Blake Discher’s most memorable moment in a Triumph occurred just after he crossed the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. He was on his way home to Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan in his TR6 after attending the 2009 Vintage Triumph Register (VTR) national convention in San Luis Obispo, California when he came upon a flashing sign warning vehicles to put on chains.
Pressing on, snow started falling as he climbed. Just after cresting 11,990-foot Loveland Pass and starting down through the hairpin turns, he put his foot on the brakes and the pedal went straight to the floor.
“I think the rubber caliper seal on the brakes shrunk and broke in the cold weather,” surmises Discher. He thought he could get down the mountain by applying the emergency hand brake, but radioed his driving partner who insisted he stop at the next pull-off for repairs. Fully stocked with parts, supplies and tools, they installed a brake caliper rebuild kit, bled the brakes, and were good to go in an hour despite the persistent snowfall.
To Discher, it’s all part of the adventure of attending national events in his Triumph. “So many people say Triumphs can’t make cross-country trips any longer, but I’ve taken my car to many distant events,” he says. Sure there were breakdowns, but he emphasizes the importance of car club membership at such times. He travels with friends to events so they can help each other along the way, and has VTR’s traveler assistance network to rely on as well.
“Taking my Triumph to the Pacific Ocean was a goal for a long time,” says Discher. “Convertibles were made for that climate.”
Discher was in high school when he decided that the TR6 was his ultimate dream car after visiting a dealership and picking up the brochure featuring M*A*S*H star Alan Alda with a yellow TR6 on the cover. He admits he’s still got the brochure.
But it took another 23 years before he bought one. His brother, who had a nice 1976 TR6 for 10 years, stopped by his house on the way to a car show with a for sale sign on the windshield. Discher instantly told his brother it was sold.
“The car is gorgeous and in good shape,” says Discher. “It’s my first love.” He’s owned the car for 14 years now, and it has been in the family for nearly 25 years. He installed a new interior and has done some engine work, but comparatively little considering the mileage he’s put on it.
Discher also owns a 1971 Stag that he babies and tweaks to keep the problematic engine running correctly without overheating. He previously owned a 1968 Triumph 2000 Saloon and a 1980 TR7 Spider, which he says was one of the most comfortable driving cars he’s had.
Car Clubs Come Calling
In the days before the Internet was crammed with content, British car owners had to join a local car club for information and resources on how to fix their cars. Discher joined the Detroit Triumph Sports Car Club. “Back then it was about working on the cars,” he says, adding that now it’s more of a social club since so much technical advice is available online.
A commercial photographer by trade, Discher joined VTR after meeting members at an event, and was soon offering advice on the website to VTR president Vernon Brannon. Before you know it, he was handling a site redesign. He loved the fact that VTR was the club created and authorized by the factory for the U.S. He told Brannon that someday he’d like to be president, and in 2005 he got the nod.
“I had ideas on how the club could be improved and modernized,” says Discher. He recruited new board members, introduced member e-mail blasts, and worked with editor Mike Cook to redesign the magazine. He developed joint events with other groups in the hobby like Triumphest (which is scheduled again in 2013 in the Napa Valley) and Friends of Triumph. And he fostered affiliations with other Triumph clubs to pool insurance benefits for hosting events.
Discher feels gratified that club membership has remained steady at 2,500 to 2,700 members during his tenure, but adds that getting new members and volunteers is the club’s biggest challenge. (Note: annual membership fee is just $30.)
VTR Provides Value
To provide value to members, VTR offers in-depth information unavailable elsewhere like historical perspectives and owner profiles through the magazine. The Triumph Forum provides a means to get responsive feedback from other owners on problems.
E-blasts provide updates, while the Travel Assistance Service provides peace-of-mind while traveling. Members also get free Hagerty Road Assistance traveling to and from national conventions (two weeks before and after), explains Discher.
Another insider benefit is the special edition poster for the annual Kas Kastner Cup sponsored by Friends of Triumph. VTR members attending the race get a free poster signed by Kastner. (Get your poster this year at The Mitty, April 27-29 at Road Atlanta.)
From Discher’s perspective, the national convention is a key member benefit. “We don’t get to autocross through our local club,” he explains. “It’s too expensive to host competitive events because of insurance coverage, so I look forward to the national event to compete.”
He adds that regional VTR events in the South and Southeast also offer racing events. “I love autocrossing,” says Discher. “I’m not good at it, but it’s just a blast. It’s the convention highlight for me.”
The convention also enables attendees to think about nothing but Triumphs with other people thinking nothing but Triumphs for a couple of days, explains Discher. You see cars you’ve never seen before, meet your heroes like Bob Tullius and Kas Kastner, and learn tricks at the tech sessions. “Whether you’re a concours or people’s choice guy, it’s all about the camaraderie,” he says. Organizers expect 350 cars at the Galveston, Texas meet in October.
Discher also believes in harnessing the power of the hobby to do good in the world. After participating twice in the Round Britain Reliability Run with a friend covering 2,000 miles in 48 hours from the Northern tip of Scotland to Land’s End, England for charity, he created America’s British Reliability Run (www.abrr.org) covering 800 miles around Michigan (and now in Pennsylvania and Alabama) over a weekend to benefit children’s charities. The event has raised over $150,000 since 2003. “It’s one of my proudest accomplishments,” says Discher.
By Kathleen M. Mangan