1957 Triumph TR3A #TS22126L

The TR2/TR3 | Projects/HowTos | My car | Maintenance History


1999/10/30 Steve Curtis Kutlesa of Rancho Palos Verdes sold car to Preston Clark III of Camarillo, CA Steve's ownership goes back to at least 1986 (according to receipts)


2002/03/31 Bought car from Preston Clark of Bishop, CA.
Car is running with some problems, particularly gauges, instruments, timing and fuel mixture. Car is mostly original, but has TR4a carbs (the HS6 instead of H6 SU carbs), radiator is missing crankstart hole, has elec fan.
2002/04 Odometer reading: 8400mi (probably not even the original odometer, so I can't even guess that it's 108k or 208k miles..)
2002/04 Had to grind down front bonnet - it was too long on one side and squeaking.
Replaced brake light pressure switch
Rebuilt carbs.
Replaced ignition with Pertronix electronic ignition, monkeyed with timing (had to un-sieze distributor pedestal)
Minor cosmetics, attached vent panel, pedal covers, etc..
2002/05 Replaced steering column electricals (horn wasn't working). Consequently, turn signals and headlights both went out as well, fixed some fusing problems and rewired, now lights, signals and horn all work.
Replaced oil filter with screw-on adaptor and changed oil. (replacements are Fram #PH3600 and K&N #HP-2009: 1971 Pinto, amongst others)
2002/06 Valve job, replaced valve seal.
Upholstered some of the loose rear body capping/trim
2002/08 Brake fluid leak. Replaced master cylinder and unfortunately broke Bundy tube, replaced tubes and tightened up reservoir leaks.
Bled all the nasty 1957 brake fluid out of the system.
2002/09/27 Replaced oil pan gasket. Messy, difficult job.
2002/10/10 Got starter rebuilt at RiteWay Electric in SF. Don't go there, they are a miserable company to work with and they did a miserable job.
2002/10/24 Lengthened/replaced too short power cables behind dash
Bled the clutch (didn't fix problem in the end)
Disassembled/repaired flakey headlight dimmer switch.
2002/11/04 Replaced glove compartment with wood shelf (for mounting stereo)
Flipped over choke cable so it locks again
Replaced heater core motor with spare and hooked up core
Rebuilt heater rheostat switch - heater now works!
2002/11/?? Hit and Run #1: Actually probably a hit and walk, someone breaks off one of the mirrors and leaves no note.
2002/11/12 Catastrophe on 11/8! Gas tank springs a leak and spills 2/3 tank over garage floor. I pull the gas tank and have it repaired.
2002/11/17 Replace clutch master cylinder.
2002/11/30? Replace left-rear leaf spring (cracked) by Carlos Automotive (Actually, looking back I'm pretty sure it was the right).
2002/12/04 Replace first muffler and redirect pipe by Discount Muffler
2002/12/04 Pull starter and bring to RiteWay for more work - they claim it's the flywheel that's the problem. Ugh.
Finish 11/12 gas tank repair by replacing filler neck hose.
2003/01/08? Start building my custom backseat/stereo compartment
2003/01/23 Antifreeze leak! Traced to heater valve hose - cut and tightened.
Replaced hood hinge gaskets and tightened - no more squeaks!
2003/01/27 Fan switch broke (on 1/23), finally tracked down replacement.
2003/03/21 Finished basic frame for backseat
2003/03/24 Got wiper motor fixed
Took in backseat top for upholstery and passenger seat for re-upholstery
Got a flat tire on the way home. Grrr.. Replaced with spare which also went flat. Grrr... Fixed flat, and then something was grinding when the wheel rotated - turns out the wheel is now hitting the calipers. :(
2003/03/25 Disassembled front hubs and pulled out wheel bearings.
2003/03/26 New bearings came in - doesn't solve problem.
Turns out the caliper mounting plate on the left is wrong, and it didn't have enough clearance, and finally it started to hit.
2003/03/29 Replaced caliper mounting plate, problem fixed!
Picked up and installed seats from upholstery shop.
2003/03/30 New tires
2003/04/01 Created wooden trunk cover for stereo project
Painted cover and backseat.
2003/05/07 Repaired wiring in dash and to lights. Added a homemade wiring harness extension so I can pull dash out while still connected.
2003/08/23 3 of 4 driveshaft bolts came out! Crikey! And this happened just as I was coming up to speed on the freeway - if it had happened 30 seconds later I would've been in big trouble. Managed to get it to a shop that had replacement bolts.
2003/09/02 I come back from vacation and the TR3A is blowing smoke and has no power. Head gasket?
2003/09/11 I bite the bullet and pull the head, my first real engine work. Turns out the head gasket is practically fused to the block and won't give. After some robots help me, I get the head off and sure enough discover a blown gasket.
2003/09/16 I replace the head gasket, and the car runs. But then everything else falls apart. The generator stops generating, one of the flasher bulbs burns, one of the manifold bolts breaks, another one gets stripped, and once again the driveshaft bolts fall out. Looks like the shop didn't do such a stellar job. When replacing the driveshaft bolts I notice that the two nuts for the rear frame bolts for the transmission have fallen out at some point as well, one of the nuts is still sitting on the ledge below it, saved by the oily gunk deposits there. Looks like I need to spend some time under my car checking all the nuts.
2003/09/17 I replace/fix all the bolts and the flasher and replace a radiator hose clamp that got stripped.
2003/09 Car is running poorly, then finally dies. Seems like it's misfiring mightily.
2003/10/02? Turns out both the rotor and the distributor cap went bad. Car is running again, but poorly and it's fouling plugs.
2003/10/09 Carlos figures out that somehow the distributor gear has jumped a tooth, which explains how the timing is so far off. This fixes the running problems, at least for a while, but then it starts misfiring occasionally again. My car is cursed! I still haven't rebuilt the generator (I just hook it up to a charger), so I'm speculating that it's not getting enough power to fully spark. Maybe it's time to finally do that alternator conversion..
2003/12/03 Converted to negative ground in preparation for an alternator conversion. It was easy, basically:
  1. Disconnect battery, turn around, connect negative -> ground
  2. Flip coil leads: (-) to distributor, (+) to ignition switch.
  3. Disconnect generator, briefly touch field (F) terminal on generator several times with wire to (+) on battery to spark (this repolarises the field windings)
  4. Convert back to condensor/points because my pertronix electronic ignition unit was positive ground.
  5. Connect battery positive.
I'll worry about flipping the ammeter nodes later.
2003/12/05 I pull out the manifolds again and look at the broken manifold bolt. Sure enough it broke off flush with the block. I'll need to deal with that later. I get an AC Delco alternator and try to figure out how to do the alternator conversion, I'll be putting photos up as soon as I figure it out.
2003/12/13 The bolt that got stripped was because the manifold holes were too close(?). I grind out one of the holes so it can fit on the new stud that I've installed to replace the bolt.
I send in the exhaust manifold to Jet-Hot to get it recoated. You can see the results yourself.
2004/02/02 Flushed the radiator.
Fixed the wiper again. This time I custom made a spring to replace the old brush spring. It still draws too much current though, and sometimes blows the fuse.
2004/02/21 Fixed the door handles
2004/02/24 Did some research on the alternator conversion - I might finally have a solution.
Built the electric lock for the glove compartment - need to find a way to mount it and the strike plate.
Cut a back panel for the glove compartment. Need to make sure it's water-tight and probably going to take it out one last time to paint it.
2004/03/18 Odometer reading: 16700mi
2004/04/06 The head gasket blew again. The compression is even higher (210-220) and I'm now finding out that it should be around 175. Turns out the original head thickness was 3.325 - 3.330 and it should never be milled below 3.170, otherwise the combustion chamber gets too small and compression gets too high, and poof goes the gasket).
2004/04/07 Sure enough, I pull the head and the gasket looks like it's been forced open. This explains why the head gasket nuts were torqued down so far, looks like the previous seller had seen this problem and was using nut pressure to avoid blowing gaskets. I take it to a machine shop and find that I'm running about 3.180 (and there's a small crack in the center across the water channel to boot). Fortunately it's not warped. I order a shim (694-505 - not in their online catalog) from Moss and have the machine shop start the repair. Moss also recommends using coppercoat to improve the seal, so I order some of that.
2004/04/07 It's a busy day. Perhaps feeling guilty for the dead state of my car, I crank away at small jobs:
Finish bolting in the speakers and staple down the speaker covers.
Put in an electric antenna.
Finished the glove compartment electric lock and strike (just needs a switch and a spring).
..tomorrow it's going to be the alarm system and back seat lock.
2004/04/11 I finally found an alternator solution!
2004/04/13 Built backseat lock (similar to glove compartment) and ripped out interior to start running wire for alarm and stereo.
2004/04/18 Odometer reading: 16900mi
Put the engine back together. Unfortunately the compression is even higher regardless of the shim, so I need to find another head.
2004/04/28 Engine still misfiring. I hooked it up to a scope and the spark lines were all squiggly. That's bad. When I pulled the spark plug wire and sparked to the engine block, it was clean, so something is happening inside the cylinder. Perhaps the incredibly high compression is screwing up the spark? The coil was giving out about 35kV, which I think I read as being fairly normal for the stock coil. Anyone?
I also finished hooking up a door switch (because the damn alarm wants to know when the door is opened or closed or else it won't work. Bah.)
And finally, the wiring harness is done for the alarm system!
2004/04/29 Finished the wiring for the amp and speakers. I have sound!
I found another head (Power British had some) and took it to the machine shop to get it checked out and cleaned up.
2004/05/04 Welded new hold in for new door check strap for driver door.
Turn signal fuse (A2) keeps blowing, put in temp flasher to test.
Installed Pertronix negative ground kit. I noticed the distributor plate wasn't attached very well to the body anymore - might be stripped, need to look into getting another distributor body to test.
2004/05/06? Pertronix ignitor dies! I replace with points/condensor which are fortunately still working.
2004/05/19 Took off the head (hopefully for the last time) to prep for the new head. Record removal time of under 1.5 hours.
2004/05/?? Replaced head. Fixed some connections in the distributor and reset points. Car runs without misfiring!
2004/06/04 Fixed signals - problem was bad connector from steering wheel.
Pulled off valves and replaced a few threaded and junky rocker arm adjustment screws, and retightened the head. Flushed the radiator.
Wiper motor blown. Annoying. I have a replacement to install.
2004/07/20 The car is getting a full body restoration and a paint job.
2004/09/20 Happy 47th Birthday!
2004/09/25 Odometer reading: 18244mi
One more head gasket job, this time demonstrating a faster technique
Finished alarm install (but alarm has some bugs..)
Fixed shaky brake light connection from paint job reassembly.
2004/12/17 The suspension siezed up back in November. I tore it apart and figured out that the trunnion was bad, so I ordered another. When it showed up I realized my suspension was missing some parts, so I placed another order. Then I mistakenly damaged the new trunnion, so I ordered another. Then when my garage was rearranged, some parts were lost, so I placed another order. Then I needed some more parts, so..
Ugh. It was a nightmare. Finally I got the trunnion replaced and put my suspension back together and it works!
It was quite a learning process about how to take apart the front suspension
2005/03/?? Odometer reading: 18814mi
Transmission finally blew out. Damn. This car isn't happy these days. The first and reverse gear are shot, but 2-4 still work.
2005/04/25 Much as I'd love to learn about pulling a transmission, I simply don't have the time, so I finally give in and let my mechanic Carlos pull it out. Turns out 1st is chewed up and the reverse/countershaft gear is in bad shape, but the rest of the gears look not so bad.
2005/06/02 Picked up my car today! Transmission is rebuilt. Found a NOS first gear and a decent used countershaft, and bought the requisite bearings and synchros for a rebuild. While the car was in the shop I finally pulled the carbs and took them to a machine shop to bore out the butterfly valve shafts for oversize shafts, finally the idle is stable and the car isn't dieseling anymore. The mix is off, so I need to adjust the carbs, maybe next week.
2005/06/06 Got in the replacement electric ignition (pertronix ignitor). The battery is low (still having charging problems?) so I'm charging it.
2006/12/24 Hit and Run #2: Stopped at a red light, the SUV behind me pulled into my car and damaged the back. When I got out to inspect the car, she took off. I managed to get most of the license plate number, and when we found a cop I tried to give it to them, but the cops refused to help, much to my surprise. I ended up not remembering the whole plate, and ended up filing a complaint with the police dep't which went basically nowhere. Thanks, San Francisco's finest, you really fucked the pooch on this one!
2006/02/05 The right turn signal hadn't been working, and I finally tracked it down, turns out the connector in the horn/turn switch had broken off again, so I needed to pull that apart and repair it - those switches are a nightmare. Maybe next time I'll take photos. Haven't figured out charge problems, but I cleaned up an alternator connection. The transmission is still having trouble with 3rd gear and I keep losing clutch fluid. Furthermore, I rather surprisingly had all of the brake fluid disappear one day - I think perhaps the seals are falling apart (though I don't know why the brakes would be emptied). On top of that:
2006/02/05 Hit and Run #3: Someone hit my car recently and scratched the hell out of the rear left panel.
2006/03/09 I get the rear panel refinished.
2006/08/?? I replace the battery, this seems to ameliorate the charging problems, don't know if it solved them.
2006/09/23 I keep losing brake fluid. The brakes get worse, and I finally pull the rears apart. The cylinders are gushing fluid, and need to be repaired and the shoes replaced. At some point the wrong fluid was introduced to the system and ate all the old seals, probably when the transmission was rebuilt. I'll pull the front brakes and clutch slave next to see if they're shot as well.
2006/10/19 Finally got new drums. Repainted hubs & inside of right wheel where the brake fluid had removed most of the paint. Rebuilt brake cylinders, reassembled and bled all brake lines. Brakes are happy, but 3rd gear is still troubled.
2007/02/24 Hit and Run #4: Someone (probably walking by) got hooked on the driver's door handle and broke it loose, causing damage to the door.
2007/02/24 And on top of that: the shifter knob medallion popped off. The body work under the drivers door (which was cracked) has gotten worse (a few weeks ago) and has been squeaking. The car is also running poorly, need to check tune and spark plugs (Champion L87Y/NGK BP6HS). (Champion #327 is evidently "Copper Plus #RL87YC"). Also, one of the tires keeps going flat. Poor car.
2007/04/25 Replaced spark plugs, big improvement. Also took off door handle, though I need to bring the door in for repair now, and I need to get some washer/nuts for the new door handle. Shifter medallion was fixed a few weeks back.
2007/10/22 Hit (my bad): Sadness. I have an accident and damage the front apron. Turns out that's pretty expensive. The brake pad somehow got loads of oil *under* the pad, and it popped off when I didn't hit it straight, and I bumped into a cab. A shocking amount of damage for such a slow impact.
2008/01/04 The muffler's finally dead (after enough times of the exhaust scraping my driveway). I take it to Chris' Muffler, but he replaces it with a resonator, so I'm going to take it back.
2008/01/10 I finally tune my carbs which were way too rich. I also order new (washable) air filters which look pretty fine, actually, and a stainless steel exhaust system which also turns out nice (after a few attempts at installing).
2008/02/04 My car stops charging, again. Much to my surprise, the engine pulley is broken. Fortunately this doesn't require pulling the engine. I also take my car back to Chris' Muffler to get the stainless exhaust installed.
2008/02/12 Odometer reading: 23407mi I get the pulley replaced and realize that I can do a better job lining up the belt by putting the spacers behind the alternator and pushing it forward more than (I remember) the instructions claim. Car is charging fine and the belt tension seems to hold.
2008/03/12 Hit (and not Run): Someone hits my rear end while I'm parked. Amazingly all they do is hit the spot that was damaged by the hit&run in 2006. I can't tell if there's any new damage, so I let her go.
2008/03? Transmission dies again. *grrr* That's only 3 years. Third gear never shifted very smoothly, but surprisingly it was the 1st/Reverse gear that died again, rather surprisingly and without any warning.
2008/04/24 I pull the transmission. The bearings are in bad shape and the transmission seems to be leaking some oil into the bell housing. The release bearing is completely shot. I also notice that the gear change stay bracket has disappeared sometime in the last 50 years, as well as the clutch housing cover, I'm lucky no rocks happened up there to chew-up the clutch or flywheel. I end up putting in a Toyota Transmission with the HVDA conversion kit. There's some play in the front U-Joint, so I replace those as well. The rear main seal has some oil leaking, but evidently that's common and unavoidable (unless I want to pull the crankshaft and convert to a rubber seal. Not today.) While it's apart, I clean off the seat panels and paint them with a rust protect primer. The conversion is functional, but I still need to put the panels and carpet back together (after getting back from vacation. :)
2008/09/09? Hit and Run #5: Someone hit and bent my rear right bumper. The one that was already damaged. There's also a small spot of new damage to the right rear panel. No note, of course.
2008/10/04 Had drivers seat completely re-upholstered with a few new springs Did home repair of some of the vinyl rips in the rest of the upholstery.
2008/10/08 Finally installed other leaf spring (see 2002/11/30) - Carlos. ?? <- wait .. did I actually go through with this?
2008/12/?? Cleaned up some of the damage on the front and rear end. *sigh*
2009/01/14 Lubed up the front end suspension, changed oil and oil filter.
2009/01/15 Replaced exhaust manifold -> exhaust gasket, then cleaned all the nasty exhaust scum covering the engine compartment. In the process, needed to reconnect the heater hose. Messy work.
2009/02/20 Car started running terribly a couple weeks ago. It would jump back and forth so I figured it was electrical. Replaced the spark plugs and it got worse - didn't check the gap on the new Autolite plugs from Kragen which turned out to be junk. Lesson learned. I couldn't figure it out, so I took it to Carlos. The distributor rotor had started to burn out - and on top of that the distributor shaft was loose and jumping.
2009/03/02 Distributor clamp needs to be fixed so that it can tighten down the distributor properly - timing keeps getting off. Fitted new tonneau cover to car, I can finally stop worrying about the rain.
2009/03/02 Carlos replaced the rear right leaf spring after it broke again. Unfortunately the rest of the rear suspension had come loose and on top of that had cracked the rear frame - this was the sound I was hearing that I thought was the manifold back on 1/15, had that welded back up and fortified.
2009/03/02 Hit and Run #6: Car was hit today, something like the sixth hit and run in the last three years, what is wrong with people? Fortunately this time it was just a broken tail light.
2009/03/03 Hit and Run #7: Unbelievable. One day later and someone hits the rear left fender of my car (for the second time)! No note, of course. Maybe I should just stop driving my car? Yeesh.
2009/03/24 Hit and Run #8: That's three in one month. Someone breaks off the driver mirror.
2009/06/08 The starter stops working. I send it off to ASE to test, and it's the bendix again. I decide to get a new gear reduction starter from BritishStarters.com which I install 6/18. It works great though it sounds very "geary".
2009/06/23 The muffler brackets had broken for a second time since putting in the stainless. Chris' Muffler hung it again for no charge, using two brackets this time.
2009/08/11 Ground some metal off the distributor clamp so it would work again.
2010? I take the car in to finally get the body work done. Right before I do it starts running weird, seems like a head gasket again? I take it back to A&G Auto Body (who did the first work) and they sit on it for too long (~ 6 months??) so I take it to Classic Auto Body in Berkeley.
2012/03/19 I finally get the car back from the body shop! A few issues still need to be taken care of, unfortunately.
Still running strange (head gasket?), and the steering has gotten pretty loose over the years. The right rear brake seems to lock up too easily.
2012/03/20 I start to look into the car problem, assuming it's the head gasket. Someone breaks into my car the night before and steals the compression tester, so I decide to go ahead with the replacement. The head gasket is fine, though there's a bit of the temp cable wire somehow pinched right by the edge of the head and the block? That might be why I'm not getting a temp reading, but I don't remember it being out as long as the last head gasket repair. I replace the gaskets anyways, and note that the exhaust gasket has a blow out. But that's only part of the problem. Something is still spraying coolant, and the damn thing is running terribly.
2012/03/24 I don't have time to deal with the car, I take it to "David" in the Haight and he does a valve job, then decides he doesn't have time to work on the car. David thinks the head has blown again (in a few days, and even though it has compression??) and the radiator is leaking. Wrong on both counts.
2012/04/11 I take the car to John's Jaguar. They replace the distributor cap, rotor, plugs and wires and the car starts running again. They also replace the oil and filter and lube front/rear end and drive shaft. They also looked at the loose front end. He tells me:
  1. A rod is knocking in the lower end and the engine will need overhaul replacement soon. :(
  2. The water pump has developed a hole and is leaking, needs replacement
  3. Thermostat hoses and gaskets are leaking
  4. It's running rich and should be tuned, suggested new carb needles and checking the gas in the float bowl (though rich implies not clogged)
  5. Front end is in bad shape - much needs replacing - time for rack and pinion conversion?
I also notice that the turn signals don't work and the blinker starts smoking when used, I'm guessing they wired up the signal lights wrong when they put the apron back on. The horn is gone as well.
2012/04/20 The car completely dies. The starter works, but the engine is devoid of life. Back to John's
2012/04/28 The ground strap on the engine snapped off and fried the ignitor electric ignition. Replaced strap, replace Pertronix.
2012/05/25 Hit (and not Run): Unbelievable. I have it back for two months, and some idiot flips a U-turn right into my car. He manages to damage the *only* panel that hadn't been hit yet. Is this intentional? The frame looks like it's bent. Fortunately the driver and his insurance are taking responsibility, and amazingly it looks like the newly replaced apron (at over $5000) is untouched. Regardless, that's 10 accidents (one my fault thanks to a leak on the brake pedal) since the body restoration in late 2004 (with no body damage before I decided to restore the body, of course). What is wrong with people?
2012/05/26 I take the car to Greg Solow's Engine Room in Santa Cruz in order to finally do a complete engine rebuild (w/ nitrided crankshaft, improved rear seal, etc..) Greg worked on TeriAnn's TR3 (from the team.net list) and do lots of work with Triumphs and Morgans. He's going to work with a nearby body shop that handles British cars to do the body work while he's working on the engine. I might have him also do the Rack & Pinion upgrade while he's got it since it requires apron removal, he's done it before, and the front end is damaged from the accident anyways.
2015/09/24 Odometer reading: 23693? Finally.
I have my car back.
The engine is done and the steering is repaired (instead of doing R&P). All the bodywork is repaired. I get to really drive it for the first time since 2010, and I fall in love all over again.
Notes about rebuild:
  • Use only Valvoline VR-1 20W-50
  • Change every 3k miles (+ filter every 6k)
  • Adjust valves (HOT) every 6k miles: .014" inlet, .016" exhaust!
  • Tire pressure: Front 28#, Rear 34# (L rear @ 36 until replace)
  • Check diff oil @ 3000 mi, change 20-30k: 90 "EP" GL-5
2015/12/28 Hit and Run #9: Some idiot backs into the Triumph and smashes the headlights and bends the headlight rims. There is very slight damage to the apron that I can only see if I take the headlights off, though the paint under the headlights is damaged by the glass dust. Fortunately they stop their car 1/4" short of bending the new apron which would have sent the car back to the shop for another year or two. Replaced headlights and bent headlight rims back into shape.
Update: The headlights won't aim right and some paint on the apron is damaged. *sigh*
2016/02/13 Rear left axle snaps. *sigh* Fixed at John's Jaguar after I totally fail to find any trailers anywhere in the Bay Area to try to get it down to Greg.

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