Dennis McKinley 1965 TR4A

Author: Dennis McKinley, The creation of DRUID, a 1965 Triumph TR4A IRS

I was introduced to Triumph cars through a friend’s Spitfire when I was in High School in Hartford, Connecticut. I never got to drive it, but I did go to the beach in it several times. After that introduction I was hooked on Triumphs. In 1975 I was able to obtain a Connecticut license plate with DRUID on it, which I put on a TR3A that I had bought two years earlier and made it so I could drive it. 

When Triumph went out of business in 1981 I still owned the TR3A, but I remember thinking, what will I do now that there are no more TRs being built? By 1990 I had sold the TR3A for a down payment on a house, but I retained the DRUID Plate by putting it on a Pickup I had. About six years later I brought a TR4A parts car with the thought of restoring it, so I started to look around for a sound frame to work from. The parts car frame needed a lot of patching.

In 1997 my neighbor, Ogden Lummis knowing I had the TR4A parts car with a thought of restoring someday, came across a possible, sound car in Hemmings. The car was in western New York and would be about a two-hour drive for us from the northwest corner of Connecticut, so we went. This TR4A was an IRS with a blown overdrive transmission.

The car had been driven to New York from Arizona when the overdrive went. The current owner had bought it as a restoration project several years earlier, but never got to it. It was mostly dismantled, but everything looked like it was there in boxes, so I gave him a deposit and said we would be back next weekend with a trailer to pick it up.

We started the restoration by stripping the frame of all body parts and suspension pieces. The body, doors, boot lid and bonnet were taken to be sandblasted. At the same time we inspected the frame for rust but it was found to be in great shape, so it was painted with Eastwood frame paint.
Ogden and his brother, Fred, had restored Packard automobiles with his father growing up and Ogden had restored an Austin Healey bug-eyed Sprite two years earlier by himself, so we started building on the freshly painted frame. 

I would provide parts as I had money and he and I would install them. The stripped body parts were taken to a restoration place to weld in new metal where there were rust spots and for painting. We rebuilt the engine next, starting with a bare block that was cleaned and painted. Suspension was added to the frame as we waited for the new engine parts. 

We went with a 1992 Jaguar Brooklands Green, because I always liked the darker greens over the original Triumph racing green. I also wanted a Chestnut Brown interior, not Black as would have been the original factory color and a Dark Brown fabric hood, not vinyl. 

To aid in the finishing of the body before painting, we brought the original rolling chasse from the parts car I had bought before we had started this project to the restoration people for a body fitting.

After the first fitting, we finished up the new chasse that would become the foundation for the new 65 TR4A. The body parts were painted, assembled and aligned on the chasse. We got to see it really taking shape. By this time I had run out of money, so the TR sat for the next eight years until I could get back to it.

During the Spring of 2008 I was thinking about retiring, so I decided to uncover the TR4A that had been sitting dormant in storage. I checked all the fuel lines and electrical connections, got the car to start and run, then added a driver’s seat for a test drive. The car ran a little rough, but I started with a short run around the block. It went well enough for a first ride, so I decided to take it for a second lap, but that is when it happened.

We had rebuilt the rear end with the 4.11 gear set and a limited slip before we stopped working on the car years earlier, but neither of us remembered that we had not put any fluid in the unit nor did we check the fluid level before the test drive. The TR came to a grinding halt in the middle of the second lap around the block. The rear end was rebuilt again with a new set of the same gears.

We added the windscreen, sun visors, side mirrors, wind wings, a solid custom Koa wood dash and a Nardi mahogany steering wheel with an ebony inlay. Next the Chestnut Brown custom interior arrived and was installed along with a period correct luggage rack.

An ANSA duel exhaust system with four chromed tips and a set of K&N mini-lite type wheels were added.

The original engine assembly had been done with SU H6 carburetors, but I had purchased two sets of duel side-draft Weber carbs back when I had the TR3A that were still in their boxes, so we replaced the SUs with the Webers. I also located on eBay an Offenhauser valve cover as was used by Triumph racers in the 60s & 70s.

For about 1700 miles the car drove well. We were ready to take the TR4A to Nova Scotia in August of 2010 for a week. The day before we were to leave the engine began to knock. This time, it was the solid lifters. They had splintered, sending metal flakes thought the engine and oil cooler. Consequently we drove to Nova Scotia in a non-TR vehicle. 

Another total rebuild was done on the engine when we returned and on November 27, 2010, the new engine was reinstalled in time for Druid to be shipped to Cape Coral, FL where Cynthia and I were moving for retirement living. Once in Florida I added a roll bar, sway bars and a grill guard that I use as a badge bar to mount two vintage Lucas lights, one fog and one driving, and four club badges from four clubs I have been a member of or currently belong to. 

I was able to get a Florida plate with Druid on it, so Druid lives again in the Sun of Southwest Florida. The CT DRIUD plate hangs on my garage wall.