Bill Berg’s TR3A

Background from Bill’s BMC Member Profile as interview by Terry Young, BMC 2017 president :

Tom performs microsurgery on the turn signal stator tube.

September 2017
Today’s visit to Bill’s workshop would be special. Tom Miro, Russell Whigham and I were asked to help hang the silver lady’s apron, an unwieldy assembly of sheet metal, chrome trim and aluminum grill, containing her unique headlights and the word TRIUMPH prominently mounted under the famous TR book logo. It would take all four of us to hold the apron in proper alignment while bolting it into place.   Just prior to beginning this adventure, Bill had been puzzling how the control head assembly, which housed the horn and the directional signal switch, was supposed to connect mechanically.  The steering wheel is supposed to turn while the coaxially-mounted control head remains stationary. Unfortunately, both were moving together. We finally figured she was missing a stator tube, which fits inside the steering column, serving both as a conduit for the wiring harness and the mechanical connection for the control head. Due to its length, the stator would have to be installed prior to the apron. As the part was available only in the UK, the apron would have to wait.

As there was a lull in the action, I thought this would be an opportune time to ask Bill a few questions about this restoration.

Q: “Bill, when did you acquire the TR3A and what condition was it in when it finally arrived at your garage?”

October 2009 British Car Show — Diamond in the Rough

A: First of all, the garage wasn’t built until I was sure I was going to restore a project car. I didn’t know which one yet, but in 2003 I had the additional 12’ X 24’ garage built anyway.  Soon after, I found a 1960 TR3A in Wedowee, AL. Here is the bill of sale, (pointing to the framed document by the rear door) but I didn’t get started until the following January. I bought it from a Mr. Charlie Norton. I rented a U-Haul truck and borrowed a trailer from Steve Griffin. Ron Pardo and T. F. Burrage helped load it all up and bring it to Montgomery.

Q. Was it originally silver?

A. No, the original color was Primrose Yellow with a black interior. It was black with red interior when I got it. Now it’s silver with a burgundy interior.

Q. What was the first thing you did?

A. First thing, I took the body off the frame and put it on a dolly so I could move it around the garage. Then I started sand-blasting everything. First the chassis, then I took apart the body and sand-blasted those parts. On the chassis, I used truck bed liner after epoxy  coating the metal, which worked out well.

Q. Did the engine run when you bought it?

A. The engine hardly ran. It had three kinds of pistons! I sent the engine to the machine shop, and when it returned, I replaced the stock 83mm bore liners with the 87mm size, which increased the engine’s displacement to 2.1 liters.  The machine shop refurbished the rods and balanced and reworked the crank. The transmission and rear end – which are original – haven’t been looked at yet, but should be okay.

Q. Were you able to get the parts you needed?

A. Yes, I was able to get the parts I needed from Victoria British or Moss Motors stateside, and some from the U.K. Like today, for example, I ordered the stator from TR Revington, Somerset, U.K.

Q. When you got the car did you punch a clock every day you worked on it?

A. No, but I did work at it every day for the first five years until about 2008. About then, I slowed down a bit. I was ready to take a break.  Then in about 2010, I started working on the body approaching refinement stages. With the chassis painted and the engine mounted I started the bodywork to get it ready to start painting – at least learning how to do body work and then
painting. Once I was satisfied with the bodywork, I made my garage into a paint booth.  First, I primed it in gray. Then, I finally painted the car with the finish color (silver) four times– stripping and repainting until I was satisfied. The finishing was done by wet sanding, with progressively finer paper, ending at 2000 grit. I used three stages of compounding and polishing liquids to get the fine finish you see here (pointing to the car).  Persistence is the key to get the car to glow!

Q. I see you are down to the finishing touches – like wiring, finishing and installing the dash, getting the steering sorted, and of course hanging the nose.

A. Yes, I’m very close and hope to have it finished for the car show in October. I have to thank Tom for coming over and giving me a hand with a lot of small things that have added
up. His energy is contagious and is more that I have! We’re almost ready to get the engine started but I have some wiring to finish up first.  (Bill is additionally installing relays to help
reduce the load on the car’s electrical components. Ed.)

Q. So Bill, when its finished what are you going to do with it?

A. Drive the crap out of it!


Following this interview, Bill continued fitting body panels and running down electrical gremlins.  Some holidays and days just too hot to work, gave Bill some time off from the project.

With the October car show looming, Tom made being sure that having Bill’s TR3A there to show off, a top priority.  When we made a visit, Bill reported that sometime during the work break, the engine decided to exhibit some strange symptoms:  Would start, but with NO movement on the front SU piston followed closely by engine rev run-away.  We had some ideas from our collective brain trust:  Valves stuck open, vacuum leak on cylinders #1 & #2, or a blockage somewhere between the valves and carb casting.  Bill did another compression test and found excellent compression on all four cylinders.  We swapped the bell chamber, air valve piston and needle, air valve (piston) spring, air chamber to manifold vacuum connection, suction chamber air inlet, dashpot, and dashpot piston damper assembly — No change.  Time to call in the big guns..
Saturday, 9/1/2018 — Bill, Tom,  David, Blitz, Andy, Russell.
While we were head scratching, Blitz discovered that the electric fan was running backwards and fixed that and soaped a squeaky alternator belt.  A ground was added to the oil pressure sender so that it’s operational now.  A related oil leak at the oil pressure sender was repaired by grinding down the mechanical interface to the oil line.  Later Blitz disconnected the W-clamp connecting the two SUs, re-sync’d the two butterflies.  Voila!  David had suggested this in our pre-workday brain storming.  With the engine purring again, we addressed the problem of the clutch not completely dis-engaging.  We pushed the TR3 out to the street then pushed it off with it in gear to see if it would free the clutch up.  No joy.  The rear SU had a sticking problem that was tabled until another day (see below).  Class was dismissed for the day.
Sunday, 9/2/2018 — Bill, Tom & Russell

The top tier brain trust thinking really hard.

1.  SU Carbs:  After doing some further reading, Tom was thinking that centering the jets would solve the sticky rear piston issue we left from yesterday on the rear carb.  He tried using Bill’s SU adjustment kit, but after a couple of false starts, he went old school and loosened the jets and allowing the needle to properly center the jet.  It started, but was running rough and exhibited some of the same symptoms we had yesterday.  Tom loosened the W-clamp and re-scync’d the two butterflies — again.  Sticky piston fixed and the TR3 is purring again.

2.  Fuel Gauge:  Symptom — the gauge swings full-scale when the ignition is turned on.  We examined the new VDO sender and installation instructions and found that there was no continuity between the sender rheostat ground side and the ground terminal on the top plate.  We removed a rubber washer/grommet from between the adjustable depth bracket and the top plate.  We could then measure the rheostat changes at the top plate terminals.  Bill calibrated the depth adjustment for this tank, re-aligned the float orientation to move freely in the tank, added some gas, annnnd, we’re done.
3.  Voltage Gauge:  Symptom — No indication with the ignition turned on.  We found that neither battery nor ground was present at the gauge terminals.  Jumping to known good battery and ground sources gave the proper indication of 12v on the gauge.  Bill  re-wired the gauge.  Voila, all’s good here now.  Check that issue off of the to-do list.
4.  Clutch will not completely disengage (carried over from yesterday):  Symptom — The gears can be selected with the engine off, but grind and not engage when trying to go in any gear when the engine is running. Obviously, the clutch is not completely disengaging.  Tom thought that he had found a threaded adjustment on the slave cylinder push rod, but after going under the car found that the slave cylinder was a non-adjustable TR6 type.  He then took the opportunity to right the upside down slave cylinder to facilitate bleeding.  After an hour or so of knuckle-banging and sailor talk everything was corrected.  We re-bled the clutch, but alas, still can’t select a gear.  More eye rolls and head scratching ensues.
Tom went home and read through the Triumph TR3 forums on the subject.  It seems the placement of the holes on the clutch operating arm fall outside logic.  The lower hole results in the lighter pedal feel and shortest throw of the 3 holes. Tomorrow, Tom will switch the push-rod pivot point up to the top hole to see if it will gain some travel.
Monday, 9/3/2018 — Bill & Tom
Tom returned Monday morning to try the latest idea (above).   Tom writes:  After 15 years of work, Bill was finally able to take a victory lap around the neighborhood in his labor of love.  Shifting the pushrod to the highest pivot point, combined with pedal pumping (still air in the line – thanks silicone brake fluid!) let you get to 2nd.  From there, reverse and first were easy.   Bill ran through the gears both up and down on his jaunt, and came back grinning from ear to ear, driving it  into the garage(!).  She started easy and rain like a train, BTW.
Following a 3-week hiatus for Bill’s vacation and Tom’s visit to his sawbone, work resumed.
Monday, 9/24/2018  — Tom made a quick visit to see if over the 3-week break, that all of the air had worked its way out of the silicone clutch fluid.  All seems well there.
Saturday, 9/29/2018 — Oh, boy, here we go again.  Now, the front SU is leaking gas (read hemorrhaging), from the jet.  Bill is tasked to remove the carbs from the intake manifold for dismantling and  inspection.

Tom, the petrol plumber

Monday, 10/1/2018 —  Tom suspected the cork gaskets may have dried out over the 3-week break.  They were replaced with rubber O-rings.  Re-installed and…  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Off again with the carbs.  Closer inspection revealed a scored brass lower jet bearing.  Bill found another one in his carburetor spare parts bin.  Everything cleaned, lubed, and reassembled.  Look Ma, NO LEAKS!

Once again, we were stymied by the turn signals that were working before the break but not now.  The ignition 12-volts that had supplied power to the flasher is now absent.  Jumping a 12-volt source to the flasher produces no flashing.  Jumping a 12-volt source to the to the panel light illuminates the green light.  Same to the the turn signal lamps but they fail to light and still no clicking from the flasher unit.  We tried a third flasher unit — same symptoms.  About all that’s left is opening the direction switch on the steering wheel.  No one has the stomach for that right now.

Bill & Barb out Motoring

Tuesday, 10/2/2018  — Tom is still fighting the clutch that ALMOST moves far enough to fully disengage.  Recall that we made incremental progress by changing the pivot point on the clutch release arm.  Today, Tom tries to re-mount the slave cylinder to the back side of the mounting flange but had to cut the push-rod off by an equal amount to reinstall.  Again, no better.  Now spacers to move the slave cylinder farther back.  More progress . At last, gears can be selected with minimal grinding in first & reverse. All other gears are just fine.  Bill takes it for a ride around the neighborhood, followed by  by Russell at the wheel, and finally Barb gets a ride.   Tom is hoping that an adjustable push-rod to fix all of the work-arounds.  We also reattached the bonnet.  Some fitment issues still to be addressed.

Wednesday, 10/1/2018 — Tom arrived to find Bill washing the car having made the necessary adjustment on the bonnet so that the Dzus fasteners now secure the bonnet. With one and a half weeks before the car show, the car is road worthy — running and looking great.  Congratulations on a job well done, Bill!
Friday, 10/19/2018 — Having succeeded in Miro-engineering Bill’s non-adjustable clutch slave cylinder push-rod to get it to the car show, Tom replaced his handiwork with the correct (adjustable) TR3 push-rod that Bill had ordered.  While there, they adjusted the rear brakes.  Remaining punch list items:  Dim low-beams and errant turn signal issue.

Monday 11/5/2018 — Wrapping up lose ends:  

1.  Turn Signals:  Bill had replaced the OE style flasher with the electronic version.  After stealing some “ignition battery” straight from the fuse to the flasher, replacing a open fuse, and getting the connectors on the correct pins, we have proper turn signals.  Pretty sure the old flasher would work now, but we’re leaving well enough alone.
2.  Dim low-beams:  Bill already had the headlamp out so we temporarily jumped some fused battery and direct ground; first to the old sealed beam (Hi & Lo), then to the new lamp (Hi & Lo).  The new low-beam is just dim by design.  So, that was just a perception problem.  Glad it wasn’t the relays or harness connections.
Bill is now tasked to disconnect the choke and pull the instrument panel to sort out a intermittent lose battery connection.  He has also ordered some longer Dzus fasteners for the bonnet, so he’s 99.99% done.


VIDEOS (Play All)

1.   Syncing the two butterflies to fix the vacuum problem.

2.   Congratulations, all around

3.  Pushing the TR3 off trying to free up the clutch

4.  Pushing off – Try again

5.  Bill and the TR3A Out Motoring