Triumphant Dawn

I see the TR6 coming close in behind – its circular headlamps glowing bright and filling the reflection in my door mirror.

Later on I’ll be in that car, too, the wind buffeting my face and the cold March air filled with that lovely deep growl of an engine note.

Down in the engine room the six-cylinder power-house will be carrying out its duties without even a hint of fuss, helping this car surge her way along the A-roads.

Getting the TR6 going after her long hibernation has taken time, energy and a few choice words best described as post-watershed. But she is ready for the task and is eating up the miles.

For now, though, I’m with Mark Fuller in the rather pert-looking TR4A. Conditions here are … cosy – in part because we have a roof over our heads. Mark is smiling as we look over the wood-clad dashboard, once so much the in-thing for British cars, and at the road ahead which the little TR is soaking up with bags of enthusiasm.

On the Road 4 660

Still in the shed is the grand-daddy of the bunch – the little TR3. Among this trio of Triumphs, she is perhaps wearing her years a little less convincingly than the other two. But, nonetheless, she is road legal and raring to go.

In fact, all three are performing well, considering they’ve been tucked up all winter. But now, with spring just about upon us, and the days getting longer, Shetland’s rich array of classics are beginning to get noticed again. And the TRs are out in force.

It’s time to throw off the covers.

I don’t know if Mark is known as Mr Triumph, but he probably should be. His love of TRs goes back to when he was 17. He has already had an example of Triumph’s much sought-after GT, the Stag.

“Having young kids it was great, because you could go about with the kids. But the kids get to a certain age where it’s not cool to be seen with Dad, so it was my excuse to get a two-seater.”
Time for a TR6, then. But the first one in Mark’s hands was not the stylish roadster you see here. He initially bought a car brought back to the UK from California. But on later getting his TR4, he found the smaller-engined car “ran rings” round the more powerful 6. Why?

“When I bought the TR4, she’d been breathed on a little bit, tuned and what-not, and she absolutely ran rings round the TR6, which shouldn’t have been the case.

“The American cars were seriously detuned to meet their emission regulations. I went looking for an original-spec, UK car, managed to find one and took the chance to buy it.”

On the Road 3 660

And who could argue against that? The new TR6, a 1970 car, is fitted with what Triumph termed as a PI, or petrol injection, 150 bhp engine of two and a half litres.

The TR6, says Mark, does not take kindly to sitting idle for lengthy periods, which makes the long, dark winter something of an inconvenience. But that’s all the more reason to celebrate the changing of the season.

“She needs a little bit more fettling. She needs to be used, and unfortunately our climate doesn’t let us use the cars as long as they do down south. Our season is pretty much March to September. We’ve got a constant battle with moisture and salt.

“It’s great fun, I just get a huge amount of enjoyment from it.”

Mark has had plenty of enjoyment from his 1967 TR4A, as well – and has even ventured into the continent with the dashing little sports car. It has been to Le Mans twice – home of the world’s oldest endurance race, the 24 Hours Le Mans.

But there are classic events there too, and it’s the TR4A that has taken Mark out to see the entertaining spectacle. He has plans to take her again this year, even if last year’s venture brought some unwanted overheating problems, which meant having to “nurse it round” for 1,500 miles.

“We got to France, there were very high temperatures, and I managed to blow a radiator hose.
“James Hutton, my co-pilot … there’s not much room in a TR4A cabin, and he spent the entire trip very up close and personal with a 25-litre tank of water.”

Nonetheless, driving a TR on the continent will get you an awful lot of attention.

“In France people will actually stop and wave, toot horns. Traffic lights are a hoot because everybody just claps, and asks about the cars. My French is rubbish so I’ve not got a clue what they are saying, but the general feeling is understood.”

The oldest in the trio is the 1960 TR3, and a “rolling restoration”. Mark is delighted that she is roadworthy, but is unsure just how far he should go in making her look new.

“If you go too far then you’re too scared to take them out. The car needs to be driven.”

On the Road 2 660

Of course, Triumph is just one of a host of British sports car manufacturers that flourished in the post-war years. But Triumph was hopelessly mismanaged after the company was sucked into the woeful British Leyland empire, and the marque was finally laid to rest in 1984, its bow-out model a mundane Honda-based saloon.

But even under BL, Triumph showed tremendous potential, even if very little of that opportunity was ever realised. Look up the still-born Lynx project, a promising Stag successor, or Google the proposed, but never produced, Dolomite replacement, the SD2, if you want to wallow in the world of what-might-have-beens.

Nowadays, the famous marque is owned by BMW – custodians of Triumph’s one-time stablemate, Mini. Talk emerges every few years of a possible resurrection of the Triumph name, although the Bavarians have never confirmed any relaunch plans. A separate enterprise has already seen Triumph motorbikes brought back into production. Is Triumph dead? Or does a new dawn await?

Photos: Dave Donaldson

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