1973 Triumph TR6 rescue and restoration

Here are a few pictures depicting the state of the Triumph after sitting outside under a fabric car cover for twenty years… thank goodness it resided in Southern California. But it was truly a rodent hotel.

Clearly we are looking at new floor pans in the passenger area, as well as the trunk. And pretty much everything else!

One word of advice for you when cleaning out an old car that has been host to rodents… MASK! The trunk, for example was at least four or five inches deep in droppings and twigs and nut shells and dirt. Gross.

I was somewhat careful about wearing a mask as we filled a garbage can with rodent droppings and shells and whatever the heck all that other stuff was, but not as careful as I should have been. My lungs have literally never been the same since that original cleanup. This is serious advice, heed it, please! Best practice would have been a good painter’s mask with dual filters, reasonably priced at Harbor Freight. I did utilize one, but there were occasions when I just wore a paper or cloth mask… that is not sufficient.

Triumph TR6 restoration: Removing the engine

The engine removal was straightforward. I left transmission and cylinder head attached, but removed manifolds and alternator, disconnected driveshaft, wires, and hoses. The head was stuck on the block so we used the hoist to separate it from the block, making sure it was pulled up evenly. Because the hoist was fully extended to the 1/4 ton hole, I added a reinforcing square tube all the way to the hook, which required drilling a hole for the 1/4 ton pin.

Triumph TR6 restoration: Engine stand installation

The other engines I’ve rebuilt were always mounted onto the stand at the rear of the block. After reading what other TR6 owners had done, I chose the side mount. This worked out very well, and the 12″x6″ quarter inch thick plate was plenty strong… no flexing or movement at all.

Triumph TR6 restoration: disassembling the engine

Well, everything looked as expected for an engine that probably hasn’t been freshened up since it was manufactured nearly fifty years ago. The cylinders looked fine to me, as did the pistons, but my machine shop of choice HDS/Carquest in San Marcos thought otherwise. Casey, the owner, knows what he’s doing. I absolutely trust him. Before getting the block and head over to him for the serious business, I decided to clean up the combustion chambers, ports, and connecting rods myself, as shown in subsequent posts.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: Engine prep before taking it to the machine shop

Easily one of the most enjoyable parts of my rebuild was the file work on the connecting rods. I have read the stock connecting rods weigh in at 684 grams, which means I filed about 44 grams off each. My aim wasn’t lightening them, though, just wanted to remove any sharp edges, grooves, etc., that might be a point of failure by propogating cracks. HDS would restore surface strength with their peening process.

With the ports and manifolds, my goal was just to clean them up a little to aid the flow. I would advise being very careful around the valve seats… make sure you leave enough material to insert new seats and still have a nice smooth transition to the port with no big pockets behind the seats. I tried to be very conservative there.

In the combustion chambers, I was again just focused on removing sharp edges to eliminate hot spots and smooth things out a little bit. It comes at a very slight cost in terms of compression ratio since I was making the chamber a little larger in volume. I was asking HDS to lop .140 of the heads, so it was of no concern at all.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: machine shop work performed on the engine

I brought the engine block and cylinder to head to Casey down at HDS Autoparts & Machine Shop in Escondido, California. Along with those heavy pieces I dropped off the following:

GP3-110 camshaft; ATI Super Damper; lightweight steel flywheel; new clutch and pressure plate; hardened valve seats; new valves; ARP head studs — all from Goodparts. I brought Casey my matched-weight set of County .020 pistons/rings/pins from Wishbone Classics. I also brought him my crankshaft; new timing gear; and my lightened 640 gram connecting rods. And probably other stuff I’m forgetting. Anyway he got the entire rotating assembly from damper to pressure plate.

HDS cleaned and magnafluxed the engine; bored the block and installed cam bearings; bored the cylinders .020″ and surfaced the block; peened my modified connecting rods; kissed the small end of the rods; modified the rods for ARP rod bolts; installed cast iron valve guides and hardened valve seats; polished the crankshaft; machined .140″ from the cylinder head; and balanced the entire rotating assembly. The compression ratio should be in the area of 9.5:1 with the milled head.

With the matched piston and rod weights, there wasn’t much to do on the rotating assembly except for the pressure plate. As you can see from the photo above, quite a bit of drilling (metal removal) was needed to balance that puppy. Should be smooth sailing, especially with the inherent smoothness of the six.

Postscript: the spec I gave Casey for the valve guide height was from the factory manual. That was a big oops, explained in the engine assembly article later.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: body removal

Separating the body from the chassis was a momentous occasion, and pretty straightforward, with the engine and transmission and the passenger floors and gas tank already removed. One of the online sites, can’t remember whether it is TRF or Moss, has a good illustration of all the bolts securing the body, and that was helpful for removal and re-assembly. Of course there are brake lines and fuel lines and other bits that need to be undone, as well.

We used our engine hoist to do the lifting, anchoring the chains as shown in the photos. I built a stand with wheels so that the body could be moved around in the garage. The stand also allowed me to work while standing up inside the engine bay or passenger area when necessary. As you can see in the pictures, I utilized the door hinges and latch holes, along with a couple other existing holes, to brace the body so it would not fold and create problems later. I really didn’t want to go to the trouble of welding and and then grinding off the braces, nor did I want to drill any holes.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: reparing the frame

As I looked over the frame after removing the body, I was really pleased at the absence of rust and absence of cracks in the usually suspect areas. However, upon closer inspection it was obvious that the car had taken a hit in the right front corner. The direction of the hit seemed to be from the right front wheel on a vector through the driver’s head, as if it had been driven into a culvert and struck something immovable.

I thought about taking it into a body shop that had frame straightening equipment, but ultimately decided that a little work with a porta-power hydraulic ram would solve my problem. Well, that along with some new parts and a bit of welding. I was already planning on replacing every bit of the car that could possibly be worn, so adding few more pieces to replace bent parts was no big deal.

The porta-power worked great pushing the shock/spring tower back to where it belonged. We’re only talking about 7/16″ but the frame is a little springy so it had to be pushed a bit further than that to allow for spring back. I replaced both upper fulcrum pins (left and right side of the car), welded the shock tower where it had come apart, and then trusted that I could get the alignment right when it all got bolted back together. And it worked out perfectly.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: frame and suspension rebuild

Rebuilding the suspension and restoring the frame was very satisfying, and it feels good to have all new bushings and bearings, brakes and brake lines, shocks and springs, and a fresh coat of paint on everything.

The alignment process was simple enough. First I found the centerline of the car and then set up a couple parallel strings running along the length of the chassis, a little wider than the car’s track and running through the centerline of the wheel hubs. I used a length of 1/4 thick aluminum bar to represent the wheels. With the bar vertical I adjusted the camber angle. With the bar horizontal I was able to adjust the toe. I set it up without the springs installed so I could raise the suspension to where I estimated they would be if the car was sitting on the ground. Any additional adjustments will come after the car is driven.

In addition to replacing all the bushings, nuts and bolts, and worn out stuff, I replaced both upper fulcrum pins and the passenger side vertical link. New parts also included 390 lb front springs and 470 lb rear springs from Goodparts, which lowered the ride height by an inch and stiffened up the ride. GAZ adjustable shocks in front and rebuilt lever shocks in the rear with custom valves to suit the stiffer springs. World Wide Auto Parts did the rebuild of the lever shocks.

Triumph TR6 Restoration: rebuilding the Engine

Naturally I wanted to do everything correctly in restoring the Triumph, but if there was one particular part of the build that REALLY needed to go right, it was the engine assembly. Pulling the engine and trans back out because something was screwed up is the last thing anyone would want to do. This is not my first rebuild, in fact there’s a write up of the SBC Chevy engine for the Apache truck elsewhere in barndogtrucks. But the Triumph engine was new territory for me compared to the Chevy engine. Thankfully we have our great shop manual available, plus live help from vendors like Richard Good and Casey over at HDS Machine shop. And, of course, the fantastic British car forums.

I had a bit of an issue installing the pistons with the pliers style ring compressor. By hand, I could not hold the compressor down firmly enough to squeeze the rings into the cylinders. As depicted above I came up with a solution that made it a breeze. With the Chevy engine I had the advantage of a tapered ring compressor which really made it simple. No such thing seems to exist for the Triumph bores. I do like the pliers style compressor with the locking ratchet, but that recess at the top of the block complicated things for me, thus the mechanical help holding the compressor down.

I chose to use Classic Technologies steel sealing block for the front of the engine for my peace of mind. However, I had to grind down the top of the ARP main bearing cap bolts for clearance.

With help from Richard Good and a magnetic dial indicator, setting up the camshaft was pretty straightforward. It is great to find people who back up their sales with enthusiastic customer service, and I encountered that throughout the restoration of the TR6 with Richard and everyone else along the way. He spent a good amount of time on the phone with me diagnosing a problem I found AFTER the car had been driven for a few weeks. My bad, of course…

I had decided to use Viton valve stem seals, but I told Casey at HDS to set the height of the valve guides per the factory manual number. After driving the car for a couple hundred miles, I popped the valve cover off to re-torque the head and I found that the oil seals had been smashed and there were little bits lying around the cylinder head near the valve springs… see the picture. With the higher lift camshaft, the stock valve guide height spec is a little too tall. In fact, their installation tool, which I used to install the seals, is also to be used to set the valve guide height. Didn’t even occur to me.

I attempted to rectify the problem by discarding the seals, using compressed air to hold the valves up while I removed the springs. After all, the factory doesn’t install seals. But, dang, I didn’t use enough air pressure and the first valve dropped into the cylinder, onto the top of the piston. When I removed the head it was standing upright, as my son-in-law Russel said “like it was giving you the finger.” Ouch. So the head came off, and it was painful, but for the best. The Lisle “hit it with a hammer” tool works very well for removing valve springs but was problematic for installation. I reverted to my old valve spring compressor to finish the job.

Helluva a lot more than I wanted to do, but after putting it all back together and changing oil and filter, all is well. No damage done.