Over to YOU

A CAR FOR THE AGES

Dad fell in love with the Roadster long before he fell in love with his bride-to-be

ROB DAVIDSON July 29 2002
Over to YOU

A CAR FOR THE AGES

Dad fell in love with the Roadster long before he fell in love with his bride-to-be

ROB DAVIDSON July 29 2002

A CAR FOR THE AGES

Over to YOU

ROB DAVIDSON

Dad fell in love with the Roadster long before he fell in love with his bride-to-be

THE OLD GIRL first caught my eye 21 years ago. She was toodling through an intersection in my Scarborough, Ont., neighbourhood with a sign attached to her rear: For Sale. She was a 1947 Triumph Roadster, in remarkably good shape for her age. She had a long snout, or bonnet as the Brits called it, and an enormous chrome grill on the front that glinted whether the sun was out or not. Four big headlights were mounted on her grand, sweeping fenders. She even had a rumble, or dickey, seat that unfolded out of the “trunk” floor, and a rear windshield that popped up to protect the teeth of the passengers who sat there. By the end of the week she was mine, sitting in my driveway with all my neighbours walking past in that standoffish Toronto way—interested but not too obviously interested. She sat there for seven more years as I slowly took her apart, located various bits and pieces she needed, towed her to and from a couple of garages, and eventually ran out of steam and money. My wife took to calling her “The Driveway Ornament.”

My dad, on the other hand, regularly called from his Florida retirement getaway to find out how “the baby” was doing. Within days of the purchase, I had phoned my father to let him know I’d finally located my classic car. The type of car the two of us used to gaze at lovingly whenever we caught sight of one on the street. At first he couldn’t picture the car in his mind. The next day he called me excitedly: “Robert, I sat bolt upright in bed last night! I know exactly what car you’ve bought. The local photographer in Arbroath used to drive one!”

My dad, Able Bodied Seaman Bob Davidson, was stationed in Scotland with the Canadian Navy in the early 1950s. Although he never mentioned it to me, he fell in love with the ’47 Roadster long before he ever fell in love with his brideto-be. He only brought one of them back to Canada with him. By the time I bought

the car, it was beginning to show its age. Every time I took it out for a spin I ended up being towed ignominiously home. It had its share of dings and scratches on the body, and there was something decidedly “off” in the front end. Months later I figured out that at some point the entire front suspension must have collapsed and been put back together by someone whose entire tool collection consisted of a screwdriver and hammer.

After struggling with the restoration project for nearly a decade, I was ready to give up. My dad, on the other hand, was ready to show the young pup a thing or two. He towed the car (and the car parts) down to Florida and over the next two years restored her to her original glory. In many ways better than she rolled off the assembly line in England just after the Second World War. He took every piece off the car, examined it carefully and placed it in one of two piles: KEEP or TOSS. When he had made a list of what he needed, he got on the phone to the Triumph Roadster Club in Britain and ordered about $4,000 worth of

various bits and pieces. They were shipped to his house a week later. He stripped, sanded and painted the bodywork himself.

“Twelve coats of lacquer!” he’d eventually tell anyone who commented on how pretty she was. He fixed the brakes, the steering and the upholstery. In fact, when he took the car to get some tools from the local upholsterer, he was offered a job.

“I told him forget it! Fourteen pieces of leather in every door. That’s a lot of leather and I hand cut every one of them.”

He installed a new wiring harness (the previous owner had replaced all the old wires with a homemade unicoloured harness that was worse than useless). He resleeved the cylinders and fit new pistons he had custom-made in Florida. He even found the original English licence plates stashed under the carpeting and installed them to their rightful place on the chrome bumpers.

It was a thing of beauty, and for the next 12 years, he drove it proudly back and forth to his part-time job in the oceanside town he called home. He’d load his fishing rod in the back and scoot off to the beach with his dogs. And whenever the Davidsons visited the Sunshine State, a ride in grandpa’s old car was a highlight. As long as you were prepared to wash the old girl down thoroughly before you were allowed to ride in her (and you better be prepared for an oration on the differences between today’s cars and the Roadster and what, exactly, chrome was and why it needed polishing).

Two years ago, my dad’s wife died. Since then, he has been off-loading—lightening his life. And the Roadster was one of the possessions for which he wanted to find a good home.

“You want it?” The phone call was a total surprise. Of course I wanted it. So this month, we will ship the old girl to Ontario. We’ll have a party to welcome her back to Canada and settle her into the new garage we’ve built for her. Before he heads back to Florida, dad and I will put the key in her ignition for what will likely be one last ride together and we will drive her along the Ontario backroads near my farm east of Toronto.

I think we’ll take my two boys out with us. Three generations. One Car. fffl

Rob Davidson is the car and house guy for Global TV’s MoneyWise program.

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