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Homepage. This page: Old Triumphs don't float!
Uncle Joe's stories about cars and motoring

Triumph 1500 car.

"Uncle Joe", a name used to protect the innocent (and not-so-innocent,) has kindly volunteered his own motorcar and motorcycle memories. A series of stories will be featured here at oldclassiccar, all of which are true, based on the vehicles that Joe has owned, driven, or worked on, over the years.

Reliable front wheel drive Triumph.

If you have similar stories that you'd be willing to share with the world, I'd be happy to feature them here too, using an alias if you'd prefer!!

I've always enjoyed reading people's firsthand recollections of cars, and their foibles, in years gone by. Stories similar to this can be found on the main Motoring Memories Project page, which can be found here.

No-one at oldclassiccar necessarily agrees with, or condones, the events in these stories, and opinions given are not those of the site editor, but of the contributor!

Christmas time and a classy Triumph

I had inherited an early model front wheel drive Triumph 1500 from my brother. This car was nothing to set the world alight. It was beginning to rust. The Michelin tyres were only just about legal. The engine was shot. But it had one saving grace. The standard exhaust system had a beautiful tone to it, which sounded more like a sports car than most sports cars did. One other thing was that it started very easily, as I came to appreciate on more than one occasion.

I had just sold my Plymouth Fury, and replaced it with a big block Mustang, which I was using as my daily driver. On a bitterly cold Christmas Eve, the Ford´s heater stopped working. So, until I could get the parts that I needed, the Triumph was pressed into service. The first thing was to get it running, as it had not been used for several months. This was in spite of the fact that it had tax and MoT. The first thing was to unlock the car, lift the Triumph's bonnet, and reconnect the battery. Easier said than done. First, the locks were frozen, and the usual oils wouldn´t free them. So, it was out with the blowlamp! A few minutes later, the car was unlocked. Without, I might add, damaging the paintwork!

The next thing was to lift the bonnet. Several pulls on the lever did nothing. When I looked at the bonnet, I could see the reason why nothing happened. In the channel that runs all around the bonnet, there was solid ice. It was this ice that was holding it down. I didnt want to use de-icer, as I didn´t have much, and anyway, I needed that for the windows. Hot water just seemed to make things worse. Why is it that hot water poured onto a cold surface always seems to freeze quicker? So I very judiciously pried the bonnet open with a tyre lever! Once open, I thought that I had no chance of starting the engine. Everything in there was covered by a thick layer of either frost or ice. When I looked into the radiator, there was even ice beginning to form in there as well, in spite of the fact that there was antifreeze in the water! But as they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I reconnected the battery. I got into the car, pulled out the choke, and turned the key. The battery was almost flat, but the engine started, first try! Who says Lucas electrics are rubbish? I left the Triumph running for a while to charge the battery and warm things up.

With everything ready, I drove out to collect a friend who lived about 12 miles away. As this friend had broken his lower leg, the plans were that on Christmas Eve, we would go across the road to the pub, he would stay over with my family, and then eat with us on Christmas Day, staying over again. On Boxing Day, we had both been invited to a 21st Birthday Party. After this party, I would drive him home again. The trip out to collect him went well, but then there was the return. Due to the fact that we were running late, we decided to take a short cut. At the beginning of this short cut, we saw the sign “Road Flooded” but decided to ignore it. We both knew the road very well, or so we thought, and knew that the flood was never more than maybe a couple of inches deep. But not this time. The bad weather had caused this road to be covered in at least 18 inches of water. Consequently, when we hit it, the engine stalled, and we came to rest right in the middle. Water began to run into the Triumph, and I had visions of the cast on my friends leg dissolving. Amid cries from him of “Dont try to start it!” I turned the key. I know that I shouldn´t have done this, because the exhaust was under water, but what alternative did I have? But bless that little Triumphs engine, it started. With icy water splashing about on the car floor, we drove very carefully out of the water, and home.

Our plans for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day went well, and then came Boxing Day. After lunch, we checked over the Triumph. Most of the water on the floor had disappeared, and with the temperature now above freezing, all that remained was dampness. We removed the spark plugs, which we saw had water on them, turned the engine over a few times to clear any water out, replaced the plugs, and started the engine. First time as usual.

In the evening, we drove out to the party. First, we met up with some more friends in a pub, and then we went to the party, which was in a room above the pub. Whilst there, we met up with some nurses, who invited us to yet another party where they lived, which started after the 21st. As I was driving, the only thing that I drank was my usual Coca Cola, which turned out to be a good thing.

It had now got to be about 3am. Returning home after dropping my friend off at his flat, and driving through the main street of a small town about two miles from where I lived, I was pulled over by the Police.

The constable asked if I knew the reason that I had been stopped. When I told him that I didn´t he said that it was because the Triumph's front right sidelight was not working. He asked me where I had been. I told him. He then asked me if I had been drinking. I told him that I had not.

“You have just told me, that first you were in a pub, then you were at a 21st. birthday party, and then at another party. I admit that I cant smell alcohol on your breath, but I cant see how anyone can do that without having a drink. Would you mind taking a breathalyser test?” I told him that I wouldn´t. As to be expected, the test was negative, which seemed to displease him. However, he then said that he was going to write me up for the sidelight.

“I´m sorry, you cant,” I told him remembering an incident a few years earlier “You saw the car moving with a broken sidelight. That means that it became a moving traffic offence, which gave you the grounds to breathalyse me. As the results were negative, the sidelight offence is cancelled! If you dont believe me, ask your sergeant, he´ll tell you that you are wrong!” Rather annoyed, he called over to the sergeant that was across the street. The sergeant then told the constable that I was correct, apologised to me for the behaviour of his officer, and told me that I could go.

Even after all these years, I still wonder who was right and who was wrong. Could someone please answer?

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