Finishing the Big TR6 Project

Finished TR6 Project, ready for final tune, polish up and alignment (by others)

A long time friend (and previous employer) decided it would be lovely to take his car apart and rebuild it from the ground up. I have witnessed my of these “projects” over the years – most end badly. Taking a car apart seems so easy. Just undo every fastener, and dump the parts that fall off into boxes – while tossing all those old rusty corroded nuts, screws, washers, broken little clips and pins into bins. When something is frozen up, beat it apart, or cut it, it’s all replaceable – right?

Well, some seven years down the road, three moves of the collection of bits, an aborted trip to a body shop, a new frame, etc… the car remained dismantled and disorganized at the corner of a large garage, looking like it needed some attention and love.

Enter my dumb self. I have always liked the TR6, and this one had sentimental value to its owner, who I had an affinity to. While visiting his home for a discussion of an aging dimming system needing replacement, with another good friend who works for said previous employer, I noted the condition of the car, and was daft enough to ask “You think you might want some help with that?”. Cars + Emotions = Oh Boy, you stepped in it now!

What began as promises that all of the parts were there, ready to go, and an under-estimate on my part how many hours I would need to assemble it… led to a 21 month long saga of re-assembly, hunting for thousands of little bits and missing gizmos, discovery that aftermarket parts are rubbish, and a long hard fight with a car that apparently did not want to go back together. This was an adventure and parts bug hunts, the likes I have never experienced before.

I’ve built a few cars from scratch before, but I was the one that took them apart, so I knew what went where, or at least what was once there. It’s a big difference to dig through someone else’s stuff, especially after it had been moved numerous times, re-organized, and shuffled around by several others along the way. It didn’t help that in the middle of it all, we moved the car ourselves from the owners garage to my shop in Wisconsin, then back to the owner’s garage, then down to our new digs in Illinois. The car was destined to be shuttled around.

Rather than write it all out, the following are a few images I collected along the way for those who like such things

Humble Beginnings – Around week 2 I had assembled the frame and most of the suspension and started brake and fuel line routing. By this time I had upgraded the suspension and installed the front brakes and rear end, as well as organized what we had to work from. It all seems to be going well and gave me hope that it would be finished quickly. I was being ridiculous.
Unexpected body work was required, from filling marker light openings to convert the front valance to the proper style, to getting the doors and fenders to line up properly.
Simultaneous to assembly of the chassis and body I made myself a little engine shop to build the motor up. In the background there are two transmissions. Upgrading the old with a newer Overdrive unit will make this thing scoot down the highway just fine.
Building motors is a lot of fun. This one includes several nice performance goodies, from the hot cam to its fluid harmonic damper and high volume oil pump – adding an additional 50 horsepower was even more fun.
Putting the engine in the frame made the car start to look like it had a purpose. It also exposed the issue of needing to build a custom exhaust to go from a single collector header to a twin pipe system… all in a weeks work.
Now it was starting to look like a motor-car!
The day we loaded the body onto the chassis was a serious high.
Working door gaps and style lines is a big challenge, that consumes hours and days.
The engine bay after initial startup – another highlight.
Re-veneered and finished the dashboard to match the owner’s office walls – dark cherry.
Behind that pretty wood is about 16 hundred miles of wire and other bits that took weeks to sort out. Note the shop space in the background, the third since starting the project.
Finished engine bay with all its attached bits, integral charging unit, upgraded electricals, electric fan, and others nice bits (I could not help myself).
Fenders, bumpers, lights, latches, windows, and mirror – with some time spent de-bugging electricals, it was starting to look like a light at the end of a long tunnel.
Closing up the front end, at last.
The trunk rack was not my preference, but as the car came together, I go used to it. The whole project was about bringing back the car the owner remembered and enjoyed from college days.
Done and ready for delivery. First time its rolled under motor power.
Some may note that it sits down on its suspension, about an inch lower than stock all around.
Just another angle to look at. I’ve always like the TR6, and this color is perfect for it. The final inspection, alignment, paint color sand/buff, top installation, and addition of the TR6 union jack flag decals and pin stripe is being done by a specialist. I can’t do everything.
The interior is complete save a kick panel that refused to fit, which a trim shop will polish off for us. These are not big cars inside.
On the trailer to be taken for the final polish up at the professional import shop. I’ll miss its company…

While I did get paid for most of the work completed, the net hourly rate was not something that encouraged me to pursue this as a career move. You simply cannot charge what it actually costs to do this, as these types of cars do not have a lot of value. But, it was an adventure to be sure, and one I will cherish for a long time.

I’d like to thank Tom Z for his help on this and listening to me go off about what a mess it was, and what junk the parts we were finding were. You were a huge help!

That’s all folks!

Author: kwillmorth

Photographer and Artist

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