10 February, 2016

Barn Find Of The Month - Triumph Herald


What is the history behind the car?

We don’t know much about its medium term history. While starting the process of selecting a car to buy for Ella’s 18th birthday, we saw the Triumph Herald on eBay. She was looking pretty tired and was owned by an older teenager, who had done all the usual things teenagers do; put an enormous stereo in it (the bass bin half fills the boot), added random badges, a push start, air horns, fancy carpets and a matt black paint job. What he hadn’t done was fix anything; the wiring was ‘innovative’, the body was full of filler and things were loose or rusted. However we bid on it because Ella (my daughter) loved it and she knows how to sweet talk her Dad!

Triumph Herald

We arranged a car transporter to recover it from Coventry to our home in East Yorkshire and picked the car up on the 23 August 2012. Newly arrived, she was soon named “The Lady Brackendale” by Ella, strangely after a pair of socks Ella bought the same day from Jack Wills – the name has stuck regardless of the odd origin. Work commenced to get it ready for the road. We had well over a year before Ella’s 17th birthday, so we were able to take our time. A full rewire, replacement of bulbs and a car rebuild was needed. A replacement radiator, master cylinder seals and some initial work on the engine and ancillaries got it to a running condition. Then we worked on the brakes and dampers, more electrics, engine work and 13 coats of red lacquer on the badly aged dashboard.

Finally it was ready to take for its MOT, a year after purchase. The body wasn’t great, but nothing was sticking out so we figured that wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand it’s a 40 year old car that hadn’t been run for at least 3 years, so expectations weren’t high of a pass. In the event it only failed on three things: horn not working (loose wire), headlight alignment (forgot to check those) and the chassis being utterly rotten from end to end, which we hadn’t spotted until the MOT chap had it up on their ramp.

The chassis was so bad that the garage declined to take the welding on and our friendly mechanic advised us to cut our losses and abandon the project. Instead we searched out most of a good chassis on eBay, obtained the missing chassis members and found someone to agree to weld them on, using the body as a jig. So the next year involved transporting the car to a workshop 30 miles away, lifting the body from the old chassis and waiting and chasing for the welding to be complete. In early 2015 we were finally able to ship the old chassis with engine and running gear, plus the body and new chassis back home. Simon then spent all his free weekends and evenings stripping components from the original chassis, refurbishing, rebuilding or replacing them as required; these went on to the carefully primed and Hammerited shiny and absolutely excellent replacement chassis.

We had three target dates; the stretch target was 26th May, when Ella would take her driving test (in the middle of A-level exams). If not then 17th of June would be her 18th birthday. Our drop dead date was first weekend in August at the Silverstone Classic. With the help from our friends we lowered the body onto the chassis over the course of a late spring Saturday and set the final fix and connections. Ella passed her test on 26th May. The car wasn’t yet ready!

The car was presented for MOT in the first week of June; a variety of issues then needed to be resolved (including the damn horn and light alignment).

Ella turned 18 years old and two days later she was presented with an MOTed taxed and insured car, in time for her first weekend after her exams were complete.

The rebuild had taken 3 years rather than the expected 1 year, but ended up being a nuts and bolts mechanical restoration. The body remains tired, but the car successfully endured the 3½ hour drive to and from Silverstone, where she was clearly the shabbiest car on the TSSC pitch, but proudly presented. She has since made many other shorter trips over the summer with her learning the delights of classic motoring. The Lady B has now gone away for the winter to have the bodywork restored and resprayed. She should return to us in the spring of 2016.

Why did you pick the Triumph for your daughter?

We have had Triumphs in the family for a very long time; Simon’s first proper car (he chooses to ignore the lamentable Daf 44 that was bought for him) was an Mk3 Spitfire, and Simon and Chris have had a GT6 Mk3 since 1989 which they bought from a friend and have restored it to A1 condition.
As a family we always attended the TSSC International at Stafford and, in the last 4 years, the Silverstone Classic. Classic cars and Triumphs in particular are part of our family passion. So with Ella’s 18th birthday looming we looked at options and costs and decided that a Herald made sense:

1. It’s a Triumph
2. Simon understands them mechanically and knew that he could do the mechanical rebuild
3. Cost of purchase should be reasonable
4. Insurance costs should be lower than a modern vehicle
5. It would provide a car that is interesting, compared with the Fiestas and Corsas her contemporaries would be in.
6. It keeps another Triumph and the road and probably will increase in value
7. Simon and Ella could work on it together to restore her.
8. It suits Ella’s ‘indie’ personality

What do you like most about the Triumph Herald?

Ella says

  • The Lady B stands out – she is very different to the cars my friends have to endure. 
  • People go “woooahhh, cool car!” Lots of people commented on it when parked at school and my friends love it. It won ‘Best Car of the Year” at the 6th form prom.
  • Everyone turns to look when you drive past. 
  • The sound system is really loud.
  • Amazing turning circle so makes me seem like I can park ;)
  • She is mine

What don’t you like about it?

  • Not that reliable
  • No aircon
  • Nightmare to clean – the legacy of matt paint and residual cobwebs
  • Stalls easily
  • Seats give Simon back ache
  • 26 miles to the gallon

Can you please share some of your tips, discoveries, challenges etc. you have faced during the restoration process?

  • Estimate the costs, and then double them. It would have been cheaper to buy a car in much better condition. But this way we have saved a car that was definitely destined to be scrapped.
  • You need 2 tubs of Swarfega per rebuild. A double garage with room to work is a godsend.
  • Getting proper tool storage is invaluable – we picked up two sets of A0 paper drawers from an old school art department and these have been brilliant 
  • It’s hard to buy non-metric tools these days
  • Triumphs are exactly as I remember to work on - they are just big Meccano sets and most parts are still available.
  • Have at least 2 sets of disposable work clothes, an understanding wife and friends who will help when needed – not necessarily in that order.
  • You will have some bits left over that no one can identify and which aren’t shown in the workshop manual.
  • Get an old workshop or Haynes manual – it’ll be shabby by the end of the rebuild.
  • Engines can develop an amazing amount of coke in their heads over 40 years of use – best to remove it. Don’t believe any instruction that says “now simply ease the head off, do not be tempted to use a chisel to separate it from the block”.
  • Finding strong enough metal to fit modern seat belts is a challenge.
  • Take photographs from every angle before dismantling things – then go back and take some more.
  • If you do allow yourself to be talked in to buying the car your child wants (and not a more ‘sensible’ choice) then be ready for a lot of additional cost, time, soul-searching, but also be ready for the real pleasure in completing the job, in rescuing a car and in the continuous looks of delight from your daughter, friends and passers-by.

How much did you pay for the car and how much do you think it is worth today?

We bought it for about £1300, we forget. We have probably spent another £2k getting her to this condition. Today she is probably worth £2,000, nearer £3,000 when the bodywork has been dealt with. Set against this is no road tax and we got first time driver insurance for £600, which is about £800 cheaper than Ella’s friends are paying.
As a mid-term financial investment, it was still a terrible idea. The same could be said about our GT6 originally, however we have had 26 years of classic pleasure and over that time she is the cheapest car we have ever owned. We fully expect The Lady B to be part of the family in 10 years’ time and to be earning her keep.

By father and daughter, Simon and Ella Hudson.