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Self-Confident People are Drawn to British Sportscars

If you are a Boomer of a certain age, it is natural to occasionally pause and review choices made, directions taken, lost loves, periods of insightful insight as well as those impossible-to-forget decisions that in Today’s light teeter on the brink of abject stupidity. Maybe…just maybe….at some point you were somehow, somewhere afflicted with the oft-dreaded British Sportscar Disease. Oh yes, I was so smitten in college…It was automotive love at first sight when, by chance, I briefly drove a friend’s midnight blue 1970 Triumph Spitfire.

It was magic and, of course, I had to have one.

The hook was set and soon a ’70 Spit became mine! Oh, it was a gleaming British Racing Green with black interior and shined like a mirror…rather loudly with its fabulous Abarth exhaust system. That Abarth made my little Spit sound like 1,000 horses were galloping under the ‘bonnet’… but alas it housed a mere 1296 cc 4-cylinder engine that a football jock could tote around if so pressed. Worse was the horn…never depress a Spitfire’s horn button…it squawks like a partially strangled goose. Rather embarrassing, but we continue.

The ultimate challenge us British car enthusiasts shouldered was to experiment and squeeze ever more horses out of the little guys. Here, I took the bait – hook, line, and sinker. Off came the single Stromberg carb and on went twin SUs…many late nights experimenting with mixture needles and settings to get the sweetness out. Out went the distributor’s breaker points (which seemingly required re-adjustment every couple of weeks) and in went a solid state ignition system. In went the street/track cam shaft…out went the spun main bearings (argh). Bit by bit, the performance went up and, oddly enough, so did the gas economy.

Through a succession of Triumph sportscars (TR3, 4, 250, 6 and a boatload of Spitfires and the occasional GT6) I learned all about radial tires, SPAX adjustable shocks, ventilated disc brake upgrades, engine rebuilding and…ahem…the Joseph Lucas electrical wiring and switchgear so widely used in British cars of all makes and stripes. Ol’ Joseph aptly earned its royal alternative name: Prince of Darkness due to its uncanny ability to find a way to fail electrically at the most improbable times. Normally at night on a somewhat deserted back road or, more exciting, on the Metairie/St Tammany Causeway Bridge --- 24 miles over open water and with no emergency lane!

Perhaps the most important lessons learned through my 50 year association with British cars are these: A) Keep an open mind with a willingness to learn; B) Expand your vocabulary of curse words – they do come in handy; and C) Gain the security to laugh at your mistakes and never take yourself too seriously.

So, yes, I am back at it…undertaking a complete nut-and-bolt restoration of my trusty 1973

Triumph Stag. It’s been with me since 1978 and, in our long association, I’ve rounded the bases many times on Lessons A, B and C. Fair warning though, while things may get a bit heated and the words a bit blue in the old garage at times, the end result is worth it. Give it a try!



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