Sold: 1961 Triumph TR4 w/ Engine Audio Clips ($39,995)
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1961 Triumph TR4 w/ Engine Audio Clips ($39,995)

Tom Hale By
May 23, 2017

Photography by Jake Salyers

PRICE: $39,995

KENTUCKY BARN FIND

Back in 2009, Tom Hale, the current owner, made quite a discovery in a ramshackle Kentucky tobacco barn. Rusting away inside the structure was a very early ’61 TR4, sitting dormant after 40 years of storage on the original owner’s farm. Despite the grime and decay, this car retained all its early production cues: short hood “bubble,” convex gauges, passenger-side parking brake, clamshell seats—everything was there and ready to be brought back to its former glory, but perhaps with a bit of a “massage” to make the car slightly faster and louder than stock, and almost certainly with a striking color scheme. The tired Triumph before him received one hell of a second chance.

The TR4 is, of course, one of the quintessential British roadsters of the ’60s, and its roots are surprisingly practical for a sports car. As the TR3 design aged, it became clear to the company that increased comfort and utility would be key components of their new sports car, especially in the competitive North American market. So, gone were the cut down doors, replaced by more conventional ones housing functional roll-up windows; a boxier trunk out back significantly increased luggage space; and the pushrod engine design up front actually started out in a Ferguson tractor, almost the definition of a utilitarian vehicle.

Taken in isolation, these characteristics may not sound particularly appealing, and especially so in the shadow of the TR3’s reputation for purity and driving pleasure. But Triumph packaged their new car in a body by the famed Giovanni Michelotti, he of the great mid-century Italian thoroughbred designs. Sculptural yet tidy, modern yet restrained, the new TR4 looked every inch like the British roadster of the moment.

THE CAR

After five years at the hands of restorer Danny Morton from Sterling British Motoring Society in Kentucky, the vision for the TR4 became a reality.  The once dusty barn car now wears a deep coat of black paint, complemented by menacing black wire wheels, and a clean, bumper-less look on the body. Inside, a fresh, custom red leather cabin breaks up the sea of shiny black sheetmetal, which contrasts nicely with the rest of the car. Little details and elaborations abound too; the Marchal lamps up front, for instance, bring a bit of Continental flair to this British steed, as do the French badges on the hood and grille.

Despite the high level of workmanship on display, the goal was never to create a better-than-new Triumph. Instead, he wanted the look of an original car that has been loved and upgraded over the years. To that end, many of the trim and interior components are originals, with their intact patina lending some warmth and authenticity to the car. A perfect blend of whimsy, heritage, and originality, his TR4 ended up becoming a unique and tasteful example of the breed.

EXTERIOR

Body – The car’s original panels were repairable when the car was purchased and they look excellent in their post-restoration form. Panel gaps and fit and finish are similarly well done, and showcase a dry, straight body.

Paint – The black paint really suits the design of the Triumph and it is a quality job throughout. Show-ready, but not too precious to take on a long drive either.

Chrome & Glass – Clear glass and bright chrome are complemented by original “patina parts.” The chrome knock-off hubs look especially good mounted on the contrasting black wire wheels.

Wheels – Correct wire wheels with a bit of flair and a stunning paint job look wonderful and wear fresh tires.

Convertible Top – Pristine and well-sealed against the elements, the top is in great condition with its clear triple rear window and smart black canvas.

INTERIOR

Steering Wheel – The correct “banjo”-style wheel is intact and wears a stitched leather cover for extra grip.

Dashboard & Instrumentation – Beautiful, convex gauges are a hallmark of early TR4s, and these examples look great with fresh bezels and clear faces. The dash walnut is done to a very high standard, and is surrounded by tight, supple black leather.

Seats, Trim, & Carpet – Vibrant red leather abounds inside the cabin, with the early “clamshell” seats looking very fine indeed. Black piping and thick, new carpeting complete this comfortable and inviting cockpit.

MECHANICAL

Engine – The car’s original inline-four has been rebuilt and is slightly bored-out for extra shove and driving pleasure. The twin sidedraft SU carburetors are tuned well and provide lots of smooth, intoxicating power. Everything in the engine bay is restored and working properly, resulting in a reliable car with some serious abilities to boot.

Idle

Rev Range

Drive-By

Transmission – The four-speed is precise and a joy to operate through its delicate lever. A sturdy, perfectly-weighted clutch is a great companion when running through the gears.

Handling: While later TR4s received independent rear suspension, the early cars are still capable backroad warriors thanks to a light curb weight and excellent weight distribution. Brakes are strong and progressive, with plenty of feel, while the steering is delightfully meaty and full of the kind of feedback you look for in an analog car.

ORIGINALITY

While this Triumph is restored, that does not necessarily mean it isn’t original. A sympathetic restoration, using the original drivetrain, body panels, and trim pieces (some of which are unrestored) strikes a balance between making the car new again, and guarding its past. As in most restorations, the owner has made personal choices concerning spec, colors, and the overall theme of the car, but in this case they are all well-informed and tasteful. The result is a Triumph that celebrates it all: past, present, and future.

DOCUMENTATION

The restoration of the car was fully documented, and includes some very interesting photos from the car’s barn find discovery, which you can see here in this article previously featured on Petrolicious.

OUR THOUGHTS

Backroad Bomber – There are few other cars as engaging as a period Triumph in the bends, and with its torquey engine, performance exhaust, and nimble handling, this example can hang with the best of them.

Sympathetic Resto – It’s never a good idea to buy a car without a soul. Some shops take the restoration process too far, and in pursuit of perfection create a car that is not at all connected to its original ethos. Not so here. Tom ensured that his Triumph would feel like a preserved, original car, and had some fun along the way elaborating on the theme of a period Riviera gentleman’s steed.

Pedigree, Pedigree, Pedigree – TR4s are on the rise, and there’s good reason behind the trend. A famed British marque, a body designed by Michelotti, and replete with all the top-down charm one could ask for. Plus, this car is a rare early example of the model, with some neat pre-production touches that further set it apart.

MEET THE SELLER

This car is for sale by Tom Hale of New York, NY.

 

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