Project TR7 part 11: Shifting priorities

Project TR7 part 11: Shifting priorities


The shop vac is once again filled with rodent refuse from Project TR7s interior.

So, here we are deep into Project: TR7 and it’s right back to square one: I’m once again sucking zillions of mouse turds out of the car with the shop vac.

That’s generally not part of the procedure for installing a new clutch. But on a TR7 you have to remove some of the interior trim to unbolt the shifter from the transmission so you can remove the gearbox from underneath the car.

Plenty of smelly filth and crud were hidden underneath and behind Project TR7’s interior panels.

Despite what I thought was a thorough cleaning some weeks ago, Project: TR7’s interior still smells barn fresh. That caused me to pause and contemplate.

If all the repairs and performance upgrades deliver everything I am hoping for, but Project: TR7 stinks like a mouse house, it isn’t going to be much fun to drive. And there’s no way Mrs. Truett will ride shotgun with me to Dairy Deluxe for ice cream cones. So, I shifted gears and put the clutch job further down the list of things to do.

I spent just over an hour stripping the interior – seats, carpets and trim panels. Each seat is held to the floor with four Torx-head bolts and a captive nut. As you know by now with a Triumph, there’s always one of something that will not cooperate. Seven of the seat bolts came right out. One snapped clean off. I’ll have to drill out the remains of that bolt and retap the captive nut.

The good news: There’s no hidden rust. The bad news: the panel behind the seats, once removed, revealed a rodent mess of historic proportions.

Behind the seats is an upholstered trim panel that separates the trunk from the passenger compartment. Mice loved this area.

The shop vac wasn’t enough this time. I scrubbed the interior with hot water, a nylon brush and Purple Power cleaner. About 8 buckets of water turned black before I got all the mouse goo and other residue out.

The sun-faded carpets, though filthy, are structurally in good shape, so off they went to Motor City Auto Spa, a local detailing firm, for a professional cleaning.

Mouse pee left a nasty stain and stench.

The rugs are dirty and faded but structurally sound.

The sun-faded, mouse-pee-soaked carpets removed for professional cleaning.

When you get a text with pictures showing how hideously filthy the carpets are, you know things are bad. Andrew Liggett at Motor City blasted the rugs with a high- pressure cleaning solvent, then he scrubbed and he vacuumed. Three days later the carpets were returned clean and odor free.

Andrew Ligget of Motor City Auto Spa spent an afternoon cleaning the rugs.

With the carpets out and the floorboards clean enough to eat off, I decided to spend 75 unplanned dollars to cover the interior with sound deadening material to give the TR a little extra refinement.

With the floorboards clean, the sound deadening material stuck right on.

A friend with a TR7 and a TR8 suggested dyeing the carpets, which took an afternoon. Two applications of Rit Racing Red dye applied with a nylon brush really freshened up the carpets, and after they dried, I put the interior back together.

Using Rit Racing Red dye, I made the carpets look pretty good again.

Putting it all back together raised my spirits.

Now, when I sit in Project: TR7, it pretty much just smells a bit like an old car.

The cleaning and dyeing removed most but not all of the stains. The interior looks great.

With the interior FINALLY all cleaned, its back to the clutch job.

With that extracurricular project under control, it’s time to get back to work on the mechanical restoration. While the seats were out, I pulled the steering column and replaced the firewall bushing, upgrading from the original nylon (parts of which were found in the engine bay) with polyurethane, which will never wear out. That was a pig of a job, but the car will feel like new. Now, I am ready to begin the last really big dismantling job, the transmission removal to install the new rear main seal and clutch. I drained the old 90 weight sulfur-stinking gear oil out of the transmission. Surprisingly, it was clean and clear.

What’s left of the original steering column bushing and the new one on the right bushing.

New bushing installed. The steering column shaft passes through this bushing.

Looking under the TR, I see the old original rubber transmission mount has turned into a gelatinous mess after years of being exposed to engine and transmission oil, and exhaust heat. On my work bench rests the last big cache of new parts – clutch, pressure plate, throwout bearing, seals for the engine and transmission and a few other small knickknacks that can cause big trouble when they fail. The new transmission mount, coupled with the new engine mounts already installed, should really give the car a nice, tight feel. I’ll also have the flywheel resurfaced so the new clutch will have good bite when the pedal is released. Finally, two quarts of synchromesh transmission oil made by Delco (the very same lubricant used in many Chevrolet Corvette manual transmissions) will help smooth the TR7’s gear changes.

For the first time in weeks, I rolled the TR out of the garage and into the sunlight. I am really anxious to finish the job and start driving it. But that’s still a few weeks away. I turned the car around, nose facing out, rolled it back inside and put it up on four ramps. I’ll have to do the clutch job on my back from underneath, since I don’t have a lift. It should result in plenty of sore muscles, some cuts and scrapes and elicit more cussing.

The transmission is heavy, around 175 pounds, so the floor jack will come in handy here. This is a job I have done before in my younger days, but I am not sure I can do it by myself now. Thankfully, I have an extra pair of hands available. Autoweek’s digital editor, Andrew Stoy, said he’d lend his own digits for this part of the job. I may take him up on it. Bonus: Since Stoy pilots an old, weird Alfa Romeo (and was a serial Triumph owner in years past), he’ll be in no position to crack wise about the TR7’s long list of congenital defects and spotty build quality.

This is the reality of a barn find car. You will clean and scrub until your fingers are raw.

One last word from me on barn find cars that you can chisel in stone: I’m done with them. The people whose eyes light up when some old bomber is hauled from a barn are divorced from the gritty reality of bringing that car back to a safe, roadworthy and cosmetically respectable condition. Not only do I place no extra value on a barn find, but from now on if anyone approaches me with one — unless it’s a Jaguar E-Type, or another Steve McQueen Mustang – it’s a hard pass. Or at least an automatic 50 percent price reduction.

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