When vintage Triumph racer Joe Alexander launched a private e-mail list server over a decade ago for the guys he met at races, he expected to count the members on two hands. But the Friends of Triumph e-mail list has grown to over 300 members worldwide and includes such notables as former Triumph team boss Kas Kastner.
“It’s really a non-organization,” Alexander says. There are no rules, no dues and no politics. Potential new members are nominated by a list member and then seconded for approval.
E-mail postings include safety items, new products, helpful technology and speed secrets, he explains, adding that there is great camaraderie. “It took on a life of its own,” he adds.
Alexander says that the Friends of Triumph list has had a major influence on the preparation of Triumphs on the vintage racing scene, especially TR3s and TR4s. “Triumphs were an inexpensive car, and many were getting pretty ratty a decade ago. Now you see very nicely prepared cars thanks to the technical expertise shared among members,” he says.
The list also helped develop and create a buzz for new, custom-designed performance British sports car parts, both for Alexander and other producers. Alexander retired in 1999 as a manufacturing engineer and project manager from John Deere, but it took him a few years to realize that he could use that expertise to produce parts for his vintage racing hobby. He started with laser-cut stainless steel heat shields for Triumphs. He explains that MGs and Austins had them, but Triumph never had the money to tool up to produce them.
Now his Alexander Racing Enterprises offers products such as spun-aluminum headlamp covers, lightweight steel flywheels, alloy front engine plates, Nylatron rocker arm spacers and a rear axle locator kit. Many products are carried by Moss Motors.
Of course one of Alexander’s primary test beds is his own 1963 TR4 vintage racer. He built it with his son, Sean, and they started racing it in 1992. For the first 10 years he ran a stock engine and never had a DNF. Now the car has been modified and has an 11.1:1 compression ratio, Erson cam, Quaife rear end and other suspension modifications. He adds that he is only running a few vintage races per year, and is happy running in the top third of the pack.
In addition to vintage racing, Alexander enjoys attending vintage car festivals, and has been heavily involved in organizing events, especially ones for Triumph owners. This season he is organizing the Triumph festivities at the SVRA/U.S. Vintage Grand Prix at Watkins Glen September 4-7. “Triumph owners are a special group of people,” he says.
In addition to his TR4 race car, Alexander also has a TR3 that he found in an Iowa corn crib and has since refurbished. He has owned Triumphs for nearly 40 years. “Triumphs have a way of growing on you. They’re easy to work on and they beg for attention,” he says. Like many British car owners, he also has a car in pieces in the garage, a TR250. He is also currently building a 1950s vintage Ambro on a TR4 chassis using the original fiberglass body molds.
As we were going to press, we were shocked to hear of the death of Jack Drews, longtime friend of Triumph racers. “Uncle Jack,” as he is known, will be missed, and our condolences go to his family and friends.
By Kathleen M. Mangan