Last of the hairy chested British sportscars at concours

Under the bonnet of David Thomson's 1960 Triumph beats the heart of a tractor.

The engine that powers the baby blue dream machine is essentially the same as the unit used in his ubiquitous and much-loved 1949 grey "Fergie" tractor, albeit bored out by 300cc and in a much higher state of tune.

The Thomson TR3A, which spends much of life under lock and key in the active 71-year-old's garage in Cook, is just one of more than 70 "side screen" Triumph TR sportscars that are to descend on Canberra for the marque's annual "concours" from October 31 to November 4.

Considered the last, and possibly the best, of the hairy chested British sportscars, the side-screen models are not for the faint of heart.

Mr Thomson credits this particular vehicle with inducing his now 42-year-old son's entry into the world the day after it arrived home.

"I took my wife, who was nine months pregnant, for a drive and Douglas was born the next day," he said.

This will not come as a surprise to anybody who has experienced the rugged ride of these uncompromising speed machines.

They offered an affordable alternative to cars such as the Jaguar XK140 and 150 and the big Austin Healey sixes.

"When the TR2 [the first example] came out it could do 172km/h and cost £965," Mr Thomson said.

His car could probably beat the figure by a substantial amount because it has been warmed up during the years with a bored-out engine, balanced camshaft and ported and polished head.

"I didn't know it when I bought it but it turns out I had been down the back straight of the old Albert Park Lake circuit [in Melbourne] in this car when I was about 21.

"My first car was a Singer tourer [also an open sports], which I loved. One of the neighbours had the TR3A and he took me out for a spin. I fell in love with TRs on that day.

"Because I bought this car in Queanbeyan I didn't even consider it might be the same car I had known in Melbourne. I didn't make the connection until years later."

Mr Thomson, who has had his car on the TR Register for more than 30 years, said it was inevitable he would end up with a Grey Fergie.

He waited for a good one, however, collecting a one-owner 1949 example that had  done only light work at a farm clearing sale near Cootamundra about 10 years ago.

All Triumph owners are familiar with the shared connection and the tractors, which were also produced at Coventry, were a British post-war export success story with more than 800,000 sold.

"When you listen to them the car and the tractor actually sound alike," he said.

While the Albert Park blast was what hooked him on the marque, Mr Thomson told Fairfax Media  he had been infected by the Triumph virus decades before.

"My dad was born in Birmingham, quite close to Coventry, and I grew up being told it was the 'workshop of the world'."

Side-screen cars are those that pre-date wind-up windows and allow their owners to hang an elbow over the cutaway doors.

The last Australian-produced side-screen car was the TD2000 from the early 1990s.

This story Last of the hairy chested British sportscars at concours first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.