The Rusty TR6
This page is about the restoration of a trusty but very rusty TR6. We have owned this Delft blue 1975 Triumph since November 1986. Delft is roughly the background blue color of this page (for some reason the site photos make the car look much lighter than it really is). For the past 15 years this car has been absolutely dependable. I’ve driven it year round in the severe Maine weather including the heavily salted winter roads. Surprisingly it did quite well in the snow. At the time of purchase, it’s soft top was tattered and the roof frame broken so we replaced it with a hard top from Parrish. The hard top made it quite comfortable for winter driving. Needless to say those salted roads have taken a pretty heavy toll on the car. My daughter, as a college student, drove the car for a couple of summers. The restoration, or should I say “Rustoration” started in 2000.
Rust was, and still is, a serious problem on my old faithful TR6. A serious problem, sure, but one that I thought wouldn’t be too big an undertaking. The damage had reached a point that the car would not pass the annual Maine state inspection. The past couple of inspections were done by friends that may have been somewhat lenient. Finally the car had digressed so far that I wouldn’t even persue an inspection sticker.
My first thoughts were that if I replaced the floors, patched the rockers, and patched the fenders, it would be good for another year or so. If those areas were addressed I could pick away at the rest of the car and still drive it. Needless to say, I really underestimated the amount of rust damage. Removal of every panel revealed another challenge beneath. The floors snowballed into a frame off restoration. Maybe it should be called a rustoration.
A year or two after purchasing the car, we had the rockers and rear fenders repaired and the car painted in it’s original blue color. The work was done by Gil’s Autobody in West Bath, Maine. Both rear fenders were holed just ahead of the tailights so I ordered new fenders from British Victoria. The car went to Gil’s, he took it apart, and the fenders that were due any day, never arrived. British Victoria kept pushing back the shipping date until I couldn’t tie up Gil’s shop any longer. He repaired the fenders by brazing in some new sheetmetal. The rockers were repaired by overlaying sections of new rockers in place and brazing them. The car was repainted and really looked great. Gil did a nice job and kept to the budget.
Skip ahead ten years, drive it in rain, sleet, snow, and anything else a Maine winter can throw at it. Maine uses huge amounts of salt on it’s roads so cars literally turn white during the winter. The damage was done and now it was time to pay the piper.
Where to look
Late in the summer of 1999 it was blocked up in my garage and the floor project started. Five or six years ago I had pop riveted patches to both the driver’s and passenger’s floors. Yank out the seats, peel up the patches, and oh my gosh – a Flintstone car! Not only were the floors rusted but the sills and the forward kick panels. Advise from the TR6 experts on the web was to replace the floors with the body in place on the frame. The reasoning was to keep the body alignment just as the factory had had originally set it. This sure sounded reasonable to me so I carefully cut the spot welds with a spot weld cutter and cut the rest with a whizzer wheel (3″ air cutter). The left front fender was removed to seperate the side panel from the inner sill. The door was also removed just because it was in the way. The top of the exposed frame was solid so it was cleaned, primed, and painted.
New panels from Moss were prepared for plug welding by punching 1/4 inch holes and then painted. The panels were fitted, aligned, and mig welded. New panels were fabricated from 16ga sheetmetal to repair the front kick panels. New inner sills were welded in as were new rockers. Working around the frame was a real pain and probably tripled the time to complete the job. The passenger side would be done with the body off the frame!
Thinking back on doing the floors there is merit to doing it with the body in place. Several accounts have been given on the web of replacing the the floors in a day or two. If the car isn’t terribly rust damaged, the old floors can be cut out, leaving a 1/2 to 1 inch lip around the outer edge. The new panels are trimmed to overlay the lip and welded in place. I wish this option was available to me but there just wasn’t anything to weld to.
The passenger side would be done with the body raised four feet off the floor. Unbolt the body, unhook some lines and wires, and just lift it off. Sure sounds simple but it presents all sorts of new opportunities. Hey why not rehab the frame? Would there ever be a better time? One thing leads to another and pretty soon you are in the midst of a frame off project.
The body was supported by two 8ft 4×4’s resting on tall saw horses. The front beam passed under the floor beneath the front kick panels. A 4×4 spacer block on top of the beams kept the edge of the rockers from bending. The rear beam passed just rear of the wheel under the forward edge of the trunk floor. Again blocks were used on top of the beam. Because the passenger’s side door would be removed along with the floors and sills, temporary supporting bracing (PIC) was welded into the door opening.