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We Bought A 1961 Triumph TR4!

For those of you that have been with us for a while, you might know that we have a soft spot for British Roadsters. We’ve owned more than a few, but we decided to give German sports cars a try. As great as they are, after a few years without a British droptop, we decided we wanted to get back into something with Lucas electronics. And you know, there’s no better time to buy a convertible than the middle of winter! So, when a 1961 Triumph TR4 popped up locally, we decided to go take a look. What we found was a bit of a mixed bag, but that’s all part of the fun right?

This TR was found in a barn in rural Idaho by the seller over 20 years ago. At the time, it was in pieces and the frame was nearly rusted away. He managed to find a straight TR4 frame and started mounting everything to it. The engine was rebuilt, an overdrive transmission installed, custom seats went in, the body panels were sprayed Ford Performance White and then slapped onto the chassis. We were downright impressed with how well it ran and drove, but the body gaps were absolutely terrible. It was so fun to drive though, that we had to make an offer! And just like that, it was ours.

I’m used to most of the finds that come into the Barn Finds’ Shop either being in pieces or not running, so this one was a bit different for me. Mechanically, it’s sound and runs brilliantly. Even the overdrive works! So, what is there to fix? Well, the paint is looking sad and those body gaps are killing me. I know, it sounds ridiculous to be complaining about something as trivial as panel alignment, but the door gaps are so bad that it’s hard to even open them. In my research, it seems to be most TR4 owner’s biggest complaint, even more so than the electronics!

Well, I’m not the type to be discouraged, so I set about getting the body all lined up correctly. I made a short video showing the task of adjusting the panels, which you can watch above. I have already worked on the doors some, they at least open now, but there’s still a lot of adjusting to be done. I’m starting to see now why so many owners complain about the task, it’s not really hard, just tedious. That being said, I think having everything adjusted properly will be well worth the work in the end. What do you think? Is having well-aligned panels worth the work?


  1. Arthell64

    Well- aligned body gaps are important to me. The body gaps are the first thing I notice. Bad gaps looks someone just though the car together. It does take skill to get the gaps right.

    Like 8
  2. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Took a while to get used to Lauren Hutton but after a while the gap in her teeth was part of her charm, too…

    Like 19
    • Sam61

      Well played sir! That gap also makes for a fine cigarette holder.

      Like 6
  3. MattR

    Oh what a fun ride. I love TR4’s and that one looks well sorted. Congrats Josh! You are starting from a great place when you can just jump in and go. Although panel alignments would bug me too. Great job with the adjustments. You bled on that car, it’s officially yours now. Enjoy!

    Like 3
  4. Vegaman Dan

    With Victoria British now no more (MOSS Motors bought them out), we have no more of the lovely exploded view catalogs that were more an assembly parts guide than resource at times. But maybe we’ll see better availability and pricing.

    You don’t need the parts on this one, just body gaps, some assembly and a bit of touch up. I’m expecting you paid a pretty penny for that one!

    (owner of a 68 Mk 3 Spitifire needing panel gapping and paint as well!)

    Like 1
    • Derek

      I recall – from interactions with a Spitfire-owning pal – that the Moss catalogue had subtly hidden comedy between its covers.

      The dashboard section contained a 3″ mini quiche and the braking section contained a brick (for putting behind the rear wheel because the handbrake was rubbish, presumably).

      Like 1
    • Little_Cars

      @Vegaman–Moss has the same illustrations, if not better. Have you received their PRINT catalog lately?

      Like 1
  5. Derek

    “fun to drive” > “body gaps”

    My sister has a TR4A in dark blue; it’s quite a thing. Lumpy cam and carb shenanigans make it even more fun.

    Like 1
  6. TBAU Member

    Looks like a great project. Did you guys ever finish the white MGA you bought?

    Like 0
    • Joshua Mortensen Staff

      We had the MGA nearly finished when a runaway Chrysler smashed it into the wall of our shop. After having already spent countless hours doing bodywork, I just couldn’t bring myself to start all over on it, so we sold it to a buddy here in Boise. He had a body shop straighten it back out and repaint it. He finished it about a year ago. We took it for a spin and it turned out really nicely, but I was glad someone else repaired the damage!

      Like 1
  7. banjo

    I had a 66 TR4A solid axle. I miss that car. it was a total bomb, but a blast to drive. The 4 cylinder TRs have such a great exhaust note. Not to mention all the 60s style with rack and pinion steering and disc brakes!

    Like 0
  8. bobhess bobhess Member

    Second favorite Triumph behind the GT6. Did a lot of customer work on Triumphs and panel gaps were where the hard work was. The TR6s were worse than the other models for some reason. Nice car. Should be a fun project.

    Like 1
  9. Howard A Member

    Favorite Triumph. Did I ever tell you( about a dozen times) about my brother buying a ’63 Alfa in the early 70’s for $500 bucks and the seller “threw in” a very tired TR4. We got the Triumph running and sold it for $250 bucks! I read, Triumph restyled the TR4 in ’61 for the ’62 model year, so this, as a ’61 may be a pretty rare car.

    Like 3
  10. Cobra Steve

    A bit of friendly advice from an avid Triumph enthusiast. Remember “ABC” when ordering parts from Moss, Roadster Factory, Spits & Bits, etc. Be sure to specify “ABC” on your parts orders. Anywhere But China. Pay a bit extra for a USA or European-manufactured part and you will not be disappointed as they are significantly better quality.

    Like 2
  11. Rick

    iI would prefer the 4A with IRS.

    Like 0
    • Joshua Mortensen Staff

      I understand the appeal of the IRS, but there’s something about the early TR4s that just feels special to me. Either way, they are great cars!

      Like 0
      • Howard A Member

        Yeah, the live axle is a lot simpler, and unless you’re going racing, they did just fine. Now the wire wheels, that’s where you lose me. Have a good jack with you,,

        Like 0
  12. Noel F Torchio

    I had no idea ’64 TR-4’s had Lucas Electronics. Kinda scary.

    Like 0
  13. Alford H Pouse

    Had a TR4AIrs while stationed on Key Largo. Enjoyed the hell out of that car running around the Keys during off duty time. Biggest problem was my other favorite pastime of rum. That led to a series of bumper car moves and it was parked. Engine was passed on to a fellow GI for his TR3.

    Like 0
  14. stillrunners

    Like !

    Like 0
  15. Johnmloghry Johnloghry

    Really don’t understand the appeal of these cars, but that’s just me. A friend is quite fond of them, and he’s owned several. I rode with him once(and only once) he scared the crap out of me, it was like riding on a fast skate board constantly expecting to be thrown to the curb with severe body damage to me.
    God bless America

    Like 1
  16. 914Shifter Member

    Those are great cars!! I have had 3 or 4 and loved their simplicity to work on. Plus, they are getting pretty classic looking as time goes on. Solid investment, I am thinking… Like you, I have gotten distracted doing German stuff lately (914’s, BMW 2002’s, etc) but every once in a while I get that craving for the sound and feel of a good British roadster…

    Like 0
  17. Brian Ashe

    Congrats! Enjoy!

    Like 0
  18. regg

    How much is this car?

    Like 0
  19. regg

    Got it…This is a show and tell.

    Like 0
  20. matt

    All pretty standard body alignment items to deal with.
    It would be a serious problem if welding of panels had occurred without careful measuring and jig alignment or bracing first.
    But if the a pillar, b post, and inner and outer rockers were intact when the body was moved to a new frame – the gap adjustments in the doors and fenders are really not bad to adjust.
    Nice looking TR4 to work with.
    My first Triumph was a ’62’ with the short bulge hood. That car never let me down !
    That’s why I bought a ’64’ to bring back to life.

    Like 0

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