Wheels: Long-term Triumph affair
July 18, 2014
Ron Coleman’s 1974 Triumph TR6 is a rare car. British Leyland exported more than 11,000 TR6’s to America that year, so that’s not what makes it rare. Although French Blue was not the most popular color for that year, neither was it the least popular, so that’s not what makes it rare. Ron’s TR doesn’t have any exclusive, highly-desirable options, so that’s not what makes it rare. The fact that Ron bought it new and still has it, cruising around town, is what makes it so rare.
Ron developed a crush on Triumphs while he was in high school in Southern California. He said that he “ogled” them every time he saw one drive by. When he sat in a friend’s TR2, he knew “it was meant to be.”
“That I had to wait and wait drove me crazy, but it was worth the wait,” he said.
And, in September of 1974, he was ready to buy. The Triumph dealer in Torrance, Calif., didn’t have any in stock, so he plunked down a hundred bucks to reserve one in their next shipment. In February 1975, they called and said that they had received 12 that day and two were still left. He hurried down. There was one in Magenta and one in French Blue. The blue one had a J-type four-speed trans with a Laycock de Normanville overdrive and a metal removable hardtop as options, so he chose it. The engine was a throaty, inline six-cylinder 210 CID (2,498 cc) with dual Zenith Stromberg carbs that put out 106 HP.
It was just what Ron had been waiting for all those years.
About a year later, he met his second love while driving his TR6. His mother, ever the matchmaker, told him about a young woman who worked in the same hospital as she did. He told her, “Yeah, I’ve seen those girls you want me to meet.” But she kept at him until he agreed to take the young woman on a date. He picked her up in his TR6 and said it was “a match made in heaven.” He and wife Stephanie have enjoyed cruising in the TR6 ever since.
Over the years, Ron has made a few minor alterations to his Triumph. He changed the stock dash for a walnut-veneered one. The poor-quality Lucas radio and speakers were swapped with an AM/FM unit from a Toyota. He replaced the original alternator with a Bosch 22 amp unit that gives more dependable power. Considering that’s over almost 40 years, Ron has kept his TR6 very stock.
Although he has driven all over California and in Nevada, the road trip he took to Illinois in the summer of 1975 is the one he will never forget. He started the trip with the top down and wind blowing thorough his hair. But by the time he got to Needles, he put up the top because he was “getting his brains baked out.” When he hit Oklahoma, he was caught in a violent thunderstorm, with the rain driven by the wind under the convertible top’s weatherstripping and “filling the floorboards with water.” When he arrived in Illinois, he found out what real humidity is like in an un-air-conditioned car.
“I forgot how muggy it can be back there,” Ron said.
On the way back, he was cruising through Kansas with the top down when he saw a cloud on the horizon. Fearing another thunderstorm, he put the top up. Then the cloud hit. It was bees.
“They slammed into the windshield, smearing all over it. I could hardly see out,” he said. “They went all over the car, into every crevice and plugged the radiator.”
Ron stopped into a gas station as soon as he could and he washed down the car and hosed out the radiator so the TR wouldn’t overheat. He said he recently found bee carcass remnants still in the radiator fins.
Until 1984, the TR6 was Ron’s daily driver. Now he drives it with other enthusiasts from the Sierra Sports Car Club for meetings and runs. But his love for his Triumph has not diminished. If anything, it’s stronger than ever.
Ron Cherry has published two books, a mystery titled Christmas Cracker and a noirish suspense titled Foul Shot. For more about his writing, go to http://www.rlcherry.com.