Ron Cherry: Fifty-Year Triumph
October 27, 2017
Goodness, or at least the appearance of goodness, does have its rewards.
It happened for John Drew when he was a senior in high school in Carmichael.
"The parents of a kid who lived around the corner from me bought him a new '63 TR4. He got three speeding tickets in three weeks and his parents put it up for sale," John said.
When he heard about the car, he went and checked it out. It was love at first sight.
"I went home and told my parents about it," he said. This was right before John's high school graduation was near. Hint, hint. "They told me, 'Well, John, you've always been a good boy, so we'll buy it.' It was my graduation present." He paused. "I wasn't really that good."
But impressions matter. You might say it was a triumph in getting his Triumph.
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The Triumph was his main driver until 1974, the year he bought a ranch up in the Foothills and moved to it.
"I trailered it here and stored it in a barn," John said.
The only problem was that he didn't check on it for years. The other inhabitants of the barn were pigs, rats and hornets, and they did.
"The pigs broke a hole through the wall separating them from it and messed all over it," John said. "Then the rats chewed up everything that wasn't metal: wiring insulation, upholstery, everything." But it wasn't over. "The hornets made a huge nest inside it and left wax all over." John sighed. "It was a mess."
In 1982, John decided it was time to restore his TR4. It was quite a task. The pig feces and urine had destroyed the paint and the body was rusting. Even after evicting the hornet squatters, the interior was just as bad. He didn't haul it to a restorer, but did the work himself.
"Maybe I'd get home on a Thursday and have a couple of hours free, so I'd do what I could then," he said. "I did it piece by piece."
He pulled the body off the frame, then sanded the frame and painted it with marine offshore, catalyzed enamel.
"Maybe a bit excessive," he said, "but it sounded cool at the time."
After cleaning all the porcine excrement off the body, he sanded it down to bare metal, getting rid of all rust.
"I primered it and sanded it six times," he said. Finally, the body was ready for paint. John painted it in Signal Red, then clear-coated it. He did all this work himself. But the job was far from over.
After having Riebes in Grass Valley balance the engine, John did all the assembly himself, using a high-lift cam. He ported and polished the head, making templates and routing the intake tunnels for maximum flow. This was an impressive job.
Then he installed a pair of Webers for great air-fuel flow. For exhaust, he did a custom system with 2 1/2 inch pipes.
"It was a tight fit," he said. "But Rick at Sierra Muffler did the job. It's a little loud, but it's fun."
He kept the original 4-speed trans, but added Laylock de Normanville period-correct overdrive. It made the TR a 7-speed (OD is not used with 1st gear.) These were the ones used for TR4's in the sixties and still are great.
"I can be at full throttle and flip the overdrive up or down," he said. "The high pressure of the overdrive makes it go smoothly in and out."
During the restoration, John also rebuilt the suspension, brakes and all seals. "The whole nine yards," he said.
For wheels, he chose Mini Cooper light-weight alloys. He bought a complete interior kit and new top and installed them. However, he opted not to go with a sound system. He finally finished in the early '90s.
"I did it piece by piece. At times, I thought, 'This just isn't worth it,'" he said. "But the more I got into it, the more I dug it. Now I'm glad I did."
Since completing his TR, John hasn't driven it very much.
"I mainly drive it to N.I.D. board meetings," he said, "about once a month."
Occasionally he does take it to Cars and Coffee, which meets every Saturday morning from 8 'til 10 a.m. at the K-Mart parking lot off McKnight in Grass Valley.
It's a place where he can tell car stories and tall tales to fellow car lovers who will appreciate the incredible amount of work that went into restoring his TR4, a fifty-year love affair with Triumph.
Ron Cherry's four books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His next book, a mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills, will be out soon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.
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