Yosemite in a TR3

Shortly after getting married in 1966, my wife and I bought a second car. It was a used British Triumph TR3 sports car. I don’t remember how many miles it had on it. I don’t think I cared. Back then I didn’t pay much attention to unimportant things like that. I just thought it was cool to have a “top down” sports car. It came with a tool kit in the “boot”, which should have told me something.
That summer we were living in Bellflower, CA and we decided it would be cool to go in the TR3 to Yosemite National Park in the High Sierra mountains. My wife had never been there and I had fond memories of trips there with my family.   Reservations? Gas, enough oil, water in the radiator? These never crossed my mind. So on a long 4th of July weekend we went.
I did have to buy and install a luggage rack though. We were taking a full sized tent (they were pretty bulky in those days). It fit in a box that was 6 inches wider than the TR3 on either side, also one double sleeping bag (hey, we had only been married 6 months…) Coleman stove and fuel, Coleman lantern, fishing tackle, food, and clothes.
I have no idea how we got there and back without losing it all. But we got there, then rushed through a long week end, saw some sights including bears, then started home.
Yosemite is located some 300 + miles north of the Los Angeles basin, and at the north end of LA, there is an infamous stretch of road called “The Grapevine”. It goes up from approximately sea level on both ends, up to over 4000 thousand feet at The Tejon Pass. The Grapevine has stretches of incline that in the summertime become “problematic” to older cars that do not have robust cooling systems, like any used British sports car that was designed for lite driving in the ever cool UK. And you better have good brakes for the decline. You can probably see where this is going …

As usual, that July was very hot on the Grapevine, and shortly after we started up the grade heading home, we heard a terrible racket from the engine, and I could feel vibration in the shift lever. I had no choice but to immediately pull over and then … and then … I wasn’t sure what to do then. Where this happened there was at least at a little place where I had a few feet of room on the right shoulder to keep from getting obliterated by the semi trucks barreling past. The only course of action seemed to be to crawl under the car to see what I could see. The air temperature was about 110 degrees, and under the car it was much hotter. I was sure I could fry bacon on any metal parts I was looking at.

After crawling under the car on the hot gravel and asphalt, I saw what I took to be the transmission and drive shaft assembly. There was a large round assembly attached at the left end of a metal case, and a smaller round assembly attached to the right end. I noticed that the right, smaller end was missing most of the bolts that should have been holding the assembly together, and the whole right round part was rotated slightly down. My recent engineering college degree seemed to be telling me … “that ain’t right”. What to do … I noticed that the left hand larger round assembly had a whole bunch of bolts (maybe twice as many as the smaller round thing) that all looked snugly attached and they seemed to be the same size as the missing ones on the right. … You don’t suppose … So I removed a couple of the bolts on the left and somehow got the right hand assembly pushed back up where it looked like it belonged and replaced the 2 bolts I stole from the front, cinched it down to hold it it place, … son-of-a-gun, it worked … I am convinced that some of Gods angels are mechanics. We drove home with no problems.

I am ashamed to say I never replaced any of the “stolen” bolts. I drove the TR3 around that way for a year with no trouble at all and later sold it to a guy I worked with, and he never had any trouble either. And I still can’t believe how naive I was.

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