A Triumph TR6 to put hair on your chest
STEVEN PAYNE’S 1969 TRIUMPH TR6 HAS SEEN HIM THROUGH A COURTSHIP, A HONEYMOON, AND — NOW RESTORED — STILL RUNS LIKE A DREAM
Talk to Steve Payne and it sounds as if he’s been restoring cars all his life.
It’s become his job, but that was only because he was working 40-hour weeks, getting home and puttering straight out to the shed to restore cars.
Eventually, he ran out of space to store completed projects, and wondered if he could turn it into a business, do the work and — as he puts it — have other people park the finished vehicles.
Steve had the background: he was an engineering pattern-maker. Though the design side was interesting, he reckoned anyone reasonably good with their hands could do the making side of it.
He wanted more of a challenge, and once the decision was made, ook the next step — getting a job at a panelbeater to learn that craft.
“But you had to take short cuts because of costs.
“Now I work to my own standard, and if people don’t like that they can take it down the road.”
His apprenticeship over, he started Trix Restorations, just outside Te Awamutu, 25 years ago, and hasn’t looked back.
The workshop is at the back, but the car we’ve come to see is parked in the house garage.
He’s had this 1969 Triumph TR6 since 1979.
“I went on honeymoon in it.”
The model launched in 1968, and of 94,619 built, only 8370 were sold in the UK.
This was one of them, and it was full of rust. “I drove it for 10 years and then pulled it apart and restored it, but I was working for myself by then, and it took me 10 years to get it back on the road. And it was my wife’s by then.”
Apparently wife Cazna got upset that he was having all the fun. “I had the 1950 TR2 and a replica Lotus 7, and she said “it’s not fair”, so we changed the ownership over.
“Her first car was a Vitesse I talked her into. Rust was starting to get into it, and I said we had too many cars, I could only spare time to restore one, and she picked the TR6.
“We did most of our courting in it, but she didn’t like it when I first bought it. She preferred the GT6 I’d had, but grudgingly admitted it did go very well. She loves that road tests of the time called it ‘the last of the hairy-chested men’s cars’.”
The windscreen delivered impressive wind protection. There was some buffet but it wasn’t as bad as in a few modern convertibles. And it’s impressively easy to drive.
The four-speed gearshift was firm, but not unmanageably so.
There’s synchro on all four cogs. Steve is talking about swapping the clutch for a lighter one, as it can be abrupt on takeoff.
I didn’t notice a problem — but perhaps I’m less fussy, or have driven cars that are worse.
The ride was smooth over undulating country roads, and the 2.5-litre straight-six engine with Lucas mechanical fuel injection proved flexible — helped by overdrive, flicking the lever for extra grunt, then flicking it back for more relaxed cruising.
That was originally an optional feature that works on second, third and fourth gears. Later it was restricted to third and fourth, because of gearbox failures in second at high revs.
The disc front and drum rear brakes are reasonably effective, and it’s all standard, apart from the radio — even the plywood dash with its wood veneer. The steering wheel came with the car when it rolled out of the factory, though Steve didn’t know that at first.
When the black paint on the spokes got a bit tired, he stripped it off — then found it was original.
The car still gets plenty of use. “My wife commutes to Hamilton in it on fine days, but on vintage car-club days we take the Morgan.”
He still owns more than one classic, but the couple favour the TR6 for tours, driving it to Blenheim for the TR Nationals, then to Nelson and Collingwood, and back, earlier this year.
Cazna certainly doesn’t need to fear breakdowns with Steve in the car, though keeping the TR6 running clearly doesn’t rate as a challenge. Some of the jobs Steve gets have been, though.
“I tend to get cars no one wants to touch. I did a TR2 for a couple in Napier and ended up having to cut the left front inner guard off, so I could straighten the bulkhead out, and stitch it all together again.”
As we leave, a trailer pulls up full of freshly painted Monaro panels, ready for Steve to work his magic. So it’s back in the garage for the TR6, but not for long. Steve might be busy working on other cars, but Cazna will ensure it makes the most of the spring sunshine.