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Family Non-Tradition

Posted by RedTR250 on April 4, 2011 at 2:15 PM

I didn't grow up with British cars. My family, friends, or neighbors didn't own one when I was a kid, so I had no memory of experiencing them. I remember a blue MG MGB-GT that parked in the alley next to the corner grocery store. One of my older sister's best friends had a battered white Triumph TR4 that resisted my sister's boyfriend's best efforts to keep it running. Larry was a skilled mechanic when it came to American cars—and even Volkswagens of all things—but that TR4 defeated him.


I liked cars in general. At an early age I developed an almost encyclopedic mental catalog of automobile specifications, features, and even Consumer Reports ratings; all of this well before I was old enough to drive. I was a bit of an anorak, back before a kid growing up in Ohio could even know what that was. "Geek" had not yet taken on its current meaning, but I was one anyway. I also became interested in auto racing, particularly sports cars and Formula 1. Exposure to these more "European" elements made me aware of brands, models, and history that existed far away from Detroit, America's Motor City.


My dad took me to the local Jaguar/Triumph dealer when I was probably about thirteen or fourteen. Dad dreamed of owning a sporty roadster, and we spent some time looking at cars that day. Triumph's entry-level Spitfire seemed almost affordable to my recently divorced and definitely un-wealthy father. At his suggestion, I climbed into the driver's seat of a British Racing Green convertible with tan interior, and put my hands on the steering wheel. The wood dashboard face, abundant instrument gauges, rocker switches, and center console-mounted shifter spoke clearly to me of an alien, alternative automotive culture wholly unlike that of my mom's new 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu.


The Triumph Spitfire fit me like my own jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers. Here was a car scaled perfectly to my barely adolescent frame. The whole concept of scooting about in a roofless vehicle seemed absurd and most desirable—much like carnival rides, or the daredevil bicycle stunts my boneheaded friends and I always attempted. Despite his fascination, my father never owned one of those beautiful Michelotti-styled little cars.


Years later, Dad moved from Ohio to California and then eventually to Arizona, where he resides today. My time spent together with him became very infrequent due to the miles between us. Not long after my Triumph TR250's restoration was completed, my father flew back into town to attend my nephew's high school graduation. Time was short, but I managed a day off from my new job and took Dad for a ride in the car he had heard so much about during its five-year rebuild and reanimation.


It was a perfect day as we buzzed along some of my favorite roads, and then I pulled over to the side of the shoulder and told the Old Man to take us home. He seemed reluctant for about a nanosecond while his seatbelts were adjusted, arguing he had not operated a manual transmission of any sort in decades—and then we were off. To his great credit and my secret joy, he didn't miss a single shift.



Categories: The Motoring Experience, The Classic British Car Obsession