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General TR should or shouldn't?

Vengar

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Greetings folks!
So....the other year feeling rather :banana:I bought an old 4A. Been driving and enjoying it and now I am faced with a conundrum: Way back when the earth was still molten....late 70's....my old man ran a xj6l. the first thing he did was to rip out the lucas ignition and replace it with some american ignition, maybe a fireball brand, but I don't know. been thinking about replacing the points in my car with a petronix set-up. That idea snowballed into a polarity switch, alternator install, thin belt conversion and an electric fan. All those gizmos would run approx. a grand to get. I planned on doing this myself. So here's my question: Have I been influenced by a youth spent locked in my room sniffing dope whilst assembling this model or that? I want the car reliable to jump in and run without that special feeling I got last year while stuck in traffic on the lie. In 95 degree heat. She pulled through that day, but I know a special day will come. Is it all worth it? Should I leave well enough alone? I am also somewhat interested in leaving this car as original as possible for future value, but I'd also like to take the wife with me every once in a while. What do you folks think? I know I am calling more for opinions rather than procedures, but I figured all your experiences are valuable. Now if only I would be smart enough and listen.....
Thanks in advance.
Learning humility.......one lucas component at a time.....
 

trrdster2000

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Vengar, Put your money where it's mouth is. That would be the watering hole. Have the radiator re-cored or get a new bigger aluminum one and save the old one for going back if that is something you think might happen. Flush the system, include the heater pipes being disconnected and a hose run through, on it's own. Now replace the heater control, that rubber will let go at the most awkward time. The rest of what you want to do is just gravy and it does a good job of making the car more reliable but keep you points handy in the trunk and don't forget to swap wires on the coil when you reverse the polarity, best to get a negative ground coil.
The lights will need to be grounded better to take advantage of the alternator, cheep kits for a relay set up also.

Wayne
 

TR3driver

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I've tried everything except the thin belt conversion on my TR3 and former TR3A. The alternator is a step forward in "turn key" reliability, IMO, especially if you drive at night and want to upgrade the headlights. But you can do an alternator conversion much cheaper if you want. Mine cost about $40 using a junkyard alternator and having a local machine shop cut the wide pulley to fit it. (Granted that was a few decades ago, but should still be well under $100 today.) But I've been getting along well enough with the original generator on the current TR3, even with H4 headlights and an electric radiator fan.

The electric fan will also be a boon in high ambient and heavy traffic. I tried going back to a mechanical fan when I put the TR3 together, but the first big traffic jam reminded me of why I like the electric better.

The Pertronix is a step backwards, IMO. Yeah, it saves you from having to change points periodically, but there are still lots of other things that should be attended to (eg lubricating the distributor) and changing points just isn't that big a deal. And the points are much less likely to burn up if you happen to leave the key on. I also found a situation where the Pertronix actually made the engine a lot harder to start. Root cause was a bad battery; but the starter was still turning the engine, it just wouldn't fire until I let off the starter button.

The wide belt might waste a fraction of a horsepower, but works pretty darn good otherwise (if you use one of the modern cogged belts designed for big trucks). In 20 years or so, I've only had one break (and that was probably related to the alternator mount working loose and flopping around).

Oh, BTW, a 4A should already be negative ground from the factory. If yours is positive ground, someone has switched it. But IMO positive ground is too much hassle, so I've converted all my positive Triumphs to negative. Just swap a few wires and repolarize the generator, easy.
 

Geo Hahn

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Good that you asked for opinions, those are much handier (and more readily available) than facts.

My TRs are nearly original and I drive them many thousands of miles (with my wife) each year - often in the desert of the Southwest where help (or even cell-phone service) is non-existent.

The only concessions to modernity I have made are a spin-on oil filter, H4 headlamps and DOT5 brake fluid. The rest (positive ground, generator, points, original radiator) are what STC had in mind.

The cooling system must be in good nick of course and worth getting done right. Most of the rest is a combination of maintenance and preparedness along with a high tolerance for the inherent uncertainty of driving long distances in something this old.

But it is your car and to really enjoy it you should do whatever makes you willing to drive anytime, anywhere you wish.
 
OP
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Vengar

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Thank you gentlemen for your responses. I do have the spin-on adapter and a K&N in a box ready to go along with the headlight relay kit and HOLY MOLY is it fun to drive this thing at night. I can only imagine these through the thicket on willoughby slope driven in anger......at night........I now understand the british need for warm beer.......
The car came with a slew of receipts from the previous owner, which I have gone through and cataloged in a time line so I know what was acquired for the 10k that he threw at it. Big time radiator work, new valve, hoses.....and I was pleasantly surprised that day I got caught in traffic. The needle barely budged.......

The pertronix is good/evil shizer debate rages on every auto forum. I am curious for more opinions on this set-up from british guys. It seems the holy grail for the germans and italians.....this I have in the box as well, but it is for a negative ground car, which leads to my original question......which I guess is more metaphysical in nature. If I really wanted a reliable open top sports car, why not just buy a miata? When these cars were showroom new, weren't they daily drivers? Over any distance? If I get stuck somewhere, isn't that part of the character of ownership of these cars, that made the legends what they are? I have never considered the philosophical repercussions of turning a wrench so heavily before.....
 

charleyf

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Vengar
Yes, these cars were originally daily drivers. And for the most part were quite reliable. Even now a well maintained car is also reliable. The component of being unreliable is some of the older parts that are still on the car that do wear out. My first TR3 back in the '60's had the generator go out on a trip from Illinois to Colorado. It was Sunday afternoon and I still had about 300 miles to get home. Because these cars use the battery so little I was able to get home before the battery gave out on me. I have to admit the last hour was with some lights on and they were really faint.
Now fast forward to the changes in the car such as electronic ignition. I put one of these in a TR4 that I restored and after just over two years it died. There was no just a few more miles to get home or anyplace else. IT JUST DIED. I now have points in my TR's. Instead of getting an electronic ignition send your distributor in and get it rebuilt( Advanced Distributors did a good job for me). IMO cheaper and more reliable.
Our local LBC club has drives that go for up to 300 miles on a regular basis. Three years ago two of us took our TR's ( a TR3 and TR4) for a 3,000 mile tour. So these cars can still be reliable, original ( well mostly) and fun to drive at the same time.
Charley
 

Andrew Mace

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Sigh...I could rapidly exceed anyone's bandwidth ranting on this topic, but I'll try not to do that. ;) If you've been around these -- or any other -- cars as long as I have, you probably know that they actually were and still are no better and no worse than anything else of the era. As far as I'm concerned, there is no deep dark secret to having a reliable Triumph. What sadly seems such a foreign concept (pun intended) to so many people is the concept of a: bringing whatever car to nearly as-new specification, and b: maintaining it to keep it that way.

Who knows what indignities these cars may have suffered before "you" got them several years ago. "It's always overheating!" Well, sure, if the cooling system was last thoroughly flushed when "Jaws" was a first-run movie. Etc., etc. Sadly, too many folks have no concept of phrases such as "Every 6,000 miles, remove the plug. Fit a grease nipple and apply a grease gun until oil exudes from the [steering] swivel." Those and many other quaint statements are found in Owners and Workshop Manuals that, in many cases, went totally ignored from the day of initial purchase until now, 40-50 years later!

As for replacement parts when needed, there were bad aftermarket parts when the cars were new, and there are bad aftermarket parts now. But there are also good parts (OE and aftermarket), and they're not that hard to obtain. Further, they often cost little (if any) more than the cheap stuff. But even if they cost twice as much, the OE-quality parts will actually tend to last, so that evens out.

And yes, even I admit to some concessions here in the 21st century. I see no point in seeking out Dunlop Gold Seal bias-ply tires when the worst off-brand radial is 10 times the tire that those poor Dunlops ever could be. And no, I don't dip into some secret stash of Castrol Girling Crimson brake fluid or 1968-vintage cans of Wolf's Head motor oil, either. ;) But with good parts and proper maintenance, I've put many thousands of miles on a couple of Triumph Heralds in recent years. In bth cases, it took some time to get there, much of that time spend mostly undoing years of previous neglect or well-intended but poor repairs. I run points, generators and all that good stuff without incident.

Oh, and back to the "other cars of the era" thing: I could go on and on about the brand-new '68 Country Squire that DROPPED the RF shock absorber a couple months after mom got it. The brand-new '74 and '84 Volvos that had more "teething" problems than anyone should have had to endure. The brand-new '91 Ford Explorer, apparently 50% made of billet steel parts and 50% papier maché (sadly, it was the moving parts that seemed to be the latter). The grossly incompetent Triumph dealer service department that badly rebuilt a pair of SUs on my '69 Spitfire...when the real problem turned out to be a failing ignition coil (honest)! The equally incompetent Subaru dealer service department that a: didn't tighten the oil filter after an oil change and refused to acknowledge their error (somehow, the engine survived, albeit with slightly lower than normal oil pressure for the life of the car). The same Subaru service department that replaced a failed front tire under warranty but did so with a different model of tire, making for some very interesting front-end behavior (we stood our ground on that one, and they finally did get a tire to match the other three, again this on a nearly new car)! The '76 Saab 99, overall not too bad, but every single repair and every single part seemed to cost twice as much as it would have on any other car.

Ok, end of rant.

Do what you want to your car, but you'll need to submit some real proof to me that you've "improved" it with your auxiliary fans, Pertronix, etc. :D

Oh, just one more thing: If you only drive your treasured Triumph every other February 29th, don't expect it to perform as new, if at all. Regular use is a very close second to regular care and maintenance in keeping these or any other cars (even moderns) reliable and enjoyable!
 

TR4nut

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As long as modifications are readily reversible, I say modify away. For my TR4 I converted to a Delco 10si alternator about 6 years ago and it has been very reliable - and I agree with Randall, its less than $100 for the conversion if you are willing to do the work yourself. I kept the wide belt, you can have a machine shop modify a stock pulley, or get a pretty cheap one from an online supplier (my guess is about $20 or so). A polarity swap in this day of Garmins, Iphones etc is I think a very sound thing to do.

I never put on a fan but I did get close to trouble in stop and go traffic so I know the feeling. On my TR3A I never could get it to behave well in slow traffic in Houston to put in a pusher fan - very easy and not too expensive if needed. On my 3A the generator is still charging but I haven't had trouble with the current load. But if you went the alternator route you'd be in great shape.

I also have Pertronix, I'm ambivalent on stock vs electronic but its a pretty unnoticeable fit and forget modification as far as I'm concerned. And for folks that say points are perfect, my last set went back because the rivet holding one of the contacts came loose - almost left me stranded.
 

Andrew Mace

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...And for folks that say points are perfect, my last set went back because the rivet holding one of the contacts came loose - almost left me stranded.
And that's one of the reasons why I try for NOS parts whenever possible, or best possible quality aftermarket products as a fallback. Contact points: one of those bits where there's been garbage aftermarket versions as long as there've been good OE versions! :(
 

TR3driver

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you probably know that they actually were and still are no better and no worse than anything else of the era.
I agree entirely Andy; the problem is that automotive technology has progressed since then. Getting hot in traffic or climbing a big hill is a perfect example, it was simply considered normal back then. The California highways are still sprinkled with signs "Radiator water ahead" and "Turn off AC next 5 miles".

So it comes down to a personal decision really; do you want to experience the car just as it was 60 years ago? Personally, I much prefer being able to enjoy the drive without keeping one eye on the temperature gauge.

As far as "daily driver", yes, it can still be done. I've kind of lost track of how many miles I've covered in a TR3/A, but the odometer in my previous TR3A turned over twice under my care and had probably turned once before I got the car. Doesn't look like it's going to happen this year, but I still plan to drive my current TR3 the length of old Route 66 and back again, with a side trip to visit friends and family in IN. I clocked about 5500 miles the last time (tho I didn't follow US 66 and it was in a Stag).
 

Andrew Mace

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I agree entirely Andy; the problem is that automotive technology has progressed since then. Getting hot in traffic or climbing a big hill is a perfect example, it was simply considered normal back then. The California highways are still sprinkled with signs "Radiator water ahead" and "Turn off AC next 5 miles".

So it comes down to a personal decision really; do you want to experience the car just as it was 60 years ago? Personally, I much prefer being able to enjoy the drive without keeping one eye on the temperature gauge.

Understood and agreed with. But it's still well worth making sure that, for example, your cooling system is every bit what it was when the car is new. Beyond that, I do accept that there are warmer climes than my upstate New York. We get our share of warm summer days, but not like the Southwest, for example (where Triumph did offer "tropical fans" and such)! And I'll wager those signs you mention were not aimed only at Triumphs. ;)

As far as "daily driver", yes, it can still be done. I've kind of lost track of how many miles I've covered in a TR3/A, but the odometer in my previous TR3A turned over twice under my care and had probably turned once before I got the car. Doesn't look like it's going to happen this year, but I still plan to drive my current TR3 the length of old Route 66 and back again, with a side trip to visit friends and family in IN. I clocked about 5500 miles the last time (tho I didn't follow US 66 and it was in a Stag).
As I've said many times here and elsewhere, I put close to 60k miles on my '62 Herald from 2002-12, including an essentially trouble-free 2550 mile round trip NY-MN-NY in 2002. Actually, that trip did a lot to help "break in" a car that, before I'd bought it, had seen a whopping 700 miles put on it in the 13 years under the car of the previous owner. That same '62 even got me through one moderate Northeast winter (yes, even put snow tires on the back) several years back when I had no other option car-wise.

EDIT: And actually, yes, I do "want to experience the car just as it was 60 years ago" -- "warts" and all! :D
 

Geo Hahn

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...When these cars were showroom new, weren't they daily drivers? Over any distance?....

For many years 3 members of our local club used their British car as a daily driver -- and all three drove TR4s. Now we're down to two since one got rear-ended though the hope and promise is that we will one day see it on the road again (had 700,000 miles on it when it got hit).
 

sail

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I've been content keeping my 4A in pretty much stock trim, both easier and cheaper.
 

pdplot

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Vengar - I see you're from Stamford. So am I and my '71 TR6 that I restored 20 years ago and still have. I had installed Crane electronic ignition but driving up High Ridge Rd. one hot summer day about 10 years, it began breaking up and I barely made it home. When it did so again, I sent it down to Crane in Florida and they sent it back, telling me it was fine. Again it began cutting out on a hot day and I reinstalled the points, etc. and have had no trouble since. If you do switch over, keep your points and condenser in the glove compartment "just in case". I know nothing about the Pertronix. I also installed a spin-on oil filter and a tube shock conversion (not applicable to Tr4s with solid rear ends.As others on ths Forum may recall, I also had a new TR3 back in the day. This Forum is an excellent source of information and TR lore. When the weather turns, perhaps we'll have some coffee together.
 

TR3driver

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And I'll wager those signs you mention were not aimed only at Triumphs. ;)
Oh absolutely. That was my point, that such things were considered "normal" back in the day. I can remember riding in the back of my Dad's 55 Plymouth station wagon and having to pull over in what passed for a rest stop back then (a wide shoulder with a picnic table and trash barrel in the grass) to wait for it to cool down before tackling any more hills. And that was just in the relatively mild Ozark hills.
 

HerronScott

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As I've said many times here and elsewhere, I put close to 60k miles on my '62 Herald from 2002-12, including an essentially trouble-free 2550 mile round trip NY-MN-NY in 2002. Actually, that trip did a lot to help "break in" a car that, before I'd bought it, had seen a whopping 700 miles put on it in the 13 years under the car of the previous owner. That same '62 even got me through one moderate Northeast winter (yes, even put snow tires on the back) several years back when I had no other option car-wise.

EDIT: And actually, yes, I do "want to experience the car just as it was 60 years ago" -- "warts" and all! :D

I restored my TR4A in the early 80s and it was my daily driver for 6 years or so. I ended up putting 75,000 miles on it with few issues as well.

Scott
 

mrv8q

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I don't have much to add, but one observation; make sure you're using your radiaror shroud, and that it's in good shape. I'm surprised how many 4s and 6s are running w/o their shrouds...
 

TexasKnucklehead

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I'm not sure I can add anything significant to the discussion, but I'll echo my 2 cents. I put my TR3 back on the road less than 2 years and 13,000 miles ago. I live in Houston, and it gets warm. Very warm. I drove my wife in the TR3, in the heat of late June across the state of Texas, through L.A. traffic, and up highway CA-1 ending in Seattle on the hottest day they had recorded for some time. The TR3 did great and we did too. I have an electric fan added. I added a Crane ignition because my wife got me one as a Christmas present and we had a set of points fail -the wiper wore out on a 2,000 mile trip to Pa in the fall. I installed my third (self rebuilt) generator in Seattle. The first rebuilt one failed a month earlier with little warning. I have another rebuilt one in the boot for when this one fails, along with a "toy" spare tire and jack that I plan to never use. I have a trunk rack in case I ever need to put that spare on, because a "standard" wheel will not fit in the well.

During my 7 year restoration, I rebuilt as much as possible with "original" parts. I've had to re-tighten one of the shock mounts and replace the starter. When I use up the box of generators I have, I'll get an alternator and hope electrical failures are a thing of the past. I carry spare points in a complete distributor along with a water pump next to the spare generator. We don't drive the TR3 daily, but we drive it. It has been reliable, but I need to keep an eye on it. Those little noises are saying something, and they mean it.

We enjoy the TR3. Always. We ran out of gas on our last trip last year. My wife was laughing when she saw I was just going to coast all the way to the next gas station, because "you are so lucky". She still laughs about it. We laugh every time we go anywhere in the TR3, but we are always prepared for something that we don't expect. -like running out of gas.
 

pdplot

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As an original TR3 owner back in 1956-1958, it was my only car. I drove it to work, raced it at Thompson and Lime Rock and took trips to Cape Cod and Pennsylvania. Never broke down, overheated or gave me any trouble - nothing. I traded it for a used Porsche coupe after someone stole the car, joyrided it and put it back in my driveway with a flower pot behind the seats. The gearbox was starting to rattle and make noise so it was time to move on.
 
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