Automotive

It took a few tries for Larry Birks to make his Triumph TR3 nearly perfect

Updated: 2013-10-25T16:48:14Z

By TOM STRONGMAN

Larry Birks has had his 1958 Triumph TR3 apart so many times he can almost disassemble it with his eyes closed.

“I’ve owned Triumphs for 50 years,” he said with a chuckle, “and I always go back. It is the easiest car I have ever worked on.”

Birks, 71, of Harrisonville, bought his current car, called Trumpy, in 2000. He found it in Ohio. When he went to look at it he was so disappointed that he almost left with an empty trailer. It was painted red (he prefers British racing green) and had an inexpensive replacement interior.

But, it drove well, had an overdrive transmission, which would be handy on the highway, and Birks liked to tour with his cars. After some second thoughts, he bought it and brought it home.

After about a year his wife, Linda, said, “Why don’t you do that car the way you want it?” The confirmation from his wife was all he needed.

He ordered a stone-colored, full leather interior from England and he completely restored the body and had it painted green. On a trip home from the Ozarks, as he was passing a car, the engine “made a sound like it was coming apart.” He coasted to the side of the road. The crankshaft was broken in two. The rebuild was the fourth time the engine had been apart.

A little over a year ago, after he had been working on the engine, he hit the starter button and the car jumped forward in the garage, banging into the workbench. Apart it came again, this time for all new paint. Except the paint didn’t dry correctly, and it had to be done over again.

Two weeks before last year’s Kansas City All British Car and Cycle show he discovered a crack in the engine block. Craig Vaughn, owner of Foreign Car Enterprise of Kansas City quickly came to the rescue with a rebuilt engine in time for the show.

“I built the car to drive, not show,” he said, but it has won first place 14 times.

Birks said he loves to tour in his car and take it to shows. “It’s just been a part of me,” he said.

At shows, “kids always run to these little cars,” he said, “and I always put them inside. I think they like them because of their size.”

Birks is a member of the Kansas City Triumphs sports car club that will play host to the South Central Regional meeting of the Vintage Triumph Register next April in Excelsior Springs. Look for his TR3 to be among those vying for trophies.

Tom Strongman’s email address is tom@tomstrongman.com

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