1972 TR6, Viewed, 5/10/2014

TR6 3

This was the second TR6 we were going to view that Saturday, and it was a little out of the way on our way home. We stopped for fish and chips at a Pub and got to the dealership that was selling this a tad later than I had wanted.

The dealership was an interesting one and had a good selection of older cars, including a Volvo P1800ES, a 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider and, of course, the TR. The dealer and I looked over the TR together – it was a car he knew well as it was local and he knew the owner. The body and paint were in very good nick with only a few very minor flaws, and the interior was in great shape. The engine bay was coated in the black goop, which, while I know¬†why it’s there, I’m not a fan of. Other than that, the car presented beautifully. I got down on the ground and had a dekko underneath, and it was all good news down there too. The dealer was asking (iirc) about $14,500. By this time, it had become late and the dealer was looking to close up, so I didn’t test drive the car. Interestingly, Evelyn had sidled over to a black 1986 Alfa Spider on the other side of the lot and was looking at it with appreciation. The dealer noticed this and abandoned me to the TR and hurried over to talk to Evelyn. Obviously he knew all about who makes the real buying decisions in most relationships. ūüôā

The Alfa was an ’86 Spider Veloce and was a South Carolina or Georgia car. It was quite pretty in its black paint and tan interior. The paint rather diminished the predominance of the black “winglet” on the rear end. This car too, was in great nick, though I found the interior, in spite of the leather seats, a little “plastic” and “80s”. I had to admit that it was a lovely car though. I believe that he was asking something in the range of $11,000 for this, and he inferred that he didn’t think that it was going to last long.

We suggested that if the weather was good the following weekend that we might come out and test drive both, before we bundled back into our car and headed home.

As it turned out, we were unable to make it back the next weekend due to other commitments, but a part of this was an ambivalence on my part. More about that in my next post.

Ratings for these cars;

1972 TR6

Value for money: 8/10 (hard to tell, but based on appearances, that’s my assertion).
Driving Impression: N/A
Body: 8/10
Interior: 8/10
Engine: 8/10 (Based on appearance of engine, and period correctness)
Handling:  N/A

1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

Value for Money: 8/10 (again, hard to tell, but at the lower price, this seemed a lot of car…)
Driving Impression: N/A
Body: 9/10
Interior: 6/10 (the interior was pretty much perfect Рthe rating is a reflection of what I thought of the design)
Engine: N/A
Handling: N/A

Evelyn’s Rankings:

For the 1972 TR6:

Cool factor: 2
Diminished by its¬†colour, as well as the much cooler looking – in my view – Alfa across the lot. Apologies to TR fans. ūüôā
Comfort: N/A
Price: 3
Once again, the Alfa was rising in my estimation at this point.

For the1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce:

Cool factor: 7
I really thought this was a lovely looking car all around. I would have to disagree with Bruce’s opinion about the ‘plastic’ look of the interior. If the decision was mine, there would be a Black on tan 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce in our parking bay and this blog would have had to end its run. ūüôā But, sadly, the decision is not all mine.¬†
Comfort: N/A
Price: 7
It WAS cheaper than the TR.
Likelihood that I’d join Bruce on a Sunday drive in this: Definitely.

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1975 TR6, Viewed 5/10/2014

1975 TR6
Illustrated view of a 1975 TR6

I found this car on Kijiji. This is a 1975 British Racing Green Triumph that underwent a frame off nut and bolt restoration close to 10 years ago. The asking price is (Cdn) $18,000.

This car was a little further off than the last one (about an hour and a half), but sadly the day did not dawn in brilliant fashion, but with heavy cloud and the threat of rain. Regardless, Evelyn and I got into the car and headed out… I could see that this car was going to be a horse of a different colour as soon as I saw it in the driveway. In spite of the grim¬†weather, it gleamed in the dull light, and it looked – to all intents and purposes – “new”. The seller had done the work on this car over a period of 5 years and his efforts showed. The exterior was close to flawless – even the wheel wells were done in BRG and were basically spotless. The interior was tan in colour and presented very nicely indeed. I did the standard under car look and the trailing arms looked good as did the “T” plate up front. This car had had minor mods done in the resto, and boasted new wiring (non-Lucas) new rear springs, which lifted the back end the smallest amount and removal of all emissions controls. Oh – and being a 1975, it has the (undesirable, to me) bumper over-riders. The car also came with a hard top, but one without glass…

The only possible issues I could see with the car was that the convertible top¬†was a little tatty due to always being folded away and there was a little rust in the engine bay (again – painted in the exterior colour) where some brake fluid had spilled. Other than that, this car WAS pristine. So, to the drive…

Hopped in, choked it and started the car (cold day). Idled it for about a minute and the pulled way. The brakes on this one were much better than the previous, but still, were less than confidence inspiring. The engine ran beautifully, but the throttle appeared to have 2 positions; “idle” and “go”, which didn’t make for a great deal of tractability. I was wearing a pair of Blundstone boots and found that the pedals¬†were small enough and close together enough to give me the feeling of being “ham footed”. The car was something of a shock: I had expected its handling and performance to be on par with its incredible looks, but this was not the case. The car flexed over bumps and although the engine had a beautiful sound (exacerbated by the Monza exhausts), it was sullied by all the creaks and groans that the body made as it flexed and bounced over the road. I know that TRs tend to be a little agricultural, but this was still a surprise. Finally – the car DID make a lovely sound, but, with the top down, it was LOUD… probably too loud. Evelyn and I had to shout to converse.

Have I been spoiled by my Mercedes? I had thought that as the Merc was a “basic” (entry level) Mercedes that all cars of this vintage would have similar characteristics – solidity, smoothness, pliability, tractability, and a positive feel generated through the seat, the throttle and the wheel… but again, the TR was a shock – steering that flailed a little, a throttle that seemed to be an “on/off switch and a chassis that bucks,¬†creaks and flexes… We did not drive far, probably about 3km, before it started to rain, at which point I did a U-turn in order to get the car back to it’s owner as dry as possible.

But what now? Do I want a TR6? I’m conflicted – this is a car I have always fancied and I am surprised to find it is not what I thought…. Now I have only driven 2 of these cars… but so far the experience isn’t knocking me out.

Ratings for this car:

Value for money: 8/10
Driving Impression: 6/10
Body: 10/10
Interior: 9/10
Engine: 6/10 (the engine was great – the delivery was wanting though).
Handling: 5/10 (My 1971 Mercedes sedan handled better than this… and that – to me – isn’t right).

Evelyn’s Rankings:

Cool factor: 6
This car is in really good shape all around.
Comfort: 3
Price: 4
Likelihood that I’d join Bruce on a Sunday drive in this: More than likely, only coz it was nicer than the first. Would still prefer driving on country roads given the tight, small feel of the car.

I did not make an offer on this car. I think that the price was fair, and the car was exemplary… but I am beginning to wonder if it is actually what I want… I am deeply surprised by this as I was committed to the idea of a TR6…

1971 TR6, Viewed 28/09/14

1971 TR6
Illustrated view of the first TR 6 we viewed.

I found this car on Autotrader. The car was described as a “pristine 1971 TR6 owned by the current owner since 1972” and the asking price was (Cdn) $13,000.¬†It was about an hour’s drive from my place, so Evelyn¬†and I piled into the car on a sunny Sunday morning and headed out to view it. My first sight of it was in the owner’s garage, and I thought “Wow – what luck! My¬†first find ¬†– this is THE ONE.”¬†Sadly,¬†the darkness of the garage hid a plethora of deficiencies.

The body was weak, with the front rockers rusted away from the mounting points, bubbling in the doglegs, and misaligned rockers (under the doors they were inset about 1cm). The engine bay was missing its rad shroud and had been painted with protective paint, but it badly needed detailing.¬†The trunk was rusty and painted in a different colour (white) and had significant surface rust, as well as some holes (which means that the exterior is a repaint – not a surprise as the paint has a slightly “metallic” look which isn’t period). Both bonnet and boot drains were rusted and all visible rubber seals (windshield, doors, boot, bonnet) were badly deteriorated. Very strangely, the door gaps at the top were quite wide (I could stick my finger¬†in), but at the bottom they were very “tight” – made me wonder about the frame…The interior wasn’t too impressive – the wood dash was cracking badly around the glove compartment, the gearshift boot was mashed at the front, the door cards weren’t original and had the owner’s initials sewn into them, and the seats were tired.The odometer didn’t work and the speedometer only worked over 30mph.¬†The engine had been installed only 3000km ago, and was running well, but was also coating its underside with a significant amount of oil. The trailing arms looked good, however…

I’d never driven a TR6 before so this was to be a first… sadly, it wasn’t a positive experience. The steering was very “loose” with a lot of play in the wheel and there was a surprising amount of vibration transmitted¬†through¬†the steering. The first time I hit the brakes I actually thought they had failed because there was so little evidence of retardation of speed (fortunately, I had decided to try them out before a major intersection). The car was surprisingly tiring to drive, made worse by the fact that I am 5’8″ and the owner was about 6’5″, and the seat wouldn’t come forward enough for me – so every stab of the brakes required me to lunge forward and down, like an F1 driver. The clutch was a little tricky with an unpredictable bite point, but the power, once in motion was delivered smoothly, and I had the immediate impression that it wouldn’t be too hard to break the back end loose under acceleration. The sound of the car was quite wonderful, and loud enough that when I got back into my VW Golf and started the engine I thought at first that there must be a problem because I couldn’t hear it!

The parking brake didn’t work and required 1st gear to keep it from rolling, and getting out of the car was complicated by the fact that the interior door handles didn’t really work, requiring one to reach over the door and use the exterior handle. I had hoped that this would be a good experience for Evelyn, but she said that the car had made her feel vulnerable – too low… too small… oh dear. And one of the other cars I want is a Honda S600…! Still, one of the reasons she had been happy to sell the Mercedes was that she considered it “too large”, which somewhat obviates her argument – no?

I talked to the seller later, and¬†he wanted to know my impressions and I was very honest. He agreed with my assertions and admitted that he wasn’t bonkers about selling it anyway, but that his wife had bought a new BMW and she wanted him to sell this as they didn’t need two convertibles. He’s a very nice bloke, but I don’t think that this is the car for me – needs too much work, which in other circumstances I might find invigorating, but with the limitations imposed by my condo and my work… No.

Ratings for this car (from 1 [poor] to 10 [exceptional] )

Value for money: 1
Driving Impression: 3
Body: 4
Interior: 3
Engine: 7
Handling: 5

Evelyn’s impression:

Cool factor: 4
The TR is an attractive looking car when viewed from the exterior. But, once seated in the car, it feels¬†tight, small, and too low to the ground, for my personal preferences. It’s rather intimidating to be on the highways alongside trucks, SUVs or even the modern day sedans when driving the TR6.
Comfort: 2
Price: 1
Likelihood that I’ll join Bruce¬†on a Sunday drive in this:¬†Maybe…if he stayed on country roads.

The Problem

Easy.

$$$$

I remember going to a car meet about a decade ago, and at the time I was talking to a bunch of guys who had various E types, Astons, Austin Healeys and the like, and they all commented upon the fact that they had been involved in their cars, and more importantly, car clubs, since the 1970s… BUT that, in that time, a younger generation of enthusiasts never emerged.

I am ashamed to say that I metaphorically rubbed my hands together with glee at this inference, figuring that I was online for a host of bargain British/German/Japanese classics for sale at low prices based upon the lack of interest.

To my horror, however, classics have simply become more expensive – why?

My Theories:

  1. Since the financial collapse of 2008, “truly” wealthy people are seeking better returns on their investment than property (especially in the States) or stock can easily achieve – so – “classic cars”. Porsches were the first, and now a rusted out hulk of a 1980s 911 can be put on sale for $60,000. Will they get that? Who knows. But the price IS OUT THERE.
  2. The internet. It’s not hard to go online and see what the value of things are. In the beginning, this was a great equalizer. Now it is simply silliness. Here’s the problem; a seller puts a dodgy 911 on sale for US$45,000 – it’s a bit of a dog and will need work. Someone selling their car will see that dodgy 911 and think – “HEY! – if he’s asking $45k for that heap, my fairly decent 911 MUST be worth $60,000…!” The problem is that, eventually, someone pays both prices, or close to it. And now we have a new benchmark for Porsche prices.

A high tide floats all boats.

My finances are NOT at high tide.

Thus, “the problem.” Classics are becoming inflated and I want one. In two years the bubble might collapse – and then I’ll be an idiot if I pay US$20k for an Alfa Spider…. Conversely, markets might not retreat, so I might regret the day I failed to shell out US$30k for a pristine manual XJC….

Decisions, Decisions.

So – long story short – I’m looking for the best car I can afford, at the best price, in the best condition with that certain je ne sais quoi that will twig me to buy it.

This is my journey.

The Premise

OK – so I need (“need”) a new (old) car.

What to get?

Well, here are the rules. Ideally, the car should be a convertible. I like smaller cars and am inclined to European models, but my budget (sadly, always an important consideration) is not the sort that would readily allow me to consider E Types, 300SLs or even a Maserati Mistral convertible…. No, I will be limited to searching for cars in the $15,000 to $25,000 category. This is worsened by the fact that the dollars mentioned are “Canadian” dollars, which have taken a beating in the last several months.

The car MUST be manual (there are exceptions, but they are “exceptional”)

The car should be manufactured between 1959 and 1976. Again Рfor the right car, these dates are malleable, but this is my preferred vintage Рand I should be clear that the dollars mentioned are Canadian dollars, which in the current global context makes my task less enviable.

The cars I am primarily interested in are as follows¬†¬†(and you will note that some of these are not convertibles… well – ttthpbt!):

  • TR6/250/4
  • Datsun 240Z/1600/2000
  • Alfa Romeo Spider (1971 to 1974)
  • Honda S600/S800
  • Toyota Sports 800
  • Jaguar MkII
  • Jaguar XJC
  • Lotus Elan (original)
  • Fiat Spider
  • Porsche 914 or 914/6
  • Porsche 912
  • Mercedes 230/250/280sl
  • Mazda RX7

I know that many of these won’t easily fit into the $25k category, and some of them are not spiders (spyders) – but one must keep an open mind. ūüôā

Lastly, and most difficult, any car I purchase must be a good driving example, or better expressed, “the best I can afford”. I live in a condo and it is a wonderful place to live – it even has its own underground car wash bay! It does not, however, allow tenants to put their classics up on blocks and wrench them – so any car I buy will have to be serviced/repaired/recovered offsite by someone other than myself with the financial consequences one would expect.

The background

I should start at the very beginning. I had a car and I sold it. The car you see in the banner is the one I owned, and I gave this sketch to the previous owner.

I bought a 1971 Mercedes 220 manual gasser in 2008, from an older gentleman in Ottawa who was the second owner and had had it since 1984. The first owner had lived on the same street in Ottawa and had sold it to the bloke I purchased it from. At that time, the car was in slightly rough shape, having driven only some 18,000 miles in the previous 22 years. There is a long and tedious story here, but the short version is that after a good deal of engine work (centring around the exhaust manifold, the fuel delivery system and the Stromberg carb) and a certain amount of bodywork and paint (much done by myself), I had what was by and large, a perfect driving example of an early 70s Mercedes. The new paint was period correct, the interior was original and largely perfect, the mechanicals had been fettled to an extent that the car ran reliably and trouble free.

I had something that I had wanted all my young life – a distinct and lovely classic car.

However (and there is always an “however”) I sold the car. My wife and I had decided to move to a condo and amongst many things that were sloughed off in the interest of “space and lightness”, my beloved Meg (the Mercedes) was one. Part of the reason for this was that I had a greater vision – a convertible! Long August afternoons spent with the wind in my diminishing hair and the sun on my increasing bald spot beckoned…

So I sold my car. It went to a Mercedes bloke who ran a Mercedes parts department. He sold the car to Richard Kuchinsky, whom I serendipitously met in a parking lot (I recognized my car). Richard has been good enough to keep in contact with me and to apprise me of developments on the car, which include the addition of European lights (see photograph) and period plates.

The problem is that now I have no classic car – and this MUST be addressed!

Photo credit: Richard Kuchinsky
Photo credit: Richard Kuchinsky

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