Spark, Fuel and Compression
Tracing the Cause of a Hard-Starting TR6 (Part 1)

by Dave Northrup

Click here for Part 2

This is not the first time I‘ve begun a story this way. Anyone who drives an old British car needs to know these basic rules. And, usually, the issues occur in that order. And, how, might you ask, did I get there?

Well, there‘s this great organization called 6-Pack. My son, at the age of 19, finally figured out the double entendre. Anyway, they have a yearly event called The TRials. It usually is around the east coast, and way too far for us Texans to get to. A few years ago it was in Bowling Green, and I almost got there. The car and I both got sick and had to cancel. But this year was simply too much to pass up. Imagine 318 corners in 11 miles, with elevation changes to boot. Imagine the sunrise over the mountains with the fog visible in the valley. Imagine a roaring mountain stream. Imagine four days of Triumphs, mountain roads, and your son. What‘s not to like?

The trip up was uneventful but wet. Lots of rain. Besides the leaks, there‘s that engine compartment to clean. Sheesh! But I made it to Tuscaloosa, where Carlton is (University of Alabama). First issue – seemed like the car was hard starting. First thing to check is the battery. Off to Sears, and, if need be, get a new Die Hard. Battery checked out fine. Cleaned the terminals and the problem went away. That‘s a good thing!

Then the five hour drive from Tuscaloosa to Townsend. That‘s also where you cross the time line. We went from hot Alabama, through more rain, to cool mountain air. It was quiet and dark when we arrived. There were already other cars and people there.

The dawn was excruciatingly quiet, and foggy. I stood outside the room and listened to nothing. Occasional cars, but mostly noth-ing. For a city boy, that‘s quite a change!

For breakfast I walked across the street and picked up food for both of us. Best way to get a 19 year old up is to offer him food! Then we went off to the Dragon. As in Tail of the Dragon/Deal‘s Gap, as in the main reason we went. It offers 318 curves in 11 miles, which, in a modified TR6, is great fun! Briefly got stuck behind some other cars, saw some cops, and generally had a good drive. Then we did the Cherohala Skyway. More mountain driv-ing, a stop for gas and lunch, where the proprietor asked to take a picture of my car in front of his pumps!

A long, hot, fun day. A bit of rest and off to the Thursday night welcome dinner. So many Triumphs! Rows and rows, mostly TR6s, many TR4s, and a smattering of other cars including a very nice TVR. Food and company was good; a great way to kick off an event weekend.

Friday morning we rousted early and headed up into the moun-tains to watch the sun rise. Yes, this was Carlton‘s idea, and a great one! Unbelievable to watch the clouds in the valley as the sun gradually made its presence known. Some day I will have to do this again! But then it was still early, and we were up on the mountain. What to do???? Silly question!!!! Can you say ―Tail of the Dragon?‖ There was almost no traffic, and Carlton was in rare form. The video tells it all! It was a treat to ride with him! Then breakfast, and, well, back over Tail of the Dragon, where we ran into the rest of the crew who were just starting out on it. So we joined them, back over the Dragon, back to the restaurant/shop at the end, and then one more time back to the hotel. You could say we got our fill.

I was here about two years ago, and I regretted two things: not filming it, and not riding as a passenger so I could observe. I have been there and done that!

Saturday‘s car show reminded me of the disaster in San Marcos. Some bright soul had thought it would be nice to line up all the cars on a field. A steeply sloped, wet, freshly cut field. Yeah. Who‘s idea was that? I almost got stuck, as did several other cars, and there were wet grass clippings on everything. It was pretty when all was in place, but really! Try again. And I really have to confess that I prefer multi – marque shows. How many TR6‘s and TR250‘s can you look at it? They are all different but so very much the same. Give me variety!

Saturday afternoon I helped Carlton with a paper, and the banquet was Saturday night. Food was pretty good, but not terribly in-spired. Expensive, though. And then there was that feeling, hard to describe, as I walked back to the room. It was over. Sad, fulfilled, happy; I don‘t know.

Sunday I was up early. We were packed and gone by 7:00. I also noticed that the highway patrol, with their radar, were also up early. The drive to Tuscaloosa was uneventful; my car got hit in the university parking lot, and then I had a small problem in Mississippi.

Seems the car just suddenly lost its punch. Just decided to quit running. Fortunately I was able to get over and drift onto the shoulder. It‘s a feeling of being alone and helpless that one never forgets. Out come the tools, up comes the hood. Spark, fuel, compression. In that order. Take out the tester: looks like we‘re getting spark all the way to the plugs. Next step: fuel. Open the fuel line and crank the car. Correct me if I‘m wrong, but should-n‘t fuel be spurting out? Disconnect the fuel filter. Nice try, but no. OK. Clearly it‘s the fuel pump. Disconnect the gas line and pipe in the electric one, spilling gas over my hands, tools, and the ground. Thread it through the engine compartment around to the carbs and hook it up. Connect the two long leads to the battery and try to start it. Takes a minute but it starts purring. Amazing! Take some electrical tape and tape the hoses and the pump to vari-ous things, and then pack the car back up. The engine still purrs. Get everything in, take a second walk around the car looking for tools, shut the hood, and drive off. I make it home about an hour later than I had originally thought. Not bad.

Great trip. Great venue, great people, and a great time with my son. And a long, long, lonely ride home.

Click here for Part 2


 
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