It was somewhere around 1980 here in San Diego when I spotted the odd car with a windshield in the trunk—how strange! More visual inspection revealed folded seats in the trunk!! Little did I know that one day that car would be mine and I would totally rebuild it.
Turns out the car was a 1947 Triumph 1800 Roadster and was owned by a local in San Diego who at one time belonged to the San Diego Triumph Roadster club. It found its way to an owner in Calexico who stored it in my friend’s warehouse in downtown. After investigation and choosing between this and another 2 cars I decided to buy it and restore it to my own tastes.
The Triumph Roadster was produced by Britain’s Standard Motor Company from 1946 to 1949. It was first available as the Triumph 1800 Roadster (18TR) from 1946 to 1948 and then as the Triumph 2000 Roadster (TRA) from 1948 to 1949.
The 1800 Roadster, model number 18TR, was designed in the closing days of World War II. Triumph had been bought by the Standard Motor Company in 1944 and the managing director of Standard, Sir John Black, wanted a sports car to take on Jaguar, who had used Standard engines in the pre-war period.
Frank Callaby was selected to style the new car. After getting Black’s approval for the general shape, Callaby worked with Arthur Ballard to design the details of the body Design of the rolling chassis was by Ray Turner. Walter Belgrove, who had styled the pre-war Triumphs and was employed as Chief Body Engineer, had no part in the design.
The frame was hand welded up from steel tube. The engine was a version of Standard’s 1.5-litre, four-cylinder side-valve design that had been converted to overhead valves by Harry Weslake and built by Standard exclusively for SS-Jaguar before World War II. The Triumph version differed from the Jaguar version in having a 6.7:1 compression ratio instead of the Jaguar’s 7.6:1 and a downdraught Solex carburettor instead of the Jaguar’s side-draught SU. A four-speed gearbox with synchromesh on the top three ratios was used.
The body design was anachronistic. A journalist old enough to remember the pre-war Dolomite Roadster that had inspired the car felt that the elegant proportions of the earlier model had been abandoned in favour of a committee-based compromise, “a plump Christmas turkey to set against that dainty peacock … [more] Toadster [than Roadster]” The front had large separate headlamps and the radiator was well back from the front between large “coal scuttle” wings.
Passenger accommodation was on a bench seat that was claimed to seat three: the car’s 64 inch width helped make a reality of the three-abreast seating, and the approach meant a column gear change was required. The car’s unusual width also made it necessary to fit three screen wipers in a row, an example followed by early shallow windscreen Jaguar E Types. Additional room for two was provided at the rear in a dickey seat with its own folding windscreen: this was outside the hood that could be erected to cover the front seat. Entry and exit to the dickey seat was never easy and a step was provided on the rear bumper The Roadster was the last production car with a dickey seat.
On test by Autocar magazine in 1947 top speed was found to be 75 mph (121 km/h) and 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h) took 34.4 seconds. Evidently keen to be positive without misleading their readers, the magazine described the maximum speed as “satisfying but not startlingly high”.
The only significant update in the Roadster’s production came in September 1948 for the 1949 models, when the 2088 cc Vanguard engine, transmission, and rear axle were fitted. A retrograde step was the fitting of a three-speed gearbox even though it now had synchromesh on bottom gear. Apart from minor modifications to the mounting points, the chassis, suspension and steering were unaltered.[ This later version of the Roadster was given the model designation TRA.
On test the changes resulted in the top speed increasing marginally to 77 mph (124 km/h) but the 0-60 mph time was much better at 27.9 seconds. The car was never made in large numbers and was mainly hand built. 2501 examples of the 1800 and 2000 of the larger-engined version were made. Production ended in October 1949 The actor, John Nettles, drove a Roadster 2000 in the 1980’s television series, Bergerac.
Sitting on a good solid ash wood frame, I completely dismantled my car and everything was rebuilt. It had a TR4A engine, C and C master cylinder and Brake Set Up. It was rewired with modern electrics and a one wire alternator. A Ford 8 inch rear end and a different gear set made the car more roadworthy. Brakes, front end, shocks, cooling system gauges were all rebuilt.
The car was painted int a two tone schemed A La Bugatti for the purpose of visually elongating the appearance. The hood was belted with a leather strap, a custom Mascot embraced the radiator cap. I created beveled and etched glass wind wings and made Billet Steps for the rear Dickey seats. I was honored with the acceptance of the car to honor British Cars at the San Diego Auto Museums Thirty Year Retrospective.