1962 Triumph TR4 Restoration

Brian Sanborn, Groton, MA

Reading the Ads

Parts Car

Old TRs break down into a few basic categories. The lowest in the pecking order is the "parts car". This car has been ignored for many years and may have been stored outside. It may be missing parts and be totally rusted out. Obviously, unless you have a suicide watch going, only go look at these cars for parts. Save this trip for after you have located your restoration candidate. Prices should range no higher than $1000.


The next up is the car that is advertised as "disassembled, restoration almost complete". It is a terrible shame, but way too many cars are lost this way. A good intentioned person will buy a car that needs a compete restoration. He or she will disassemble the car and then, after a couple of years, decide that the job is too big and let it sit somewhere until someone wants the mess cleared out. Unless you are very brave and very talented this car should be avoided. This is a future parts car. The problem stems from the fact that the car will be very difficult, if not impossible, to put back together if you did not do the disassembly yourself. There may be missing parts and you cannot judge the condition of the engine, gearbox, brakes and the rest of the running gear because you can't drive the darn thing. This would only be a wise choice for an experienced TR4 restorer who can sort out the puzzle from experience and another car to use as reference. Prices should run between $1000 and $3500 depending on condition.

Good Runner

Higher up the pecking order, you will see a car described as "good runner", "running" or "engine runs" with comments about "rust in normal places". This is the code word for a car that is not on the road and does not have plates. It can even mean only that the engine is not seized. The car may have a badly rusted body and will generally be in bad shape. The engine may turn over and fire, but don't let this sway your emotions. The engine is the least of your problems. The body will cost 2-3 times more to bring back to new than the dollars needed to get the engine back to speed. The other downside is the inability to do a test drive so you can evaluate the gearbox, differential, brakes and steering. If you are up for the frame-off full restoration, you may be able to find a good restoration car if you are very careful and do a full and complete inspection including the frame. The best situation would be finding one that has been stored inside for a long time. These cars will need all new rubber parts, usually complete disassembly and lots of time and money. Prices are up to about $4,500 depending on condition and completeness.

Daily Driver

The category above this is the 'daily driver". After a couple of wasted trips, I only looked at this class of car. This is a much better choice because, if it is truthfully advertised, it means the car has plates and an inspection sticker, all the major mechanical systems work at least good enough to for the car to be taken for a test drive. This type of car gives you the opportunity to evaluate the engine, gearbox and other running gear. It has probably been restored before sometime in its life. All of the other little things like gauges and wiring are likely to be in working condition. A careful inspection is important. I'll cover that later. Prices can go as high $8,000. If the car needs and engine rebuild, subtract $2,000 if you can do it yourself, more if not.

Fully Restored

Above this we get into two really nice categories. The first is "Fully Restored". Cars in this class should be clean throughout, have nice paint and bodywork, a recent engine and gearbox rebuild, and be complete and authentic with all period parts of the car present and in running order, including the engine bay appointments. The interior should be restored including the carpets, seats, panels, hoodsticks and hood. A tonneau cover is very desirable. The dash should show signs of new crash pads, gauges that are clean and functioning correctly and restored dash surface, whether that is wood for a late TR4 and TR4A or white painted, to bodywork standards for early TR4s. The steering wheel should be restored original or period style aftermarket. A modern stainless steel exhaust system or appropriate aftermarket system should be in place. An outstanding car in this class would be between $10,000 and $13,000 depending on the quality of the restoration.


The ultimate category is the "Concours" car. This car has been taken above and beyond restored, into a class that is absolute perfection. I have only seen a couple of TR4s in this level of quality. They are truly magnificent to behold. There are more examples in the TR3 and TR6 groups, as they tend to show up at car shows at about a ten fold rate over TR4 and TR250. However, there is a dark side potential with this category. Sometimes you see cars that have been worked to the point where they are restored to an artificial level that is much beyond the level of the original cars when they were delivered from the showroom. They start looking like "custom cars". I have seen cars advertised for as much as $16,000 in this category but they probably have $30,000+ invested.

My personal preference is to restore the cars to as close to original as possible. But there are lots of different approaches and opinions. The objective is to have fun and enjoy your Triumph.