Twist of Fate

Story by Alan Cesar

This Triumph was meant to be, it seems. Fate conspired to give it a home in Robert Goldman’s garage. Goldman, the owner of Moss Motors, is a British-car enthusiast. That’s no surprise. It’s also not shocking that he’s owned more than one Triumph TR4.

But his first was a long time ago, purchased on a street corner in Los Angeles when he was 18. “It was at least four different colors and ran on 3 1/2 cylinders. My father, an MG man, was pretty pissed off when I brought it home,” Goldman admits. “At $750, I likely paid three times its value, but it turned out to have a factory Surrey top. I didn’t even know what that was, but the car was titled as a TR4 coupe and it had a glass rear window.”

A wreck bent that car in 1988, so he set it aside. Roadster owners always end up coming back, though, and Goldman eventually started looking for another. That bug bit sometime in the mid-2000s, and he soon spotted a 1962 Triumph TR4 on eBay not far from his home. “It was straight, but needed everything done,” he says. “I walked away.”

The Triumph, however, looked at him longingly as he departed. This TR4 had found its new owner; Goldman just didn’t know it yet.

It was several years later–at a race weekend at Buttonwillow–when man and machine crossed paths again. This time, though, the TR4 was clean, recently repainted black, but not complete under the hood. It sat on a trailer, for-sale sign attached. It ran on 3 1/2 cylinders.

“I’m pretty certain it is the same car that had been on eBay a couple years before,” Goldman says. “This car obviously wanted me.”

Of course, he rang the owner. “He wasn’t close by, but was planning to be at Moss Motors the following Monday for a photo shoot,” he recalls. They arranged to meet.

In the meantime, Goldman daydreamed. He’d already been thinking of installing a supercharger kit, so having to refresh the engine wasn’t a deal-breaker. He could even use the opportunity to build it according to his personal beliefs about supercharged engines.

He made the deal that Monday.

Tinkering Inside

Goldman is quick to correct that he’s not a purist. He loves many different makes and models, but he’s just especially fond of TR4s. He believes they’re the zenith of little British sports cars.

“I know it has severe limitations, but if I want a Porsche, I should buy a Porsche,” he proclaims, acknowledging that the TR4’s live axle hampers its handling. All his early experience with sports cars was with live axles, so he loves the way they cut a corner.

Goldman bought that first TR4 because of its appearance, and he still loves the model’s clean lines today. “The additional trim on 4As and later cars did not enhance the looks for me. Although the TR4 grille is little more than stamped aluminum foil, I believe it suits the style of the machine,” he asserts.

The car’s simple, torquey engine–equipped with Strombergs, of course–is another of his favorite features. But it couldn’t stay original: The supercharger required it to handle 7 invigorating pounds of boost. “A friend of mine built the engine. It has a laundry list of expensive stuff in it, but all with an eye to making it strong, not exotic for the sake of bragging rights,” he explains.

As a result, the engine is fortified everywhere between the forged crank and the aluminum head–one of the last that Jack Drew ported before he passed away. High-strength ARP fasteners bolt it all together.

Though Goldman is personally opposed to engine swaps, he opted for a cross-brand upgrade when the overdrive in the TR4’s transmission needed reworking. A Toyota five-speed manual takes the place of the original thanks to HVDA’s conversion kit. He justifies the swap thusly: “If one cannot see a transmission conversion, is it really there?”

It’s Never Finished

The TR4 has been a rolling restoration ever since Goldman bought it, and it’ll never be quite complete. The bodywork and exterior paint had been taken care of by the time he brought it home, but the engine bay needed work. It’s a good thing the engine needed to come out.

The suspension is still mostly stock, meaning it currently has more power than grip. It does have lower springs and Koni shocks, with a Moss Motors tube shock conversion on the rear. The Wilwood brakes on the front are a one-off installation, not part of any kit.

Inside, the mantra of continual upgrades also applies. “The interior is presentable but also wants a refresh at some point. I’ve got a correct pair of seats just waiting to get covered,” he says, considering his schedule. “Maybe this will be Interior Summer. One never knows about such things.”

The look of the car carries a bit of heritage, too: His first TR4’s Surrey top now adorns Goldman’s new one, but he didn’t discard his first car when he crunched it up a few decades ago. “I still have the carcass, but it wants to be restored by a new owner,” he says. When you’ve found your new love, moving on also means letting go.

Goldman’s long workdays and 80-mile commute aren’t conducive to driving this TR4 daily–especially not in the short days of winter–but he does take it out frequently. “During daylight savings, I’ll drive it to work once or twice a week and on Saturdays. Unfortunately, I’m a creature of many sensations, so some Saturdays I tootle around in a ’48 TC, and others I torture the tourists in the TR4,” he says.

Goldman has other cars that must also be exercised regularly, which means the TR4 sees a fair amount of garage time. But, he says, “If I had to drive a British car every day, I’d take the 4.”

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