Monday, 3 June 2013

Engine enhancements commence

Wow, cant believe it  been this long between updates.  I have been working hard on the car and trying to balance the kids, work and the wifes mood when I spend too long on the car!  I keep telling her she should get a hobby as well, but she just grumbles something about triplets being a full time job or something :P

The main reason I haven't posted is that I haven't completed anything..  I've done heaps on the interior, but nothing is actually complete yet.  The more I do, the more I want to do as suddenly the new bits make the old bits look daggy.  eg. where once I was happy with a fake vinyl walnut dash overlay, now I am in the midst of applying real walnut veneer to the whole dash and finishing it off to a gloss finish.  All this takes time and I have a mass of other half finished jobs such as interior, paint, soft top, gauges, seat recovering, lenses, exhaust, steering rack overhaul etc. etc.

However, this weekend I had a win.  I was always going to fit a Weber Carb to replace the  complicated Strombergs that the car came with.  They are ok for that very small window of time when they are correctly set up by an increasingly ageing population of mechanics experienced with these things, but I don't like leaving myself vulnerable like that.  The Weber is modernish (for a carb) and extremely straight forward to tune and keep in tune.  It should also provide better starting,  better driveability and hopefully more power when combined with the straight through exhaust and tubular exhaust manifolds (extractors) that are waiting to fit.

So, this is the lump to be removed.  The massive airbox at the top and the twin pots below it.

 And there are the Strommies on the ground.. Check out that ridiculous plumbing!


 Strommies gone and manifold exposed.

7 Degree adaptor plate fitter to adjust for the slope of the Triumph donk.

 Weber fitted sans air filter.. Notice the massive size difference?  vacant real estate everywhere!

Now with RamFlo Australian made air filter.. sexy.

First start.... default settings. way too much choke and way too little idle speed.

Air filter on and air/fuel mixtures and idle speed adjusted.. sweet. (special comments from Trace).

A bit more tuning to do once my air/fuel gauge arrives, but its looking and sounding promising.

Back to the long list of other jobs!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Its a Christmas Miracle!

Ok, lets get it out of the way... I've had my first break down. Thankfully only a kilometre from home.

The car spluttered to a stop just around the corner from my friend Scotts house in Port Melbourne.  I thought it could have been out of fuel because the fuel and temp gauges were reading high due to a problem with the voltage regulator.  This is a cheap little prehistoric part that ensures the gauges get a constant supply of 10v as opposed to the up and down supply generated by a battery.

So I walked home and got some petrol and put in 5-6 litres.  It still wouldn't start and I thought I eventually flooded it (Gen Y, thats something that happens to carbied cars.)  Left it and hour or two and still nothing.. it just turned over without a hint of ignition.  It wasn't the lack of fuel.  Luckily Scott drove by and helped me push it around the corner to his street for safety where it slept the night.

I had noticed the fuel pump not making its usual noise on startup.. more just a little hum/tick.  Also the fuel filter was only a quarter full, but still should have been enough to fire it up.  Next afternoon I came back with can of "start ya bastard" and fired it down the air intakes to the carby.

Each time I did that it would almost start once and then die.  Half a can later, still no luck so I rang the RACV for a tow (refer second post on me obtaining RACV cover before insurance!)

Oh the indignity!

As soon as the tow truck driver left I pulled the distributor cap to check the points.  I'm pretty sure they aren't meant to look like this?? So I gave them a good degrease and lube with WD40.

I also checked the leads and the main lead into the centre of the distributor had quite a bit of corrosion, so I cleaned it all up and put back together.. The car fired up straight away and the fuel pump sounded normal, so I'm not sure what the actual fault was, but one of those things above.

I jammed a can of carby cleaner through the air intakes and the backwash that came out was black almost until I got through the entire can, so there was a fair bit of gunk in there.  Took it for a spin and it was all sweet except for a bit of a missfire high in the rev range.

I was already considering replacing the fuel pump and also converting to electronic ignition (no points), so his has just speeded up that decision.  Combined with a new set of leads and maybe distributor should guarantee all gremlins are ironed out.. They are all cheap parts I can fit myself.

When I was riding motorbikes the joke used to be there are only two type of motorcyclists.. those that have crashed and those that will.  I completely agree with that sentiment and I guess there are also only two types of Stag owners.. but they all have full Roadside Assistance cover!

Merry Xmas everyone.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Club Permit perks and interior reno begins.

Shortly after picking up the car I received a call from Ron Farrugia from the Triumph Sports Owners Association regarding the club permit scheme.  I was aware of the scheme and the savings but it was something I was going to look at down track.  Thankfully Ron made it easy and I got through the whole process in a few days.  Heres how it works.

1. Join car club.  That was about $128 for myself and Manda.

2. Go to Vicroads with a letter from Ron stating I was a financial member of the club, cancel registration and obtain a club permit to drive the vehicle for 45 or 90 days a year.  I chose 90 days which was around $130.  I also received a refund of 85% of the $700 rego costs just paid by the previous owner!

3. Call Shannons.. Yep insurance is now only $170 instead of $370 for full comprehensive.  I was paying $700 on Nigel (the Magna) that I just sold for under $5K.  Awesome.

This is the best scam I have come across.. The club may not even meet.. I don't know? but the savings are amazing.  From this perspective this is the cheapest car I have ever run!  There isn't too many free kicks in life, but this one is right up there with the one the umpires gave Carlton in the 1979 VFL Grand Final!

All I have to do is keep a log book of my trips.. just dates, not kilometres travelled and I also get some sexy new burgundy plates.

So I have been far from idle the past few weeks. After much googling I decided that the interior of the car was going to become much lighter to match the Red paint. I had some carpet made up, including the boot set and pulled up the existing carpet. I was pleasantly surprised to find no visible rust under the carpet, but primed and conditioned the metal just in case.


 The new carpet and a layer of sound proofing went down with a lot of fiddling about and is not finished yet, but gave the interior an immediate lift.  The colour... Buckskin of course!

I had researched changing the colour of the seats and the rest of the interior.  Basically there is a process to removed the finish on the existing surfaces, respray the vinyl with dye in the colour of your choice and then reseal.  Its a time consuming process, but reasonably cheap if you are doing it yourself.   I've started from the back and I think the results are stunning, if not a little Vegas!  The colour is Buttermilk and Manda helped me choose from a plethora of options.

The front seats are a bit beyond repair in places, so I have some new covers coming from the UK and I'll recolour those over Xmas.

Coming up soon... More recolouring, dashboard restore and new chrome bezels for the gauges.

Monday, 26 November 2012

So what exactly was the problem?

You would think the first thing I would do before  I picked up the car was take out full insurance yeah?

nup.. The first thing I did was take out full RACV roadside assistance cover.  This car has a reputation.. Indeed if you have a few minutes, listen to Jeremey Clarkson expouse the Stag as a classic example of why the British car industry is in the shape it is today..

And I quote as we moved into the 21st century, the biggest British owned car maker was London Taxi's International, makers of the black cab..  So what went wrong? listen to Jeremy.

Come on Jeremy, its not all that bad!  or was it....

The Stag had its faults without doubt.  It was trying to compete with Mercedes, yet was shackled by industrial relations issues (think thousands of unproductive plods standing around braziers on strike) that just didn't exist in Germany..  I quote from "who killed the British motor industry pt 3" where a German manager was spending 5% of his time on industrial relations, the people at British Leyland were spending something like 60% of their time on industrial relations. Then came along Japanese mass production.  The Brits never stood a chance.

I previously mentioned the Dolomite connection. The Stag engine is basically two 4 cylinder Dolomite engines welded together.. They had the option of using the Buick 3.5 litre unit used in the Rover but decided to go it alone.  Hence the Stag engine is unique and not used in any other car.. this can only be good right?

The faults
The Stag engine has proved to be its great weakness. Some people have even christened it the "Triumph Snag". The key problem with the Stag is its cooling system. To test it, you should let any potential purchase idle for 15 minutes (preferably on a hot day) while keeping an eye on the temperature gauge. Check that the radiator is as hot at the bottom as it is at the top. If it's not, there may be problems with coolant circulation and expensive damage may have already been done. In addition, check that the thermostat (in the intake manifold) hasn't been removed to mask some chronic cooling problem, and make sure that the oil pressure light is connected. If not, leave well enough alone. 

An overheating Stag will eventually end up with a warped head. Like the TR7 (which uses half of the Stag V8), Stag heads have a bad reputation for warping in service, often with as few as 25,000 miles. The blown gaskets which soon follow can lead to damaged head faces which will need skimming if they are to be rescued. The trouble is that Triumph only allowed 0.010" for removal before the head had to be replaced. In some cases, this is still not enough to save the head. A blown head gasket can also cause engine coolant to seep between the head and the studs. An electrochemical reaction between the aluminum head and the steel studs causes the head studs to seize in place, making head removal almost impossible since the studs and bolts used to attach the head to the block are not parallel. Some people have had to lift the car with an engine hoist and pound on the head studs with an air hammer, using the weight of the car to pull the studs through the head. Internal corrosion of the coolant passages is another problem if a corrosion-inhibiting coolant was not used. 

Mark II Stags originally came with a sheet metal radiator fan cowling to increase the efficiency of the radiator cooling fan. Many of the cowls were removed when the original engine mounts sagged, causing the engine driven radiator fan to rub against the cowl. Removal of the cowl solved the noise problem, but may have created an overheating problem. If your Stag doesn't have a radiator fan cowling, new composite cowls are now available. Visit the Triumph Stag Composite Radiator Cowl page for more information. Be aware that while these parts were modeled from a genuine MkII Stag cowling, they are being produced from composite polyester/fiberglass instead of the original sheet metal, and are not British Motor Heritage approved. If you have a 16.5" metal radiator fan, you should plan on replacing both of the front engine mounts to eliminate the possibility of the fan striking the cowl or the lower radiator hose. This is a major job - replacing the right engine mount requires you to remove the alternator, which requires removal of the anti-sway bar and automatic transmission oil cooler. Changing the left engine mount will require you to remove the exhaust manifold. 

Timing chains are another source of concern. The single-roller chains wear quickly and should be replaced every 25-30,000 miles. If they break or skip a tooth, the valves will embed themselves in the pistons. The hydraulic timing chain tensioners are actuated by the engine lube oil, so you must keep the idle rpm up high enough to maintain sufficient oil pressure. If you hear the timing chains rattle when you start the engine, but the noise goes away a few seconds later as the oil pressure comes up, plan on replacing the timing chains within the next 3000-5000 miles. If the rattle doesn't go away at idle, don't drive the car any further or you'll be facing a major repair bill in the very near future. You don't want to see the oil light come on at idle, since it means you have less than 5psi of oil pressure. 

Along with the TR7 engine, the Stag engine has a jackshaft that runs in the block. This shaft drives the water pump, distributor and oil pump. Both engines have shown a tendency to wear the bottom of the front jackshaft bearing surface in the block. This results in reduced oil pressure, and eventually, a seized jackshaft. A preliminary symptom of excessive front bearing wear is the failure of the water pump drive gears due to insufficient lubrication splashing out from the front jackshaft bearing. Some people simply replace the jackshaft and water pump, not realizing the root cause of the problem is the worn front jackshaft bearing. The only fix for this is to completely strip the engine and have the jackshaft bearings align-bored and resleeved. This wear is not apparent until the engine is torn down, and even then, some experienced engine rebuilders have missed it. The lack of an engine oil pressure gauge makes this problem even harder to spot. 

There was a brief period when crankshaft bearings wore out prematurely due to a temporary machining problem which resulted in the wrong surface finish on the crankshaft journals. If you have to regrind the crankshaft, make sure that it is properly hardened afterwards or you'll have a disaster in a very short time. Since the original factory hardening process only penetrated around 10-15 thousandths below the surface, you may remove all of the hardened surface with the first regrind. Premature wear could also occur as a consequence of poor maintenance, or if the engine (and hence, the oil) was running too hot as a consequence of cooling problems. 

The source of any fluids found on the top of the engine can be checked by cleaning the top of the engine with a pressure washer (or at a self-service car wash). Drive the car until it is hot enough to evaporate any water left on top of the block. When the engine is dry, place a couple of white paper towels between the intake manifold and the top of the block and let it sit for several hours. Coolant (green) may appear from a number of sources. A leaking water pump seal will cause coolant to leak out of an opening below the waterpump cover, on the flywheel side of the waterpump housing. The intake manifold gaskets are supposed to seal the fuel/air mixture flowing from the manifold into the heads, as well as coolant flowing from the heads into the manifold. These gaskets are notorious for allowing coolant leaks. Other coolant leak sources could be from the thermostat cover, bypass hose, or heater return hose. The water pump cover gaskets are well designed and rarely, if ever, leak. Fuel leaks may be from improperly adjusted carburetor floats or leaking needle valves. Oil leaks are probably from the camshaft cover gaskets. 

Test for suspension bushing wear in the usual manner by shaking each wheel sideways while a helper applies the brakes. If there is play, the suspension bushings may need to be replaced; if there is play with the brakes off, then suspect a wheel bearing. 

A trait common to Triumphs with semi-trailing arm rear suspension (Triumph 2000/2500, TR4A IRS, TR5, TR250, TR6) has developed the name "Triumph Twitch". This is a curious sideways lurch at the rear when you let off the throttle in the middle of a turn. This lurch doesn't always happen, but when it does, it's caused by the splines of the telescopic drive shafts sticking under power and then freeing in coast, thereby locking, then releasing the rear suspension. The official word from Triumph was that this is a lubrication problem that should not arise, though they did admit that it sometimes does occur. Contrary to popular opinion, the lurch is not caused by worn semi-trailing arm bushings. Several Stag parts houses in the UK have developed replacement halfshafts that use modern constant velocity joints that provide articulation, as well as compression and extension without the use of sliding splines. These new halfshafts eliminate the Triumph Twitch, but at a price - expect to pay $600+ for a pair!

Like the TR6 that shares its manual gearbox, the Stag has a reputation for wearing out its synchromesh in second and third gears. They also tend to suffer from gearlever buzzes after a lot of use. The automatic transmission (Borg-Warner Type 35) tends to engage Reverse and Drive with a lurch if the idle speed is set too high. This problem can also be accentuated by worn driveshaft U-Joints. Reluctance to shift at speed can be caused by a poorly adjusted downshift cable. A metallic ping from the propellor shaft can be heard if the differential input flange bolts are loose. The differential has a good reputation, although they tend to whine as they age. Most new differentials whine from day one because a recent batch of ring & pinions appear to have been improperly hardened. Another source of drive line noise can come from the quill shaft bearing in the differential's pinion extension housing. If the differential pinion oil seal fails, the differential oil will flow into the extension housing and wash away the grease for the quill shaft bearing. A visible oil leak from the pinion flange area could mean future trouble. 

The tinworm can and does attack the Stag, and you should look for rust damage in the floorpan, fenders (inner and outer), rear fender/sill joints, rear subframe mountings, and the outriggers. Check these areas very carefully, for while replacement panels are available, they are expensive. It seems that post-1974 Stags are more susceptible to rust problems than are the earlier models due to the factory switching to a different sheet steel supplier.

So that is all the potential problems, however, after 40 years the car is still on the road and most of these problems have been worked around.  Have a look at the service history as it probably doesn't get much more comprehensive than this. 
2/02/1973 Delivered to Mr GDM Goldberg, 31 Richmond Hill, Edgbaston. Telephone 472-1301 Rego DHP-10-L
Delivered by British Leyland dealer Archers (Shirley) Ltd, Stratford Road Shirley-Solihul             
2/02/1973 Delivery inspection  
24/03/1973 1500km service - Stevson Motors, Selly Oak                  
30/08/1973 5000km service - AW Mather Motors         
17/12/1973 10000km service - AW Mather Motors      
4/04/1974 15000km service AW Mather Motors         
18/06/1974 20000km service - J Hall              
11/09/1974 25000km Service - AW Mather Motors      
16/01/1975 30000km service - AW Mather Motors      
11/06/1975 35000km service - AW Mather Motors      
28/10/1975 40000km service - AW Mather Motors      
27/01/1976 45000km service - AW Mather Motors      
15/07/1976 50000km service - AW Mather Motors      
17/02/1977 55000km service - AW Mather Motors      
17/08/1977 60000km service - Kellow Falkiner Pty Ltd - 206 Russell Street Melbourne                  
13/02/1978 65000km service - Kellow Falkiner Pty Ltd                     
11/10/1978 70000km service - Kellow Falkiner Pty Ltd                     
10/05/1979 75000km service - TA Glennie 
Prior to sale to Paul Brown on 7/3/05 – the following work was certified as performed by Fairfield Motors during the previous owners tenure:   
All rubber and ball joints, rubbers front end replaced.                 
new gear box mounts                     
new speedo cable     
new fuel tank sender                      
new ignition switch and key      
front end alignment
new battery                                                                   
new exhaust                                                                  
machine front disc rotors            
replace rear wheel cylinder RHS                    
new engine belts fitted                
new exhaust mounts rear            
new rear trailing arm bushes fitted              
new rear axle unis fitted with left axle replaced       
new diff fitted                                      
gear box reconditioned                
checked tune and components, oil service made prior to sale on 7/3/05                      
Paint is Monza Red Acrylic - no record of where painted.           
During Pauls ownership:                                                        
11/03/2005 Interior light lense and globe - Fairfield Motors                         $    69
18/03/2005 108048km Service & Radiator repair - Fairfield Motors              $  332
19/08/2005 Speedo head unit - Fairfield Motors                                        $    79
2/09/2005 110935 service & replace fuel pump - Note right inner & outer axle units have signs of wear - Fairfield Motors $  432
15/09/2005 Seal hard top front and rear - Fairfield Motors              $    90
8/10/2005  Brake shoes - Fairfield Motors   $    75
18/11/2005 Speedo cleaned, serviced & Recalibrated.  New inner cable - Ringwood Speedometer Service                     $  113
18/01/2006 122312km service - radiator repairs, new fan, timing chain service (new German chain), new thermostat, replaced cam bucket - Fairfield Motors           $1,711
                                                                        Note: Steering shaft lower uni has play     
20/06/2006 New unit joints - Repco Nunawading           $    74
27/06/2006 127544km service     $  537
21/07/2006 New 205/70R14 Ultrax tyres      $  500
21/09/2006  2 x New door mirrors - Tony Hart - Middlesex               $    72
26/09/2006  Insulator spring rear - Fairfield Motors        $  104
26/09/2006  2 x heavy duty coil springs. 2 x comfort gas shocks - Pedders Suspension                         $  358
17/01/2007 133580km service - removed and overhauled both carbs, set and tuned. Note rear hub needs machining, recommend balance for cars front end. - Fairfield Motors             $  497
30/03/2007 Brake fluid service - Brakes Plus Nunawading                 $    88
24/10/2007 137411km service - checked tune for miss - removed distributor and converted to single contact. Note: rear main seal needs attention - Fairfield Motors         $  485
21/11/2007 Remove, recore and refit radiator- power flush motor - G&D Radiators Pty Ltd Ringwood          $  737
17/04/2008 Right angle speedo drive - Vanguard Triumpg Wholesalers P/L Lilydale     $    59
13/11/2012 143647km Roadworthy requirements for sale.  Lube seat belts, secure battery, wash engine, steering rack overhaul, replace tie rod ends, replace front shocks and boots, replace left engine mount         $1,792
Previous Australian owners        
Shane Houghton         
Chris DeSilva                 
Paul Brown                     

So I am confident that the work has been done to make this a daily driver.  Time will tell...

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Introducing Buck

So with permission granted I wasted no time hitting up google and the car sales sites.  I kinda knew what I wanted, but some research confirmed it.  There were 8 Stags for sale in Victoria ranging from $7K to $35K (a Dealer dreaming).  The 1st criteria was easy.. only 2 of the cars were Red.  The second criteria was also easy.  There was a choice between the three speed auto (slower and not nearly as sporty), or a 4 speed manual with electric overdrive (like a 5th gear at the flick of a switch on top of the manual shifter).  

The manual was the obvious option and combined with the fact it also still had a Triumph Stag engine made it the only option really.  Most Stags have been retrofitted with Rover 3.5 litre engines due to reliability issues with the original engine (much, much more on that later).  The manual/original engine (if sorted) is by far the most desirable combination for Stag enthusiasts.  An appointment was made Monday 5 November.  It was Melbourne Cup week so we both had the day off.  Once I have made a decision I don't stuff around.  I can't sleep otherwise.

Come Monday, the car looked great, started and ran better than I would have imagined (remember I have never driven one so had no benchmark).  Within 5 minutes of commencing the test drive with the seller (Paul Brown) we had a connection in common.  We established that he has worked with and knows Hilary Furey's husband Gary from Sydney very well.  Hilary is Manda's cousin.  What are the chances? the signs were good.

The car has had an enormous amount done to it to fix those issues that made it such a failure initially that it was withdrawn from sale in the US after 2 years and only sold around 18000 units worldwide (lots more on that later as well).  It had an amazing documented history right down to the original delivery information (English delivered) contained in the original brown leather satchel that came with it.  The original wheels came with the car, but the car was running chrome wire wheels (MG style!).  It also came with a factory hard top for winter (optional early on and then standard in later years).  All in all it was in very good condition for its age and more importantly the engine was well and truly sorted, with an extensive history.

The only problem was the paint..  It was a respray in Monza Red and due to sitting under a car cover for some time, the paint had sweated and formed tiny little bubbles all over.  It looked great from a distance though.  Paul had dropped the price from $19K (as valued by his mechanic) to $16.5K as he had had little interest.  I knew I should walk away and think about it, using my uncertainty as to whether or not I could live with the paint at that price as my excuse.  At that point, I was genuinely 50/50 with memories of previous "rush of blood" decisions running through my brain. eg the severely mangled Kawasaki ZX6R I bought off ebay from QLD as a project, or the Sigma GSR I just had to have, borrowing the $6K cash from my grandmother and then being stuck with my other car for 12 months because I was stupidly stubborn on price.  I'm sure we've all been there.  I went home to ponder.

Something Paul had said had stuck in my head.. You could maybe lightly sand the paint and then buff it back to glory..  I was vaguely familiar with this technique, but dismissed it at the time. That night I googled, and youtubed and googled and youtubed.  I knew I had the right car, but the paintwork bothered me.. A bare metal respray would cost $7-$10K.  I eventually came across a whole range of video's on colour sanding (more on this later), but after seeing an original very old Ferrari's red paint restored, I had sufficient confidence I could fix the paint issues.

Come Tuesday night I had decided after all my research that with the money spent on the necessary mechanical stuff, it was just too good to pass up and I felt I could deal with the paint.  Tue night I enquired whether the car was still available.  Yes it was.  Given the paint would you take $15K.  No sorry, lowest I will go is $15.5K.  Seriously after 25 years was I going to quibble over $500?  I feel that after years of owning this car, $500 would fade into insignificance.  After all it was coming with 12 months rego, a roadworthy certificate and a second set of factory wheels. We had a deal.

Paul worked amazingly fast to work out the details.  Roadworthy & re-registering (he had it on club rego).  The car was ready to pick up Wed 14th November.  Unfortunately I wasn't.  Manda was in Sydney training for her new job and I had the kids to myself for 4 days.  Work was also out of control. DAMN YOU WOMAN!  Saturday 17th November 2012 was to be the day.  I spent the week googling and youtubing, googling and youtubing..  The more I did it, the more I knew my decision was right!

Come Saturday I was pretty relaxed.  Couldn't do it in the morning, then the kids sleep til 2.30ish then we all set off to Warrandyte, including my niece Lily.  They made a token effort to hang around, but as Paul was once again taking me over the intricacies of the car and the various roofing arrangements, they agreed to meet me at home.  Finally I was alone with Buck as we farewelled Paul and his wife.  I was as nervous as the first time I drove my 77 Gemini on my own on my P's.  It is a surreal feeling.  I learnt a lot about the car on the way home, including nearly losing the right hand mirror as I tried to adjust it.  I've figured it out now.  I also re-learnt how to drive a manual, or moreso in this case how to caress a manual, as gears were crunched and missed.  Driving this car requires a lot of attention.  Its an all encompassing experience and I like it.

Mid life crisis you say? maybe... but after the Ducati, the boat and various other toys over the years, I'd say its just living life.

Contrary to what you might think, I didn't sleep in the car that night. Finally... here it is.

 This is probably the best picture to highlight the bubbling of the paintwork


Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Welcome to "Project Buck"

Hi and welcome to "Project Buck". The journey from an idea some 25+ years ago to the adventure finally commencing Saturday afternoon November 17th 2012.  First some background.

Sometime in my late teens in the late eighties, the dream and passion for one day owning a classic British sports car evolved.  I think initially it started when working for my second employer (Bruce Neill) in 1987.  The space shuttle Challenger had been over-challenged and exploded and I was onto my second car, a 1980 Brown Nissan Bluebird (Australia's first four cylinder limousine!) which had superceded my first.. the canary yellow 1977 Holden Gemini.  I had a long way to go in the car department.

Bruce was on the way up in business and was running a then small business (The SMF Group) with half a dozen people and also had a passion for cars.  He owned a red Porsche 924 (a poor mans Porsche, which I believe was originally meant to have been born an Audi), as well as a red Volvo P1800 like this one.


He let me drive both for errands.  Given I had been driving for a couple of years, in hindsight he was very trusting!  Bruce went on to sell the SMF group, making over $200m - $300m.  I assume he's upgraded.

The British passion came next.  I remember one day in Bruce's office in Macquarie Street Hobart, we were both looking out the window when a red (notice the red theme?) MGB went past with plates that started with JC.  He made a joke about the big man being back in town.  I had no idea what he was talking about, but laughed anyway.  More importantly, the image of the MGB combined with a current TV advertisement for RACT featuring a top down MGB, firmly embedded in my mind that one day I would own one..  the passion had begun.

As the years went by, as well as a procession of cars driven by budget and testosterone more than anything else (Mazda 323 SS, Sigma GSR, Mazda 626 etc.), my mind somehow turned to the Triumph Stag.  My brother in law (Mark Collidge) always seemed to have a succession of quirky cars in his life.. somehow related to his dad being an assessor for RACT.  One of those was a Triumph Dolomite, which really struck a chord with me for some reason. The timber dash, the noise, the revvy engine (or maybe that was just how Mark drove!).  The relevance and link to the Stag will be revealed soon.


The Stag was produced between 1970 & 1978. In the late 80's to early 90's this car was actually not that old, but had already become infamous/notorious and was still well out of my price range.  The dream was on hold..

Life moved on.. I moved to Melbourne in 1999 with my then fiance (Delia Keag), broke up within 6 months, which meant I had to buy a car.  Based on driving a mid 70's BMW 2500 at Delia's sisters wedding, I set out to buy something similar, but ended up with a 78 BMW318.   Didn't quite get that right did I.

At some stage in about 2001 the MGB desire must have come back again. I remember signing up to a bulletin board (yes thats what they called them back then) relating to MGBs and my email inbox filling up with MGB related posts.. but I stopped that at some stage shortly thereafter.. still not the right time, or as the future would tell, the right car.

Cars came and went, I met my amazing wife Manda and eventually our beautiful triplets Jenson, Asher & Trace came along.  A white Magna called Nigel, a blue Honda S2000 called Louey and finally the family car.. a 2010 Toyota Kluger Grande.  Running parallel to these cars were some motorcycles.  A Yamaha Virago to learn on, a Honda CBR250RR, a Kawasaki Ninja ZX6R which I rebuilt and a Ducati 748, before things started going downhill..  My final "bike" was a Piaggio 500cc scooter... then a pushbike.. what was next.. rollerblades?

Family life had taken priority number one and Manda was off work for about 2.5 years raising the brood.  Money wasn't tight as such, but had to be closely managed as we sold our house on a busy main road in Port Melbourne and bought the potential family house in a much quieter area of Port Melbourne (mid year 2012). It needs work and will be extensively extended down track to support the needs of a family of 5, a cat and a dog.

Manda had been looking to return to work for a while but had been struggling finding the right fit.  Money was really starting to tighten as we now had 3 and a bit days childcare for all three kids, yet no second income coming in yet.  Finally in early November she found a great job and commenced work.. the Rainbirds were saved.  The future house was let to a lovely female couple, we had a great roomy rental around the corner, the kids had childcare most days with a plan for Grandma and myself to care for the kids when they weren't in childcare.. life was looking good!.

I'm not sure of the exact day, but sometime in early November 2012 I was driving to work in the city in Nigel, when a Stag went past with that beautiful V8 burble under mild accelleration... it was red.  All those previous thoughts on the subject matter came flooding back.. finally I thought.. ITS TIME!  I mean I don't drive much anyway, I cycle to work most days and wouldn't drive a second car much.  Nigel had served his purpose and I could sell him and buy a Stag.  Just one problem.. Manda (who had to sell her convertible Honda S2000 because it cost too much) had to be convinced.

I somehow wish I had written this blog first so Manda could see that this wasn't just a spur of the moment decision.  However, I hadn't so I needed to approach this carefully.  Work was intense and my capacity to formulate cunning plans.. low.

That night I still had no plan other than a bottle or two of red.  A couple of glasses in I brought up the concept and surprisingly Manda's response was "will it make you happy".  I didn't realise I was sad, but I said yes of course.. I've been thinking about this for 25 years!  I was a bit surprised actually as she had already agreed to a potential trip to SE asia to tour for a couple of weeks with our friend Nicholas Moses who is currently in the midst of a 2 year trip around the world on a motorcycle.. Of course the trade off there was a trip to Bali for Manda with our good friend Catherine O'Connor at some stage in the future. Fair trade I reckon.  Anyway, after 25 years, I finally had the green light.. thanks Honey! xxx

Stay tuned.