Abandoned Restoration: 1958 Triumph TR3

Triumphs have made quite a few appearances on Barn Finds as of late. They show up in many different places and in all imaginable conditions. Today, we have a 1958 TR3, or perhaps better defined as a TR3A, that has been parked since 1978. The previous owner supposedly started a restoration that then stalled. The current owner recently acquired this Triumph from an estate sale and is attempting to flip it. It is located in Altoona, Pennsylvania and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $4,350, fourteen bids tendered as of this writing.

This is another listing that doesn’t state that there is a reserve in the bid information portion, but buried in the text, at the bottom, is the statement, “Reserve is low!” – seems disingenuous, if there is a reserve, the seller should be upfront about it. Now that that’s out of the way…being a 1958 model, would put this TR3 in the category of a TR3A. The TR3 was introduced in 1955 and continued with the TR3A, offered in 1958, and the TR3B surfacing in the final year of 1962. The A and B were not officially identified as such but were indicative of notable changes that were implemented along the way. TR3A production volume (’58-’61) was about 58K units.

This Triumph is rough looking but that’s not the entire story. While surface rust abounds, the body is basically sound. The passenger floors need to be replaced but the frame is claimed to be solid. The inner rockers check out but the passenger side one, along with the lower leg of the driver’s side fender are having some problems. The seller does mention that he has replacement rocker panels. The steel, removable hardtop is a nice feature and this Triumph does have a folding convertible top frame but the top fabric is missing. There is a tonneau cover included, however.

Under the bonnet, is a “stuck” 100 HP, 2.0 liter, in-line, four-cylinder engine. The seller states, ” I’ve been soaking the cylinders (with WD-40) for a few weeks and can’t free the engine as it seems to be locked. I’ll keep trying. The engine compartment is 100% original but will need the battery box bottom replaced“. The gearbox is a four-speed, manual transmission without overdrive. In spite of this car’s non-operational status, it does steer and roll and is equipped with front disc brakes, a nice feature for 1958!

The interior is a bright spot, in spite of the rotted out floors. The upholstery, door cards, and instrument panel are very presentable but I’m not sure what’s up with the blue dash. As the seller states, the gauges and switchgear are all present and the dash is in excellent original condition – not quite the case with the glovebox lid, however. There are side curtains included in the sale.

In trying to be objective, this car’s biggest minuses are the missing floors, the exterior rust, and the seized engine. The floors and body damage are estimable – the engine is another matter as it will probably require disassembly – and then what? The unknown reserve, snuck in at the listing’s conclusion, makes this example problematic from a value perspective. I know many of our Barn Finds readers are well informed around the mechanics and values of British sportscars like this Triumph TR3A, so what are your thoughts – workable, too many unknowns or look for a better example?

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Comments

  1. Elanguy

    It’s 4:25 EST and the reserve has been met and the bidding is at $4350. Seems pretty reasonable to me. But the car was used in rust country and it’s been off the road for 42 years, both concerning to an extent. Stuck pistons are less of a concern on these, the rebuild is going to need new pistons and liners so all you are trying to save are the con rods and wrist pins, excuse me, gudgeon pins.

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Good catch, I see where the reserve has been met.

      Thx,

      JO

  2. Jay Morgan

    This is pretty neat, look at the details on this baby.

  3. banjo

    The main visual difference between the TR3 and TR3A is the grille. the TR3 had a small-mouth opening with an egg crate grille. the TR3A grill is the wider type this car has. TR3As also received exterior door handles (and some other changes) TR3Bs are visually identical to late TR3As
    Good luck ever freeing up a decently stuck engine with WD-40. at least try some B’laster PB or better yet Kroil. But Like Elanguy said, it’s a wet sleeve engine so it’s an easier fix than on other cars.
    Current price is about where I’d want to be on this one. Overall not too bad, but it needs a lot of work. At least it’s complete and assembled.

    Like 2
    • Johnny

      Marvel Mysery oil or automatic transmission fluid is good for stuck motors also. Marvel Mystery oil is thinner then automatic transmission oil,but both are good. Kroil oil is real thin and can work in the tinest places/ I have used all three with good results. Let it set for awhile and give it a try on the fan of fly wheel.Good luch whoever gets it.

      • GordoD

        The TR-3 has a hand crank, notice the round hole in the grill, might help getting that motor unstuck.

        I had to use that crank more than once back in my college days when I couldn’t afford a new battery!

    • Nick Birdsey

      Hi, an interesting find. I owned a 1961 TR3A, as well as a Daimler sp250 and an mgb gt. I reconditioned the engine and fitted a high ratio overdrive (.78 reduction, usually. 82). Great caution on the engine, wet sleeve is more complex because the ledges in the block that the sleeves sit on, corrode. Result: water in the oil. Lack of an overdrive is a minus, this really makes it much more useable. I survived quite a major accident in mine, so they are strong. A great driving car, well balanced and good brakes. Some scuttle shake. Body repsirs: there was a great parts place in England.

  4. bobhess bobhess Member

    Lot of work, true, but at least there is plenty to start with. Interesting on the exterior door handles… put one on my ’62 MG Midget after an ice storm froze the sliding windows shut on me.

  5. ChingaTrailer

    I’m afraid those seats look like they’re covered in a JC Whitney kit from 40+ years ago. And speaking of 40+ years ago you could get all sorts of Triumph parts from Whitney including big bore cylinder liner kits.

    Like 3
  6. Gordon A Duncan

    Front disc brakes were not a new feature for 58, my 57 TR-3 had front discs.

    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Correct, I meant for the TR3A as they were carried over from the TR3 (’55-’57).

      JO

  7. DonP

    Floors are less of a problem now than when these were new. You can buy a set from all the major suppliers; Moss, The Roadster Factory, Rimmer Bros., Racetorations, etc. but also from places like Amazon and E Bay.

    Just finished a frame off restoration on my ’62 TR3B and was amazed at how available parts are. Plus, these cars have no problem keeping up with traffic on the Interstate.

    Most, if not all of the work required, is well within the skill set of a home mechanic with access to a Mig welder. Most parts bolted together, wet sleeve engine is infinitely re-buildable.

    Just something about those low cut doors and throaty engine still gets me … and my 17 year old grandson.

    • Gordon A Duncan

      Any pictures, do you plan on keeping it as a weekend good weather driver or will it soon be on Ebay?

      • DonP

        I’ve owned it since June of 1967, when I bought it from Calumet Auto Wreckers for $175 as my “college and get to work car”.

        The only car they had in their wrecking yard that I could afford … and fix enough to drive home. Over the years I’ve rebuilt the engine 3 times and just finished the complete frame off in August of 2020.

        Repaint in the original factory Powder Blue with a factory hardtop. New black leather interior and a roll bar from Revington’s in the UK, for autocross and Hill Climbs.

        I’m not sure how to post a picture here? Won’t be for sale until after I’m long gone. Planning Summer Road Trips with the 6 grand kids.

  8. ChingaTrailer

    DonP – how on earth are you going to fit six grand kids in a TR3??

  9. DonP

    LOL! The oldest is 21 the youngest is 10, so either one at a time or ask them to take me for a ride. The 10 year old already asked; “Grandpa, is it hard to drive a stick shift?” So I’ll have to watch where I leave my keys. They do love the low cut doors on, what the 21 yr old grand daughter calls; “Grandpa’s little blue Hot Wheel’s car”.

  10. ChingaTrailer

    I too had a 1959 TR3 in college and over the years that I’ve had 1 Alfa Romeo, 2 Aston Martin’s, 4 Austin Healeys, 4 Ferraris. 3 Fiats, 6 Jaguars, more MGs than I can count, 2 Porsches, that little TR3 has been my favorite, at least until I came into my RHD Cobra about 20 years ago. I have an old photo of my then 6 year old granddaughter in her car seat in the left seat (Cobra is RHD) when I took her to see the Speed Racer movie in about 2008. When all the other kids in the theater parking lot saw her, she was the Queen of all!

  11. Randy

    I owned a 1958 TR3A when I was 16. Sadly it went by the wayside for a pretty simple reason… the steering wheel had cracked and would not pass inspection in the state of PA. With the other electrical issues and the fact that the twin carburetors were almost impossible to adjust and maintain. I will say though it was never difficult to find a date on the weekend when I owned the car:-) I moved on to an AMC AMX in 68. I see today where the TR3A is worth more restored today than the AMX.

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