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Beater TR3 Sighting


Back in July, I had planned on attending one of the biggest car shows held in Idaho. It was on a Saturday, so after mowing the lawn and doing a few things around the house, I headed down to the fairgrounds. The flyers all said that the gates were open until 5pm, so I figured there was plenty of time. Well, unfortunately the organizers decided to close up early so the best I could do was peek through the fence for a few minutes. As I sulked back to my car though, I spotted something blue at the far edge of the now emptying parking lot. So, I jumped in the Miata and headed that way.


And look what I found! I may have missed the show, but this TR3 made up for it in spades. Understandably, I am always on the lookout for original cars, especially ones that are still in regular use. There is nothing better that seeing a well-used classic still on the road! This Triumph TR3 has obviously been very much enjoyed by its caretaker(s). Sure, there are some dings and a few makeshift patch jobs, but the nicely worn paint gives this sports car a look that could never be replicated.


Many put the TR3 in the same class as the MGA, but it could actually run with the likes of the Austin Healey 100! The TR3’s four-cylinder engine had about half a liter more displacement than the MGA and about a half liter less than the Healey. It was still enough to take the TR3 to well over 105mph which would have left the MGA in the dust and just barely caught the AH! Triple digit speeds may not seem like a big deal today, but they represented quite an achievement in the fifties. The TR3 was still archaic in many ways, but the disc brakes and that top speed did help its tough sporting image.


With its cut down doors and open top, the TR3 gives a driving experience that is unlike any other car too. While most of us have gone soft over the years, the owner of this car would rather face the possibility of getting wet or sunburned than forgo the authentic roadster experience. A tonneau cover is the only form of protection here and it is mostly there to protect the interior while parked outside. Admittedly the soft top is probably a bit of a pain to snap in place, but I like to think that the owner is as hardy as their little bulldog of a car.


There was even some proof that this particular car has been driven at least off and on for the past few decades now. This Boise State College (now University) parking sticker is from 1973! The license plate frame also gives away the fact that the owner is or was a member of the Idaho British Car Club. Lots of local history here and it sure would be interesting to hear the full story. Hopefully the owner will see this and be willing to chime in. With many collectors paying outrageous prices for cars that they will never drive on the street, it is nice to see the occasional classic still out and about. So, if you happen to see anything in your neck of the woods, please send it in so we can all enjoy!


  1. Mike

    It’s a late TR3, possibly a ’62 TR3B. Thanks for this post.
    Agreed, good to see these Brit. sports cars on the road.

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  2. John

    I own a 1960 TR3A and everything you said about them is pretty much on the mark. They are absolutely a blast to drive. The 2 liter engine is as tough as nails and has great torque at all RPM’s. After all it was built as a tractor engine. The very distinctive lines of the TR3 with the cut down doors, swooping fenders and bug eyed headlamps leave no doubt to the passerby that this is a classic roadster from yesteryear. The constant head turning, thumbs up, and comments from all ages give testimony to that. These cars are meant to be driven. I have had big Healeys before and I actually think the TR3 out handles the Healey with better balance and nearly the power. Nice ones can still be had for under 20k, unlike the Healeys. So, if you have a place to keep it and don’t mind getting your hands dirty once in a while, go find one now before they inevitably go much higher in value. And oh,…I don’t even have a soft top for mine.

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  3. Bruce Rolfe

    I see this car all the time in town. The IBCC is a good sized club as you know. John send me an email if you are looking for any parts for your TR3, soft top or tauno cover.


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  4. rdc

    I had a 58 tr3 with disk wheels. It was rough when i bought it. Painted it BRG, added the wire wheels.and drove till it got wrecked. Then rebuilt it and traded it for my first Mustang. Like most of my cars in my youth, wish I had it back. However it is in my mental garage.

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    • rdc

      I should have also said. “The car looks great and i would not change a thing about the car.” I might see if i could find the rare hardtop and make sure the fabric top fits. Mine blew off in a rainstorm once on a date with a pretty girls. No more dates with her. :)

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  5. paul

    I really like this one & as you say nice to see it used/driven not some garage queen.
    I have a friend with one of these & it’s quite mint but he drives the thing all over the country, seems the Brit club in the Chicago area are very active. They also do something very cool, they have a kit that utilizes a Toyota 5 spd, weighs less then the original unit, is bullet proof, & allows the engine to turn less RPM at hwy speeds, less wearing on the motor & your ears.

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  6. Dolphin Member

    The TR3 / MGA performance comparison Jesse mentions is exactly right.

    After owning a ’58 Sprite, my 2nd sportscar was a ’59 MGA, a big step up in every way. A friend of mine owned a TR3. One day we were going somewhere, he in his car, me in mine. My memory of that drive is of his car disappearing into the distance after every stoplight or stop sign, again and again. Torque, grunt—call it what you want, the TR3 definitely had it.

    Love this blue TR3. But if it were mine I would try real hard to figure out an alternative to that duct tape.

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  7. Mike

    I had two, at different times. Sorry both were sold. They were great fun on quiet
    twisty back roads as one could hang the rear end out pretty easily with those
    bias ply tires, and steer with the throttle. Putting the top up was an assembly project,
    and it was easier to drive home in the cold and dark than to assemble it. How many
    times did I arrive with frozen ears? The suspension seemed to consist of the cushioning
    on the removable seat bottom. The comfortable driving range was about ten miles out
    and ten miles back.

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  8. rdc

    Heater did not work very well. I carried a blanket to cover my legs. Picked up a hitcher once and after a couple of miles he wanted out. :) I think he was too cold or he could have been afraid of the car. :)

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    • Mike

      HA. Thanks for the memories. I recall now the heater sort of warmed the ankles. Sort of.

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  9. jim s

    great find. i hope the owner sees this and updates us on the cars history. they stay real nice when you drive them every day! the Red Green school of car repair! another car that i would love to see in person.

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  10. Rev. Rory

    Dammit, now I have to go reawaken my ’57 MGA, these last few ‘beater sportscars in Idaho’ entries has inspired me…all that’s wrong is one of the webers is acting up (yes, webers; don’t ask.) – can’t be too hard to fix, right? why the hell did I park it in the first place? :-/ And I have the top and side curtains too, but they’ve never been mounted in my tenure in spite of numerous Oregon and Canada tours in all sorts of weather. She deserves better!

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    • Dolphin Member

      Hi Rev,
      As much as I respect Weber carbs, with their great history of feeding some of he best road and racing engines of all time, I suggest that you consider putting good-old SU carbs back on your ‘A’. I have had multiple-SU setups on all kinds of engines in cars I owned, and in every case they returned good performance with really good fuel economy. Just make sure they are clean inside and have the right oil for the piston.

      I’ll bet you can find a setup on ebay or some MG club for-sale list. Then you can list your Weber carb setup from your ‘A’ for sale and make back all the money you laid out for the SUs, and more. You might not want to sell the Weber setup to a friend, tho.

      Come on, Rev…..you—and we—need to see that ’57 A of yours back on the road. Maybe you could send in a pic to BF so we can all see it. And remember, we actually prefer real cars to Garage Queens.

      Best wishes for you and your to-be-reawakened ‘A’.

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      • Brian

        I’ve never had much luck with SU carbs, on my old Volvo. I’d say if the Webers are not worn out, throw kits at them and drive it! Maybe there is a simple fix for the SUs that I never learned about, but I doubt it. I’ve never had a carburetor, any carburetor, that ever ran well again if a simple cleaning and rebuild didn’t fix it. I once sent a Stromberg WW2 bbl to two different restorers, spent nearly $800 on it, and it won’t run worth a flip and now sits in the bottom of my tool chest, replaced by a perfect running used $20 swap meet carb. Despite what the restorer said, I believe that carb is warped and junk. In my experience, the only thing worse than a carburetor is two carburetors! If the car needs carbs, I’d buy new ones, with a warranty. I will never spend a dime to send a carb off to be restored again.

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      • Dolphin Member

        Brian, Some of the cars that I was referring to with SU carbs were 544- and 122-series Volvos, which had 2 SU carbs. They all ran really well—good power and also good gas mileage. Like anything else, they need to be right, which means correct needles and seats for the particular engine, with the seats properly adjusted for the engine, and clean inside with the right damper oil. And no leaking gaskets. You can still get rebuild kits for them, so they can still be made right.

        The problem with two Webers on a 4-cylinder street engine is that the engine can be over-carbed…..not enough air flow through them a lot of the time, since a street engine is not running near redline the way a race engine does. Some Weber setups used a single 2-barrel Weber on a 4-cylinder engine, which could be good for the street.

        Years ago I rebuilt a 240Z engine for the street with a hot cam and hi-compression pistons. I didn’t want to use the typical 3 dual-barrel Weber racing setup for it, so I made some patterns and had a foundary cast some intake manifolds in aluminum so I could use 3 stock Hitachi (SU type) carbs on it. It worked well, but even then it was a bit over-carbed for street use, so I went back to the stock early (1970) 2-carb & manifold setup and was happier. Sometimes less carburation is better.

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  11. Rev. Rory

    Yeah, I know the drill, it came with the Webers many moons ago. Just have to get off my butt and do it. And she’s much more a garage trollop than a garage queen. As she should be.

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  12. ClassicHondaMan

    I just bought a Primrose Yellow 61 TR3a and as I work on it and enjoy looking at it in the garage, I fall more and more for it. Always liked them, but as I bond with this one, I really do think it is a forever car that will passed down within the family. There just isn’t anything quite like it.

    Of course mine doesn’t run yet!

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    • John

      Congrats on your purchase. I concur on these things growing on you. I had wanted a big Healey but just couldn’t see paying what they demand these days and “settled” for the 60 TR3 I have now. Now I’m thinking that maybe I got the right car after all. This TR3 is making me forget about Healeys. They are a tough fun little car that has everything you want in classic british roadster. Have fun bonding.

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  13. rancho bella

    If I wasn’t into Lotus’ssss………it would be early Triumphs. Something about them.

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    • paul


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  14. Graham Line

    SU carbs respond well to rebuild kits unless someone has been running them dry for a long time. The best way to wake up most little British sports cars is to match up the ports and flow the heads. All that costs is some Dremel bits. After that, raise the compression a point, and if you still aren’t happy, go up one size on the SUs. They will flow quite a bit more than the stock heads can handle. Then, go look for a mechanic who keeps an SU wrench on their key ring. We transformed my ’72 1275 Midget with some handwork and a set of 8.5:1 Hepolite pistons.

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  15. Rev. Rory

    I have the Skinners Union wrench(although not on my keychain) and I have a forty-year-old Uni-Syn (and also a much more recent version, which for some reason doesn’t work as well as the elderly one)and I have had pretty fair luck with multiple SUs over many years in many applications, including Harleys. I’ll probably go back to them or a single two-barrel downdraught Weber for driveability, although I do like the way the DCOEs look with the header, yes, overcarbed but idles and runs fine when sorted. As I say, it’s not the car’s fault it’s sitting…

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  16. Gene M

    71 years total with 2 Volvos and an MGTD. Periodic oil in the dashpots and occasional “tuning” with a rubber hose which never seemed to make much difference. ’66 Volvo still fine today. But of course with the Mg there was always fun with Lucas.

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  17. Allen Member

    There is a simple fix for SU carbs, and over 30 years experience with them, it has never failed me. If an SU does not respond to a kit, it needs to be rebushed. At that point, you have, functionally, a brand-new carburetor. Set it up carefully. Balancing dual SUs is not rocket science. At this point, the simple fix is what I call “constructive neglect”. “Set it and forget it.” About 85% of all carb problems I’ve seen reside on the other side of the engine in the ignition system. I am presuming that all else is well with the engine involved, no manifold leaks, valves in good nick and adjusted more or less right, decent compression, etc. SU carbs are one of the simplest machines on the planet. What’s to go wrong?

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    • Brian

      In my case, I’m not sure what went wrong, but something was wrong. My car was a ’65 Volvo 122S. The carbs would adjust out and ok one day, and wouldn’t start the next, more fiddling might improve the condition, or it might not. Some days it would idle ok but give it some gas and it would die, other days it would only run with a foot on the gas pedal. Other days it would run perfectly for a mile or two, then load up, die and fail to restart for at least 3 hours It’s been along time ago, but I do remember oiling it up, but I can’t remember if it had gone dry – maybe that was the problem? I remember going through the ignition system and adjusting the valves, thinking that I was blaming the carbs for another problem, but nothing helped. I also remember spraying light oil around the shafts looking for air leaks and not getting any idle changes. My plan had been to swap the SUs for a progressive Weber Redline, which the next owner did do after I passed it along when I relocated. Glad you guy love your SUs, but my one experience with them was a headache!

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  18. John

    I have always had a warm and fuzzy spot for SUs. I still have a whole bunch of metering needles (including some spring loaded ones). I have a couple of the little wrenches. 6 flats down from full up would usually get them running. Then the Unisyn came out and the girls would come to watch. I used to love mini-skirts. The carburettors were always at just the right level for a quick sideways glance. I got really good at balancing the Spridgets carbs, over and over. And if that got boring, you could always go play withe the thumb wheel that adjusted the timing. It was just a little bit lower.

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    • ConservativesDefeated

      SU carb porn. Who would a thunk it?

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  19. CG Hoarder

    For a car owner that does not care if their car is restored to factory specs, and uses it for a fun alternative to the standard vehicle, the less complicated, and more reliable the components are, the better. Electronic ignitions and progressive two barrel down drafts have made a big difference in the fun factor for some cars. I won’t argue about the sex appeal of 2, 3, 4. or 6 Webers. They look great on the inline engines from Japan also, if you go that way. Panhandle in the summer, miss it.

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  20. James Reynolds

    I owned a TR3 for about 18 years, many problems with rust, finally got it under control. I spent lots of money on it, but got lots of enjoyment from it..money was better spent, than if it were on wine women or song.

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  21. DT

    Its a sad day when a Chinese copy of an Italian part is a big improvement over the original part

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  22. GreaserMatt

    Very cool!!!

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