Some months back, this blog page explored the British car hobby and how owning one of these gems can keep an electronics guy well grounded (no pun intended). It seems only fair to update all on the progress made while restoring my long time Triumph Stag. Oddly enough, I’ve found where the philosophies behind restoring complex electronic gear and the tricks learned along the way have important parallels in the car hobby. But, back to the Stag.
In the mid-1960’s Triumph provided one of its pedestrian saloon cars to Giovani Michelotti, a well-known Italian car stylist, with an eye toward building a new sporting vehicle while leveraging the parts bins of its other car products. Triumph was always looking for ways to trim production costs on its new models and Michelotti was their go-to car stylist. You see, Michelotti was the stylist responsible for the firm’s extremely popular Triumph Spitfire, Herald, 2000-series saloons, and TR4 cars.
What spurred Triumph’s interest in a new concept car via Michelotti was a looming car show that would highlight many of the leading European car manufacturers’ thoughts on potential innovative designs. Michelotti was given a month to work his magic and the result was what eventually became the Triumph Stag….eventually because the car’s innovative V8 engine was delayed for several years due to a 4-cylinder derivative of the V8 design Triumph sold and optimized for Saab’s new Model 99 car. Oh, Michelotti’s concept car was so strikingly beautiful that Triumph management skipped the show altogether and brought it home under wraps!
Finally, Triumph’s Stag went in to production in 1970 and carried on until mid-1979. Of the approximate 26,000 Stags produced, only a mere 2,871 were exported to the United States over the years 1971 through 1973. Worker strikes at Triumph manufacturing plants (then part of British Leyland) delayed car completions and contributed to many manufacturing errors. With more stringent USA crash test requirements planned for Year 1974 and beyond, the Stag was quietly withdrawn from the US market by mid-1973 but continued to sold in Europe.
I bought my Stag from a Baton Rouge oil executive in 1978 and it has remained in ‘the family’ ever since. With an engineering career moving into high gear beginning in 1980, my Stag has spent the majority of its time not on the road but sadly tucked away in various warehouses. I began its major restoration in late 2021 and am closing in on its completion…thankfully.
The most amazing thing about undertaking a complete ground up automobile restoration – one where the vehicle is completely disassembled with each component/assembly replaced or rebuilt and refinished – is the amount of physical space it consumes. I have had car parts of all weights and sizes stacked up in my office, warehouse, workshop, and even in the house! Speaking of parts, my sources for suspension, rear-end, transmission, engine, and cosmetic parts are spread throughout England. My poor DHL delivery man is convinced I bought a car in kit form…particularly since he singlehandedly hoofed countless heavy parts shipments into my car “laboratory” over many months! That stainless steel dual exhaust system, as viewed in the middle picture below, just about did him in…from England, of course…
So, what has been accomplished you ask? How about this: total two-stage paint job; rebuilt/upgraded front and rear suspension; rebuilt transmission; balanced/blue printed engine to European specs; Freon 134 air conditioning conversion; rebuilt brake and clutch hydraulics; new and improved cooling system; restored dash pad by Just Dashes, Inc.; conversion of dashboard to burled walnut by Moderna Customs; all chromed items restored by East Tennessee Chrome Plating; numerous changes and enhancements to the infamous Lucas electrical system….and while the list goes on, the end is clearly in sight. In fact, it has to be completed by March 23rd -- in time for a major British car show at my Covington home town!
So, here it is as of January 6th. Let’s see what March brings!
What a difference a few months of steady work can make. In the top image, the engine/transmission has been installed and work is progressing with both the car's chrome trim and electrical components. The middle view highlights the clean lines of Michelotti's styling sense. The last photo provides a glimpse of the Triumph's V8 3-litre engine bay gradually taking shape. A 4-cylinder version...essentially one half of the V8 configuration...found use in Triumph's TR7 and Dolomite models as well as Saab cars beginning with the Saab 99.
In today's high-stress/always-on world, make time for the diversion a good hobby can bring. Hobbies that involve multiple senses are important to keep brains sharp, lower stress (and blood pressure), and help maintain one's level of curiosity high. This is especially important as the years roll by. No doubt you've known some who retired early, had nothing to do at home, and soon became as what we call in the Ham Radio World: 'Silent Keys'. On old client of mine worked like a dog for 40 years, finally retired, had nothing new to do, and dropped dead within a week. Don't let that be you!