Here we are in the hot days of summer , those days when the sea boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad; the days that the Romans called diēs caniculārēs, but we call romantically, the “Dog Days”. We are stuck in the dog days until August 24, so they say, but I say in Las Vegas we experience the dog days until at least September 24. On the bright side, we are in the “Best of Times” for those who decide to wrench on these British cars we’ve decided to own. The awkward question of whether to “work on it or drive it” is no longer asked, with few exceptions. We crank up the garage cooling system to counter the assault of the furnace blast outside, and wrench, buff, or cajole our LBCs through the dog days of our extended summer.
A 1972 Triumph Stag, Mk.I, has resided in my garage for about seven years, anxiously awaiting the Dog Days to appear, when a few bolts turned, carpet removed, and love applied. This flair of attention comes from yours truly. I admit that this burst of activity on the car occurs not only during the diēs caniculārēs, but also throughout the year(s). This personal affliction has been alluded to several times in these rants. The Triumph Stag, Mk.I or Mk.II, is besmirched with the same sullied reputation, one of the Ten Worst Cars Ever Made. Triumph intended this car to compete with Mercedes Benz 280SL; however, this lofty goal did not quite work out. Its production run was 7 years, Federal models only 4. The result, though, was one of the most beautiful touring cars ever made, with its upgraded quality, insulation, wood interior trim, sleek lines and great ride. The Achilles’s heel was the engine. This incidental piece of machinery would often burn up within 25,000 miles, freezing the engine into a solid piece of alloy, something that did not help sales of the Stag. Oh, did I mention that the Triumph Stag was also attributed as the model that helped put Triumph Motor Cars out of business?
I acquired the car in 2005 or 06, a project to work on during the Dog Days, with the other 305 days as a garage decoration. I found one out in the wilds of Henderson for $1,600. Like many Stags, the 3.0L V-8 that Triumph engineers blessed the car with, it was equipped with a Ford 2.8 V-6, the favored engine replacement. Nice engine, with output similar to the Triumph V-8, but it had a cracked cylinder head. Behind it sat a C-4 automatic transmission, dead. So here it is, a beautifully designed (aesthetically) British car, a power train of little worth, and a person from Detroit (hence the need to “make it better than the manufacturer”) – what a toxic mixture!
Sleeves up, I ask myself, “how to make it better than Triumph engineers did?”, though in this case, not an major challenge. I decided on a Ford 2.3L power plant from a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, turbocharged putting out 60 horsepower more than the V-8 and mate it to a T-5, World Class manual transmission. (The car began life as a manual, but some butcher hack-sawed off the clutch pedal). Easy, right? V-8 big engine – four cylinder small engine. Boy was I wrong. Low engine bay, V-8 low engine, four cylinder tall engine. Many hours or working in the garage, working with several professional mechanics shaping parts, and, finally, Eureka! It runs – it only took five years. Now, the problem is what to do with a mass of wire as big as your fist and how to plumb the charge cooler for the turbocharger. Not much room left under that low bonnet now. Garage decoration again.
The answer to the problem? Change out the engine, why not? This time, thanks to the BACLV membership and the quality of the technical knowledge we have within the organization, the status of the “garage decoration” is beginning to morph into an active project again. How about a GM 3.4L 60 degree, V-6. More power, more torque than the original. Modern technology and a surgery that has been done before. No more plumbing issues, no more wiring issues, no more height issues. Naive? Nope, I know there will be many challenges ahead, but now there is someone, one of our members, that has done it and is a phone call away.
I have found one of biggest benefits of the British Auto Club of Las Vegas is the fellow members. This wealth of knowledge is a benefit worth far more than the few dollars we pay. The people around us that have done what we want to do and are glad to share their experience to put that garage decoration back on the road. Make good use of the diēs caniculārēs, because before you know it, it will be time to get it back on the road.
Follow this link to some pics of the finished product.