tuned, tweaked and lightened.. If you're not aware of SAH., they later became Triumph-Tune.
E. Crawford Morten was a great enthusiast of motor racing and whenever an opportunity arose he would take off to a Grand Prix event ..anywhere across Europe. Apparently he was not only a spectator but according to his nephew Fletch “Crawford never raced that TR, but he was a very fast and skilled driver who used all of the cars capabilities on those lovely New York Adirondack roads”
Clearly a man of discernment who also appreciated the advantages of lightweight components in racing &/or in a true seat-of-the-pants sport-cars, because one of the things Crawford really wanted of SAH was a set of their knock-on JA Pearce magnesium-alloy wheels (Magna alloys). A set of these make wire wheels, alloys and even the works perforated-steel wheels appear heavyweight and/or fragile.
This is a TR4, so not the same car but coincidentally is in the same colours and with (bolt-on) magna wheels.
Of course, as the car was to be left with SAH anyway - then the engine might also be tuned, an oil temperature gauge, cooler, and filter fitted. A Girling ‘brake booster’ and additional driving lamps were also fitted. It is believed the engine received a Stage-1 tune : for fast road use. In petrol-head terms that’s raising the TR4A's standard 104bhp to a modest 135bhp - without loosing around town low rev’s driveability. What’s that 30% more power ?
This was achieved mainly through camshaft and cylinder-head re-work, carb jetting and filters, ignition electrics, and the standard exhaust manifold being swapped out for SAH’s four branch extractor pipes. It is probable that the engine was also balanced for endurance ..to survive his high-speed jaunts to GP events across Europe.
What's certain is that the wheels and tyres selected to transmit this performance potential to the tarmac were of wide profile. And, for road use throughout Europe, that meant the wheel-arches needed extending. Remember we’re talking about a brand new car here. Incredible as it might seem nowadays - Crawford had SAH replace the TR4’s four wings with fibreglass ones. These not only had extended wheel arch brows but I understand saved about 15lb in weight ..off each panel.
That weight saving may not seem very much, but from a standing start in a quarter-mile acceleration run ; a 30lb weight saving would equate to 0.1 seconds difference. Again seemingly not worth the effort, but.. with two otherwise identical cars side by side - the lighter one would be 12-foot in front.! And aside from aiding acceleration - such weight saving at the extremities also help to centralise the car’s mass for crisper handling.
These Triumphs aren’t a heavy car anyway, the weight distribution is also pretty good on the 4-cyclinder model, and then of course the C of G is very low too. With IRS and a 30% increase in power ..and also factoring considerable weight saving in having magnesium-alloy wheels and a little tweaking of the suspension parts, then we’re beginning to talk about a road car that not only performed exceptionally well but also handled better than most any other on the road at that time. Jaguars and Astons would have had much more power but a lightweight TR might well take the inside track ..and be whole lot more fun as well.
Anyway, I’m rambling.. not least because much of this SAH special equipment has been lost to circumstance and the financial needs of the car’s more recent owner.
Unfortunately this car’s history, subsequent to Crawford, is at present a little vague - except that there were three further owners, and whatever we might gather from a bumper sticker, believed to be a pass to a military installation - dated 1982. So let's fast forward to June 1998 when the present owner - a Mr. Raymond Lucas Hatfield of Little Rock, Arkansas bought this very same TR4A. " I rescued the car from what was basically a junkyard - a garage that had many old cars abandoned behind it. My wife said the I was giving it a second 'chance' at being used, and the name stuck ". Apparently it had been there as junk for years.
“ Mr. Crawford passed away before I bought the car, but apparently he told the second owner that he had rallied the car in England for several years before returning to the United States, bringing the car with him. There is evidence on the car that it had been driven hard at some point and suffered some damage ; dents to the frame, some holes and dents in the body.
I spoke to the second owner, who states he only drove it on the road until about 1980 when he started tearing it apart to rebuild it. The rebuild stalled and he finally sold it to the individual I bought it from in 1991. There it sat until 1998 when I bought it " . . Judging by the bumper sticker, that might have been 1982 or 83 when he started 'tearing it apart'. Perhaps this was the last time the car was together and on the road.?
The car when bought by Mr. Hatfield was collected from Birmingham, Alabama (some 375 miles away from Little Rock, Arkansas). Unfortunately on the way home, with the car on a tow dolly - it dropped off its rear right wheel. “While loading the TR on the dolly, I noticed that the 'spinner' was missing off the right rear wheel, but thought it of no consequence since I (and the seller) were under the impression that these were bolt-on wheels. In all fairness, I do not recall seeing any part of the spindle showing on that rim to clue any of us to the fact that it was a knock off wheel.
… I'm quite sure that all of you know what happened now. I made it from Birmingham, AL to about 50 miles from my home in Arkansas before that wheel came off. As it came off, it tore the fiberglass rear fender off. Fortunately, that was the extent of the damage to the TR, but now I am stuck with the car on the side of the freeway in the middle of the night! "
Raymond in his forum posts and in correspondence with myself tells us that the "engine was seized up from being parked in a junkyard for 10 years". In due course the motor was removed from the car and stripped down, with the offending piston released from its bore ..courtesy of a big hammer smashing the cylinder liner.
On the four banger TR’s these are wet sleeve (dry on the six cylinder), and rather than simply replace the liners, the owner acquired another short-block TR4 motor. But in his heart of hearts - he hankered for a Triumph TR5 with its smoother and more powerful six cylinder sea anchor. And so is found investigated, on American brit-car forums, the options of a more powerful engine to drop into Chance.
V8’s as well as straight-six Toyota and the 2.8 ltr BMW motors were each considered for “a sleeper Vette killer”. At the same time he was also considering selling the overdrive transmission in favour of a modern five-speed box., but after much deliberation he opted to buy a six-cylinder TR6’s engine. In the same transaction came a TR6 chassis - which still appears to be in good shape. The replacement 4-cylinder short-block was sold on, and the original engine remained in bits.
Over the past, almost 21 years of present ownership, the car’s Second Chance hasn’t yet come to realisation. The front brake callipers have I’m told been swapped out for Toyota four-pot items, and the rear suspension has modern shock absorbers in place of the original Armstrong lever arm types. Raymond has his own TR enthusiast website which recall some of this car's history (last updated c.2005 ). Unfortunately there is not one photo of the car nor any part of it.
Below is a recent photo from the for sale advert to which I replied.
The exceptionally lightweight and strong knock-off Magna wheels were sold for $800, to an English guy in 2003. And bolt-on Mustang Bullitt (c.2001 model) aluminium alloys fitted instead. The Englishman who bought the wheels was a Mr. Roger Butt “who then restarted the company and made new wheels on the same pattern. The company he worked for (Rotex Developments) had a factory/warehouse here in Arkansas”
Tidbit : Roger Butt was Company Secretary to Osprey Marine Ltd between February ‘94 and March 1998. He was appointed Director of Rotex Developments Ltd (Company status : Dissolved ) in August ‘05, and again appointed Director of J.A. Pearce Engineering Ltd (Company status : Dissolved ) in 2012. The latter is of course the same name as having originally made racing and sports wheels.
The car has been stripped out of its interior. I’m told the original leather seats didn’t withstand being out in the elements ..so they have gone in favour of a pair of high-back Mazda Maida seats, not yet fitted. The dashboard timber, light-tan door cards and carpet set have been replaced, but again not refitted. The black steering wheel looks like an SAH one (it’s leather rimmed with slotted aluminium spokes). And little niceties like the SAH embossed ashtray and the engine’s SAH cast-alloy rocker-cover have also gone, as has the car’s oil cooler, temp gauge setup, and quick change filter. Non have been replaced.
The fuel tank and under-bonnet space are also stripped out, but most of those parts are with the car, albeit in unknown condition after having been stored for the past 21 years, plus another 10 years " parked in a junkyard".
From what I can see in photos and has been discussed in email correspondence with Raymond, around the bulkhead’s battery tray is rusted, as is the lower forward edge of the boot floor and spare wheel well. These have in part been patched by one of the interim owners, as has one sill. Both sills have holes to their inside rear corners, and the floors show sign of nature’s aeration. The paintwork is scruffy, apparently looking better in the photos than in life. And the bumpers, like pretty much everything else, are off the car and have seen brighter days. Most probably there are numerous minor bits missing or beyond repair, but as an optimist - I’ll presume 90% of the car is there and might be reusable, if enough time and money is spent in their recondition.
Oh btw., the car is still in Arkansas, which in case you are unaware is 450 miles sorta north of Huston, Texas and similarly from New Orleans. This being west across state from Memphis Tennessee ..so not exactly close to any coastline or shipping port. So, as a largely dismantled non-runner, the overland transport and shipping freight is going to cost £-thousands. However, even factoring in the transport cost - this TR4A is as cheap as I could find (..cheap is a relative term !). And unlike most cars from the States ; it does has an interesting history. Although not at this time paper-documented ; the (three remaining) flared grp wings and other remaining SAH parts, as well as email correspondence from the nephew do confirm the story. Accordingly, a week last Friday I put a bid on it. And then I had a counter offer, which I accepted on condition that he’ll prepare and pack the car (together with the 'spare' chassis) for transport (my proposal below) . Last Monday evening I received an affirmative response.
No, I promise to NOT paint this TR4 red.!
So there we are, I have to sell a motorcycle or two and my Ami-super but., despite it being ridiculously too small a car for someone as old, or tall and broad as myself (6’-5” with the accumulative effects of gravity for 60++ years) - it is what I hanker for. And if I don’t do it now then I don’t suppose I’ll ever have the chance again.
BUT., Is this too fashion-taxed a topic for ye Autoshiters, or would my reckless abandonment of any last remnant of common-sense ..and the consequential issues I’ll have to deal with over the next couple of years be of some passing amusement to you all. ?
p.s. This restoration / recommissioning will be a diy job on a very tight budget. As mentioned I'm also very tall, so concessions to those factors override any idea of originality. I also have no qualms at all in using second hand seats out of a Triumph Herald or an MG., or an Austin 7 for that matter ..if they are suitably period styled, available cheaply, and better accommodate my freak-sized frame. So, this will not be a car for the TR purist.