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BMWotD — Triumph TR6 / BMW M3 Driveline

Filed under: BMW Of The Day,Cars! — Tags: , , , — dave @ 12:02 pm 2011/08/30

You may be thinking, “That’s no BMW? What the heck is a Triumph TR6 doing in Dave’s BMWotD category?” Yes, at first glance — aside from the Style 5 wheels — it seems very much out of place; not a single BMW Roundel to be seen anywhere, but lift the bonnet and good lordy…

There’s a lot of Bavarian in that there Brit!

I first saw this car up for sale in a most unlikely place — CraigsList — but it didn’t take long for the guys on Bring A Trailer to catch wind of it. It’s also It was listed on eBay with no bidding and a Buy-It-Now price of $40,000. That’s a lot of money, but it’s a pretty sure bet that the seller has way, way more into it than that. (note: the eBay auction/ad ended on Aug. 29; presumably because the car is sold.)

To put it mildly, this it the car of my dreams. The builder/owner’s goal of having “a virtually stock appearing TR6 that performed at insane levels while delivering exceptional reliability” is pretty much what I would have in mind if someone asked me what I would drive if money (& time) were no object. I love the looks of the TR6, but the Lucas electrics and the ’70’s British mechanicals are enough to scare off the geekiest of car freaks. That would include me. Add to that the propensity of the TR cars to rust… Since the beginnings of my infatuation with the Triumph roadsters back in high school, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to purchase a TR6, and have passed on both; neither was the right car nor the right time for me. With this car, I would definitely be on my way to Kansas City to bring this car home if it weren’t for the price tag; still not the right time I guess.

The seller’s description in the ad is lengthy, but a good read, and describes the right way to do a resto-mod to a car like this; keep the original look of the car, but make updates & improvements that will make the car more enjoyable and allow it to spend the majority of its time on the road/track rather than in the shop or waiting for parts.

Up for sale here is my labor of love for the past five years. This project started out as a 60K mile, stock, rust-free 1973 TR6 and is now configured with a BMW M3 Drive-Line with every system brought up to the 21st Century and has been driven 1,650 miles since so it’s completely sorted and ready to roll. Every nut and bolt has been removed and replaced with AN, Grade 8 or Stainless depending on their locations and requirements (I truly mean “every” nut and bolt). Every component on the undercarriage has been Powder Coated or finished with POR 15 to prevent any future degradation issues. This is not your typical Resto-Mod and I’ll try to outline all the Mods that I performed to the beast below :

  • Body-Off / Nut & Bolt Restoration
  • Rhino Lined Tub
  • Significant Frame Strengthening
  • 6-Point Roll Cage
  • BMW M3 S50 (OBD1 Computer) Engine w/Modificationss
  • Custom Chip from Jim Conforti
  • BMW M3 5spd Transmission
  • UUC Motorwerks 8.5lb Aluminum Flywheel
  • Sachs HD Clutch
  • UUC Motorwerks Transmission Mounts
  • UUC Motorwerks Short Shifter
  • Nissan R200 LSD Differential
  • Custom CV-Joint Rear
  • Richard Good Lowered Springs F & R
  • Richard Good Sway Bars F & R
  • Richard Good Adjustable Trailing Arm Mounts
  • Spax Adjustable Shocks
  • Toyota 4-Piston / Vented Disc Front Brakes
  • Wilwood Rear Disc Brake Conversion
  • Stainless Steel Brake Lines
  • New Master Cylinder and Overhauled Booster
  • Quick-Ratio Steering Rack
  • Richard Good Aluminum Rack Mounts
  • BMW/BBS 17″ 5 3-piece Wheels (style 5)
  • Falken RT-615 225/45/17 Tires
  • BMW M3 Radiator
  • Advance Auto Wire Custom Wiring Harness
  • 16 Gal Aluminum Fuel Cell
  • Stainless Exhaust (w/Oxygen Sensor)
  • Custom Powder Coated Bumper Bars (original bumpers included)
  • Koa Wood Dash and Switch Plinth Plate
  • New Crash Pads
  • Miata Seats w/Heaters
  • Custom Full Leather Interior w/Wilton Wool Carpets
  • TR4 Soft Top Assembly

My intentions were to build a virtually stock appearing TR6 that performed at insane levels while delivering exceptional reliability. Various V8’s have found there way into these cars over the years but require many modifications that I was not willing to live with (steering geometry, firewall cutting, weight changes, etc.). While this was no mere “bolt-in” process, the net results lightened and balanced the overall car and required absolutely no changes to the steering and suspension system. It was almost as if BMW had this engine bay in mind when they designed their S50 M3 Power Plant. Engine Mods were held to Head-Work, 8.5lb Aluminum Flywheel, HD Clutch, Cold Air Intake and a custom Chip by Jim Conforti taking into account this particular application with the installed exhaust, no Cats, Intake, Oxy Sensor, Flywheel, Curb Weight and 7000 RPM Limiter. It’s absolutely ridiculous how fast this thing is.

I stripped the entire TR6 down to a pile of nuts and bolts and shipped off the tub and panels to be Soda Blasted before taking them to the body shop. This gave me the opportunity to tackle the frame and drive line. I started by having the frame sand blasted then welded in a lot of additional steel at all the known and unknown weak spots including the TSI Rear Strengthening Kit and ΒΌ” plate added atop the rear spring mounts. Every factory weld was ground and re-welded to insure zero issues with frame cracking, twist or degradation due to the added HP and suspension modifications. I also had a local race car fabricator custom make a 6-point roll cage that ties into the frame directly via the four body mounts in the cockpit and thru the rear bulkhead and down to the aft frame sections (clears the roof). This is probably the most torsionally stable Triumph Frame you’ll ever find and the driving changes it made are very obvious. Next I coated the frame with POR15 along with all the suspension bits as it holds up much better to rock/road debris than Powder Coating. I utilized all of Richard Good’s suspension upgrades which include Lowered Springs, Sway Bars and Adjustable Trailing Arm Brackets. Due to my prior experience with Koni, I selected Spax Adjustable Shocks all the way around which once set-up match the over-all handling perfectly. I also added a new quick ratio steering rack combined with Richard Good’s Aluminum Rack Mounts and a slightly smaller diameter Leather Moto-Lita Steering Wheel. I’m in the aviation business and have access to all sorts of great hardware so all the suspension and brake nuts and bolts were replaced with AN series or Grade 8 at a minimum.

I changed out the front brakes to Toyota 4-Runner four piston calipers mated to Toyota Cressida vented rotors and for the rear I ran across a couple of guys who campaign a full-race TR6 that designed and machined a race-approved disc brake conversion kit to install Wilwood Aluminum Calipers clamping on 280 ZX Rotors. They were in process of commissioning a machine shop to make a few more sets for a new car they were building and were nice enough to have a set made up for me at the same time while sharing their engineering. This is not one of these cheap kits that come around every so often but a serious chunk of machined aluminum that has been approved for use on the track. I also had Classic Tube make a complete set of Stainless Brake lines and sent out the booster for o/h and replaced the master cylinder and filled it all w/DOT5 fluid. I installed a Wilwood lever-style brake bias adjuster which can be manipulated on the fly by the driver if you want to change the proportion of force front to rear. The hardware combined with the Bobcat pads make this TR66 stop on a dime with no wheel lock-up and much reduced fade.

The rear differential is an obvious weak spot along with the rear axles on TR6’s especially when horse power is added. I opted for the Nissan/Infiniti R200 dif as it was extremely easy to adapt to the frame, provided unquestionable strength (the dif of choice in the drifting crowd), super LSD performance and available in a ratio (3.54) between those used by the stock M3 and the full-race M3. I commissioned Kevin at Constant Velocity of Ocalla (FL) to design a set of rear axles utilizing CV-Joints and able to take the added stress of HP I was going to throw at them.

I had the entire interior, fender wells, trunk area and bottom of the tub shot by the local Rhino Liner shop after blasting and priming. This stuff totally encapsulates all the known rust areas for future protection and offered an indescribable reduction in noise and heat and increase in solidity. For the body, I chose a BMW M3 color, Imolla Red II which is a beautiful deep and slightly dark red. The body is completely assembled with Stainless Steel Fasteners to alleviate any future corrosion and they simply look nice and actual DumDum was sourced in the UK to seal the seams between the fenders/wings and tub. I shaved off the front side markers on the fenders and door locks to clean it up a little but left the original front turn signals under the grill to accommodate state laws. New front and rear light assemblies were installed too. Included are two new Bullet Mirrors for the doors which I have not installed as I preferred the look and they are not required in the State of KS. The hood / bonnet cable has been removed in favor of a direct release rod courtesy of Macy’s Garage so no worries about stuck hoods because of broken cables. No other body mods were made as I truly wanted to keep it in stock form to any on-looker.

I contacted Dan Masters of Advance Auto Wire and had him make me a custom harness for my project. The heart of the system is a power block that utilizes individual fuses for all circuits and relays for all heavy load items just as on current vehicles. All the instruments were switched to electric models from AutoMeter and incorporated with the harness. I also replaced all indicator bulbs with high output LEDs. Once I completely ran the new wiring, I removed it before termination and “snake-skinned” the entire thing. Most would have just zip-tied it all but I really can’t handle the mess associated with typical aftermarket harnesses so it truly looks stock. I have wired in a CD/Stereo unit but haven’t felt the need to cut in speakers as the note of the exhaust is all the music I needed. The wires are run so if you desire music, just add speakers. The Optima battery has been relocated to the right rear trunk area mounted in a custom keeper and a main battery cut-off switch is mounted on the firewall with the kill-key extending into the glove box for easy access. Both the fuse block and BMW computer are mounted inside the passenger foot well safe from any contact with exterior water or hazards and out of sight.

The interior is outfitted with Heated Miata Seats. They are trimmed in Tan Leather along with all the other interior panels which are piped in a contrasting brown and complimented with Wilton Wool Carpets. The window regulators, channels and seals were all replaced with new units that, believe it or not, don’t rattle. New seat belts were installed as well and included will be a set of Harnesses for track days. I never particularly liked the TR6 top mechanism as it just sits like a lump behind the seats and detracts from the clean lines of the car. I took this opportunity to modify the bows from an early TR4 as a replacement as it affords for the complete removal of the soft top for stowage in the trunk and the bows tuck out of sight behind an interior panel. I never had the intention of purposely driving the car in foul weather but did feel it important to have an emergency plan just in case I got caught out in the rain. I contacted Randy Keller of Prestige Auto Wood to craft me a custom dash laid out in the stock form but for use with the AutoMeter instruments and LED indicators. I chose Hawaiian Koa Wood for this and he also matched a panel for the switch plinth. The visors, mirrors, crash pads, windshield trim, etc. are all replaced with new. An insulated poly transmission tunnel has also been added to replace the original cardboard unit. Back in the trunk, I replaced the original fuel tank with a 16 gallon custom made aluminum unit that resides in the spare tire well. Lastly, I liberally installed Dyna Mat all over the place. When you close the doors, it sounds like a modern car’s door… solid.

The 17×8 3-piece wheels are BMW Style 5 Composites made by BBS. I sent them out to a shop in CA who specializes in wheel customization and they disassembled them, filled and re-drilled the centers for the TR6 bolt pattern, sent the centers out for powder coat and polished the rims. I was able to remove the BMW emblems from the center caps and with a little modification install the TR6 chrome emblems with red stickers in their place. I wrapped them with 225/45/17 Falken Azenis RT-615 tires which are a new class of DOT and SCCA Spec race approved tires.

Bottom-line, this is definitely one of the most unique sports cars you’ll ever come across. It was built with the idea of supreme performance and to withstand the tortures of daily driving without compromise. I wanted the illusion that this engine was factory installed so you won’t find any “bling” under the hood, all business (with the exception of the polished aluminum radiator cowling). Every single nut, bolt, washer, seal, grommet, clip, etc. was replaced on the car with new equivalents of higher grade and if a part was available new, it was replaced. I’m quite certain I’ve missed a few important points in this description but you really have to see and drive this TR6 to truly appreciate what it’s all about — Beauty — Simplicity — Performance.

FYI, I just shot these pics out in front of my house and down at my office . Also, I have this insured at its appraised value of $50K thru Hagerty’s which runs about $275 yr.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me and thanks for your interest. I don’t answer emails thru craigslist due to their spam issue. If you want more info. . .pick up the phone and give me a ring.

Dave DeWalt

Most Triumph purists will probably cringe when they see what’s been done to this car, but that doesn’t describe me nor my reaction to it. Not at all. While there are a few niggling things that I would’ve done differently (maybe some different wheels or a little more BMW in the suspension & drivetrain) this car is about as close to perfect as I can imagine. As I said, if not for the $40,000 entry fee, I would be all over this thing. Maybe in a few years I’ll try my hand at something similar… Lessee… Maybe a BMW S52-powered Alfa Romeo something-or-other? Or maybe build up a kit car with BMW suspension and drivetrain bits, just to avoid the ire of any purists. Modify a GTM Supercar with a BMW V8 or S52-six in the back along with matching BMW suspension in place of the Corvette bits, just to be different? (that could be worthy of sticking a Roundel on the body front & back, and might even fool someone into thinking it’s a factory BMW model!) Oh, the possibilities! If only I had the time and money and workspace.

Let The Buyer Beware

Filed under: Politics — Tags: , , — dave @ 1:44 pm 2011/08/11

Monday’s Wall Street Journal opinion article, America Gets Downgraded really hits the nail on the head:

Friday’s downgrade by Standard & Poor’s of U.S. long-term debt… will be the first of many such humiliations if Washington doesn’t change its economic and fiscal policies. Investors and markets & not any single company’s rating & are the ultimate judge of a nation’s creditworthiness. And after their performance in fanning the credit and mortgage-security mania of the last decade, S&P, Moody’s and Fitch should hardly be seen as peerless oracles. Their views are best understood as financial opinions, like newspaper editorials, and they’re only considered more important because U.S. government agencies have required purchasers of securities to use their ratings. … Yet is there anything that S&P said on Friday that everyone else doesn’t already know? S&P essentially declared that on present trend the U.S. debt burden is unsustainable, and that the American political system seems unable to reverse that trend. This is not news. …

Reading that article (not necessarily the quote above) reminded me of something one of my business profs said back in my college days: Nothing is worth more than someone is willing to pay for it. The President can make all the speeches he likes decrying people who made the call on the downgrade of the US credit rating and saying that their opinion doesn’t matter, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are solid reasons behind the downgrade. Obama talked a good game during the election, positioning himself as a moderate, but his actions since entering office have business owners & investors on edge; the pervasive uncertainty in the business community is what’s keeping the economy down. I don’t see much hope of things getting better as long as Obama is in charge.