- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

In his youthful days, George Carrell became hooked on English sports cars. Eventually, practicality won out over British quirkiness and Lucas electrical systems.

For the next couple of decades, reliability was the principle requirement in daily transportation as Mr. Carrell and his wife, Rita, raised a family.

The dawn of the 21st century brought a new way of thinking about English sports cars to Mr. Carrell — it was time to get one.

He began attending British car shows and found several cars that would make him happy.

In the summer of 2004 at the British car show in Frederick, he saw a car he wanted but he and the owner couldn’t agree on a price. “We spoke again in the spring of 2005 and he told me he would be in Frederick again in June,” Mr. Carrell says.

At the show a disappointed Mr. Carrell learned that the car had been sold. “Since I was already there,” the pragmatic Mr. Carrell said, “I decided to enjoy the car show.”

While strolling through a sea of beautiful British-built cars, he took a detour through the “cars for sale” corral to see what was available.

There was one car in the corral that spoke to him. The freshly restored victory-green 1980 Triumph TR7 convertible was irresistible. The caramel-colored cloth upholstery and carpeting contrasting with the black dashboard and 17-inch three-spoke black steering wheel beckoned to Mr. Carrell. In 1980 the sporty steering wheel was a $110 accessory.

This car was not going to get away. He gave the seller a deposit that Sunday, June 26, even though, he says, “I never drove the car but I did hear it run.”

Later he learned that the original owner had kept the car nine years. The second owner restored it during his 16 years of ownership.

Before returning home, Mr. Carrell purchased domestic tranquility insurance in the form of some jewelry for his wife.

The seller took the car back to his home in Annapolis, agreeing to drive it the following Wednesday to Mr. Carrell’s Upper Marlboro home.

Mr. Carrell was prepared to pay for the car when it came up his driveway that Wednesday but the seller insisted that they go for a drive. As Mr. Carrell drove through the neighborhood, he was instructed on the function of each switch and knob.

“It’s a joy on the back roads at 45,” the new owner reports.

A pleasant surprise was a trunk full of spare engine parts, hoses, belts and this and thats.

The 2.0-liter (122-cubic-inch), four-cylinder engine with a cast-iron block and a light alloy head develops 105 horsepower with the assistance of a pair of Zenith Stromberg sidedraft carburetors.

A hair less than 8.5 pints of oil and a hair more than 15.5 pints of coolant are required to keep the small, but powerful, engine happy. According to specifications for the 25-year-old 2,485-pound car when it was new, the top speed was 107 mph, with a 0-to-60 time of 11.2 seconds. Mileage figures are 19 city, 28 highway and the capacity of the gasoline tank is 14.4 gallons.

The sports car doesn’t come close to 14 feet long between the federally mandated 5 mph rubber bumpers. A set of 13-inch Michelin tires support the car on a wheelbase of 85 inches.

In the brief time that he has owned the Triumph, “I’ve only had good surprises,” Mr. Carrell says. “The more I drive it, the more I like it.”

A total of 10,000 TR7 convertibles were built in 1980, he comments. He says about 6,200 were exported, most of them to the United States. The data plate on his Triumph indicates that his car was manufactured in late 1979. He says the sticker price of his car when it was new was $9,235.

The aerodynamic shape of the Triumph helps it slice through the air; however, it hinders the dissipation of engine heat. Up by the windshield are 20 slats cut into the engine hood. Farther down the hood are two rows of 16 louvers that help keep the engine cool. A 12-blade fan behind the radiator does its share of the work.

At the other end of the TR7 is a six-rib luggage rack atop the trunk lid, a convenient place to secure luggage that won’t fit in the 10.3-cubic-foot trunk.

“It’s steady on the road,” Mr. Carrell says, “It’s really nice and tight.” He can thank the freshly rebuilt rack-and-pinion steering for that precision.

Although the speedometer is ready to register 140 mph, Mr. Carrell says his sports car isn’t about top speed but handling. “I’ve had it up to 60,” he says. The front disc brakes and drum brakes in the rear handle stopping assignments.

The cozy cockpit is filled with 1980 amenities including two dash-top storage trays, a designated courtesy light on each door as well as a door-side ashtray.

When the top is lowered, it is covered by a black boot secured by 18 snaps. “That’s the only way I intend to drive this car,” Mr. Carrell says, “with the top down.”

Ads for the “wedge”-shaped TR7 extolled the car as “the shape of things to come.”

Regardless of its shape, Mr. Carrell says, “I’ve put 400 miles on it and I’d like to put on a lot more.”

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