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Triumph Vitesse

Triumph Vitesse Published: 27th Jan 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Triumph Vitesse
Triumph Vitesse
Triumph Vitesse
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‘Young’ Robert Couldwell goes back to his youth with a tuned Triumph rag top CAR: Triumph Vitesse Convertible YEAR: 1969 OWNER: Robert Couldwell

Having sold my much appreciated and admired Jaguar XK150, withdrawal symptoms quickly set in. The Alvis TC21 DHC that I thought was lined up had been sold by the owner, reneging on our agreement that I would have first refusal!

I did seriously consider the ex-Douglas Bader TC21 DHC residing in Northern Ireland and while it appeared to be a beautiful example, it was black and a little too funereal for a sporting, post vintage thoroughbred I felt.

I began to realise that finding that A1 Alvis would be a long job so decided a stop-gap would be required. Way back in my early twenties, I had owned first a Triumph Vitesse 1600 and then my dream at the time, a later Mk1, 2-litre Convertible which gave me and my then girlfriend (now wife) a great deal of pleasure including an eventful trip to Italy.

VIVA VITESSE

I have always liked these big-engined Heralds for their rugged simplicity and ease of maintenance and repair – and go. Unfortunately, thanks to good old tin worm, there are few left and many of the survivors leave a lot to be desired. The benefit is they are appreciating, particularly Mk2 rag tops, especially with the highly desirable overdrive transmission.

I was buying at the right time of year – the end of summer but there were very few to choose from. I looked at one with a fast TR6 motor fitted which certainly went well but I wasn’t sure whether the modification would be everybody’s cup of tea when I came to sell it, once the Alvis was acquired. Having said that, it sold the next day at close to the £9000 asking price! Other reasons I didn’t buy it was its very fast performance – I didn’t want to be tempted to use it and lose it (the licence that is) and also its bodywork, which while rust-free and shiny had some of the usual issues including bonnet shut lines half an inch wide at the top and an eighth at the bottom. Further, there were the pair of two-inch boy racer exhausts protruding from the middle of the rear – hardly becoming of somebody my age don’t you think.

My wife does not like red cars that much and unfortunately the next car was, you’ve guessed it, red but with some persuasion, jobs around the house, flowers and various gardening slavery, she agreed that I could go and look at it…

In the pictures it looked superb (but don’t they all) with excellent panel gaps and a long list of renewed parts including the overdrive unit, differential, suspension and the fuel tank.

When I arrived, it still seemed in good nick until I got up close and saw it had received a very sloppy respray with metal let into the doors which caused them to stick out. Panel gaps on one side were fine but on the other, ‘v’ shaped again.

The chap selling it was very genuine, open and friendly mind, and having worked out what I would have to spend, I was somewhat embarrassed to have to say (done by E mail) that I wouldn’t want to offend him with an offer. He said he wouldn’t be offended and asked me to state my figure… which was a fat £2000 less than the asking price (£7000) which had already been reduced. I felt a little guilty when he accepted as I was sure he could have achieved a better price if he had marketed the car more effectively; a lesson there for us all.

D DAY ARRIVES

I arranged to collect it meaning a journey home of about 75 miles. It started well when the rain cleared, the sun came out and the hood came down until miles later as I filtered on to the A34 and then hit a traffic jam. There I was in a car I didn’t know with no oil pressure gauge, a broken temperature gauge with the ambient temperature climbing. I covered a mile in precisely one hour and fortunately came to a roundabout where I was able to swing back the way I had come and wend my way through some lovely by-roads in Berkshire, Hampshire and Sussex.

For the car, it was a bit of a baptism in fire and it didn’t miss a beat, certainly showing no signs of overheating as so many oldies do.

The brakes had been fitted with EBC Green Stuff pads despite the lack of a servo, and were certainly challenging and I thought in some way defective. The car didn’t seem as quick as I remembered until I happened to look at the speed reading on the Satnav which was displaying 10mph more than the speedo! I thought at the time this was a cable issue until it dawned on me one day that as the overdrive had been fitted during the car’s life, the speedometer was calibrated for a non-overdrive ’box. One benefit of fitting the overdrive later is the ‘diff’ has a higher ratio to suit the non-overdrive gearbox, giving higher gearing.

I’m afraid, these days, I don’t like to touch the oily bits so booked the old girl into my mate’s garage for a general assessment. I first thoroughly cleaned the whole car and discovered I had missed some rust on the original inspection, either side of the rear boot opening.

Fortunately Dangerous Dave at Goodwood Autos was not fazed by that and would sort it all out.

The trouble with having a mate with a garage is that his proper customers always come first which can involve delay. But after a couple of weeks he was on to it and gave it a pretty clean bill of health apart from the seized calipers which he freed up. However, I don’t take chances with brakes and bought new ones from that excellent Triumph parts specialist, Rimmer Brothers. With oil and filters changed and nipples greased I got the car back for a while during Dave’s holiday, leaving the rust to do plus the servo to fit as well as an alternator and oil pressure/water temperature gauge in place of the u/s water temperature gauge. It seems amazing that no oil pressure gauge was fitted originally. With new standard pads the brakes now feel right although do require a shove, pushing me to order a servo kit.

I don’t like running on old tyres so one of the first things was a new set. For many years I have been a great fan of Continentals and I was particularly impressed with their life on my everyday Vectra. I was pleased that the company still makes the 155x14 covers and these were fitted and balanced by the local Kwikfit. To my surprise and embarrassment, the car wouldn’t start in the service bay but four burly mechanics were on hand to give me a shove. The battery was eight years old so I thought it best to replace it and order an alternator while about it.

My wife and I had a pleasant drive to an Alvis event at Borde Hill Gardens but the car is much, noisier than I remember so I need to find another similar car to compare. In any event I will attempt to add insulation to the floors, tunnel and bulkhead. My plan is to gradually improve the car and hopefully make a turn on it when I sell perhaps in the spring when the sun comes out once more and folk yearn for a soft top…



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