1965 Triumph TR4

Sept. 1, 2015
Mike Gassman, owner of Gassman Automotive, restores a 1965 Triumph TR4

Mike Gassman was 13 years old when he began restoring his first Triumph completely on his own (his father supervised). Fast forward 37 years and he’s still doing what he loves.

“Triumphs have always been what I cut my teeth on, that’s what I’m known across the country for. It’s what I enjoy,” says Gassman.

Gassman owns Gassman Automotive, a British car restoration, sales and service shop in Waynesboro, Va. During down time at the shop he likes to take on projects, like his recent 1965 Triumph TR4 restoration that he can add to his growing collection.

“I’m always looking for a project, I own over 20 Triumphs. Triumphs, Jaguars, Austin Healeys, Porsches, I have quite a few cars,” he says.

The car came to him through a friend of a friend and was completely disassembled upon arrival. The original plan was just to put it back together but things changed when he noticed what a treasure this car was.

“It was such a good car, but not done to our standards, so we decided we would re-do everything,” he said.

Gassman and his team performed a full nut-and-bolt restoration.

When the car came in, it was nearly all in boxes. It was a rolling chassis with a body and engine in it. Gassman took the body off, sandblasted it and started all over. He rebuilt the motor, transmission, rear end, all of the suspension components, powder-coated the chassis and then built it back up again. The car was lowered and the front suspension was modified to create more camber. Gassman and his team also machined lowering blocks for the rear so the car could be lowered 2 inches in the front and back.

The 1965 Triumph TR4 has an original 2,138cc four-cylinder motor with a four-speed transmission with electric overdrive. The car has rack-and-pinion steering, and disc brakes.

“Probably the most difficult part was not getting rushed and staying focused that we were going to put every single nut and bolt back the way it should be. If any part was missing, we researched it and found the original stock part rather than putting in just some replacement that would work,” said Gassman.

This car, a never-wrecked, never rusted, one-owner Triumph, was such a good car that Gassman fitted it with factory option parts and accessories that he had collected over the years. He had bought out Triumph dealers when they went out of business in the 1980s, so he already had many of the parts he needed. The parts used in the car include a factory two-piece aluminum surrey top, surrey soft top, overdrive transmission, 4:11:1 rear gears, aluminum oil pan, and Offenhauser valve cover. The most difficult part to find was the aluminum surrey, which ended up being an eBay find.

Gassman affectionately refers to it as his “winter project.” He rebuilt the engine and transmission himself and did most of the assembly, but he also had help from his employees; as many as 10 of them were involved in different parts of the restoration at times. The restoration took 300-350 man hours to finish.

The car has been finished now for over a year, and after a full week of debugging and de-rattling, Gassman now has his heart set on actually getting out and enjoying the car. The first big outing for the 1965 Triumph SR4 will be the Mountain Mille, which is a four-day, 1,000-mile journey starting in Virginia.

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