1954 Triumph TR2

Owned by Lou Metelko


Auburn, Indiana

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The TR2 was the first production run of a very successful line of sports cars that would bear the Triumph name with the famous "TR" designation. It was the forerunner of the increasingly collectable sidescreen TR's known as the TR3, TR3A, and TR3B. Below is Lou's story about how he reserrected his beautiful Ice Blue TR2.

During the early 1990's a fellow from Ohio acquired two very early Triumph TR2's. One car was Commission number TS981L the other was TS1144L. He had intended to restore TS981L to a "driver" status while TS1144L was to be a long range project. He started by removing the very tattered, but solid body from TS981L and started concentrating on the mechanicals. The engine was resleeved using 86mm rather than the original 83mm, 10 under rods and standard main bearings. Since TS981L was initially without the electric Laycock DeNormanville overdrive, he found a very late TR3 with an overdrive and attached it to engine #TS1297E. Early TR2's were fitted with a rear axle from a Mayflower (called the Lockheed type) while from TS13046 it was a Vanguard (called the Girling type). He and many other owners of early TR2's had witnessed breakage from the Mayflower axles, so the same TR3 donated the rear axle.

Once the drive train was complete, he simply started the engine for a 30 minute idle to check for oil pressure and major leaks. When he shut the engine off it was to remain silent for the next 7 years! During this time he had rebuilt the front suspension replacing all that was available. Knowing the frames of the early TR2's could have been painted with virtually any body color, he sanded then painted the frame with what he felt was a close proximity to Ice Blue. Several years passed, and his interest in the two early TR2's began to wane. He decided to sell TS981, and it found its way to Bowling Green, Kentucky in early 1997. The new owner stored it at a U-Store-It type of facility, where it spent the next several years.

During the winter of 1999/2000 Lou was browsing through the Vintage Triumph Register's website classified section when he came upon an early TR2 for sale located in Bowling Green. He felt the price was reasonable, so he called and made plans for a trip. Lou and a friend from Indianapolis drove a truck and trailer to Bowling Green and came home with his new new bundle of joy. Three years worth of dust coated boxes filled with parts came with the car to Auburn. Lou wasn't 100% sure at the time, but he later found all of the original pieces in those boxes.

The following summer, Lou had to decide on who he could trust to undertake the body and paint work. The shop selection process involved interviewing about six or seven shop owners and their customers. In August, he settled on Ray Ashcraft of Ashcraft Auto Body in Muncie, Indiana. What helped make his decision was that Ray does no "crash work" and is only interested in restorations. He had also performed work on other TR's, and the owners were very pleased.

The car arrived at the shop exactly as it had when it departed Auburn. During the winter (2000/2001) and spring, Ray totally dismantled the body while the completed frame and drive train were stored in a safe place. During that process, the only rust found was some small areas on the floors, and the typical areas just in front of the stone guards on both sides. These two areas were cut out, and new steel of proper gauge was welded in.

The body was base primed, and then primed again with "trace primer" which was wet sanded with 250 grit paper. It was then "trace primed" again, and this time wet sanded with 500 grit paper. Not only did the exterior get this treatment but also the engine area and the boot. Some may consider this overkill, but they felt it would be much better to do the job right the first time. After about 300 hours of labor, TS981 was reunited with the frame and emerged from the cocoon as a beautiful Ice Blue butterfly to be transported back to Auburn for the next step.

During the summer of 2001, Lou had the six gauges rebuilt, and the dual master cylinder was shipped out for a rebuild. He also installed a new wiring loom. Also during that time, he began the search for the correct color and material to match the original Geranium interior. Luckily both TS1 and TS2 were born with Geranium interiors, and both were undergoing restoration in their respective countries. TS1 in Ohio, and TS2 in England. Both owners were of enormous help with tracking down sources of Geranium vinyl and leather.

With hydraulics and the wiring installed, Lou decided it was a time to hear ole 981 run for the first time. Up to this point he had an obscene amount of money invested and had never heard the engine run! After spinning the engine without the plugs to build oil pressure, he reinstalled the plugs, took a deep breath, and pushed the under hood bendix button. The engine fired to life after about 1-1/2 revolutions. After a seven year snooze TS981L had life!

As with most restorations, when Lou took TS981 for its first drive a few days later, he found something needed attention. He heard a clicking sound originating from the transmission in first gear and reverse. He knew there was a missing tooth on the gear cluster, and while thinking of his fathers words "do it right the first time" he knew he had to get it fixed. A friend of a friend who lived in Kettering, Ohio said he would rebuild it for him. He replaced the first gear cluster and "as long as you are there" replaced the bearings and syncros.

With the transmission reinstalled, and the Geranium trim on order, Lou was ready for the decision as to whom would install the interior. There are many trim shops in the area, but all said they would spend a lot of time researching correctness or they could just install it to make it look good. Shuddering just thinking about the "make it look good" idea, he contacted Larry Learn in Indiana, Pennsylvania. Larry has done a number of side screen TR's over the years with wonderful results, and Lou was confident that the job would be done right, but unfortunately his shop was 400 miles away. Swallowing hard again, he called Passport Transport to contract the transport of the TR2 from Auburn to Larry's shop in Pennsylvania. Passport Transport is a large company whose only function is to move collector cars anywhere in the United States.

When Lou first acquired TS981L, he had planned for its début at the Triumph Register of America's national convention in June of 2001, and that was only eight weeks away. He couldn't say enough about the quality of work that was done by Larry on the interior of his car. It was a pleasure to see the results of a master's craft.

Since TRA's national convention was half-way between Larry's shop and Auburn, he elected to have the TR2 trailered to the national from the shop. It arrived looking splendid except for a major oil leak at the transmission. It was losing about an ounce per hour, and that was without the engine running! His first drive in TS981L was for a distance over 20 miles in hard rain, a badly leaking transmission, and 150 miles away from home. To the car's credit, it didn't miss a beat all the way home.

Safely back in its garage, the transmission was again pulled and this time was sent to a specialist in New Jersey. That specialist said the leak was caused by a cracked adapter plate between the transmission and the overdrive. He thought it was probably caused by over enthusiastic tightening of the overdrive to the transmission. Lou could remember hearing the friend of the friend telling about the new air wrench that he had just bought!

With the transmission back in place (he was getting pretty good at it by now), the last step was fitting the Geranium carpet. Larry Learn volunteered to drive from his shop in Pennsylvania all the way to Auburn, Indiana to install the carpet, and did a masterful job. Lou comments that everyone involved with his project were the best of the best, saying "I truly am humbled by their skill and products."

Lou estimates that about 300 hours were spend on the body by Ray, and another 40 hours by Larry. As far as his own hours, he has no clue because "hours doing what a person enjoys are not counted" he says. Things he would like passed along that he has learned from his project and from owning Triumphs in general:

(1) Buy the best in every item - if that means it takes longer for the project to finish then so be it.

(2) Make the decisions on shops and suppliers based on quality, service, and price - IN THAT ORDER.

(3) Do it right the first time because doing it right is less expensive that doing it right the second time.

Since Lou's TR2 has been restored to be driven and enjoyed, he is planning to drive the car to two major Triumph shows in 2003. One, of course, is the TRA National in Auburn, Indiana, and the other is the VTR National in Armagh, Pennsylvania as part of the Roadster Factory's Summer Party. As his schedule permits, he intends to show TS981L as often as possible during the 2003 season and beyond.....

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See TRA link below for more information

TRA - Triumph Register of America

VTR - Vintage Triumph Register

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