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Triumph TR3 - Faux Restorationitis

Ok, I need advice, or at least commiseration. Things are getting out of hand as I work on the car this winter.

Before being introduced to the term "frame up restoration", I've been the type of guy who tried to fix what he could and make the rest look as good as possible. I like my bikes and cars to work well and look nice. Now it's becoming more serious.

While pulling the leaf springs to replace the bushings in the shackle mounts and spring eye, I notice that the springs are rusty and could use some attention. They're now dismantled, derusted, new bushings are pressed in and they await repainting. I also notice the years of gunk on the shocks, so they're removed, cleaned and ready for paint. The links are not up to par, so new ones are ordered. The gunk is brushed off the shock mounts, but they could really use some degreasing and paint. There is oil and gunk all over the differential and the underside of the car and the top of the resonator, so I'm thinking about pulling the axle, replacing the pinion gear, and working on the underside of the body.

It all started with wanting to convert the brake system to silicone and eliminate an annoying squeak in the spring.

So...I've taken a bunch of pix of the underside of the car, and it's revealing a host of things that need attention, most of it involving cleaning, degreasing, derusting, rustproofing and painting. I'm beginning to see how "convenient" it would be to tackle that frame with the body off, but I'm really not prepared to take all that on at this time. So, I'm asking myself if I can do some of this work using a quasi-restoration approach; that is, can I at least do some cleaning and painting until that "big day" arrives when I have it all apart?

Does this happen to others?

My approach to date has been to restore or refurbish anything that has to come off the car or to which I gain access as I work on other things. This has gone quite well and provides great satisfaction as I see improvements take shape. I am a madman with a dremel and wire brush attachments. But what about tackling the frame while the car is still mounted on it? Is there benefit to this, or am I in danger of exposing the frame by removing the "automatic rustproofing" provided by all those oil and grease leaks?

I feel I have a solid car that I can enjoy for quite a while before taking it apart for several years of restoration. What's the advice out there? Can a guy be happy doing restoration things on the fly? How does one resist the temptation to clean and paint everything in sight? What's the goal here?

Make no mistake; I'm having the best time getting to know this lovely and and very basic piece of automotive magic, and I enjoy driving it even more than I imagined I would when it came home. I'm just getting compulsive and obsessive here, and I'm wondering if the full Monty frame-off is the only real cure.

There...that's off my chest. Now I can get back to pulling that axle. Can anyone suggest a good technique for degreasing a car on jack stands without completely fouling the garage floor?

Bill Stagg
1960 TR3A
Bill Stagg

There is no quick fix to all you are planning to do. Refurbishing everything you take off and repair/replace will shorten the time you will take to do the whole job - in say 3 years. Mine was a basket case in 1972 when I pushed it into the corner of my garage where it sat for 15 years. In 1987 when I decided on a body off restoration, I had no choice because everything was so bad. But because I hadn't used it in 15 years, I wasn't needing it immediately. You say yours is solid. That's good and you have only had it a year. I took 1100 hours over 3 years with another free 450 hours from my neighbor. You will not be happy if you start a major job - and have it all in 17,000 parts for 3 years. Louise says she counted all the parts - under the bed, behind the sofa, on the dining room table, etc. . . . .

I degrease mine twice a summer using white mineral spirits (Varsol up here) and paper towels. But it's all very thin. Also the paint is 100% and the oil, grease and road grime wipes off smooth and clean. If the parts were rusty, it would be harder to clean.

I got 125,000 miles out of my original rear leaf springs. The RH rear spring broke 7 miles from home after a 7220 mile trip out the VTR in Portland Oregon and back. It had not been squeaking but for about 3 years the RH rear side seamed to "sashay" sideways on snmooth roads with gentle waves in the asphalt. I found out the the 2 inner leaves had been broken for about 3 years.

I saw the photos of your rear end and all around the handbrake mechanism on the rear axle looks very nice. Fairly clean too !

Do the frame when you get it all off.

Don Elliott, 1958 TR3A
Don Elliott

Hi Bill: I too was faced with the question of how far to go with restorative work once I'd purchased the car.
My answer was to stop and think of my "long term" plan for this car/hobby. Was I going to keep it 10/15/20 yrs? Was I going to get some other car in a few years? Was I going to go back to motorcycles? (they never really go away)
These questions and others ran through my head the first winter in the garage while I attended to the most necessary repairs. Which of course led to a few other "I might as well" items.
Finally I decided the answer to the "long term" would make itself clear after the inaugural season of driving. The conclusion was yes - I will keep this car very long term, and so I will keep her roadworthy and looking sharp until major work requires me to think of "frame off".
But that works for me. Everyone has their own approach.

As for the grease deposits, I had covered my floor in plastic with carboard on top of it. As the cardboard sheets became unbearably filthy, (and they did) they were easily changed, and the plastic kept any spilled liquids from staining the floor or running away.
I just cleaned everything I could get to, and repainted what I could in place with good enamel and a brush. A "frame off" will correct all that later.
And you're right - it was fun.
Best of luck with your car, it sounds as though you're progressing quite well.

Regards -
Mike Gambordella 1956 TR3


Mike Gambordella

Mike! Good to hear from a fellow member of the class of '03. Hope all is going well out your way.

I formed the same conclusion after one season behind the wheel--this is a keeper, as much fun to drive as it is good for the soul. And it's a great balance between easy-to-understand (and maintain) technology and plain ole driving fun. I'm thinking long term, possibly adding another project in the distant future, but keeping this one. I still have the Honda CB360 I bought in 1974, and it's been through one restoration, though I kick myself for letting go of my '78 Bonneville. Amazing what having kids will do to the rational mind.

I'm just about ready to drop the differential/axle to change out the seals, and I plan on cleaning up everything I can get to. Are you doing any treatment to the underbody or frame as you go? If so, what? What are you using for a "good" enamel spray to touch up those exterior panels? Have you experimented with the POR-15 products yet?

My biggest job is switching over to silicone and rebuilding all the brakes as I change out all the seals. I have great hopes of both stopping and not leaking. I'm going to pass on the front suspension rebuild for this season. Maybe next. I gained enough improvement in the steering by changing three tie rod ends that were seriously shot (the PO already did one), so it looks like I can pass on opening up the steering box and the rest of the linkage, at least for now.

I did decide to rebuild the leaf springs (as long as I had them off to replace the bushings on them. I'm pleased that the lever shocks seem in good shape, but the links were well worn and will be replaced.

On the cosmetic front, I finally put the new grill on that I picked up at TRA last summer. Wow, what a great improvement over the dull, bent aluminum one that was in there. My car had no front bumper when I got it, so the new bumper and grill are quite happy together.

As I sign of the sickness, my decision to "replace the seals" on the differential have led me to consider "inspecting" the entire unit (as long as it's off...), so now I'm trying taking a self-administered crash course in differential rebuilding. I'm going to cast about for advice from the TR club at tonight's meeting. I can use some.

Here's wishing you luck in all you tackle this winter, Mike. Let's swap more pix when we can.

Best regards,

Bill
Bill Stagg

This thread was discussed between 31/01/2004 and 02/02/2004

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