…The hood (bonnet, if you’re British) was out of alignment and showed signs of damage from a stuck hinge. To reduce further damage, it was just about the first thing that was removed from the car. Not having the luxury of friends around to help, I made my own. I looped a rope over a rafter in the garage above one side of the hood, making a big circuit from rafter around the hood and back - the headlamp arch in the hood itself acted as a nice catch for the rope and prevented it from moving too much. Removing the prop rod assured me that the rope would hold and I proceeded to unbolt the hinge on the roped side first. (Be sure to unbolt them from the hood-side connection rather than the inner-fender-wall side, it may be a little more difficult to loosen the bolts this way, but the hood will be far easier to remove without the hinges dangling about.) After removing the bolts on the other side while supporting the hood with my free hand, it was just a matter of repositioning to get a hold of the entire thing and then sliding it out of its crude cradle. Have an idea of where you are going to put the hood beforehand – it’s more awkward than it is heavy, but preplanning here could save some amount of improvisation and indecision later. Getting the hood out of the way early will really open the engine compartment, allowing unfettered access to inspect and/or repair a lot of them car parts.
And for those of you wondering about that stuck hinge – I soaked it in CRC (similar to WD-40, but way better) overnight and pounded the spit out it with a convincing hammer, only to wind up with an oily, bent, stuck hinge. I was able to find a used one on eBay that worked.
Waaaait a minute: That hinge’s resilience to budge could have easily been blamed on corrosion – and it was, until just now. Writing about it made me think more about it and question, on a virtually rust-free car, how it could have gotten to the point of seizure through oxidation? Moreover, I remembered that some of bolts on the left hinge (driver's side) were loosened to act as a pivot point so the hood could still open and close, but - the hinge was stuck in the OPEN position, cocking the hood upward on the driver's side when closed. See...
There wasn’t rust in the surrounding area, the hinge was stuck open, there was visible evidence of a half-assed repair; the synapses started firing. Those of you who know how arc welders work (the actual equipment, not the people), know that the business end is just a node that completes an electrical circuit and that the welding machine works by delivering a large amount of current through a spark (or arc), which heats up the metal and the welding material into a molten stew that, when cool, binds everything together in what’s called a weld. The welder is also supplied with a clamp that must be electrically connected to the metal you are welding, acting as a ground in the circuit. Now, here’s my theory: Someone unwittingly welded that hood hinge in the open position. Since the hood doesn’t really have much exposed metal to provide a good electrical path for the clamp, it was probably secured to the frame or other part of the body while doing the repair work (with the hood up). Since the current had to travel through the hinge, which has gaps between moving parts, these gaps caused their own weld sites and, Viola! mystery solved. I’ve heard of this happening with car door hinges, so it’s really less mysterious that you may think.
Back to it: After the hood was off, I looked at the hood. Rather, after the bonnet was off, I looked at the hood. In Britain, the car’s top is referred to as the ‘hood’, the windshield ‘windscreen’, and trunk equals ‘boot’. So, from front to rear, you have the bonnet, windscreen, hood, boot. To avoid confusion and to minimize pompousness, the good ol’ American terms will be used from now on: ‘hood’ shall be forever read to mean ‘engine cover’, the rest I leave up to your interpretation.
Back to it, again: Looking at this raggedy mess that was once a convertible top, I decided that it was next to go. Before getting rid of the top material, I did a survey of the bows: this is the assembly that supports the rag top and does the moving from up to down, down to up. Sitting for such a long time, the joints were a bit arthritic and resisted my attempts to unsettle them. My old friend, CRC, worked in this case because it was just some rusty/dry hinges and connections that needed oiling. And, just like the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man, I had them joints back to what they once were in no time. Once ‘up’, removing the worn-out vinyl top was pretty straightforward because I knew none of the material was salvageable: rip, cut, pull, tear. There are two strips of material, known as ‘webbing’, that are connected to the top assembly (bows) from front to back. If yours are not in bad shape, try to keep them because they are typically not included when you order a new top (they’re also available new for less than $10 each, so - your choice). Once the bulk of the material was gone, I moved on to the more-delicate task of removing the bow assemblage. First, there was a retainer bar that holds the back of the top material to the car itself – just a matter of peeling back the remnants of the top and unbolting some, well…bolts. The next part of the operation was to unscrew some, well…screws (yes, screws) that hold the bow assembly to the chassis. 42-year-old screws are not a welcomed site. 42-year-old screws tend to strip easily. 42-year-old screws are a pain the ass. Pushing negativity aside, I dove right in with an impact driver and, to my surprise and delight, all six of those retaining screws came right off with little to no coercing. The bane of the 42-year-old screws would really only present itself once, later. Finding a nice, quiet corner of the garage, I set the bows and associated hardware down to be forgotten until this Phoenix of a car rises from the ashes in a Triumph-ant display of fortitude, beauty, and dollar signs.
A word to the wise, or at least to those listening, they say that experience is what you get by not having it when you needed it. With this in mind, rather than tearing into the car like so many flying monkeys on a scarecrow (I hope this is the last Oz reference), take your time to look at parts that can be repaired/restored. Although many new parts are available for these old cars, some are relatively expensive ($1100 for a quarter panel??) and some are just plain unavailable, as described below.
Next up: the windshield and frame. The windshield glass on my particular ’67 TR4A was in very nice shape - the glazing (the black gasket that holds the glass in place) wasn’t. The once-pliable glazing gasket had better days, I imagine. It was dry and cracked with remnants of yellowed glue here and there and some sort of sealer (caulk) smeared in where chunks had gone missing. What appeared to be a valiant effort by a previous owner decades ago was now a disheveled mess, undermined by California sunlight, dry weather conditions, and ultimately, time. Lucky for us, new retaining gaskets are available and are less expensive and easier to replace than most people think. Removing the glass is a matter of running a utility knife around the perimeter of the glass, about midway on the gasket (ideally, right at the edge of the glass), cutting into the glazing as you go (#2 in the diagram below). It will take a little bit of work, but once the glass is free, the gasket should separate from the frame with ease. Putting it all back together will be another topic at another time. We’re getting to the ‘unavailable parts’ mentioned earlier so hold on. Now that the frame is free of the glass, we can start removing it. Triumph's original idea was to make the windshield frame a removable piece so that you could legally drive your TR4 to the race track, take off your windshield to get some laps in, and drive back home with your windshield re-attached. Oh, the ‘60s. I cannot claim to remember them on account I wasn’t born yet, but from what I’ve heard, this windshield scenario fits right in. Adding on to its design, removal of the windshield frame is necessary if you’re planning on replacing your dash pad and is a good way to make some room for doing just about any type of work in that general area. Aside from the three chromed bolts visible on the inside lower edge (#7 in the diagram below), there are brackets just under the dash on each side above the kick panels in line with the angle of the windshield (unnumbered). The windshield post is threaded and is secured to these brackets two ways: a nut on the end of the post (#21) and a retaining bolt that clamps down on the post (#17). Once all the nuts and bolts have been removed, a swift rap on the end of each post along with working the frame back and forth will dislodge it from the bracket and break any hold the #5 gasket has left in it. The brackets are bolted to the body and can remain there if the remaining bolts are left unmolested.
Now. The windshield frame has a thin plastic trim around it on the interior side that almost looks like a thick paint, but it's plastic (not pictured). I assumed that this finishing trim would be something relatively simple to find and would have probably just been included with an interior kit. Nope. Can't find it. This may come as a disappointment after the literal build up on parts availability, but it serves as reminder every time I think of it to take my own advice and look before you leap, know what parts you can scrap and which ones to be careful with. I have no doubt there will be more stories, but let's get back to business.
The trunk lid removal was uneventful and, aside from closing out this post, there’s not too much to talk about. The design is a little curious, in that there’s a tubular support thingy in there making you wonder about the original blueprints and what must have transpired to endorse this afterthought. Oh, and I like the ratcheting stay rod, which should be disconnected prior to undoing the nuts on the backside of the trunk hinges, thereby detaching your trunk lid completely.
Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure while I come up with my next topic (taken on 3/17/09):