Triumph had, ever since the inception of the TR model, been a strong, regular contender on the international rally scene, both as privateer and Works entrants. Ken Richardson, head of the Competitions Department, always maintained the success was because they were run as near to standard as possible. Each car was hand built by a team of hugely experienced engineers, and all the drivers were stars – a special breed.
One of just 17 TR4s built in 1960, VJA 20 is a very early example which was prepared as a private entry for the 1962 Monte Carlo Rally. The driver, Edwin Hodson, was a well-known privateer and had been named by the Daily Express as ‘the fastest man on ice’. At the time none of the works cars were ready and homologated for the Monte Carlo Rally, so the Triumph Motor Company were more than obliging in preparing a special car for Hodson.
Supplied via his local dealer Hollingdrake Motor Company of Stockport, Cheshire the car featured a special TR3A 1991cc unit due to the new 2138cc TR4 engine not being homologated yet. Leaving from Glasgow, Hodson was considered a strong contender, unfortunately falling short of the finish line just a few miles from Monte Carlo following a altercation with a snow drift! The car was returned to the factory and repaired for free and a new TR4 2138cc engine was fitted at the same time.
VJA 20 would then go on to live a life as road car before being found in a barn in 1990, partly dismantled and looking rather sorry for itself. Over the following years VJA 20 was carefully restored back close to its Monte Carlo specification.
In 2016, Pendine Historic Cars sold the car to its current owner who, with an eye on serious historic rallying, had it prepared to current historic rally specification.
The work was undertaken by MRM Motorsport who were fastidious during the rebuild. The body was removed and chassis reinforced and seam welded, whilst the suspension was rebuilt and uprated including Polybush bushes, uprated Koni Shock absorbers and rear Armstong dampers. The brakes were rebuilt with braided hoses throughout and a T.R. Enterprises Bias pedal box was also fitted.
The engine was fully rebuilt to original works specification with a lightened and balanced rotating assembly and a fast-road Piper camshaft. The cylinder was ported and the inlet and exhaust manifolds similarly ported to match. The result is a strong, reliable engine ready for any rally. Similarly, the overdrive gearbox was carefully rebuilt and fitted with an uprated clutch assembly. It is an exceptionally well prepared historic rally Triumph, complete with HTP papers should you wish to circuit race the car.
VJA 20 was exhibited at the Monte Carlo Museum and has taken part in numerous historic rallies, usually with great success, including a Gold on the Le Jog Rally. Maintained and prepared regardless of cost, the TR looks as fresh today as the day its restoration was finished.
This is a historically important TR4 that, in the right hands, is not just an entry but a winner of the best historic rallies in the world.