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posted: 12/17/2012 5:00 AM

Vernon Hills man gives his Triumph a royal overhaul

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  • 1960 Triumph TR3A

      1960 Triumph TR3A
    Courtesy of Prestige Motorcar Photography

  • Thanos Kourliouros of Vernon Hills was a college student when he bought his Triumph to be his daily driver.

      Thanos Kourliouros of Vernon Hills was a college student when he bought his Triumph to be his daily driver.

  • The 1960 TR3A has been Thanos Kourliouros' pride and joy for more than 35 years.

      The 1960 TR3A has been Thanos Kourliouros' pride and joy for more than 35 years.

  • A rechromed bumper and grille make this British convertible smile.

      A rechromed bumper and grille make this British convertible smile.

  • Kourliouros had oversized pistons put in to boost the power when the roadster was rebuilt in 2007.

      Kourliouros had oversized pistons put in to boost the power when the roadster was rebuilt in 2007.

  • The Triumph now sports a black leather interior and Signal Red paint.

      The Triumph now sports a black leather interior and Signal Red paint.

 
By Matthew Avery
Special to the Daily Herald

Classic vehicle restorations often commence with the intent of bringing back some sentimental motoring memories, or because someone is finally able to build and drive their longtime dream car.

Thanos Kourliouros embarked on his overhaul of this vintage 1960 Triumph TR3 for a much more practical reason: reliable transportation.

Kourliouros wanted the British tourer to take him to and from college classes. The Vernon Hills resident located the vintage droptop in Glenview in the winter of 1973.

"The car was parked behind an apartment building and wasn't running," Kourliouros said. "The top was torn, the cabin was full of snow and all four tires were deflated."

After looking beyond the immediate issues, the auto enthusiast felt he had a winner. "The car wasn't damaged and had no visible rust on the body -- just dull paint with some scratches and heavily pitted chrome. It was a neglected, beautiful car with elegant lines."

Its former owner was more than eager to get rid of the curvaceous TR3A as he deemed it too small, underpowered and very cold during blustery Midwest winters. A low price was settled on, key for a thrifty college student like Kourliouros. However, as the adage goes, sometimes you get what you pay for.

Once Kourliouros took possession of the Triumph, he began disassembly and found many problems. The inline four-cylinder engine had a blown head gasket, the carburetors needed to be rebuilt, the water pump and radiator were shot, wires were disconnected and the rusted brakes and worn tires needed to be replaced.

However, Kourliouros loved the look of the car and his desire to drive a British convertible kept him focused on the project. By the summer of 1974 Kourliouros had his mended sports car on the road.

"I can still remember the excitement of getting behind the wheel for the first time and going down the highway," he said.

More and more dollars were invested over the years, allowing for other improvements and repairs. After many happy miles, the car was rolled into storage in the early '80s, about the time Kourliouros' son was born. It remained there for 25 years until 2007, at which point Kourliouros could no longer resist the urge to restore and drive his beloved cruiser once again.

Performance Restorations in Mundelein was called on to perform the complete frame-off restoration. The body was stripped, the rusted trunk floor panels were replaced and everything underneath was powder-coated for extreme durability. A glossy coat of Signal Red paint was applied to the exterior. All of the chrome parts were redone and a new black leather interior with white piping was installed.

The original, underwhelming 1,991-cubic-centimeter engine was rebuilt to accommodate oversized pistons, resulting in a total displacement of 2,200 c.c.'s and a slight boost in output.

A fully synchronized manual transmission with overdrive from a later model Triumph TR6 has been fitted to shift the gears. The result of the yearlong project is a one showstopping piece.

The crowd-pleasing auto has garnered awards at the British Car Festival show at Oakton Community College in Des Plaines, the Champagne British Car Festival at the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington and the Wisconsin British Car Field Day in Sussex.

"This little red car is one that I'm very proud to own and more than happy to drive," Kourliouros said. "It's a great experience to be in a British roadster; you feel the wind on your face and listen to the raspy sound of the motor."

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