My Sports Car Story
I do like sports cars. As a young teenager living in Western Canada in the 50s, I wasn’t privileged to see many sports cars driving around, but every once and a while some eye candy in the form of an MGA or Austin Healy 100 would pass by. I didn’t have a driver’s license nor any money, but, somewhere back then my dream started.
My first car was one of those practical items, a 1953 Pontiac, old and sturdy. It had to get me to a summer job in rural Alberta, so it was just the right thing for those prairie gravel roads that turned to glue-like gumbo when it rained.
The next was at least a European car - a 1960 Renault Gordini. I tried my best to live the sports car life with the Renault. I joined a sports car club, entered car rallies, and generally tried to look cool in my bright red Gordini. I didn’t turn many eyes.
My real initiation came as I started my last year at university in Edmonton.
I found a 1960 TR3A for sale for $1000, but, as a long suffering student I had only about $150 to my name. Much to my surprise, when I talked to the manager at my bank, he said he would be happy to loan me the money for the car. I was about to graduate and I guess he saw getting back $1000 plus interest from me would be a pretty safe bet. He was right. As I stepped into ‘my’ TR3A, my first real sports car, I thought myself to be the coolest person on earth.
In December of 1967, I had travelled from my UK home in Manchester to London in order to join a group of friends on a ski trip to the Tyrol in Kitzbuhel, Austria. When I arrived I found that my good friend Art had bought a new MGB. He said he had been looking at the TRs as well, but decided on the MGB. He added that he heard a rumour that the TR4As were going to have their price reduced to make way for a new model. That was all the motivation I needed. With about four hours to go until our train left, I rushed to the dealer, negotiated a deal, phoned Calgary to get the money on a loan from my old, friendly, bank manager and bought my new TR4A for $2700. I barely made it back in time to catch the train to Kitzbuhel.
It took some time for my loan to arrive through the banking systems of the 60s, but finally the car was ready to pickup in mid-February. By the time I finalised the payment in February, the new TR5-PI and the TR250 had been announced and the interest in the remaining export model TR4As had collapsed. Standard-Triumph dropped the price to $2400 and I was elated. I now had $300 to spend on gas and travel in the TR. You could do a lot of things for $300 (125 pounds Sterling) in Britain back then.
Around mid-February in 1967, Roy, my friend from Manchester, drove me down to the Standard-Triumph factory in Coventry to pick up my new, forest green, TR4A complete with leather seats and wood-rimmed steering wheel. I had pre-planned a factory tour, so I did that, all the while trying to contain my excitement to get into my shiny new sports car and drive and drive and drive.
I drove the car throughout Britain and Scotland until I left to come back to Canada in September, 1968. Those hold some of the greatest driving memories for me; up and down the hills of the Peaks, through the Lake District, and off down the winding roads of the Welsh valleys.