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Teenage Triumph Tales

By Raymond Lacy

In Sacramento, California, in 1959, my mother must have been having a momentous mid-life crisis due to the stresses of having to deal with me. She went out looking for a replacement for her ’49 Chevy sedan and spotted a little red sports car on a used car lot. Thus began my misadventures as, eventually, her 1957 Triumph TR3 was passed on to me when I started college. Dad bought her a nice MK II Jaguar—which was much more suitable.

I NEARLY LOSE AN ELBOW
On a crisp, bright, clear spring day, a bit windy, I was driving top down with my elbow resting on the door in typical teenage fashion. At that time, Fulton Boulevard was only two lanes wide and configured not unlike a roller coaster. As I topped a hill, at a brisk clip of course, I saw coming down the opposing hill towards me, a ’57 red and white Ford Ranchero. It had a contractor’s rack on the back carrying a load of sheet rock. As we came down our respective slopes, I could see that the load was secured with a single rope, diagonally, from right front to left rear. My attention piqued as I noticed the top sheet flapping a little. Suddenly, there was a gust of wind and the top piece of sheet rock lifted off like a kite. As we passed each other, I ducked to the right, pulling my elbow off the door. The sheet rock impacted the car right in the seam between the rear fender and body by the door. It lodged there with such force that the car spun around 180 degrees into the opposite lane. Fortunately, no other cars were coming. In addition, the engine lurched forward and the fan punctured the radiator. Stunned and weak-kneed, I climbed out and standing there was a Highway Patrolman who happened to have been right around the corner. Did he say “Wow, that was amazing. Are you okay?” No, he said, sternly, “License please.” He then looked at me carefully and said, “I recognize your name. Haven’t I seen you before?” Having had a couple of speeding tickets by then, that was certainly a possibility. I was at a loss for words, but at least my elbow was intact. Car eventually repaired, I motored on to my next adventure.

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I NEARLY LOSE MY HEAD
On warm summer Saturday evenings, a favorite pastime was to lust over the car lot of Von Housen Motors. Now a Mercedes dealership, back then they sold used foreign and exotic cars and had a race-prep shop as well. I recall such goodies as a Maserati 200 SI, Ferrari Europa and 250 Monza, a Porsche Carrera GT Speedster with Rudge wheels, a Lotus Eleven and so on. Nirvana for car crazy teens. On this particular evening, the lot was slightly less accessible. I made the turn off the street and then noticed, much too late, the chain hung across the entrance. As the TR went under the chain, it hooked on the left windshield stanchion, bending it down and breaking the windshield. The chain then bounced painfully off the top of my head and hit the rear scuttle near the gas cap, leaving dimples in the sheet metal. After disentangling the car, I left for home with a sore head, but it was still attached. The insurance company didn’t hear about this incident, so the car was eventually repaired courtesy of my now empty wallet. And I motored on to my next adventure.

I DEFINITELY LOSE A GIRLFRIEND
Ever raced to the races? That’s what I was doing one weekend on the way to the Georgetown Hillclimb in the Sierra foothills, east of Sacramento. With me was a very nice young lady whom I was dating. I was really enjoying the much-improved handling afforded by a new set of Michelin X’s, though not fully understanding their handling quirks. Trailing behind me was an Alfa Giulietta and a Jag XK120, and I was actually pulling away from them. Hot stuff! Then we reached a left-right S-bend with the road sloping down to my left. The rear end stepped out a little to the right, no problem, but on reaching the right turn the rear end suddenly swung around to the left like a pendulum. We wound up in a cloud of dust on the shoulder peering down a long, steep slope into a creek bed. The Alfa and Jag drivers waved cheerfully as they went by. My girlfriend was strangely quiet the rest of the day as we watched the hillclimb and, not surprisingly, declined to go out with me again. Definitely my loss. I motored on, alone, to my next adventure.

A LOOK INTO THE ABYSS
Back in the 60s, the four-lane Highway 99 came into the south side of Sacramento and, before the elevated freeways were developed, it split into two, two-lane sections. The northbound lanes made a big right-left sweeping s-bend as they went over an overpass and down on to 30th Street. Always looking for a bit of excitement, I would come whizzing along at a good clip in the right lane, then move to the left lane to apex at the top of the overpass, then hard on the brakes and down into town. Making the experience even better, I had just installed an Abarth exhaust system that popped and crackled and echoed off the concrete walls. I did this all the time… except for the one evening that I didn’t. For some reason, I stayed in the right lane. As I crested the overpass, an elderly couple in a ’54 green and white Chevy sedan appeared going south in the northbound left lane! I had time to see the startled looks on their faces as their eyes widened before they zipped past and disappeared down the other side. I pulled over briefly and contemplated my fate, then motored on to the rest of my life. I have no idea what happened to the couple, but I didn’t hear of an accident of any kind. I still wonder what must have gone through their minds.

EPILOGUE
I enjoyed the TR for five years and had many happy times, then sold it and bought a ’59 Porsche 356A. (Never fully understood its handling quirks, which led to further misadventures. Do you see a pattern? Yet here I am.) I now have a beautiful Winchester blue 1957 Triumph TR3, restored to concours-winning levels by Martin Hveem Auto Restorations in Redding, California. I’m allowed to relive my teens, though I drive at a more sedate pace. Well, most of the time. See, there’s this overpass with a nice, banked off-ramp…

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